Government Denies Slavery and Supports It Too
|December 31, 2005||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Mixed Signals About Slavery
Government of Niger Denies Slavery and Supports It Too
Does your government oppose torture and slavery, or does it only say that? It’s hard to be sure.
Here is a news release from Anti-Slavery.org
There are serious concerns over the Government of Niger’s position on slavery in the country.
Following positive moves by the government on March 5, when it held an historic ceremony to end slavery throughout the country, officials are now sending out confused messages over the slavery situation in Niger.
Anti-Slavery International has had reports that the government is saying slavery no longer exists in Niger, and that senior government officials are at the same time warning slave masters not to release their slaves, publicly and officially stating that if they do, they will be subject to 30 years in prison.
Timidria, Niger’s pioneering anti-slavery organisation, and others also report government intimidation prevented slaves from attending the March 5th ceremony that was to recognize their freedom.
“It is very worrying to hear the Niger Government is now declaring that slavery does not exist and of its intimidation of the population. The enactment of legislation that criminalises and penalises slavery does not automatically mean it has been eliminated. It is vital the Niger Government acknowledges that slavery is a serious problem throughout the country and ensures that those in slavery are made fully aware of the new law and released,” David Ould Deputy Director of Anti-Slavery International said.
The shift in position by the authorities is striking. Anti-Slavery International has seen letters from the Prime Minister and from the former Minister of the Interior clearly stating that they feel slavery in Niger is a problem.
“It is crucial the Government of Niger acknowledges the reality of slavery in the country … The Government must work with local and international NGOs in the development of assistance and support programmes for former slaves as well as in the creation of a monitoring body to ensure freed slaves are not exploited,” Romana Cacchioli, Anti-Slavery International Africa Programme Officer, said.
At least 43,000 people are in slavery across Niger. They are born into an established slave class and are made to do all labour required by their masters without pay, including herding, cleaning, and moving their master’s tent to ensure he and his family are always in shade. The masters perform none of these tasks. Slaves are inherited, sometimes given away as gifts, and babies may be taken away from their mothers once weaned. They are denied all rights and choice.
In May 2004 a new law came into effect making the practice of slavery punishable by up to 30 years in prison. The Government’s move at that time was in response to the publication of the first national survey of slavery, which was jointly carried out by Niger’s pioneering anti-slavery organisation Timidria together with Anti-Slavery International, the world’s oldest international human rights organisation. The report established the extent and countrywide existence of slavery, and interviewed over 11,000 people, most of whom were found to be in slavery.
For more details, view this award-winning report on slavery in Niger.
Chattel Slavery in the 1990s
Fred Foldvary Against Chocolate Worker Slavery
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