Photo credit: Henry Desouza Nelson

African slave trade in Libya is old business in Arabia

The Libyan city of Sabha has turned into the collector of Sub-Saharan African bones. After treks across the desert through North Africa then sailing on the Mediterranean to Europe, many hopeful immigrants’ bodies turn up in the overflowing local morgue.


Last week, news reports shows that migrants who do make it are most often detained, and in many cases, sold into slavery.

People across the world express shock in seeing that slavery exists and the issue remained silent; especially when one of United States’ African command centers (AFRICOM) is located in Libya, and had to have known of slave markets.

Leaders of Sub-Sahara African countries express outrage, while the European Union look for more solutions to reduce risky immigration.

In the last year two years, more than 1.5 million people from the Middle East and Africa entered Europe. So worrisome of the increase of African migrants, the European Union started a multi-billion dollar fund to stimulate Africa’s economic development. To well, keep Africans in Africa.

For leaders like Ghanaian president, Nana Akufo Addo, he wants Africans to remain in the continent; however, he pushes for an African beyond the paternalistic relationship with its former European colonial authorities.

Libyan Slave Trade

Africans sold as chattel in open air markets emerged after the 2011 killing of Muammar Gaddafi, the prime minister of the country. After the fall of government, the country erupted into chaos and Sub-Saharan migrants became the fodder for the ire of Libyans who disagreed with Gaddafi’s Pan-African lean.

Reports showed that Sub-Saharan Africans who lived there as immigrants under Gaddafi’s and those who migrated to Europe, were becoming unwelcoming guests the days leading up to his death and after. Even records of them being killed by opposition of the Libyan government in the siege of Libya in the take down of Gaddafi.

Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State at the time under the Barack Obama Administration, led the orchestration of the removal and murder of Gaddafi has been criticized for leaving Libya in a state of chaos. For example, the nation’s capital, Tripoli, a once highly developed, picturesque city sits in ruins. Nonetheless, African migrants from as far southeast as Kenya and as far west Senegal still make the dangerous journey that has claimed an unknown amount of lives.

However, the inequities between Arab leadership and black and darker non-Muslim Africans goes farther back than 2011. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Arab nations used Africans for slave labor; hence, Mauritius and Zanzibar’s history of being a trading center of spices and indigenous people by Arab oligarchy.

Recently, the Nubians of Egypt and Sudan have existed in oppression conditions for centuries; and often flee their territories. In Morocco, the indigenous Berbere people fight against cultural hegemony and for the land against encroachment of Arab populations.

Officials and civic leaders prepare to visit Libya to investigate claims, according to Reverend Al Sharpton.


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Kaia Niambi Shivers covers diaspora, news and features.

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