While most of the world continues to watch in silence, one African nation is stepping up to call out the injustice and offer hope to some 30,000 people who are at risk of being sold into slavery for as little as $400.
After CNN exposed the large-scale slave trade in Libya, where men and young boys from all across the continent are auctioned off as “merchandise” to the highest bidder for a few hundred dollars, Rwanda, a country mired in its own economic crisis, was reportedly the first to offer refuge to thousands of people stranded in the war-torn country that has become a hub for the current migrant crisis.
“Rwanda, like the rest of the world, was horrified by the images of the tragedy currently unfolding in Libya, where African men, women and children who were on the road to exile, have been held and turned into slaves,” the Rwanda Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “Given Rwanda's political philosophy and our own history, we cannot remain silent when human beings are being mistreated and auctioned off like cattle.”
The history referenced in the statement is particularly a bloody one.
In 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the space of 100 days during a civil war between Tutsis and Hutus — two prominent ethnic groups — thrusting the country into a deep humanitarian crisis. The Rwanda genocide sparked after President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, was killed after his airplane was shot down above Kigali airport. However, it was not the only reason behind the mass slaughter, as tensions had been simmering for a long time.
The carnage was mostly perpetrated by the Hutus and most of the dead were Tutsis, their bodies thrown into river as the world did little to nothing to stop it.
“The government and people of Rwanda stand in solidarity with our African brothers and sisters still held in captivity,” the statement continued. “Rwanda may not be able to welcome everyone but our door is wide open. We are ready to work closely with the African Union, the private sector, as well as other friends and partners to ensure that we can provide minimum comfort to those in need.”
Meanwhile, several world leaders have condemned the modern-day slavery taking place in Libya, but mere condemnation is not enough to help these people who fled their homeland for a safe haven only to be enslaved.
As the CNN said in its report, there were total of nine auctions taking part in different locations in Libya, but reporters believe there are many more that take place every month. Most of the victims belonged to Niger, Nigeria, Guinea, Senegal, Mali and Gambia.
The emergence of slave auctions in Libya can be attributed to the closure of borders of many European countries in the summer. In August alone, the influx of migrants in Italy fell by 85 percent, after the country began paying warlords controlling Libya’s coastlines to stop the flow of refugees. The blockade has created a surplus of migrants for Libya’s smugglers who have responded by selling them off for a few hundred dollars.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters, Ismail Zitouny