Africa’s stolen hopes

Kenechukwu Obiezu

Kenechukwu Obiezu

The flight of Africans urgently seeking to leave Africa practically every day did not start today. It has been assembled over a long period. Its roots go back to the days of the slave trade when against their will and by actions which amount to some of the most atrocious acts of injustices perpetrated against people anywhere and at any point in history, many Africans were taken away from their homes over a period of many years to totally foreign countries from which they never returned.

The slave trade gleefully continued for many years until time itself began to weaken the hinges that held such an abominable practice in place. Today, the slave trade may have been officially abolished, but what remains, largely defying efforts to make it go away, is the spectre of modern slavery which continues to cast long shadows over the collective efforts of people everywhere to fashion out a world where justice is the air people breathe.

Modern slavery is the severe exploitation of other people for personal or commercial gain. It refers to institutional slavery that continues to occur in present-day society. Estimates of the number of enslaved people today range from around 38 million to 46 million, depending on the method used to form the estimate and the definition of slavery being used. The estimated number of enslaved people is debated, as there is no universally agreed definition of modern slavery, those in modern slavery are often difficult to identify and adequate statistics are often not available.

The International Labour Organization estimates that, by their definitions, over 40 million people are in some form of slavery today. 24.9 million people are in forced labour, of whom 16 million people are exploited in the private sector such as domestic work, construction or agriculture,4.8 million persons in forced sexual exploitation, and 4 million persons in forced labour imposed by state authorities. An additional 15. 4 million people are in forced marriages.

The United Nations has defined human trafficking as follows “The recruitment, transportation, transfer, habouring  or receipt of persons, by means of the threat  or use of force  or other forms   of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of  the abuse of power  or of a position  of vulnerability  or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits  to achieve  the consent of a person  having control over  another person, for the purpose of  exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”

Modern slavery eviscerates communities and families. It cast societies into a kind of darkness that does not easily lift. And all for what, for the promise of filthy lucre that easily proves to be the golden fleece many times.

Children and young people have been shown to be especially vulnerable to modern slavery. They are usually lured away from their peaceful but impoverished lives with their families lavished with profuse but ultimately empty promises of   better days. Then, they are taken away to places where they live and work under backbreaking conditions.

At the root of this problem which shows no sign of letting up is grueling poverty-the kind of poverty that leaves people in so much darkness for such a long time until they will kill for any sliver of light whatsoever. Thus, every year, many Africans undertake perilous journeys to Europe and Asia where they are treated no better than slaves. The hydra headed monster which also conduces to human trafficking sees Africans subjected to horrendous abuses in the name of seeking greener pastures elsewhere. These abuses are sexual, physical, emotional, psychological and so forth.

There is no doubt that for Africa to turn a new leaf and turn the page on a sordid past that however continues to unfortunately meander its way into the future, it must address the root causes of the modern slavery Africans have to live in Europe and Asia.

There is no doubt that there are criminal gangs which operate transnationally to foster modern slavery. However, justice is a product of peace and prosperity. If Africa can   fulfil its limitless potential to be peaceful and prosperous, it will mean that Africans will be less vulnerable to being trafficked and subjected to appalling conditions elsewhere.

It would also mean that these transnational criminal gangs that see people as nothing but merchandise are broken up or in the least forced to lose their power over Africans.

This is critical because until it is done, the chains of slavery will continue to sear the wrists of Africa every now and then.

Kene Obiezu,

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