Four young men rescued after being sold for $1,850 each


By Vincent Kende Niebede

Mr. Niebede is a photojournalist who contributes to Amjambo Africa from Chad

Four youths were recently rescued after being sold for 10 grams of gold each in Chad, where human trafficking is on the rise. The four are Ateib Mahamat, Ramadan Hari, Mahamat Zène Abakar and Ousman Seid. Aged between 25 and 30 years old, they were first deceived by a man who promised them a good paying job. To their surprise, instead of a job, they found that they were exchanged for gold at the Chad-Libya border.

In January 2020, these four young men from the Guéra region of Chad, in search of  employment, were recruited by someone they met named Abdel, who promised them gold mining jobs in Kouri Bougoudi, northern Chad, according to a source from the Interior Ministry of Chad who requested anonymity for his protection. The same source told Amjambo Africa that the recruiter promised them jobs that paid 5,000 FCF, or $ 9.28, per day. For many young people in Chad earning that much money would take them a week of intensive work.

Carcass of a cow | Youth susceptible to traffickers due to harsh conditions at home | Photo by Jean Damascène Hakuzimana

The deal was concluded by phone. Then Abdel, the alleged trafficker, drove them to Abéché, another town in Chad, where he handed them to another trafficker named Oual Borno, who in turn handed them to yet another alleged trafficker named Yaya Touer. Touer drove the four young men to the border of Chad and Libya, where they were exchanged for 10 grams of gold per person. In the region, 10 grams of gold are worth 250,000 FCFA, or about $464 per person,  and the total for four people would be approximately 1,000,000 FCFA, or $1850.00 dollars.

The parents of the young men realized they were missing and solicited help from the police, who had no news of them, but launched investigations into the matter. One witness told police and relatives that he had seen the missing men a few days previously accompanied by a trafficker in a vehicle heading for the town of Abéché. The police and intelligence services apprehended Abdel and questioned him, producing evidence. Abdel called Oual Borno, his partner in crime, and he contacted Yaya Touer, the last to receive the four young men. They asked Touer to bring the men back.

Yaya Touer, fearing that he would be held by police if he did not return the four men, finally went after the four men. On the way he stopped in the town of Gouro, where he masked his voice, saying he was in the town of Abéché. He called and asked to be paid back 1,600,000 FCFA, or $2900.00 before he would free the young men, but he was quickly arrested. A local authority confided that the young people are safe, but they have still not been seen in public.

Sources on the ground told Amjambo Africa that human trafficking to gold mining sites in northern Chad puts tens of millions of francs into the hands of traffickers. They indicated that the people involved in this vast network of traffickers number in the dozens, and reside in N’Djaména, the Chadian capital.

The case of these four young people is just one example of a widespread phenomenon. Many young people who have experienced similar situations have not been able to rejoin their families. According to investigative reporting by the BBC, some ended up being sold as enslaved people to human traffickers in Libya. Some who oppose being sold are killed by their traffickers. Survivors who have spoken to Radio FM Liberté, a human rights radio station in Chad, said that some who tried to flee had their tendons cut with a knife so that they could not escape.

On December 24, 2020, ten young people, including a 12-year-old minor, traveled from southern Chad to northern Chad in the hands of traffickers, where they were intercepted by the police. Djida Oumar, the president of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), has asked the public prosecutor and the Minister of Justice to find and arrest the perpetrators and accomplices of human trafficking so that they can be tried in accordance with the laws of the country.

High unemployment and precarious conditions make youth susceptible to trafficking | Photo Jean Damascène Hakuzimana| Tantaverom Village, Chad

Not all are trafficked with the pretext of jobs in gold mining!

In addition to the young people who are trafficked from the south and sold to the north of the country, some come voluntarily from neighboring countries. They hope to escape economic and political troubles and find better lives in northern Chad, Libya, or across the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, if they manage to cross.

A report released in 2016 by the International Crisis Group, an independent organisation working to prevent wars, indicated that mistreatment by the ruling party of the population of Kanem and the Bahr El Gazel regions since the 2016 presidential elections is prompting people to migrate out of those areas. Some have joined armed groups wanting to topple the current regime in Chad. Professor Dobingar Allassembaye of the University of N’Djamena told Amjambo Africa that the Chadian government should focus on local development and employment in order to combat this human trafficking trend.