Africa Day 2017 – the Return of Slavery

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By Debbie Ariyo

Today marks the day set aside to celebrate the rise of Africa. On the 25th of May 1963, The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was set up to help promote the welfare of Africans, push for reforms to support the growth of African countries, many of whom were at the time gaining independence from decades of colonialism, preceded by the massive plundering and slave-trading of African people which occurred from the 16th century towards the end of the 19th century. OAU was later renamed the African Union to further entrench the spirit of brotherhood and partnership among African countries.

Even then, it is doubtful if the founding fathers of the OAU would have envisaged that over 50 years after it was set up, Africans would be traded as slaves on their own continent, trafficked once again across the seas into Europe for different forms of exploitation and slavery in what is now known as Modern Day Slavery.

Yet daily, we are confronted by the news of people perishing in the Sahara desert and on the Mediterranean sea either as voluntary migrants or as victims of human traffickers. Libya, following the collapse of the Ghadafi regime, has become the hotbed of the new slave trade where people are bought and sold – just like it was done centuries ago. For those who are lucky enough to survive the slave trade in Libya, the Sahara crossing or the terrifying traverse across the Mediterranean sea, their plight is only just starting as on landing in Europe, they fall into the hands of their waiting traffickers or their agents only to be moved across different European countries into different forms of exploitation and abuse.

Sadly, the African Union has not shown any form of unity or solidarity in addressing this terrible phenomenon. That is the tragedy of today’s African Day. It is not a celebration, it is a calamity. There is really nothing to celebrate when thousands of people are perishing in the desert and on the sea and are being traded while the African Union maintains a stoic silence and inaction about this horrific matter.

When Africans are being traded as slaves in the 21st century and everyone is silent about this, then we are all complicit. The slave traders and human traffickers only succeed because of our silence and inaction.

“The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men (and Women) Should Do Nothing.” Edmund Burke

Debbie Ariyo OBE is Founder and CEO of AFRUCA – a UK charity campaigning against human trafficking and modern slavery