Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The price of a woman? $500

In what will hopefully be a landmark decision, a West African court ruled that the Republic of Niger failed to protect a woman from being sold into slavery when she was 12 years old.

The Community Court of Justice, the judicial body of the West African regional organization ECOWAS, ordered the Niger government to pay close to $20,000 in damages to Hadijatou Mani, who is now 24.

Slavery wasn't officially outlawed in Niger until 2003, but remains a problem there and in nearby West African countries like Mali and Mauritania.

As The New York Times reported:

Ms. Mani’s experience was typical of the practice. She was born into a traditional slave class and sold to Souleymane Naroua when she was 12 for about $500.

Ms. Mani told court officials that Mr. Naroua had forced her to work his fields for a decade. She also claimed that he raped her repeatedly over the years.

"I was beaten so many times I would run back to my family," she told the BBC. "Then after a day or two I would be brought back."


She had initially sought protection under Niger’s laws. In 2005, Mr. Naroua gave her a certificate freeing her, but when she tried to get married he claimed that she was already married to him.

Some observers have compared Ms. Mani to Rosa Parks. This is probably an understatement. It's difficult to imagine how much courage it took for her to bring the case in an extremely conservative society by challenging traditional practices that have been going on for generations.

The Niger government said it would respect the court's decision.

Also see:
-Anti-Slavery International
-Free the Slaves
-UN information of human trafficking


Monday, October 20, 2008

Hiatus... sort of

As habitual readers will have noticed, postings here have become less regular in recent weeks. I broke my ankle earlier this month and it's difficult to sit at a desk for the period of time required to research and write the essays published here. Hopefully within a month to six weeks, I'll be back to publishing my regular essays. Until then, postings will be sporadic.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Moussa Kaka freed... sort of

A followup to earlier stories, Radio France Internationale's correspondent in Niamey, Niger, released from prison after over a year's detention. He was originally charged with "complicity in plotting against state authority" for making contacts with the country's Tuareg rebels, as part of his journalistic duties. The charges could've seen him spend the rest of his life in jail. The charges have been downgraded to less serious offenses, but ones that still carry up to a five-year prison sentence. Also, he is reportedly still under house arrest.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Happy (?) birthday Guinea

There were celebrations in Guinea yesterday as the country marked its 50th birthday. Guinea was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to declare independence from the French empire. Several regional heads of state attended the festivities.

Radio France International had a look back (in French) at Guinea's first half century of independence, as well as interviews with Guineans of all sorts.

In August 1958, future Guinean leader Sékou Touré famously told the visiting French President de Gaulle that Guineans "preferred poverty in liberty over prosperity in slavery."

As this BBC analysis points out, the promise was only half delivered. The first 50 years have given Guineans plenty of poverty but precious little liberty.