Niger Cancels Event Freeing Slaves
The government of Niger has cancelled at the last minute a special ceremony during which at least 7,000 slaves were to be granted their freedom. A spokesman for the government’s human rights commission, which had helped to organise the event, said this was because slavery did not exist. It is not clear why the government, which was also a co-sponsor of the ceremony, changed its position.
At least 43,000 people across Niger are thought to be in slavery. Representatives of the slaves, the government and human rights campaigners had been due to attend the event at In Ates, near the border with Mali. A local chief had agreed to the release after the introduction of a new law, which punishes those found guilty of slavery with up to 30 years in jail.
Several archived pieces are linked in the sidebar:
- Testimony: Former Niger slave (03 Nov 04)
Drama as Niger slaves are freed (19 Dec 03)
Niger ‘slave’ flees castration (04 Sep 02)
Trauma of rescued Niger slaves (07 Dec 01)
Rescued Niger slaves ‘tortured’ (07 Dec 01)
Slavery, unfortunately, did not end in 1865.
Update (1042): Interestingly, al Jazeera actually has a more informative report:
The minister of interior in Niger has for the first time publicly stated that slavery is illegal after a ceremony to mark the freeing of 7000 slaves was cancelled. The ceremony was to be held in the In Ates region near Niger’s capital Niamey, after the regional chief announced that all his slaves would be freed. However, the chief backed out of the ceremony at the last minute expressing fear that publicly freeing slaves would incriminate him under a March 2004 law banning slavery.
Romana Cacchioli of London-based Anti-Slavery International said that despite her initial concern at the cancellation, the fact the law had been acknowledged was a positive development. “The interior minister has gone on national TV with a message from the ministry of interior saying that this [slavery] is a crime,” she told Aljazeera.net. “We are pleased by the fact that for the first time they are saying they will pursue any acts of slavery,” she said.
The ceremony was intended to mark the beginning of the enforcement of the slavery law in the African country and was to be attended by politicians and journalists.
This is a more positive, but I think correct, spin on things. If slavery is outlawed, then one doesn’t need to free slaves. Indeed, the ceremony would acknowledge that, absent positive steps, slaves remain chattel.