Thanks to everyone who read and sent me messages after my first blog post. I was going to work on a post about the experience of the less privileged in our society, about my experience here in America and how there is a great deal of lessons to be learned from Africa in this regard. Unfortunately, I will leave that for next time.
Today, I want to do the opposite. I am craving an avenue to deploy my frustration with Africa. Why are we so backward? What is going on? Why do we cluster together in our little groups and complain about our continent while ignoring the effects of the problems we are allowing to fester?
A little over a week ago, I watched a documentary about a site in Libya where able bodied men and women who were unsuccessful in their illegal voyage to cross the shores of Africa into Europe are now the victims of modern day slavery. Basically, there are auctions in Libya were people are literarily sold as slaves...yes slaves by fellow Africans to fellow Africans. This is utterly detestable! This brings back terrible memories about tales of the 1800s-- tales that will hunt humanity until end of time.
On my last mission trip back home I visited a site close to the outskirts of Lagos that was the last stop for slaves brought from different regions in West Africa, including those from Benin Republic and Ghana, on their journey to the Americas and the Caribbean Islands. It is quite astonishing to imagine that today we can say slavery has reared its ugly head again. I have said time and time again that colonial rule wasn't the worst thing Africa experienced. Rather, it was one of the best because most of the advances we have made as a continent could be traced back to colonial rule. On the other hand, most of the decline we have experienced as a continent can be traced back to greed, corruption and sheer negligence post colonial rule.
Zimbabwe for instance, celebrated with great jubilation after colonialism ended in the 1980s. Robert Mugabe was the sung hero of the season. He became the leader and as the years went by, he began to consolidate power to himself, choosing to rule until he died. Greed! He was so power-drunk that a few years ago when he turned 90, he boldly declared on national TV that he would rule until 100 and usher the country into a prosperous future. Far from that! The last decade has been terrible for Zimbabwe with inflation rising over 500 billion percent and with 90% of able bodied people unemployed! The economy basically went into the gutters under Mugabe. Yet, when he was forced to resign about a week ago, he was promised millions of dollars in retirement allowance.
Africans have long struggled to treat one another with the dignity we all deserve. When desperate times come, we are willing to throw one another under the bus or sometimes stay apathetic. Take for instance the nation of Nigeria. Rich in natural resources and one of largest exporters of crude oil, yet the average Nigerian lives in severe poverty. However, a few select leaders and stake holders choose to bankrupt the country by embezzling funds meant to be used for education, for infrastructural development, for medicine, and for civil servants' retirement pensions. The leaders' greedy acts are causing irreparable damages to the destinies of millions of people. Interestingly, these same cronies, even after they are discovered, are celebrated as exemplary leaders and heroes to our youth both home and abroad. The youth then become desperate to emulate these "success stories" but feel like they have no chance at embezzling their way to "success" in their own country. So little wonder, that those in search for true success are desperate to flee in search of greener pastures.
Personally, I can hardly fault these migrants because the only difference between my journey to the West and many of these families' is that I relocated for educational purposes through the legal framework. But really the overarching goal was the same. I was seeking a place were my dreams of becoming a medical doctor could be actualized. They are also seeking to flee for similar purposes-- some to a place where they can simply make ends meet. Yes, desperation can drive us to do the unintelligible. Unfortunately, most of them are choosing to hire people, transporters, to help them illegally cross the boarder. After a long journey across the Sahara Desert they are prevented from reaching their intended destinations due to stricter coast guard activities on Libyan sea coasts, at which point the transporters sell the migrants off as slaves in Libya.
Consequently, we have a new problem on our hands. First, we have a dire situation in Africa from poverty and systemic decadence. Second, NATO created the problem in Libya when they helped depose Umar Gadaffi and allowed the migration crisis to begin and fester, and then weapons from a destabilized Libya found their way into the hands of terrorist groups like Al Shabaab in Mali and Boko haram in Nigeria. Now, all this has created the perfect storm for the 2nd coming of slavery, with some people even killed and their parts harvested and sold. This is humanity at its worst.
I am passionate about this topic because 75% of these migrants stuck in Libya are from Nigeria. These are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, cousins, and friends that need our help. Child Scholars is creating an avenue to help lift kids out of poverty by educating them and channeling their talents and resources to help others. We want to catch these at-risk kids now before they grow up, get desperate, and end up in a situation like this. That is how we are choosing to make a difference. Thanks for being so supportive, now and always.