Slave Trade in Libya: an open-air slave auction market


Black Africans are being sold in open-air slave markets in Libya. But there isn't much coverage from the mainstream media or the foreign-policy pundits. The silence is deafening!

“So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did slave trade's wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for abolition. Let the consequences be what they would: I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had affected its abolition”. William Wilberforce

Over the past decades Africa has experienced autocratic regimes resulting in genocide and civil wars. All with devastating effects on its citizenry. In the hope for safety and a new life many Africans have made a great trek from their countries fleeing conflict infested areas. However, those fleeing the genocidal regimes in their home countries found themselves enslaved by other Africans. 

In a video footage from Libya released by CNN, it shows young men from sub-Saharan Africa being auctioned off as farm workers in slave markets. African migrants are being sold for as little as $400 in Libya.

In the Gambia, a migrant Karamo Keita set up a group to warn fellow youngsters not to attempt the trip to Europe. This was after suffering horrific abuses in Libya including slave labour. "In Libya, black people have no right. We worked on the farms for free."


When the news of the auctions was first beamed by CNN,  protests sparked outside of the Libyan Embassy in Paris. High profile figures such as French soccer star Paul Pogba have protested against slave trade. Pogba put his wrists together as if they were handcuffed after scoring a goal. Pogba has been joined in the protest by other big names such as Villarreal striker Cedric Bakambu and West Ham's Cheikou Kouyaté.

Libyan authorities have been unashamedly denying the reports of a booming slave trade in Libya. Although after the expose by CNN the Libyan officials said they would launch an investigation. It is yet to be seen if the investigations would take place. Amnesty International's West Africa director Alioune Tine said "hostage-takings, violence, torture and rape" were well documented in Libya. 

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, “I abhor these appalling acts and call upon all competent authorities to investigate these activities without delay". 

The question that can be asked however is, how did Libya descend into this inhumane mess?


Libya has been beset by chaos since NATO backed forces overthrew long-serving ruler Col Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011.Then US Secretary of State Clinton understood in early 2011 what was happening concerning the rebel genocidal targeting of black Libyans and African migrants. Yet she pushed to arm the rebels and overthrow Gaddafi. She was given the intelligence brief which gave evidence this was happening in March 27 2011. Such war crimes were so well known a full month prior. On February 28, 2011, Al Jazeera published a story entitled, African Migrants Targeted in Libya.

But even years later, as such race-based war crimes have now been exhaustively documented, Clinton has consistently indicated that she has no regrets. Though her beloved Libyan rebels were killing people based on the colour of their skin.


It is important to note that Gaddafi did some positive things for his country despite the infamous notoriety surrounding his name. Under Gaddafi, Libya had free education and free health. Electricity were also free among others. But what is of importance is that Libya had its own state bank which provided loans to citizens at zero percent interest. By law and they had no external debt. As an extension, Gaddafi proposed the gold Dinar. Which some claim that was the main reason why Gaddafi was attacked by the NATO led rebellion.

Before the fall of Tripoli and his untimely demise, Gaddafi was trying to introduce a single African currency linked to gold. Gaddafi wanted to introduce and only trade in the African gold Dinar  – a move which would have thrown the world economy into chaos. His vision was to empower Africa, bring itself out of debt and poverty and only trade in this precious commodity. However the move to create the Dinar currency was fiercely opposed by the global leaders. It would have meant that Africa would have been able to finally say ‘no’ to external exploitation. Africa would charge fairly for its abundant precious resources.

Since Gaddafi’s demise Libya became a massive transit hub for sub-Saharan Africans setting sail for Europe. The EU has been desperate to stem the influx. More than 1.5 million migrants have arrived in Europe since 2015, according to UN figures.


It’s also important to note that Africa is a continent that has lived through and continues to be bedevilled by various forms of enslavement. Talk of forced marriages, child marriages, bondage, and human trafficking. We have our own shameful history of slavery.

Analyst Hamidou Anne also said a passive response from African leaders was in part to blame for the unfolding disaster, along with "systematic racism in the Maghreb countries". This is a huge indictment on some of the dictators in Africa who have collapsed the economies of their nations forcing their citizens to be economic refugees in other countries.

There exists push and pull factors that are driving Africans from their homes and countries. Millions of Africans flee their homes in search of protection from persecution, deadly conflicts and civil wars. A significant number are living their countries in search of the proverbial ‘greener pastures’


There is also the failure by African governments to ensure that their citizens live a life of dignity. There is a failure to protect them from attacks by armed militias such as Boko Haram (Nigeria) Al Shabaab (Somalia) and ISIS. A huge mockery of the African Union and what it claims to stand for. Libya is a member of the AU but the latter has done nothing about this slave trade.

The European Union and its member states are complicit in colluding with Libya to make sure that migrants and refugees are intercepted on international waters and forcibly returned to Libya. They are subjected to various forms of abuse enroute to Libya and in Libya detention centres. They should all equally take responsibility in the despicable slave trade in Libya.

The international community cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the unimaginable horrors endured by migrants in Libya

My plea to them and the world is that don’t just condemn, ACT! Faced with a crime against humanity you don't just condemn it, you act.

 "You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know!" - William Wilberforce

By Laswet Savadye