Yes, it’s True, There are Slaves in Niger…

So here we have it. The latest call for food aid to an African country is by Niger, which coming under the usual media spotlight has been revealed to be a country in which human bondage is alive and well. Anti-Slavery International, a London-based human group, reckons that there are 43,000 slaves in Niger. These slaves, even when freed, are part of a stigmatized and legally unprotected class to the extent that their former masters or parents’ masters have often laid claim to their property.

Just two years ago, in 2003, Niger amended outlawed slavery, ruling it a crime punishable with up to 30 years in prison. The Economist reports that a chieftain in western Niger, faced with this jail term, offered to free 7,000 slaves held by him and his clansmen in a public ceremony. But the government in the week leading to the March 5th event feared that such a large release of slaves would draw international attention to the filthy trade’s existence in Niger. It declared that slavery does not exist in Niger and the ceremony was cancelled.

The problem gets worse when you consider that slavery also exists in Chad, Mali, Sudan and Mauritania. Woe to those who believe that this trade is at an end as I had for many years. Most of us associate slavery with the transatlantic trade that fed the plantations of the Americas and ended in the 19th century. If only it were so. Slaves still exist and many never left on a ship but were enslaved in Africa.

Of course I need not announce the moral vacuum that exists among us provided there are still people in chains, owned as property by others. I need not ponder why a country such as Niger is suffering famine when it has in its midst such an abundance of evil that has been translated into an economy that is the second poorest on the planet. Surely, in a world whose wealth and security has been enjoyed by those countries with the greatest protection of the individual’s rights, it is not strange that a slaveholding nation should turn to the world to feed and clothe it.

This issue depresses and infuriates me. What am I to do? Where are the Edmund Dene Morels of our time, the African versions especially? We have a Kenyan Nobel Prize winner running around decrying the cutting down of trees; an AU that says that Africa is ready to manage her own problems (with Western cash of course); billions of dollars in aid; Commissions for Africa; rock star concerts to Make Poverty History; a massive evangelical movement that announces to all and sundry that it is proof of a moral awakening; and yet here is slavery alive and well among us.


About bulletsandhoney
I read my first book when I was three, then my second one a few weeks later. It has carried on this way for decades with only temporary distractions of eating, fighting, loving, heartbreak and other such irrelevant biographical details.

8 Responses to Yes, it’s True, There are Slaves in Niger…

  1. kamau says:

    I had a roommate and friend form the Niger who admitted to me that his grand mother owned slaves. MMK, I find it strange that you find the silence on the issue deafening. You should not expect anything thing different from your usual cabal of activist, politicians and do gooders, they have their agendas and right now the issue of slavery is a major party pooper.

    Morality, especially in when it comes to Africa is fluid and situational. I believe that in Africa the Devil and God are in cohutes with their roles being inter-changeable which reflects the morality situation. Of course, not in a literal sense but in the sense of their representation and spokespeople.

  2. ozymandiaz says:

    My heart is saddened. I do not know why, being as cynical as often I am, that I am surprised by human tyranny. Yet I am. I live in Florida, which has a vast agricultural subculture. The workers on these “plantations” are largely indigents and migrant. The word “slavery” is not used here. Not even “indentured servant”. But the result is the same. It is a life of oppression with no light at the end of the tunnel. We kill people in foreign lands to bring them freedom, yet we allow the oppression of peoples in our own. That is not irony, that is blasphemy. I try to be of a non violent mindset, but I think it is time to get all midevil on some people.

  3. Dr Evil says:

    Ozymandias, methinks you will agree that the people in Florida are there
    because it is better than the alternative. Would it be morally more defensible if America simply closed its borders to the south?

    MMK, strange that you don’t mention what these slavekeepers all have in common.

  4. WTR says:

    “People who are viewed as coming from the slave class also face ongoing discrimination. Masters consider that they own their slaves, so even when former slaves have been free for many years, the master will assume the right to approve their marriage or inherit their property. Slaves are also not on the electoral roll and so not entitled to vote. This political exclusion enables those in power to maintain the status quo…”

  5. ozymandiaz says:

    Dr evil
    So, someone escapes a land of oppression seeking a life and instead finds another land of oppression but it’s not quite as oppressive so that’s OK. They get to choose having a little food in their bellies over starvation and for that they should be thankful for their servitude. Since we open our borders to they huddled masses why should it not be to our profit! Surely you jest, sir. Granted many of these people do move around as migrant workers but many are enslaved. Many get stuck in work camps where they are not paid money but credits. We all know how that works. A loaf of bread costs more credits than a days work so before you know it you are beholding to the “company store”. And many of these people are not from other countries, they are born and raised here in the states. They have fallen on hard times and become indigent. They come to Florida so they don’t freeze to death. Many are our veterans. (How’s that for hero treatment) Now I am not a big proponent of the welfare state. I don’t think you solve problems by throwing money at them. I do, though, believe in certain individual rights. Freedom from oppression is a big one. I cannot correct the paths that people have followed for whatever reason and I don’t believe it is my, or anyone’s, responsibility to do so. If anyone deserves to be oppressed, it is because they are criminals and deserve to be imprisoned.
    So, evil, you may be OK with oppression, but I am not. I find it inexcusable. It is a small mind that feels the need to look down on others. It is a small heart that allows the mind to do so. And it is a feeble soul that coddle the two for solice…
    M, forgive me for the rant…

  6. Dr Evil says:

    Ozymandias, I must confess that I had no idea the situation was as dire as you describe it. It goes to show that unfettered and illegal immigration is a bad thing all round: not only for the immigrants who get taken advantage of, but also the local labour force which it deprives of the bargaining power to demand a decent living wage.

  7. MMK says:

    Dr Evil and Ozymandias – Thanks for your comments and sorry that I have been MIA on my own blog for so long, I am in the midst of a deadline from hell. But very excited to see folks mixing it up. When I was in college, I watched a documentary about plantation workers in Florida who arrived from abroad seekign work and soon found themselves in deep debt to the plantation owner and unable to leave on threat of violence. To bring it even closer to home, my buddy – who is from Kenya – a couple of years ago had to drive to a farm in a mid-west state and secretly smuggle out his cousin who had come all the way from Kenya to work on that farm and ended up being paid in credits rather than money. After almost a year of not receiving a cent and scared that he would be deported if he tried to leave, he finally snuck off the farm to call my buddy who had thought the guy was here for some agricultural course. These things, I believe, exist though I do not think that they are widespread. The reason for them is the legal boundaries to immigration which create a vast blackmarket in which hardworking, hopeful immigrants are abused.

  8. Ayoye says:

    This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

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