Slavery in Africa
continues today. Slavery existed in Africa
before the arrival of Europeans - as did a
slave trade that exported
millions of sub-Saharan Africans to North
Africa, the Middle East, and the
IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks) of the
for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports children
being sold to Arab herdsmen in Chad.
part of a new identity imposed on them the herdsman "...change
their name, forbid them to speak in their native dialect, ban them
from conversing with people from their own ethnic group
and make them adopt Islam as their
The Malian government denies that slavery exists. Slavery still
continues with some Tuaregs
holding Bella people
A system exists now by which Arab Muslims -- the bidanes -- own
black slaves, the haratines
. An estimated
90,000 black Mauritanians remain essentially enslaved to Arab
bidanes (the name means literally white-skinned people) are
descendants of the Sanhaja Berbers and Beni Hassan
Arab tribes who emigrated to northwest Africa
and present-day Western
Sahara and Mauritania during the Middle
According to some estimates, up to 600,000 black
Mauritanians, or 20% of the population, are still enslaved, many of
them used as bonded labour
. Slavery in
Mauritania was finally criminalized in August 2007. Malouma
Messoud, a former Muslim slave has explained her enslavement to a
"We didn't learn this history in school; we simply grew
up within this social hierarchy and
Slaves believe that if they do not obey their masters,
they will not go to paradise.
They are raised in a social and religious system that
everyday reinforces this idea."
Mauritania, despite slave ownership having been banned by law
in 1981, hereditary slavery continues.
to Amnesty International
"Not only has the government denied the existence of
slavery and failed to respond to cases brought to its attention, it
has hampered the activities of organisations which are working on
the issue, including by refusing to grant them official
Imam El Hassan Ould Benyamin of Tayarat in 1997 expressed his views
about earlier proclamations ending slavery in his country as
"[it] is contrary to the teachings of the fundamental
text of Islamic law, the Quran ...
[and] amounts to the expropriation from muslims of
their goods; goods that were acquired legally.
The state, if it is Islamic, does not have the right to
seize my house, my wife or my slave."
In Niger, where the practice of slavery was outlawed in 2003, a
study found that almost 8% of the population are still slaves.
Slavery dates back for centuries in Niger and was finally
criminalised in 2003, after five years of lobbying by Anti-Slavery International
Nigerien human-rights group, Timidria. More than 870,000 people
still live in conditions of forced labour, according to Timidria, a
local human rights group.
Descent-based slavery, where generations of the same family are
born into bondage
, is traditionally
practiced by at least four of Niger’s eight ethnic groups. The
slave masters are mostly from the nomadic tribes — the Tuareg
. It is
especially rife among the warlike Tuareg
the wild deserts of north and west Niger, who roam near the borders
with Mali and Algeria. In the region of Say on the right bank of
the river Niger, it is estimated that three-quarters of the
population around 1904-1905 was composed of slaves.
Historically, the Tuareg swelled the ranks of their slaves during
war raids into other peoples’ lands. War was then the main source
of supply of slaves, although many were bought at slave markets,
run mostly by indigenous peoples.
Sudan has seen a resurgence of slavery since 1983, associated with
the Second Sudanese Civil
Slavery in the Sudan predates Islam
continued under Islamic rulers and has never completely died out in
Sudan. In the Sudan, Christian
captives in the civil war
are often enslaved, and female prisoners
are often used sexually, with their Muslim captors claiming that
Islamic law grants them permission. According to CBS news
, slaves have been sold for $50 a piece.
In 2001 CNN
reported the Bush
was under pressure from Congress, including
conservative Christians concerned about religious oppression and
slavery, to address issues involved in the Sudanese conflict.
also quoted the U.S. State Department's allegations: "The [Sudanese] government's support
of slavery and its continued military action which has resulted in
numerous deaths are due in part to the victims' religious beliefs." 
Jok, professor of History at Loyola Marymount University, states that the abduction of women and children of
the south by north is slavery by any definition.
government of Sudan insists that the whole matter is no more than
the traditional tribal feuding over resources.
It is estimated that as many as 200,000 people had been taken into
slavery during the Second Sudanese Civil War. The slaves are mostly
Child slave trade
trading of children has been reported in modern Nigeria and Benin.
children are kidnapped or purchased for $20 - $70 each by slavers
in poorer states, such as Benin and Togo, and sold into slavery in
sex dens or as unpaid domestic servants for $350.00 each in
wealthier oil-rich states, such as Nigeria and Gabon.
Ghana, Togo, Benin
of Ghana, a family
may be punished for an offense by having to turn over a virgin
female to serve as a sex slave within the offended family.
In this instance, the woman does not gain the title of "wife".
of Ghana, Togo, and
Benin, shrine slavery persists, despite being illegal in
Ghana since 1998.
In this system of slavery, sometimes
(in Ghana) or
in Togo and Benin, or
ritual servitude, young virgin girls are given as slaves in
traditional shrines and are used sexually by the priests in
addition to providing free labor for the shrine.
Bitew, Children's Rights and Protection expert at the Ministry of Women's
Affairs, says that some remote studies conducted in Dire Dawa, Shashemene, Awassa and three
other towns of the country indicate that the problem of child
trafficking is very serious.
According to a 2003 study about
one thousand children were trafficked via Dire Dawa to countries of
the Middle East
. The majority of those
children were girls, most of whom were forced to be sex workers
after leaving the country. The International Labor
has identified prostitution as the Worst Form of
Ethiopia, children are trafficked into prostitution, to provide cheap or unpaid labor
and to work as domestic servants or beggars.
The ages of
these children are usually between 10 and 18 and their trafficking
is from the country to urban centers and from cities to the
country. Boys are often expected to work in
activities such as herding cattle in rural areas and in the weaving
industry in Addis
Ababa, and other major towns.
Girls are expected
to take responsibilities for domestic chores, childcare and looking
after the sick and to work as prostitutes.
- Historical survey > Slave societies,
- IRIN Africa: Cbin: Children sold into slavery for
the price of a calf
- Kayaking to Timbuktu, Writer Sees Slave
- Islam and Slavery
- Fair elections haunted by racial imbalance
- The Abolition season on BBC World Service
- Mauritanian MPs pass slavery law
- The Johns Hopkins News-letter
'SMIR talk exposes modern slavery' - Brendan Schreiber and Maria
Andrawis, 5 December 2003
- "The last law, in 1981, banned it but failed to criminalise it.
However much it is denied, an ancient system of bondage, with
slaves passed on from generation to generation, still plainly
exists." progress in Mali and Mauritania, The Economist
- Slavery: Mauritania's best kept secret
- Segal, p.206, in "Islam's Black Slaves: The Other Black
Diaspora," quoted by Suzy Hansen of Salon.com on 5 April 2001 -
The book cite is Ronald Segal (2002)
- Born to be a slave in Niger By Hilary
Andersson, BBC Africa Correspondent, Niger
- On the way to freedom, Niger's slaves stuck in
- Set my people free
- NIGER: Survey finds over 870,000 are still
- Born into Bondage
- Fresh hope for slaves as Tuareg chief frees
- Slavery in Niger
- NIGER: Slavery - an unbroken chain
- The Shackles of Slavery in Niger
- Public Speakers || Francis Bok || Speaking Matters,
a Speakers Bureau || Powerful Lectures, Personal Narratives,
- The Middle East Quarterly. December 1999,
Vol.6:Number 4. John Eibner, “My career redeeming slaves”
- Islam and Slavery
- CNN.com - Danforth to be named U.S. envoy to Sudan -
September 4, 2001
- Jok Madut Jok (2001), p.3
- War and Genocide in Sudan
- The Lost Children of Sudan
- West Africa's child slave trade
- West is master of slave trade guilt
- Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery -
- Slavery in Ghana. The Trokosi Tradition
- Ghana's trapped slaves, By Humphrey Hawksley in
eastern Ghana, 8
February, 2001. BBC