Neo-slavery is no longer a relic of the distant past
Involuntary servitude a staple in Motherland
Gregg Reese OW Contributor | 1/24/2019, midnight
“We cry for forgiveness and reconciliation. The slave trade is a shame, and we do repent for it." —Luc Gnacadja, minister of environment and housing for Benin, in a 2000 apology for his country’s complicity in the slave trade.
The history of Black people in America, of course, centers on the Trans-Atlantic slave trade (from the 1500s through the 1800s), arguably the first modern example of globalization. No other single event (at least in the Western Hemisphere) has so impacted the cultural, economic, and political progression of recent history.
To the modern layman, this is all a relic of the past (though much of the upheaval taking place may be directly or indirectly traced back to it). And yet, the institution of slavery flourishes today in virtually every region of the world, in one form or the other. This ranges from the influx of women from Eastern Europe after the collapse of the Cold War, to native Brazilians forced to toil on cattle ranches along the Amazon River, to millions working off “debt bondage” in India. Experts suggest more than 40.3 million are enslaved presently in various parts of the globe (International Labor Office).
For brevity’s sake, we will concentrate on servitude within the African continent. Even then, this is merely a brief over view of activity in that area.
Filling the vacuum
“Do they want us to become slaves once again like we were slaves to the Italians ... We will never accept it. We will enter a bloody war and thousands and thousands of Libyans will die if the United States enters or NATO enters.”—Col. Muammar Gaddafi in a May 2, 2011 address.
The above statement references Libya’s memory of colonial rule under the yoke of Italian exploitation, circa 1911 through 1947. Since his overthrow and death in 2011, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is alternately seen as a despot and confederate of international terrorism, or merely an independent refusing to succumb to the dictates of the western powers. In any event, his removal has left in its wake a void in the country’s infrastructure. Seven years later, rival fractions continue to wrestle for control of this Mediterranean which was a model of stability prior to the Libyan Civil War. On top of this, Libya continues to be a way station for migrants and refugees from central and southern Africa, seeking passage to Europe and (presumably) a better life. This influx of vulnerable, displaced people has only added to the chaos that is a regular component of a “failed state.”
All countries—including so-called “developed nations”—have their strengths and weaknesses, but those labeled “failed” are at a level wherein the internal workings of the established government have reached a state of dysfunction wherein even the most basic public services are absent. To be sure, definitions are sketchy and nebulous, but essentially it boils down to two central criteria: It cannot maintain its own borders; and it cannot project authority over the territory and people within those borders. The countries that fall under this description fluctuate, but due to the erratic nature of African politics, nations like the Congo, Eritrea, the Ivory Coast, Somalia and others regularly top the list. Even if slavery doesn’t exist with these failed states, sheer economic reality makes them contributors to the problem, since harsh times are a prime motivator for relocation in search of greener pastures.