Traditional Slavery in Niger

Slave woman in Niger

Traditional still slavery exists in many parts of the world.  This page deals with traditional slavery in the République du Niger in West Africa. These slaves are owned by the Tuareg, who are nomads.

The slaves work herding animals, in small scale agriculture and in domestic labor.  Slave children are usually separated from their parents while quite young in order to sever the bond between parent and child.  The slaves are beaten and, if they are female, they are raped.  Sometimes male slaves are castrated by their masters. 

The precise number of slaves in Niger is uncertain.  One estimate states that there are 43,000 slaves.  Another estimate states there are as many as 870,000 slaves.

The same, or very similar, traditional institutions of slavery, exist in Chad, Mali and Mauritania.

Slavery was abolished on paper in what is now Niger by the French Republic when Niger was a French colony.  Niger retained those French laws when it gained full independence from the French Republic  in 1960. In May 2003 the National Assembly passed a law prohibiting slavery and imposing a heavy fine. However, the government of the Republic has been reluctant to enforce the law. 

This month, a chief in the Inates district —  Tuareg Aristal — announced that he intended to manumit 7,000 of his slaves because, as he said, slavery was incompatible with the Koran.  The Koran is the holy book of Islam and is regarded as the word of God by Muslims throughout the world.

Representatives of the government of the Republic were invited to the ceremony of manumission.  However, they declined to accept the invitation on the grounds that, as the government of the Republic asserts, slavery does not exist in Niger.

This is not as surprising as it seems.  Foreign governments frequently announce in public that there are no slave in their jurisdictions, but the Society and others can easily find them!

A different form of slavery in this instance, a non-traditional form of slavery — exists in the goldmines in Niger, where children work in terrible conditions.

Other forms of traditional slavery exist in parts of Ghana, Benin, Togo, Nigeria and Somalia.

In addition to these, slave traders traffic children from Togo, Benin and Nigeria into non-traditional forms of slavery in Gabon and Cameroon.

The material in this report is based on an interview by the Society's Secretary-General broadcast on the ABC on March 9, 2005 at 9.30 pm.


Links to other pages dealing with this issue:

Current campaigns

Links to other pages dealing with slavery in West Africa:

West African slave trade

Traditional slavery in West Africa

Links to other pages  dealing with slavery:

Does slavery still exist?

What is slavery?

Child slavery in South Asia

Hierodulic servitude in South Asia


Rescuing slaves

Slavery Convention 1926

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 © 2003 by the Anti-Slavery Society. The text on any page may be reproduced provided that the source is acknowledged.  This does not apply to photos.