THE UNITED NATIONS commences its "World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance" this week in Durban, South Africa.
State enslavement – the crime where a regime denies free emigration and with it inhabitants’ self-ownership – is pandemic in Africa. Over one-third of African countries arrogate individuals’ elemental property right in their bodies.
In several countries, the arrogation is sex-based. Swaziland, Kenya, Nigeria, and Togo, for example, render a woman’s exit contingent upon her husband or male relative’s approval. Regimes that enslave comprehensively include Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Further information is available at www.FreeEmigration.com.)
The phrase "captive peoples" evokes the Soviet era and the Berlin Wall. That edifice told a populace that their bodies did not belong to them in the most egregious manner possible.
Africa’s Berlin Walls are less overt than the former Soviet Union’s, but their effect is identical: the reduction of human beings to chattel. Whole and partial African populations are held captive, robbed of their personhood.
American interest groups purportedly supportive of people of color have been mute about Africa’s slave regimes. For instance, the NAACP’s website contains press releases announcing "economic sanctions" against South Carolina to protest a defunct Confederacy; its timeline cites a 1985 anti-apartheid rally it led in New York; and not a word about the contemporary enslavement perpetrated against millions of Africans. It seems some people of color are negligible.
It is unlikely the totalitarian elephant in the room will be addressed during the Durban conference, especially since Africa’s slave regimes are UN members. (Totalitarian membership is a United Nations tradition. The UN Commission on Human Rights serving as the Durban conference’s preparatory committee includes such human rights paragons as Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and Viet Nam.)
The UN cites the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in its basic information page on the Durban conference. Article 13 (2) of that document affirms, "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country."
When we juxtapose this affirmation with the Durban conference, the latter emerges as a monument to sanctimony.