I was on a national radio program here yesterday to offer my thoughts on the recent tragedy of black slave auctions in Libya. Here we go.
1) I am shocked and outraged like everyone else but I am not surprised.
2) I am not surprised that black Africans are being auctioned in broad daylight in Libya because I am not divorcing what is happening now as we speak from the overall history of the Arab Slave Trade in black Africa.
3) It is more fashionable to talk about the trans-Atlantic slave trade which moved millions of black Africans to the Americas. The history of Arab enslavers of black Africans is not well-known. It is hardly present in the school curriculum in Africa.
4) Yet, Arab Slave slave traders and hunters preceded European slave traders and hunters in black Africa by seven centuries.
5) For seven continuous centuries before the Europeans, Arabs traded in black bodies, routed them through North Africa to be sold all over Arabia and the Middle East as slaves.
6) The reality of Arab slavery goes hand in hand with a certain imaginary of race. Blacks are deemed inferior. In many parts of North Africa, belonging to Africa is treated like a geographical indignity.
7) In essence, what is happening in Libya is to be seen within the framework of historical continuities going back several centuries. It is only more outrageous now because of the power of the image - CNN and social media have brought centuries of the treatment of black bodies in North Africa and the Arab world to your dinner table.
8) The African Union and many African states are jackasses with no political willpower or moral authority to do anything meaningful about the tragedy in Libya, hence the largely disgraceful response from Africa thus far. They have not even expelled Libya from the AU.
9) The European Union, the UN, the West are the congenital hypocritical jackasses we have always known. They are making perfunctory noise and expressing outrage. When they want results in Africa, they know how to get results. When Robert Mugabe began to target whites in Zimbabwe, they massed on him, choked him with sanctions, and hastened the course he was already on - the destruction of Zimbabwe's economy. None of them is talking about sanctions against Libya and expelling her from the international body politic - the victims are expendable black people who would have become burdens on White Europe had Libya not done the needful! Now they are saying that the Libyan authorities have reassured them that they are looking into the matter. Shior!
10) Africans looking up to the West and asking where is the outrage must, therefore, cut the crap. Africans in Paris, in London, have been marching and protesting. Where are the protests in the capitals of Africa?
11) The Nigerian President is yet to hear of what is going on Libya although someone who heard in his government has ferried Nigerians home from Libya. The Ghanaian President is heehawing and blowing hot air on Twitter with no real action. I am the one who should be blowing hot air on Twitter, not the President of an African state. Uncle Jacob Zuma was recently honored with a statue in Nigeria by one of the most irresponsible state governors on offer in Nigeria. He is still basking in the fact that Nigeria accorded him worth he does not have at home in South Africa so he is yet to hear about Libya.
12) These are the characters in charge of the state in Africa. They are the ones that the citizens of Africa should hold responsible. They are the ones we need to put pressure on to act decisively about Libya - starting with Libya's expulsion from the AU. After all, their misrule of the continent is why our citizens are crossing the Sahara in the first place.
God bless Africa.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pius Adesanmi is a Professor of English and Director, Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. He was previously an Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at the Pennsylvania State University in the United States. He is the inaugural winner of the Penguin Prize for African Writing in the non-fiction category