Of course Africans are sold into slavery on a daily basis, so what is all this hullabaloo about?
We all know – or should know – that the trading in Africans’ bodies and souls has been going on since I cannot remember when. Except for a minute section of the African people themselves, we have not sounded as outraged as we seem to be now.
And all because a CNN reporter went to Libya and stumbled upon a scene of some Arab-seeming characters hard at the task in a public auction showing off their human wares and calling out prices. Arbaa mia! Khamsa mia! Sab’a mia! The auctioneer cries out as he points to a black body looking like it has been drained of all life, soul and thought.
Let me own up to this: Even I was a bit surprised at the brazenness of the traders in re-enacting scenes that are so reminiscent of the New Harlem and Charlottesville slave markets in the heyday of the cross-Atlantic commerce. But I am not shocked.
Every week for the past so many years, we have been treated to the spectacle of young Africans casting themselves onto the waves of the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Red Sea or the sand dunes of the Sahara, trying to cross over to “anywhere but here.” The young people see Africa as a hell they would rather die running from than continue to live in.
Who is to blame them for this thought? There once lived a great African on this continent whose very name was synonymous with telling it as it is.
His name was Tajudeem Abudlraheem, and he famously used to say: The way Africa is governed today, if a ship were to dock in Dar es Salaam harbour with a banner proclaiming “Slave Ship: Volunteers Accepted,” Dar es Salaam would empty of its youth, all of them trying to board and become slaves, which they would see as better than their present condition.
African states, almost without exception, have totally failed to find a solution to this phenomenon, which is not inherently a problem of youth but an issue of governance. Our most valuable resource has been turned into an accusing finger against us all and our unthinking and egotistical systems wherein the youth are treated like worthless trash.
There has been a glaring failure to see the huge youth bulge on the continent as the fulcrum that could be used to move our humongous natural resources in the direction of economic development for all our people by adding value onto what we get from our land, instead of externalising it to countries abroad who seem to know the value of our resources better than we do.
But for the youth to be the fulcrum that moves our world, they must undergo value addition themselves through a healthy upbringing, quality education, technical skilling and ethical moulding.
A newborn baby should not be seen as just another mouth to feed and a future delinquent to imprison, but rather as a potential Einsteinesque brain to think up new universes, a pair of deft hands a la Leonardo da Vinci or a heart of mercy a la Mother Theresa of Calcutta.
Instead, we are continuing to produce and to grow little barbarians, whom we pass through rough-hewed educational systems and then unleash onto an unsuspecting world where they proceed to exact their revenge on people who did them no wrong in the first place.
All that time, a clueless tribe of rulers, made up of dealers rather than leaders, are happy to continue mouthing inanities about “bringing development” to their people, as if development were something one could inflict on people instead of something that people achieve for themselves once they are made to understand what development is, and to desire it and seek it themselves.
These dealers at the helm of our countries have demonstrated a singular inability to lead and, instead, are resorting more and more to issuing orders that simply don’t work.
Leadership is about many conversations seeking the persuasion of a critical mass of the population, which, in turn, makes each one of those persuaded into an agent of change.
Otherwise, African youth will continue looking for rickety sea craft, or tired camels, to take them to Libya and the slave markets.
Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: [email protected]