IT TOOK CNN FOR US TO RE­ACT TO SLAV­ERY

For the youth to be the ful­crum that moves our world, they must un­dergo value ad­di­tion them­selves through a healthy up­bring­ing, qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion, tech­ni­cal skilling and eth­i­cal mould­ing

The East African - - NEWS - JENERALI ULIMWENGU

Ex­cept for a minute sec­tion of the African peo­ple them­selves, we have not sounded as ou­traged at slav­ery as we seem to be now.

Of course Africans are sold into slav­ery on a daily ba­sis, so what is all this hul­la­baloo about? We all know – or should know – that the trad­ing in Africans’ bod­ies and souls has been go­ing on since I can­not re­mem­ber when. Ex­cept for a minute sec­tion of the African peo­ple them­selves, we have not sounded as ou­traged as we seem to be now.

And all be­cause a CNN re­porter went to Libya and stum­bled upon a scene of some Arab-seem­ing char­ac­ters hard at the task in a public auc­tion show­ing off their hu­man wares and call­ing out prices. Ar­baa mia! Khamsa mia! Sab’a mia! The auc­tion­eer cries out as he points to a black body look­ing like it has been drained of all life, soul and thought.

Let me own up to this: Even I was a bit sur­prised at the brazen­ness of the traders in re-en­act­ing scenes that are so rem­i­nis­cent of the New Har­lem and Char­lottesville slave mar­kets in the hey­day of the cross-at­lantic com­merce. But I am not shocked.

Ev­ery week for the past so many years, we have been treated to the spec­ta­cle of young Africans cast­ing them­selves onto the waves of the At­lantic, the Mediter­ranean, the Red Sea or the sand dunes of the Sa­hara, try­ing to cross over to “any­where but here.” The young peo­ple see Africa as a hell they would rather die run­ning from than con­tinue to live in.

Who is to blame them for this thought? There once lived a great African on this con­ti­nent whose very name was syn­ony­mous with telling it as it is. His name was Ta­judeem Abudl­ra­heem, and he fa­mously used to say: The way Africa is gov­erned to­day, if a ship were to dock in Dar es Salaam har­bour with a ban­ner pro­claim­ing “Slave Ship: Vol­un­teers Ac­cepted,” Dar es Salaam would empty of its youth, all of them try­ing to board and be­come slaves, which they would see as bet­ter than their present con­di­tion.

African states, al­most with­out ex­cep­tion, have to­tally failed to find a so­lu­tion to this phe­nom­e­non, which is not in­her­ently a prob­lem of youth but an is­sue of gov­er­nance. Our most valu­able re­source has been turned into an ac­cus­ing fin­ger against us all and our un­think­ing and ego­tis­ti­cal sys­tems wherein the youth are treated like worth­less trash.

There has been a glar­ing fail­ure to see the huge youth bulge on the con­ti­nent as the ful­crum that could be used to move our hu­mon­gous nat­u­ral re­sources in the di­rec­tion of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment for all our peo­ple by adding value onto what we get from our land, in­stead of ex­ter­nal­is­ing it to coun­tries abroad who seem to know the value of our re­sources bet­ter than we do.

But for the youth to be the ful­crum that moves our world, they must un­dergo value ad­di­tion them­selves through a healthy up­bring­ing, qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion, tech­ni­cal skilling and eth­i­cal mould­ing. A new­born baby should not be seen as just an­other mouth to feed and a fu­ture delin­quent to im­prison, but rather as a po­ten­tial Ein­steinesque brain to think up new uni­verses, a pair of deft hands a la Leonardo da Vinci or a heart of mercy a la Mother Theresa of Cal­cutta.

In­stead, we are con­tin­u­ing to pro­duce and to grow lit­tle bar­bar­ians, whom we pass through rough-hewed ed­u­ca­tional sys­tems and then un­leash onto an un­sus­pect­ing world where they pro­ceed to ex­act their re­venge on peo­ple who did them no wrong in the first place.

All that time, a clue­less tribe of rulers, made up of deal­ers rather than lead­ers, are happy to con­tinue mouthing inani­ties about “bring­ing de­vel­op­ment” to their peo­ple, as if de­vel­op­ment were some­thing one could in­flict on peo­ple in­stead of some­thing that peo­ple achieve for them­selves once they are made to un­der­stand what de­vel­op­ment is, and to de­sire it and seek it them­selves.

These deal­ers at the helm of our coun­tries have demon­strated a sin­gu­lar in­abil­ity to lead and, in­stead, are re­sort­ing more and more to is­su­ing or­ders that sim­ply don’t work. Lead­er­ship is about many con­ver­sa­tions seek­ing the per­sua­sion of a crit­i­cal mass of the pop­u­la­tion,

Young peo­ple see Africa as a hell they would rather die run­ning from than con­tinue to live in.”

which, in turn, makes each one of those per­suaded into an agent of change.

Oth­er­wise, African youth will con­tinue look­ing for rick­ety sea craft, or tired camels, to take them to Libya and the slave mar­kets.

. Jenerali Ulimwengu is chair­man of the board of the Raia Mwema news­pa­per and an ad­vo­cate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: ulimwengu@jenerali.com

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