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Africa Union Launches New Campaign Against Human Trafficking

The African Union (AU) has launched a new initiative to combat human trafficking on the continent. The launch Tuesday came on the same day the United States added six more African countries to a blacklist of countries trafficking in humans.

Chad, Eritrea, Niger, Mauritania, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe were added to the list in the U.S. annual report which analyzes the efforts in 173 countries to combat human trafficking.

The new plan, called the AU Commission Initiative against Trafficking, was launched as part of the commemoration marking the "Day of the African Child".

AU's Commissioner for Social Affairs Bience Gawanas said in an interview with the VOA that the new campaign aims to eliminate human trafficking, especially women and children.

"The idea behind the AU Commission Initiative against Trafficking is really aimed at galvanizing support, (a) against trafficking but also for the implementation of those instruments that have been adopted whether it is at national, regional, continental or international level," she said.

Gawanas said the new initiative was also necessary because the AU anticipates there might be an increase in trafficking during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

United States Tuesday added six more African countries to a blacklist of countries trafficking in human beings.

Gawanas said the issue of human trafficking has become prevalent throughout Africa.

"About two weeks ago, I attended the SADC (Southern African Development Community) ministerial meeting on trafficking…and during the discussion it was quite clear that there is a serious concern about trafficking, not only in West Africa…but both in eastern Africa and southern Africa," Gawanas said.

She said apart from the adoption of a plan of action, the fight against human trafficking was never prominent on the agenda of the African Union.

"Now that we have launched it, it would be expected that member states will have measures for prevention, will have measures for protection, and will have measures for prosecution of traffickers," she said.

Gawanas also said the AU campaign against human trafficking will include raising public awareness and making sure governments have the right instruments in place to execute the plan.

She said the global economic downturn might also be contributing to the rise in human trafficking in Africa.

"Obviously as it is the case with HIV/AIDS, as it is the case with many other challenges that are faced by the different continents, whatever happens in the global economy will have an impact," she said.

Gawanas called on Africans to give human trafficking the importance it deserves if the continent is to move away from what she called today's modern slavery.