Many were shocked and outraged when CNN released a video of African men appearing to be sold. An auction in Libya saw men being sold for $400. After seeing footage of this slave auction, CNN worked to verify its authenticity and travelled to Libya to investigate further. Carrying concealed cameras into a property outside the capital of Tripoli. They witnessed a dozen people go “under the hammer” in the space of six or seven minutes. This has shocked the world and focused international attention on the exploitation of migrants and refugees.
Libya is the main transit point for refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe by sea. Therefore, it is no surprise that in the last three years, 150,000 people have made the dangerous crossing across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya. For four years in a row, 3,000 refugees have died while attempting the journey, according to figures from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the U.N.’s migration agency.
Historically the enslavement of black Africans was carried out by the Tuareg and others who are indigenous to Libya. They facilitated, taxed and partly organized the trade from the South along the trans-Saharan trade routes in the 1830s, a period of time when the slave trade flourished. Ghadames (a town located in North-Western Libya) was handling 2,500 slaves a year. Even though the slave trade was officially abolished in Tripoli in 1853, in practice it continued until the 1890s. A Traveller Danish convert to Islam Knud Hulmboe crossed the Italian Libyan desert in 1930, and was told that slavery is still practiced in Kufra and that he could buy a slave girl for 30 pounds sterling at the Thursday slave market.
However, it is important to note that as the BBC reported in May Libya has been beset by chaos. This was since NATO-backed forces overthrew long-serving ruler Col. Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011. And who was behind that overthrow? None other than then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Under President George W. Bush in 2003, the United States negotiated an agreement with Libyan strongman Gaddafi. The deal was that he would give up his weapons of mass destruction peacefully, and America would not try to depose him. That seemed a good deal at the time, but the Obama administration didn’t stick to it. Instead, in an operation spearheaded by Clinton, the United States went ahead and toppled him anyway.
The overthrow turned out to be a debacle. Libya exploded into chaos and civil war, and refugees flooded Europe, destabilising governments there. But at the time, Clinton thought it was a great triumph “We came, we saw, he died,” she joked about Gaddafi’s overthrow and adviser Sidney Blumenthal encouraged her to tout her “successful strategy” as evidence of her fitness for the highest office in the land. It’s surprising the extent to which Clinton has gotten a pass for this debacle, which represents a humanitarian and strategic failure of the first order. (And, of course, the damage is still compounding: How likely is North Korea’s Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear weapons after seeing the worthlessness of U.S. promises to Gaddafi?)
African gold-backed currency
Gaddafi was not killed for humanitarian purposes but for the oil and for money. His ideas of an African gold-backed currency were his major undoing. Muammar Gaddafi’s plan was to introduce a gold-backed currency which he hoped African and Muslim nations would adopt. He felt it could rival the euro and the dollar, and rightly so too. Sidney Blumenthal, in his email to Hillary Clinton confirmed, “Gaddafi’s government holds 143 tons of gold, and a similar amount in silver. During late March, 2011 these stocks were moved to SABHA taken from the vaults of the Libyan Central Bank in Tripoli.” He went on to say the gold and silver were valued at $7 billion. This was one of the reasons Nicolas Sarkozy embarked on a French attack of Libya. If Gaddafi had succeeded, the United States of America and Europe would have been forced to buy oil and minerals in the gold backed currency thus tipping the scales. This was a horror the West dared not experience.