By Adewale Sogunro
Former South African anti-apartheid activist and politician, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who now heads the African Union – an amalgamation of 55 African nations that promotes cooperation among African independent states – condemned President Trump’s national banning of travelers from Libya, Somalia and Sudan into the US. She said, “The very country to which many of our people were taken as slaves during the transatlantic slave trade has now decided to ban refugees from some of our nations.” Sadly, her words ring hollow not only for being historically inaccurate but for ignoring the plight of many black Africans on her continent.
The capturing of African prisoners of war by Europeans or between African nation states for sale – during the infamous slave trade – occurred in Western and Central Africa. So, it is inaccurate for her to suggest such claims regarding these countries banned by President Trump for labor exploitation in the early Americas. Moreover, if Dlamini-Zuma wants to speak on the persistence of African suffering on the continent, she needs look no further than the scope of the African Union.
Last year, 2,500 Africans died crossing the Mediterranean Sea into Europe in makeshift rafts and boats. A majority of these refugees fled economic repression (genocide) in Senegal, Nigeria and Gambia while other groups left Eritrea and Somalia as asylum seekers. Thus far, 47,000 Africans reached the shores of Italy last year.
Many are fleeing Africa due to the surreptitious economic crimes leveled against them on a massive scale. Coupled with a corrupt government, Africans lack ownership of their inherited natural resources necessary for generating wealth. Is there one country in Africa not touched by colonization that owns and controls its resources while being able to participate equally in the global market? Of course, the failure of African legal systems to institute a decolonized constitutional arrangement that secures land rights for Africans wholly leads to major symptoms of poverty.
An incident that deserves probing is the corporate entity Firestone, which has reaped billions through tire production from the rubber plantation fields of Liberia since the 90’s. Their path to profit was cleared through a business arrangement between former corrupt President Charles Taylor. Sadly, those exploited were Liberians hired and coerced to work for slave wages alongside their families including children as young as eight years old to meet the daily quotas of rubber extraction. Although Firestone was cleared of violating labor laws in 2011, this conundrum serves as a structure on how a few political elites are in bed with multination corporations to enrich themselves while robbing its citizens of the means for group uplift.
Tragically, the deaths of Africans crossing the Mediterranean Sea for better opportunities, due to lack of owning their natural resources to compete in their own domestic and global markets, is not the only issue that leaders of the African Union need to discuss and address; there also exist an anti-black agenda being carried out in parts of Africa.
In 2011, the Libyan Civil War imploded and led to an all-out war between rebels and pro-government groups of former President Muammar Gaddafi. Caught in the middle of this terrible conflict were black indigenous Libyans accused of being mercenaries. Thousands of them were killed, raped and imprisoned. In fact, it has been reported that in the town of Tawergha, 30,000 black Libyans vanished by August 2011 after the toppling of the Libyan government. Many black Libyans and Africans were held in prisons and tortured by rebel groups, according to Human Rights Watch.
Dlamini-Zuma should be at liberty to critique the actions of President Trump, particularly as it amplifies the worst religious and ethnic divisions that threaten the stability of our global community. However, she should not relent on speaking vocally on the economic genocide and socially created human suffering as well as the untold misery of millions of Africans.
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