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Africans for sale?

Fred Muvunyi
November 24, 2017

The slave auctioning of African migrants in Libya shows how humans are deprived of all dignity. We should renounce all forms of ideology and prejudice that reduce people to merchandise, writes DW's Fred Muvunyi.

African migrants
Image: Getty Images/AFP/M. Turkia

They are not animals, car spare parts or items of merchandise. They are Africa's men, women, and children who are on the road to Europe, in search of a better life. Now they are being held in Libya and turned into slaves.

It beggars belief but they are indeed being offered up for sale, and the buyers are there, ready to pay any price, even as little as $400 (338 euros). The stature and age of those on sale determine how much the auctioneers can take.

Apparently, as seen in aCNN video, young men attract buyers quickly at an affordable price. The auctioneers are heard advertising a group of West African migrants as big strong boys for farm work. I never thought that the slave trade that flourished between the 16th and 19th centuries would return today, in the 21st century. Rights groups and governments are silent when such crimes against humanity are committed.

These young men, now slaves, deserve better. The majority of them travel all the way from Niger, Ghana, and Nigeria in search of greener pastures. They have to take a dangerous route to Europe, hoping that if they cross the Mediterranean Sea, there's a better life on the other side than back home.

Nigeria, Africa's biggest economy, ranks 13th on the list of global oil producers, with two million barrels of oil per day. Niger, although its production is lower, can take care of its citizens. Ghana, another country with oil, was on July 1, 2011 declared a lower middle-income state.  These three countries have not yet taken any drastic measures to stop their nationals being sold on the slave market. They have not yet announced any plans to repatriate their citizens held in captivity in Libya.

 Fred Muvunyi
DW's Fred Muvunyi

Rwanda, by contrast a tiny country - roughly the size of Macedonia -with a population of a little over 12 million haspledged to take 30,000 African migrants from Libya. In offering assistance and shelter, the country is putting to shame fellow African states and Europe who have massive wealth but are short of empathy.

In 2015, the European Union set up a fund to pay for border security control in Libya, aimed at preventing Africans from leaving their countries of origin. As a result of its Operation Sophia, the number of migrants setting off for Europe was reduced drastically by 20 percent.

While the measures put in place by the  EU are deterring Africans from crossing the central Mediterranean to Italy, we now see that those detained in Libya are ending up in slavery.

To bring an end to this inhumane treatement, we must all fight all ideologies that reduce human beings to mere objects.

All of us are human beings who bear the divine image. The slave trade is a crime against humanity that should be condemned in the strongest terms. We also must recognize and act against all forms of racism that reduce humanity to merchandise.