Libya Tribune

By Michael Mpeirwe Katungi
With the intervention of NATO and its allies and the killing of Muamar Gaddaffi, Libya which used to host thousands of migrants from sub-Sahara Africa has degenerated so much that it has become a slave market.

It is scandalous and inhuman treatment that exhumes Africa’s distant and painful memories arising from the past that was believed to be gone.

Had the position of African Union on Libya been respected, this chaos and mayhem would have been averted. African problems deserve African solutions.

The international organisation for migration (IOM) staff in Niger and Libya reported in a communiqué issued on April 11, that there was a trade in sub-Saharan migrants, sold as pecuniary slaves of “markets” in Libya.

An immoral trade proliferates in total indifference in a Libya devastated by war and which tends to become a sort of new Gore’e for migrants.

Sub-Saharan migrants are exchanged for between $200 and $500 and then assigned to work in Libyan homes. 

Others are sequestered, tortured and forced to call their families to pay for their release.

In Libya, IOM said in a statement, are hundreds of sub-Saharan migrants and migrants are publicly sold in markets or garages.

According to testimonies created during an investigation by IOM staff of rescued migrants, you go to the market, pay between $200 and $500 to have a migrant.

Othman Belbeis, the head of the mission in Libya, says after buying one, you become responsible for that person. Some of them escape, others are kept in bondage, adds the official.

The martyrdom of migrants does not end there. Sub-Saharan migrants are sold and bought with the help of Ghanaians and Nigerians who work for them. On the road to migration between Niger and Libya, notably in Sbaha, Misrata or Tripoli, most sub-Saharan immigrants are victims of unscrupulous smugglers who subsequently deliver them to Libyan buyers.

The kidnappers subsequently sequestered the migrants, who were freed after convincing their families to pay between 300,000 CFA francs (about $480) and 600,000 CFA francs (about $970) via Western Union or Money Gram.

Migrant women are victims of physical abuse and forced into domestic work by their “buyer” when they are not reduced to sexual slaves.

In the face of the disaster described by the UN-affiliated organisation, this is a silent and immobile international community faced with open and grave violations of human rights. IOM’s denunciation brings back memories of a painful past in Africa.

The “slavery” practices going on in Libya and the trade they are going to help create are almost comparable to those of the time of slavery.

The island of Gore’e off Dakar, still bear the vestiges with its very much visited “House of the Slaves”.

The flourishing Libyan slave markets are so many with “slave houses” that are trampling on human dignity.

If nothing is done, Libya, devastated by war and undermined by instability, is on the way to becoming the new Gore’e.

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Michael Mpeirwe Katungi works with the African union Commission

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