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The AU really needs to speak to the Arab Nations in the Organization

In 2019, it came to light that Sub-Saharan Africans passing through Libya were being enslaved, a practice that continues to this day. On 25 June 2022, it was reported that after an incident at the border between Morocco and Melilla (the enclave within Morocco controlled by Spain) resulted in the deaths of some 23 Sub-Saharan Africans. The migrants were ultimately blamed for their own deaths and a cache of knives and sticks were shown to the media by the Moroccan authorities claiming that the migrants attacked them, which justified their brutality against refugees. This, though, has been disputed by activists on the ground.

The African Union Commission chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, expressed concerns about the treatment of the African migrants attempting to cross the border and reminded Spain and Morocco of their duties under the relevant international treaties to:

“treat all migrants with dignity and to prioritize their safety and human rights, while refraining from the use of excessive force.”

A statement that, in my view, was insufficiently robust given the known mistreatment of Black people in those regions of North Africa along with the disturbing video footage of Black men handcuffed and lying beside the dead. This gave me vibes of what occurred during the Transatlantic Slave Trade where the living could, during the long voyage be chained to those who had died en route. Kenya brought the Melilla incident to the attention of the United Nations Security Council for excessive force and human rights violations. Kenya condemned the behaviour of the Moroccan/Spanish authorities, the only country that came out. Well done!

However, the African countries’ ambassadors to Morocco let their citizens down, as they agreed with the brutal actions of the Moroccan/Spanish authorities against the migrants. No other countries/continent would condone such treatment of their citizens no matter the seriousness of the crime. I well recall two British women caught in Peru trafficking drugs and upon their convictions allowed to complete their sentences in the UK prison system as agreements were entered into with the Peruvian authorities. I use this example to evidence the lengths other countries will go to ensure the safety of their citizens to include arranging for guilty drug traffickers to serve their sentences in less harsh prison systems.


The Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH) considered the force used against the migrants to be unjustified especially as the authorities were burying the bodies. The ADMH shared an image to Facebook, which showed a number of graves in Sidi Salem’s cemetery in Nador Ciity. The organisation said:

“Without investigation, without autopsy and without identification, the authorities seek to cover up the disaster”

To add insult to injury, some of the migrants are now being charged with human trafficking and arson offences.

Roll on to July 2022 and further, disturbing video evidence has surfaced of another Sub-Saharan African being attacked-this time by Tunisian Authorities. A tweet by Borzou Darahahi, which was retweeted by Nonso Okereke on 8 July 2022, says the following:

“After @tunisair_info cancelled flights and left passengers trapped in Tunis-Carthage airport for days w/out hotels or temporary visas, Tunisian security forces began mercilessly beating on sub-Saharan African passengers. 8 passengers were arrested for “assaulting” the cops.”

The video shows a lone man being attacked by several men who appear to be officers wielding batons.

On LinkedIn, the video is referred to as an example of Anti-Black Hate, which I wholeheartedly agree with. Apparently, Tunisian Airlines overbooked their flights and passengers who were non-African were allowed to board leaving the Black Africans stranded for two days. Upon protesting, the sub-Saharan Africans were brutalised and beaten. It is alleged that they assaulted the police; the videos of course showed the opposite. You can see in the video a police officer attempting to prevent filming and another pushing a woman.

Tunisia along with other Arab states, whether in Africa or the Middle East, have an Anti-Black sentiment, which endures up until this day. Although it was the first Muslim country to abolish slavery in 1846, 19 years before the USA; Blacks are still discriminated against and referred to derogatorily as “Abid” and “Shoushan” both words meaning slave. Later legislation had to be passed in 1890 to ensure that slavery was totally eradicated.

The AU surely has to address these examples of clear racism perpetrated by Arab African states against Black African citizens, and in my view, those countries should be removed from the African Union with an immediate effect as a form of sanction.

However, if Black Africa and the African Diaspora were on one accord-like ethnic groups of people, these instances of brutality could not occur against Africans, no matter where they are with such impunity. The economies of countries would be affected, but unfortunately, we are not on one accord and abuse continues.

I have always said that, our treatment-no matter where it may stems from, the fact that no matter the heights we reach, we are still viewed as slaves and less than.

Surely, the abuse and mistreatment of Africans by these Arab states in North Africa can no longer continue. This is a problem; heads can no longer be buried in the sand. AU, my question to you: what will you do about this? If you do not remove these states, this mistreatment will continue.

I will wait for the continent to actually step up as Kenya did over Melilla but do more than report to the UN Security Council. More effective action has to be taken, don't you agree?

Njemile Nantan

11th July 2022