Africa’s inept states and human trafficking

A boat carrying migrants in the Mediterranean sea

A boat carrying migrants in the Mediterranean sea


These are interesting times on the African continent. Gone are the times when brazen rulers like Iddi Amin of Uganda, ‘Emperor’ Jean Bedel Bokassa of the Central African Republic (Empire?) and Field Marshal Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo) declared themselves presidents for life in the seventies.

However, none of them accomplished the self-declared intention of ruling for life. All three died after being purged from power unceremoniously: Amin died in Saudi Arabia in 2003; Bokassa died in 1996, while Mobutu died in Morocco in 1997.

Then in came the eighties with new leaders; the successors breathing fresh air and ideas, promising to turn around what had gone wrong. A new era had dawned on the hitherto ‘Black Continent’, they postured.

‘A new breed of African leaders’ had emerged, that is according to former US president Bill Clinton. Mr Clinton still lives but I think he regrets that statement every passing day because today, twenty years later, the same leaders he heaped praise on are also still alive and still in power, while he has long left the presidency of the world’s largest democracy!

Indeed, save for a few countries like Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and Namibia, today the continent is once again a tinderbox, just waiting to explode.

Just about every country on the continent is trying to have a change of Constitution, to allow for incumbents to hold onto power, for as long as they live.

This is the era of ‘neo-presidency’ in Africa, something that has caused recalcitrance among the diverse populations, with several now unafraid of storming the streets in protest against the ‘omnipresent rulers’.

Unfortunately, although there has been some modest development on the continent, there is almost nothing to show for their longevity in power. The continent has miserably failed on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), donor monies notwithstanding. Poverty has not been eradicated; diseases like malaria are still rampaging, killing multitudes with reckless abandon; children are still studying under trees… the list of malaises is endless.

Suffice to say, the number of people killed by social malaises in Africa is appalling, yet little is spent on their wellbeing. Instead regimes are stockpiling arms, some of which become obsolete even before use. The continent is on a downward spiral. Poverty is biting!

Just recently over 700 Africans of different nationalities drowned while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea, after their boat capsized. Earlier in February, another 300 immigrants died while also trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea; these Africans were trying to seek better opportunities in Europe, after efforts at home proved futile.

So far, the attempt in April has claimed the most casualties but not a single utterance has been made about the tragedy by any government, or even the continental body, the African Union.

According to reports, the number of illegal immigrants across the globe stands at slightly over 230 million people. And in Europe, Italy has had the biggest number because of its proximity to Africa.

There is something sticky about these ‘voyages of death’; the human traffickers who organize them demand for as much as $8,000. By any standards, this money is not casual pocket change, which means that those who fork it out have been in employment of some sort.

Further, it is indicative of brain-drain, since most people who can afford such sums are either graduates of universities or, at worst, tertiary education.

But worse still, it exposes the ineptness of some African states; they cannot even afford to patrol their borders, Africa’s states’ inaction is partly to blame for the hundreds of thousands of Africans that have died trying to cross the Mediterranean. It has also given rise to a wave of international criminal activities including terrorism and human trafficking.

But there is a silver lining: for those who have managed to make it, not everything is lost. They remit about $592 billion to the continent, much of it is sent to help their suffering relatives left behind in Africa.

But, needless to mention, the immigrants have also played a big part in developing their host communities, attracting the attention of the international community.

Indeed, after realizing the soaring numbers of immigrants, on December 18, 1990 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All migrant workers and members of their families.

‘We are putting the spotlight not on where immigrants come from but on what they bring, including diverse skills, new points of view, and the determination and courage that led them to leave home in the first place. But all too often in our media and national conversation, this positive contribution is overlooked,’ the International Organisation for Migration states on its website.