On Tuesday August 23, the world marks the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition. Slavery remains the most dreadful trade in human history. Humanitarians all over the world look at it in disdain.
The day reminds us of the horrors of this most atrocious trade. It is shocking to learn that it is yet to be abolished completely. It has evolved and those who perpetuate it have adopted new techniques.
We hear of human trafficking, child labour and bonded labour – in which some people become bonded labourers after falling into debt and being forced to work for free in an attempt to repay it.
Reports have it that the illegal trade is a multibillion-dollar industry with estimated $35 billion income per year involving 20-45 million slaves across the world.
Some social scientists argue that modern slavery is often a by-product of poverty. Factors that perpetuate the industry include disease, lack of education, and poor economic freedoms and rule of law.
Slaves continue to be used in factories, mines, plantations, fishing, brothels and many other sectors of the economy.
Modern slavery takes the form of forced prostitution, child labour in mines, large plantations, domestic work and even hawking. Corruption, inequitable distribution of the national cake, impunity and lack of accountability all perpetuate slavery.
African cities are currently being taken over by armies of youthful petty traders – another form of slavery. They hawk cheap merchandise along all key roads, trunks and streets. Economic hardships in rural areas, lack of decent jobs push them into the streets. Meanwhile, the rural- urban influx continues unabated.
Therefore, if our governments are truly committed to protecting their people against slavery, they must create an enabling environment for their populations. Pro-people policies must be set up so as to fight the arch enemies – poverty, illiteracy, disease and corruption.
What great minds said about slavery. Abraham Lincoln says: “Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”
Benjamin Franklin says: “Slavery is such an atrocious debasement of human nature … the unhappy man who has been treated as a brute animal, too frequently sinks beneath the common standard of the human species.”
“To be given dominion over another is a hard thing; to wrest dominion over another is a wrong thing; to give dominion of yourself to another is a wicked thing,” argues Toni Morrison.
And, Mzee Nelson Mandela says: “Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by actions of human beings.”
So, to end slavery in all its forms we must tackle the arch enemies. Yes, we can.
Deo Simba is a Senior Sub-editor with The Citizen