By Linda Bordoni
The some fifty women gathered at the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences to share problems, knowledge, experience and best practices are hopeful their voices will be heard.
The “Summit of African Women Judges on Human Trafficking and Organized Crime” is a continuation of a similar 2017 event with a particular focus on the specific problems of the African continent, because, the judges point out, a high percentage of victims of trafficking comes from Africa.
Pope Francis is a tireless advocate against the phenomenon of trafficking and modern slavery, describing it as a crime against humanity and a result of the globalization of indifference.
Nigerian Judges Cecilia Olatoregun and Anwuri Chikere spoke to Linda Bordoni about the significance of the event and of their appeal to world leaders to set Africa free from post-colonial exploitation.
Judge Olatoregun, of the Nigerian Federal High Court, expressed her belief that the Summit has provided an important occasion for African judges to come together “because we are involved in adjudication on human trafficking and modern slavery issues”.
She noted it is prevalently an African reality where people are trafficked to Europe and to the Americas. Her own country, Nigeria, she said, is the base for many criminal rings who trade in people for prostitution and other crimes.
Summit coming at an appropriate time
“This summit is coming at a very appropriate time for our leaders and lawmakers all over Africa (…) to think more deeply about solutions for the trafficking of persons in various sections of the criminal jurisdiction” she said.
Judge Olatoregun mentioned the scourges of prostitution, forced labour, harvesting organs, child labour, recruitment of child soldiers and said: “it’s a good time to talk about all this”.
“Here we are talking about what happens in different countries, we are comparing notes and solutions, sharing solutions and aiming for joint action” she said.
Judge Chikere, of the Federal High Court in Abuja, noted that Summit participants agreed that “our colonial masters have freed us politically, but they have not freed us economically”.
“We are gathered here, she said, to share ideas on how to free ourselves economically so that we can eradicate the problems that we have” she said.
She pointed out that it is history that Africans used to be sold as slaves, but she said:” it still continues! What is human trafficking? Slavery!”
Judge Chikere said that abberrations like the harvesting of human organs can only happen because of the economic problems African states have: “they are now selling their fellow human beings to meet their economic demands”.
The price of colonialism
She said that only on the surface have world powers freed African nations from colonialism; in reality, she explained, they are still controlling us and making it impossible for us to be economically self-sufficient.
“They control and they support our leaders in the way they behave, but we, the citizens, are the ones who are worse for it!” she said.
Judge Chikere agrees with Pope Francis’ definition of human trafficking as a “wound in the side of humanity” and says it is especially true in Africa.
“Most of the participants here are from African countries” she noted and said they have asked Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to speak to the Pope and ask him to speak to African leaders.
“They must free Africans economically, because when you are economically stable, nobody can push you around. If you have money in your pocket and you can buy your needs, you will not think of evil ways of making money” she said.
She concluded expressing hope for the future: “we will pray to God that we will achieve our aim of coming here!”.