‘We Cannot Remain Silent’: Rwanda Offers to Take in 30,000 African Migrants at Risk for Being Sold Into Slavery

Refugees and migrants wait on deck of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms rescue vessel Golfo Azzurro to disembark after being rescued off the Libyan coast north of Sabratha, Libya, on Feb. 19, 2017. (David Ramos/Getty Images)

It has almost become a mantra these days: “I can’t believe that this is happening in 2017.” The way race relations in the U.S. are going, we could be in 1917, or 1817, especially with the recent exposé of the sale of people—black people—in this the year of our Lord.

Since a CNN report showing footage of African migrants being sold at auctions in Libya has been circulating the internet, many have expressed shock and been highly disturbed that human beings are being traded for as little as $400.


Libya, which has fallen into a lawless void since the death of Muammar Qaddafi, is the last stopping point on the continent before migrating the treacherous Mediterranean to Europe, Newsweek reports. Hundreds of thousands of Africans from countries all over the continent have attempted to travel to Europe in recent years, resulting in thousands of drowning deaths.

Incredibly, the East African country of Rwanda has offered refuge to around 30,000 African migrants who are being exploited and living in slavelike conditions in Libya.

The Rwandan foreign ministry released a statement last week saying that it stands in solidarity with its “African brothers and sisters still held in captivity.”

Rwanda, like the rest of the world, was horrified by the images of the tragedy currently unfolding in Libya, where African men, women and children who were on the road to exile, have been held and turned into slaves. Given Rwanda’s political philosophy and our own history, we cannot remain silent when human beings are being mistreated and auctioned off like cattle.

The Government and people of Rwanda stand in solidarity with our African brothers and sisters still held in captivity. Rwanda may not be able to welcome everyone but our door is wide open. We are ready to work closely with the African Union, the private sector, as well as other friends and partners to ensure that we can provide minimum comfort to those in need.


The “history” that the Rwandan government speaks of is a nearly four-year civil war that left 800,000 Rwandans dead and many more maimed. Rwanda was at the center of one of the largest refugee crises of the 20th century, and 2 million fled the nation to neighboring countries during that time.

Libyan officials have condemned the practice of slave trading but said that they required more support from the international community.


The United Nations held an emergency session Wednesday, calling the practice a “crime against humanity,” and many Parisians took to the streets last week in protest (of course, with the majority of them being black marching on the Champs-Élysées, it went bad).

Read more at Newsweek and CNN.

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Angela Helm

Ms. Bronner Helm is a Contributing Editor at The Root. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.