Arts & Entertainments

Contemporary enslavement, implication for Africa’s Development

Recently, the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC) hosted virtual public lecture (4Webinar) as part of activities in commemoration of the 2020 UNESCO International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.


Commemorated on 23 August each year, the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition is intended to inscribe the tragedy of the slave trade in the memory of all peoples.


In accordance with the goals of the intercultural project “The Slave Route”, it should offer an opportunity for collective consideration of the historic causes, the methods and the consequences of this tragedy, and for an analysis of the interactions to which it has given rise between Africa, Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean.


The Webinar (public lecture), organised by CBAAC, was on the theme, ‘Contemporary Enslavement, Implication for Africa’s Development’, and it had Dr. Adetunji Ogunyemi, Head, Department of History, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), as guest lecturer, renowned theatre scholar, Prof. Duro Oni, FNAL, Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos, was chairman of the occasion, Chairman, CBAAC Board, Abom Tony Ibana Esu. Dr. Ogunyemi, in his lecture, outlined the meaning, forms and implications of enslavement to African devoment, and advocated the use of both legal and non-legal solution, including economic intervention: Training and skill acquisition; political Intervention: Deliberate government effort at job creation; public enlightenment on the sufferings of the enslaved abroad; education: re-orientation and value inculcation in the youth; and CBN& BoI Monetary Intervention: Agric-loans for job creation supported by the CBN, support for MSMEs.


He listed the various forms of slavery and enslavement to include physical enslavement (by violence or deceit), mental enslavement (by brainwashing, hypnotism), ideological enslavement (by indoctrination), cultural enslavement (via loss of value and self-worth), and economic enslavement (via indebtedness, colonialism).


According to Dr. Ogunyemi, the word enslavement is derived from the word slavery, and it means to “subjugate a person unreservedly, ominate a human being absolutely, violate a person with impunity, deprive deliberately, force to work and labour without remuneration, take away the right to liberty, and freedom of action & wellbeing of a human being.


“Enslavement is, indeed, the peak of absolute use of power without conscience and consideration for common humanity,” he averred. Enslavement, he further stated, is the process of making a person a slave either by force (kidnap or conquest) or by trickery, compelling a person to do what a slave master wants at all times, conditioning a person to lose his humanity while serving a master, turning a person into a machine for any or all of the following: uncompensated labour even for the fun of it, blind worship, inhuman exploitation, biological experimentation, organ harvest; and drug test.


“The history of Africa has shown three epochs in enslavement: Ancient Slavery, Trans-Saharan Slave Trade, Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade; and Modern Enslavement & Willing Captivity “In many parts of Africa in the ancient times potentates enslaved either their own people (whom they called subjects) or captured foreigners.


Slaves had no right, no property, but were mere articles of trade; slaves were used for different forms of labour; enslavement was not illegal then. “In some African societies, slavery was an institution of state and a revenue earner for the King or dominant elite.


However, some ancient slaves were given the opportunity to purchase their freedom either by military service or by exceptional sacrifice. Some ancient slaves in many parts of Nigeria rose to become rulers and founders of their own states. Note however that the idea of “justice” did not apply to slaves. Only benevolence applied.


The origin of slavery and enslavement, he noted. is of great antiquity. “With all civilisations came periods of enslavement of the conquered peoples under them. All these ancient civilisations kept slaves for different public works: Sumerians 4000 – c. 2050BC BC; Akkadians c. 2300BC – 2100BC; Assyrians 2500BC – 612BC; Chaldeans 940 – 860BCE; Persians 550-330BCE; Medes c. 678BC – c. 549BC; Greeks 800BC -146BC; and Romans 27BC – 476AD “The trans-Saharan Slave Trade and Enslavement lasted from the 8th to the 10th century AD. Arabs were the perpetrators of the enslavement.


The methods for the enslavement were: conquest, slave hunting, enticement, trickery. “But the Berbers brought the inhuman treatment to the Sudan. The Africans that were either caught, conquered or tricked into enslavement were transported to the Maghrib for: domestic labour, porterage, mining in Tagaza & Taodeni, guard duties at Sijilmasa, infantry and cavalry, and general public works.”


On the sources of trans-Saharan slaves, the erudite scholar said slaves were taken from the following African States: Tekrur, Ghana, Songhai, Mali, Kanem-Borno, and Hausaland.


“By the Arab-Nubia Treaty of 641 AD, a tribute of 360 slaves per year was imposed on Nubia to be paid to Egypt. This Treaty was in force for 600 years! “It was the Portuguese around the area of Rio De Oro (now Western Sahara) that started enslavement of Africans in 1444. The Spanish expanded it in America throughout the 16th century. John Hawkins became the fist commercial Slave dealer in 1564 in England.”


On Modern Slavery and Enslavement in Africa, since the 1980s, Dr. Ogunyemi noted that modern slavery and enslavement is the illegal subjugation of any person or country to the absolute control of a master either physically or otherwise.

“Note that, in modern slavery, unlike ancient slavery, the act is illegal, most often, modern slavery is surreptitiously done either by trickery, deceit or sheer ignorance or collaboration of the victim, modern slavery can be more fundamentally depriving of the right to freedom as majority of it is done under cover or deliberately overlooked by law enforcement agents.” He lamented that not less than 300,000 Africans are trafficked every year.


According to him, Causes of modern slavery include: poverty in many African states countries, human trafficking, greed and ignorance, unemployment, nbridled migration across the Sahara and the Mediterranean, war and political instability in many African states, failure of governance in the area of immigration controls, violent conflict, loss of values.”



The implications and evils of modern enslavement for Africa, he averred, include total loss of respect by Africans (especially the black skin) in the comity of nations, depopulation and loss of skilled personnel to menial jobs abroad, dehumanisation, abuse and molestation of the enslaved, disease contraction and spread, forced prostitution, forced organ harvest.


Concluding, Dr. Ogunyemi listed the solution to modern enslavement to include : Legal intervention such as Trafficking in Persons (Enforcement & Administration) Act, 2003 (as amended, 2015) cf NAPTIP, WOTCLEF, Edo State Trafficking in Person (Prohibition) Law, 2018; and on-legal solution such as economic intervention, political intervention, public enlightenment on the sufferings of the enslaved abroad, and education. “Freedom, the first rule of humanity; contentment, a great gain.


To be lean in resources but free of subjugation better than to be fat in provisions but bound in chains; “Enslavement of a human person is not only a crime against humanity but a sin before God.”



Earlier, in her welcome address, the Director-General, Centre of CBAAC, Hon. Oluwabunmi Ayobami Amao (FITP) noted that public lecture seeks to draw attention to some of the teething issues bedeviling our continent, and the need to chart a new course for the development of Africa.


“This lecture is in commemoration of the 2020 UNESCO International day for the remembrance of  Slave Trade and its Abolition. “


As you are aware, 23rd August of every year is set aside by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to commemorate the anniversary of the 1791 uprising of enslaved men and women in the western part of the island of Santo Domingo, the present day Haiti.


Undoubtedly, the revolt triggered a shockwave that has set the course of peoples’ liberation struggles and of human and civil rights movements for over 200 years. This effort still crystallizes the issues, concepts and principles with which it is essential to be familiar with in the present fight against modern day slavery and all forms racism and discrimination. “It is indeed a reality that Slavery did not end with the abolition in the 19th century.


Instead, it changed its forms and continued to harm people in Africa and other parts of the world. It is instructive to note that today, slavery is less about people literally owning other people –although that still exists –but more about being exploited, decimated and completely controlled by someone else, without being able to leave.


Hence, the need for awareness on the matter as a sure way for its eradication. Today, modern day Slavery and its manifestations include: forced labour, debt bondage or bonded labour, human trafficking, child slavery, and girl child marriage, racism among others.


“It is also instructive to draw special attention to the recent menace of irregular migration to Europe across the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea in the guise seeking for “greener pastures” which is predominant among the youthful population on the African continent. More often than not, migrants see their European dream turn into a nightmare, long before they even get to their intended destinations.


Recent reports about Nigerians and other migrants in Libya and other parts of the world reveal that that their experiences are nothing short of a modern-day slave trade and slavery, as they are often treated as mere objects and traded as commodities.


“It is for this reason that CBAAC has mobilized and sought the participation of the youth in this webinar to create the much needed awareness among the young ones,” the CBAAC DG said.


She added, “CBAAC wishes to use this platform and opportunity to condemn in the strongest terms, recent surge in racism against Blacks and People of African descent across the globe, that tends to suggest the superiority of one race over another.


“We wish to call on the global community to stand and work against all forms of slavery, servitude, racism, prejudice, racial discrimination and social injustice; and to affirm the universal principles of human dignity, freedom, and equality.”



She commended the efforts of the immediate past Director, Overseeing the Office of DG, Mrs. Osaro Osayande and other members of CBAAC Management for setting aside the day to commemorate this special day, when it was not possible to do so on 23rdof August, being a Sunday.


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