April 21: Slavery was banned in south America several decades ago. But in west and central Africa, it still continues. Now, child slaves from poor African countries are being sold to the rich African countries.
Poor families sell their children to work for almost nothing in Gabon, a country in west Africa. Gabon is rich in oil. Despite international efforts to stop this trade, it continues, reports The Asian Age newspaper.
A few days ago, authorities at Benin, also in west Africa, received information about 180 little children who had been sold by their families and were said to be travelling in a ship called MV Etireno.
The police had international warrants to arrest Stanislas Abadtan, a businessman from Benin. Apparently, he had masterminded the trafficking of child slaves.
Earlier, the ship had been turned back by the authorities at Gabon and later Cameroon, because the authorities there suspected that it had child slaves aboard.
However, when the police boarded MV Etireno along with some Unicef officials, they did not find any child slaves. Instead, they found just a few children, accompanied by their mothers.
This has left the authorities baffled. They are also worried about the children they did not find. They suspect that the ship captain may have got rid of the children.
This is regular practice among slave traders. They do not bat an eyelid before dumping children overboard if the need arises.
The region near Benin and Togo was a slave trade centre even when slaves were sold in America between the 16th and 19th centuries. In those days, it was known as Slave Coast. Ship captains then were known to throw dead and sick children overboard.