Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sub-Saharan Africans in desperate need of evacuation from Libya

It is no secret that following the outbreak of violence against pro-democracy protesters in Libya in February 2011, many states scrambled to evacuate their nationals, but sub-Saharan Africans are still in desperate need of evacuation from the North African country. The prompt evacuation of some nationals from Libya goes to show that some states care about the well-being and safety of their citizens - living both at home and abroad - while others don't.

Human Rights Watch reports that "day after day, some governments are managing to send boats to evacuate thousands of their nationals, but Africans, who are most vulnerable and destitute, are left behind." The organization reveals that sub-Saharan Africans are "at greatest risk" in Libya.

Since the outbreak of unrest, more than 30, 000 Chinese and 10,000 Europeans have been evacuated from Libya. The Philippines, U.S., Morocco, Algeria, Syria and a host of others have also evacuated their nationals to safe ground. Unfortunately, states like Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Mali, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso have abandoned their citizens caught in the deadly unrest in Libya.

Sub-Saharan Africans are reportedly targets of abuse and violence in Libya because pro-democracy protesters belief that the repressive Gaddafi regime hired mercenaries from the region to crackdown on demonstrators.

While reading a news release about the plight of sub-Saharan Africans in Libya, I was saddened by the story of two desperate sub-Saharan Africans who tried to board a ship that was evacuating Tunisians from Benghazi. They were apprehended by security forces and beaten with sticks and knives.

This is particularly disturbing because no African Head of State has publicly condemned violations against sub-Saharan Africans in Libya.

Many of these stranded Africans in need of evacuation from Libya come from countries that are relatively stable and rich in resources. For instance, according to CIA World Factbook, Nigeria is a major oil producing nation (2.211 million barrels per day), Cameroon produces 77,310 barrels of oil per day, Ivory Coast, although a recent power struggle is pushing the country to the brink of civil war, is a major producer of cocoa. These countries and many other sub-Saharan African nations can afford evacuation operations (or at least work with countries that have sent ships to Libya), but corruption and misappropriation of state funds have gone a long way to leave innocent citizens stranded and unprotected abroad.

This is testament to the fact that corruption undermines basic rights, including the right to protection and safety.

It is worth reiterating that sub-Saharan Africans are targets of abuse in Libya and are in desperate need of evacuation. Their governments and the international community have an obligation to protect them from persecution. Those who manage to board evacuation ships should not be returned to Libya - where their lives are at risk.


  1. Oh God. This is horrific! Look at the fear in their faces!!! What a deplorable state of affairs for Sub-Saharan Nationals. I have nothing to offer but prayers and comfort for their safety and scared souls.

  2. @Nicoline, prayers will help. I also think it's time we figure out how to challenge sub-Saharan leaders to respond to situations like this. For too long, sub-Saharan Africans have been caught between disconnected leaders and unspeakable violations.


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