South Sudan and the ‘lucrative’ human trafficking syndicate
South Sudan Police in Aweil, Northern Bahr el Ghazal State’s County have initiated plans of repatriating nine victims of human trafficking apprehended on September 12. Police spokesman Guot Guot told The City Review that the victims were airlifted to Juba on Friday, so that the Interior Ministry and the victims’ respective embassies can decide on their fate.
But it is the preliminary findings from the police that is astounding.
“The network of the suspected traffickers is wider than expected, and it is base or headquarter is in Juba. The leader of this human trafficking cartel is an Eritrean seconded by other Sudanese nationals,” Guot Guot told this writer.
At least 600 South Sudanese refugees were reportedly detained at the Sudan-Libya border in August 2019 having embarked on the desperate journey to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea.
A 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report for South Sudan released by the US Department of State says that South Sudanese and foreign business owners recruit men and women from neighboring countries—especially the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Republic of the Congo, and Uganda—as well as South Sudanese women and children, with fraudulent offers of employment opportunities in hotels, restaurants, and construction, and they force them to work for little or no pay or coerce them into commercial sex.
“East African migrants transiting through South Sudan to North Africa remain vulnerable to forced labor and sex trafficking. Observers report traffickers exploit individuals along the country’s borders with Uganda and Kenya where economic activities are concentrated, as well as in artisanal mining operations along South Sudan’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” reads the report in part.
An international organization reported Eritrean, Ethiopian, and Kenyan business owners recruited and exploited their compatriots, who enter South Sudan with valid visas and travel documents, to exploit them in forced labor or sex trafficking. Traffickers sexually exploit women most frequently in the country’s capital, Juba, and in Nimule, a city located on the border with Uganda.
The employment bait
Human trafficking is becoming a major issue in South Sudan as a result of increased business opportunities and increased mobility of people doing business and looking for work.
As a result, the Taskforce for Combating Human Trafficking and Person Smuggling stated last week that urgent action is required to avert the growing problem of human trafficking in South Sudan, emphasizing the need for comprehensive legislation to combat human trafficking.
The Cochair Taskforce for combating Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Person, Sabri Wani Ladu said the current situation in South Sudan is making people more in rural and mining areas vulnerable to trafficking.
“There is a prevalence of human trafficking in the country in different forms. For example, there is abduction of children being exposed to some cartels, there is also the issues of early marriage,” he explained
He added that there is also element of child being recruited by some militias, non-organized forces also in the mining areas there are some people being recruited, and some are used as prostitutes.
Ladu said the taskforce has identified several legal gaps in combating human trafficking and smuggling of person under South Sudanese laws.
“The element of human trafficking captured under the different laws of the republic of South Sudan is not covering the element of protection, prevention, prosecution, rehabilitation as a taskforce we recommend that the country should accede to the convention and the country should have a comprehensive law.”
Last week, in Juba the taskforce submitted its report to the Interior Ministry, which is excepted take action on its recommendations
However, Interior Minister Mohamad Solomon stated that the government needs more time to study and consult with key stakeholders in order to close the legal gaps.
“This document needs more consultations simply because it is a decision that needs to be taken by all actors we must be guided by the UN body,”
The committee comprised of senior officials from the ministry of interior and ministry of Justice and the academics from the University of Juba found out that South Sudanese laws are silent about those engaging in trafficking with the help of media including print, internet, digital or electronic.
The United States maintained last year that South Sudan does not fully meet the minimum standards for the abolition of human trafficking.
This, they claim, is due to the government’s failure to investigate, prosecute, or convict any traffickers for the ninth year in a row.
Human traffickers are said to have continued to exploit domestic and foreign victims in South Sudan, just as they exploit South Sudanese victims abroad.
South Sudan is not the only country dealing with human trafficking issues; Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Egypt are also affected. Human trafficking is a problem in both Nigeria and Ethiopia.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that it had rescued 22 Kenyans, a Burundian, and a Ugandan who had managed to call for help from Laos.
Human Trafficking in Africa
A 2019 Cambridge University publication on opportunities and challenges for the African Court of Justice and Human Rights flagged human trafficking as a serious problem in Africa.
“It is a major region of origin for victims, who are trafficked into other parts of the world such as Western Europe and the Middle East. Domestic or intra-regional trafficking are also common in certain areas, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa,” reads the paper in part.
A large number of those victimized in Sub-Saharan Africa are women and children who are subsequently exploited in a variety of sectors such as agricultural and domestic work, prostitution and even military (e.g. child soldiers).
“It has been estimated that 3.7 million people in Africa are in slavery and forced labor at any given time, and the annual profits generated from these amount to $13.1 billion in this (Africa) region alone,” the research paper reads.
Many traffickers are known to the victims and include close family members, relatives and friends. Interestingly, 50 per cent of these traffickers in Africa are female, dispelling a myth that it is a male-dominated crime. The involvement of sophisticated organized criminal groups has also been recognized, and this makes the trafficking operation more sophisticated and dangerous. What is evident from this brief synopsis is that human trafficking is widespread and endemic in Africa.
States’ obligation in combating human trafficking
As the main subjects of international law, States have the primary obligation to combat human trafficking. An important task of the African Court then will be to elaborate upon the nature and the extent of relevant obligations for them to follow.
As the exercise of criminal jurisdiction under the Amendments Protocol is concerned with criminal responsibility of those who commit human trafficking, a starting point is to treat this crime as a violation of human rights.
There are mainly three key obligations imposed upon a State. The first obligation is to prohibit and prosecute human trafficking. To begin with, this means that States must have a sufficient legislative framework.
The desirability of enacting a specific law on human trafficking, which include a comprehensive definition in line with the Trafficking Protocol, has been repeatedly expressed by human rights bodies. It should be highlighted in this regard that many African States, particularly those which are partially or wholly based on the common law tradition, have done so.
Human trafficking in numbers
40.3 million – number victims of human trafficking globally
3.7 million – people in Africa who are in slavery and forced labor at any given time
$13.1 billion – annual profits generated from human trafficking in Africa alone
50 – Percentage of female human traffickers in Africa
1904 – One of the early legal instruments drafted – The International Agreement for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic