In its annual report on human trafficking, released Tuesday, the U.S. State Department has added seven countries, including six in sub-Saharan Africa, on its 2009 blacklist: Eritrea, Malaysia, Mauritania, Niger, Swaziland, Chad and Zimbabwe. This measure could be followed by economic sanctions if the countries concerned do not agree to actively fight against human trafficking.
In their annual report on human trafficking, released Tuesday, the U.S. State Department has added seven countries, including six in sub-Saharan Africa, on their 2009 blacklist: Eritrea, Malaysia, Mauritania, Niger, Swaziland, Chad and Zimbabwe. This measure could be followed by economic sanctions if the countries concerned do not agree to actively fight against human trafficking.
Eritrea, Mauritania, Niger, Swaziland, Chad and Zimbabwe have joined Sudan on the U.S. blacklist on human trafficking. The annual report of the U.S. State Department, released Tuesday, cites 52 countries as against 40 from last year’s report. This increase is partly due to the new focus of American foreign policy. According to Hillary Clinton, putting an end to “human trafficking” is a “priority” for the United States.
The U.S. has always been aware of Niger’s traditions
Yet, the countries concerned remain skeptical. In Niger, for example, Ilguilas Weila, president of Timidria, an organization that fights against slavery, questions the reasons for the sudden appearance of his country on this list. “The United States has been, since time immemorial, known the state of Niger. They know that human trafficking is present in this country, for the simple reason that slavery is part of the Nigerien traditional system,” he tells Afrik-news.com. So is the Obama administration being overly zealous in turning the spotlight on his foreign policy?
It should be noted that Niger, like other countries named on the list, faces sanctions. In particular, the removal of certain trade facilities as well as an opposition to the granting of loans by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. This measure, intended to persuade African governments to commit themselves against human trafficking, is likely to fall on deaf ears in Sudan, Mauritania and Niger. Some argue that the governments in these three politically unstable countries are “neck deep in more urgent issues” than making slavery, prostitution and forced labour their top priorities.
As noted by Ilguilas Weila, “these sanctions have come too late and won’t change anything” in Niger. “The Nigerian government continues ignoring this issue. What is needed to change attitudes should involve concrete measures and financial assistance to raise awareness and help victims,” he says. The U.S. stopped its financial support to Timidria in 2000. Since then, the association has found itself in a dire situation, due to the fact that the government of Niger does not assist them.
Other countries are likely to join the blacklist by 2010, as human trafficking intensifies at this time of global financial turmoil.