Slave markets of Libya: How are my generation going to explain this horror?

Wednesday December 6 2017

Slavery Libya

Protesters demonstrate against "Slavery in Libya" on November 23, 2017, outside the Libyan embassy in the Moroccan capital Rabat. Images broadcast by CNN earlier this month appearing to show migrants auctioned off as slaves by Libyan traffickers has sparked outrage in Europe and anger in Africa. PHOTO | AFP 

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There is a persisting conversation that gives me anxiety: This idea of an African curse.

When both sides are composed of so-called Africanists having an argument about whether we can afford democracy, I am always on the back foot. I’m enthusiastic about the idea of being serious about it if you are going to bother having a country.

Also, I’m a feminist, an egalitarian, a socialist with a view to the technological realisation of Marxism, with freedom from work and then some. Just, you know, no chance of winning at all.

And it has been just fine, so far. Remember the African Renaissance? No? Well. It was a thing in the late 2000s and it was pretty about this continent wading out of the mire of historic unfairness, etcetera.

It was generated by an Egyptian revolution of the youthful ones that by all accounts failed, having made the mistake of having good intentions. Well, sure. Why not. Who hasn’t tried to escape Egypt at some point, locusts and parting seas and all. As exciting as the idea was, too much Old Testament.

Eh, I prefer science, economics and a fine dose of hopeless romanticism. In combination, they are just more close to explaining human behaviour than the keen and cold eyes of capitalistic cynicism and neoliberal exploitation.

And even with the challenges wrecking our history (like crap education systems, not to mention no respect for recorded history) and destroying the Timbuktu libraries of our souls and misrepresenting the achievements of our ancients... we have survived. And that has been a point of optimism, if not pride.

I thought, with my generation: Is there something more beautiful than inheriting being an African? Sembene Ousmane, mountains full of gorgeous farms and people, the sound of Kiswahili being spoken with a Congolese accent, Thomas Sankara, Swazi Gold, music... and so much more. What could go wrong?

Libya. Libya could go wrong.

You know how you make all those arguments about how it is everybody else’s fault that your continent is being exploited to death? Yes. The way I like to portray it is that generations of poor leadership by local bellicose patriarchies in collusion with voracious Arab and European intrusions got us to where we are.

It is in fact correct, so don’t bother getting fussed about it. Also, did I mention neo-colonialism? Because it happens, maybe more virulently now than ever before. But then there is the difficulty of talking about the things that Africans do to each other.

Apparently no amount of denial can make things work. As I watched footage of what Libyans are doing to fellow Africans, I thought of Mauritania, as I am sure you did. Difference being, I thought how are my generation going to explain this horror?

There is no Gaddafi African Union bribery to hide behind, nothing at all. What’s going on? Much more important than explaining this to the world is explaining this to each other.

To be honest, this is not a philosophical argument for my generation so much as a practical one. We can point the finger, but what makes you the kind of monster who actually sells another human being?

And they say history is dead. Apparently not. There are conversations we have been putting off as 21st century Africans that, clearly, we need to have. With no excuses about a lack of education or morality, or a sense of fellowship. Ah, Libya. Are you where the real revolution should scorch the earth and start?

Elsie Eyakuze is a consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report. E-mail: [email protected]