Libya slave trade outrage looms over key summit

Moroccans call for the return of their relatives who migrated to Libya, during a protest in Rabat on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 27 November 2017
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Libya slave trade outrage looms over key summit

ABIDJAN: A furor over migrant slave markets in Libya casts a shadow over a key summit this week that aims to promote Africa’s long-term economic growth and stability, spurred by European fears of terrorism and mass migration.
The two-day African Union (AU) and EU summit opening Wednesday in the Ivory Coast economic capital Abidjan is focused mainly on the need to create jobs for Africa’s rapidly growing population.
The summit marks what Europe sees as a potential turning point for broader and deeper ties with a continent it once colonized widely.
However, the outrage over the slave trade in Libya looms over the talks in Abidjan, with the scandal having sparked protests in Dakar as well as in Brussels and other European capitals.
AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat called for “urgent measures” to stop the abuses of black Africans in Libya, which critics say have been fueled by EU-Libyan cooperation to curb migrant crossings to Europe.
“We face an emergency,” a grim-faced Faki told reporters in Brussels last week during summit preparations with EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini.
Faki called for coordination with Libya, the AU, EU and UN to tackle the problem.
Mogherini said the summit of 55 AU and 28 EU leaders could take “joint action” on the migrants even if she stressed its aim is to build a broader partnership.
Acknowledging how the slavery revelations were “unbearable for both sides,” Mogherini said the Europeans and Africans will push the UN-backed government in Libya to prosecute the slave traders.
They will also press Libya to give UN humanitarian agencies greater access to migrant detention centers, where she said their work in the last year has improved conditions and led to the voluntary return of some 10,000 migrants to their home countries.
But rights activists have asked why it took so long for African and European leaders to condemn abuses that had been known long before US network CNN aired footage two weeks ago of slave markets near Tripoli.
Libya became a massive transit hub for sub-Saharan Africans setting sail for Europe after the fall of former ruler Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 tipped the country into chaos.
The EU has been desperate to stem the migrant influx via Libya and Turkey, the two main routes, as more than 1.5 million migrants have reached Europe since 2015.
EU officials said the influx, which sparked political divisions across the EU, and frequent terrorist attacks in Europe have been a wake-up call to tackle the root causes.
The EU has already set up multi-billion euro funds to promote Africa’s economic development while deepening counter-terrorism cooperation with African countries where militant groups are spreading.
“What happens in Africa matters for Europe, and what happens in Europe matters for Africa,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said before leaving for the summit. “Our partnership is an investment in our shared future,” he added in a statement.
Ahmed Reda Chami, Morocco’s ambassador to the EU who will attend the summit, said Europe had a vested long-term interest in Africa whose population is set to double by 2050 to around 2.4 billion people.
“If there is no economic development, you will have hundreds of millions of young people who have no future, who will (try to) come to Europe to find work,” Chami told AFP at his Brussels mission.
Like other leading Africans, Chami called for a “Marshall Plan” for Africa, but linked to anti-corruption measures and tailored to African needs.
The multi-billion dollar Marshall Plan launched by the US after World War II is widely credited for helping Europe achieve its current prosperity and stability.


Deadly Gaza flare-up threatens to derail peace efforts

Updated 27 min 7 sec ago
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Deadly Gaza flare-up threatens to derail peace efforts

  • The flare-up came after a deadly Israeli special forces operation in the Gaza Strip
  • At least 231 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since March 30 along the Gaza-Israel border

GAZA CITY: Renewed violence in Gaza threatened to thwart efforts to end months of unrest as Israeli air strikes killed three Palestinians and destroyed a Hamas TV building while a barrage of rocket fire from the enclave left one dead on Tuesday.
The flare-up came after a deadly Israeli special forces operation in the Gaza Strip on Sunday that led Hamas to vow revenge.
Israel’s military said it had so far struck more than 70 militant sites in response to over 300 rockets fired from the Hamas-run territory Monday afternoon into the night.
Missile defenses intercepted dozens of rockets from Gaza and most others fell in open areas, though some hit houses and other civilian structures, the military said.
One man was pulled dead from the ruins of a building in southern Israel, emergency services organization United Hatzalah said, adding that a woman recovered from the same building in the city of Ashkelon was in a critical state.
Medics had earlier reported around 20 Israelis wounded, while Gaza’s health ministry said three Palestinians were killed and nine wounded in the Israeli strikes.
Militant group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said two of those killed were its members and the third was from Islamic Jihad’s armed wing.
The outbreak of violence came after months of deadly unrest along the Gaza-Israel border had appeared to be calming.
Recent weeks have seen Israel allow Qatar to provide the Gaza Strip with millions of dollars in aid for salaries as well as fuel to help ease an electricity crisis.
Before the flare-up, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had defended his decision to allow Doha to transfer the cash despite criticism from within his own government, saying he wanted to avoid a war if it was not necessary.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008, and deadly clashes in recent months have raised fears of a fourth.
The army said Monday an Israeli bus was hit by an anti-tank missile from the Gaza Strip, causing several injuries. A soldier was severely wounded, it added.
Palestinian militant groups in Gaza, including Hamas, claimed responsibility for the rocket fire and the missile attack on the bus, which they said was being used by Israeli soldiers.
Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said he could not yet provide further details on the bus or its passengers.
The building for Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV was destroyed in an Israeli strike after a series of warning shots, with the Israeli army saying the station “contributes to Hamas’s military actions.”
No injuries were reported and workers were believed to have evacuated after the warning shots.
A former hotel in Gaza City used by Hamas as an internal security office was also hit in an Israeli strike, AFP journalists reported.
Gaza militants threatened another harsh response after the strike on the TV building and, according to police, more rockets landed in Ashkelon.
Hamas said the initial rocket fire was in revenge for the deadly Israeli operation late Sunday in the Gaza Strip.
On Sunday, a clash erupted during the covert operation that killed seven Palestinian militants, including a local commander for Hamas’s armed wing, as well as an Israeli army officer.
Netanyahu cut short a trip to Paris and rushed home as tensions rose, and on Monday convened a meeting of security chiefs.
UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov, who along with Egypt has been seeking a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas, called the escalation “extremely dangerous” and said on Twitter that “restraint must be shown by all.”
Israel had stressed its covert operation on Sunday was an intelligence-gathering mission and “not an assassination or abduction,” but Hamas strongly denounced it and vowed revenge.
Israel’s military signaled that Sunday’s mission did not go as planned and resulted in the clash, which Palestinian officials said included Israeli air strikes.
Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, said the Israeli special forces team had infiltrated near Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip in a civilian car.
An exchange of fire followed in which local Al-Qassam commander Nour Baraka was killed along with another militant, it said.
The car then attempted to flee and Israeli aircraft provided covering fire.
Israel’s military declined to comment on the Al-Qassam account “because of the sensitive nature of the operation.”
A funeral was held for the seven Palestinian militants on Monday, attended by thousands, including masked Al-Qassam members carrying rifles, some firing into the air.
Violent clashes have accompanied major protests along the Gaza-Israel border that began on March 30.
At least 231 Palestinians have since been killed by Israeli fire, the majority shot during protests and clashes, while others died in tank fire or air strikes.
Two Israeli soldiers have been killed in that time.