By Kunle Sanyaolu.
Perhaps the intervention of the United Nations Security Council on the widely reported slave trade in Libya will send a strong signal to the perpetrators that judgement day will come sooner or later. But it is doubtful if the incident, probably still going on and possibly waxing stronger, has not dealt a fatal blow to the African dream of a united continent of immeasurable potential, tapped to the brim, with her people catapulted from endemic poverty to flourishing affluence. The dream of a continent, second largest in the world; diverse in culture and people, but one in spirit of Africanness, brotherhood and belief.
That was the dream of the likes of Kwame Nkrumahs, the Jomo Kenyatas, the Nelson Mandelas, the Julius Nyereres, the Kenneth Kaundas, the Olusegun Obasanjos and of course the Muammar Gadhafis of Libya. Indeed, Gaddafi’s ambition for a pan Africa, coupled with his marked intolerance of Western domineering and near dictatorship on Africa, informed the West’s onslaught on him, and the eventual destruction of his person as well as, sadly, his country.
Isn’t it ironic that Libya which under Gadhafi held a promise of promoting African unity is now the platform being used to destroy that African dream? Gadhafi must be turning in his grave that all he stood for in his lifetime have all but gone to pieces; no thanks to the western conspiracy that attacked his government, divided the country into multiple violent factions, and turned it into a war theatre.
So much for the slavery industry in Libya. Contrary to the initial impression given when the news broke, we now know that although Libyans are a key stakeholder in the business, there are other major parties, including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Senegalese, Tunisians, Moroccans and other African nationals. It is like a grand African conspiracy to undermine Africa, using Libya as the testing ground. That is why some Nigerians in the destabilised country have refused to return home, despite government’s concern and measures to bring them back at the state expense.
One returnee in Edo state, while reacting to the state government’s offer of N20,000 monthly to enable them settle down, angrily blurted out that he made more than that amount in a day in Libya. It is appropriate that government nevertheless is striving more to repatriate more Nigerians trapped in Libya. More than 3,000 Nigerians have been reportedly returned home since the illicit slave trade began. Other countries are equally engaging in frantic measures to bring their citizens back to safety
The addition of the UN Security Council’s voice to the global condemnation of the slavery is encouraging. Speaking through its president, Ambassador Koro Bessiho of japan, the council emphatically described the events in Libya as “heinous human rights abuses which may also amount to crimes against humanity”, adding that those responsible should be held to account. “All migrants should be treated with humanity and dignity; and their rights should be fully respected,” the council stated.
While decent people of the world hope that some of the culprits in Libya will be caught, prosecuted and punished in accordance with the law, the great fear is whether what happened in Libya cannot be replicated in other parts of Africa, given the necessary conditions. That fear is real when one remembers the inhuman treatment of man to man in Sudan, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Liberia, Sierra Leone and now Libya. We must of course not overlook the happenings in Nigeria: the kidnappings, murder, rape, ethnic cleansing by so-called Fulani herdsmen and the devilish manifestations of the Boko Haram, typified by the seizure of more than 200 girls in a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State; and the regular suicide bombings even in places of worship.
That these dastardly crimes have been going on for years with little check by government is worrisome, more so as government continually battles with politically-motivated distractions, a bad economy and resource-draining corruption all of which strengthen militancy, rebellion and hate actions. Government in Nigeria and indeed other African countries should know that unless they keep these criminalities in firm checks, Libya is only waiting in the wings, to be re-enacted in their domain. The recurring xenophobic outbreaks in South Africa are only recent pointers to that possibility.
●●Sanyaolu, a Lagos-based Lawyer, is Chairman Editorial Board, everyday.ng