Monday, March 07, 2005

Slavery in Niger

One of the more bizarre stories of the weekend came from the Sahel country of Niger. The country's government had organized a special ceremony during which 7000 slaves were to be granted freedom, only to cancel the event on the pretext that slavery did not exist in the country.

It begs the question: why would the government organize an event in the first place for something that allegedly did not exist? What about the 7000 slaves who were to be granted their freedom? Did they suddenly vanish from the Earth? Did their slave masters suddenly see the Abolitionist light? Did slavery suddenly disappear between the time the government decided to sponsor this event and the time it cancelled the event?

Some 43,000 people are slaves in Niger, according to most accounts.

Except, of course, according to the Niger government. They apparently believe that the number went from a significant amount (when they felt the need to sponsor the anti-slavery event) to zero in the course of a few months.

Slavery and the slave trade were officially banned by Niger's parliament only in May 2003.


At 5:20 AM, Blogger Black River Eagle said...

Hi Brian,
I've seen your blog and postings on Africa before but somehow it all got lost in the shuffle. Fortuantely I found my way back to you via TheMalau's blog. This time I'll track your work better. Excellent writing from what I have read briefly today.

Thanks for the update on the Government of Niger's continued refusal to stop slavery within its borders. The number quoted by the BBC news of about 43,000 slaves in Niger is very low in comparison to estimates I've seen reported by the BBC news in a different artilce last month.

Hilary Andersson of BBC World TV news did a great investigative report on Niger recently and when I find it I'll post about it and link back to your artilce. She almost got killed this time trying to interview the slaveholders without government escort. There was a video excerpt from her report available online at the BBC news online site, but not sure if it is still available.

At 7:16 AM, Blogger TheMalau said...

Well, it has got to be the worst kept secret of West Africa. People know about the problem, and justify it by the ancient ties of "cousinage". This works in Mali, because people aren't ACTUALLY slaves there. Their families were at some point enslaved to some other family, etc. But in Niger or Mauritania (where the racial element comes into play), it is just an excuse to get away with inaction. I am sorry if my comment is disjointed, but I get quite upset on this subject.


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