The plight of Africans as global refugees


AFRICANS in South Africa are killing other Africans because of hatred, fear or xenophobia.
During apartheid, white South Africans killed blacks and they believed black people to be inferior.
Violence is part of our history in Africa, so is the story of displacement, migration and forced movements of people from the place they call home to another place or another country.
In Part One of this column, we explore the enslavement and migrations of Africans, how that came about and why Africans continue to be subjected to deaths and drowning in the seas while seeking refuge in Europe.
And yet, when you look at the vast continent of Africa, we have 60 percent of the world’s arable land.
We have most of the world’s minerals still unexploited.
We still have jungles, forests, big rivers, fertile earth and areas that have never been visited or ‘discovered’ by a European.
This continent has been abused, exploited, raped and her wealth stolen during slavery colonialism up to the present.
We often think slavery started with the Europeans as they captured Africans from Africa to the ‘New World’, but it did not start like that at all.
Slavery goes back to Biblical times when slavery was not based on racial difference, blackness or whiteness.
During Biblical times, people kept slaves.
Among the slave nations were Ethiopian, Egyptian, Canaanite, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman.
In the first century BC, 85 to 90 percent of the Roman Empire’s population consisted of slaves in both lowly and prestigious positions.
Indeed, the enslavement of people as chattel was common practice.
Military conquest contributed greatly to the slave market as well.
The Bible approves of slavery in many passages.
It goes so far as to tell how to obtain slaves, how hard you can abuse and beat them, and when you can have sex with the female slaves.
In the New Testament, Jesus frequently refers to slaves in his parables, but never addresses slavery as an evil institution.
The following passage shows that slaves were clearly property to be bought and sold like livestock.
In the book of Leviticus, 25, verses 44 – 46, it says;  
“However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. 
“You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. 
“You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. 
“You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.”
As time went on, Europeans began to enslave indigenous peoples in the Americas and on the islands of Cuba, Hispaniola and Jamaica.
They forced them to work in mines under harsh conditions.
Due to excessive work and disease, the indigenous people died and their population decreased.
The trade in African slaves began with the Portuguese and Spanish traders.
The Middle Passage was the triangular trade in which millions of people from Africa were forcibly shipped to the ‘New World’ as part of the Atlantic slave trade.
Ships left Europe destined for African markets with manufactured goods, which were then traded for captured or kidnapped Africans, who became slaves transported across the Atlantic.
It is estimated that between nine and 12 million Africans were taken into slavery and transported to America, though it is very difficult to know the exact number.
Throughout the 18th century, at least a third of the slaves were taken on British ships.
Many of the people were smuggled in order for the slave captains to avoid taxes, duty and regulations.
During the journey, over a million Africans died on the way to the American colonies.
More than 40 percent were shipped to the Caribbean, USA and the Spanish speaking colonies.
Another 40 percent of Africans were taken to Brazil.
When the Africans arrived in the ‘New World’, life on the slave plantations was very harsh and brutal.
They worked on the rice, sugar and tobacco plantations and sometimes the work was in swamps.
They lived in wooden huts, cramped in unpleasant and cold conditions.
The average slave work day on the slave plantation was from dawn until dusk.
They sometimes worked longer periods during harvests.
They had no free day as they had to work in their own fields at weekends to survive. 
Throughout their lives, slaves worked.
They were not treated as human beings and they had no rights at all.
In the American colonies, as Peter Thompson, has noted;
“A slave was chattel – an article of property that could be bought, punished, sold, loaned, used as collateral, or willed to another at an owner’s whim. 
“Slaves could not legally marry, own property, vote, serve as witnesses, serve on juries, or make contracts. 
“The offspring of female slaves also belonged to their owners, regardless of whom their fathers were.”
As opposition to slavery of Africans grew, the colonisation of Africa was also beginning.
Although Africans were no longer being forced out of Africa as slaves, they were exploited, colonised and treated like refugees in their own countries.
Then a new form of African slavery and forced displacement began under the system of colonialism.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here