Niger finds no takers for slave liberation

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The Independent Online

A plan for the mass liberation of 7,000 slaves in a ceremony in Niger had to be abandoned when none showed up to be freed.

A plan for the mass liberation of 7,000 slaves in a ceremony in Niger had to be abandoned when none showed up to be freed.

At least 43,000 people in Niger are shackled by slavery, despite forced labour being illegal throughout Africa.

Timidria, a local human rights group, blamed government threats against local leaders for the absence of any slaves for liberation. "The slaves and their masters have been scared by the government and it's for that reason that no slaves are present," Weila Ilglas, the president of Timidria, said in In Ates, near the border with Mali, where the ceremony was to be held.

The government denied the charge. "We're a state of rights, the government hasn't threatened anyone," said Mallam Ari Boukar, an interior ministry official. A spokesman for the government's human rights commission, which had helped to organise the event, said the cancellation was because slavery did not exist.

Slavery has been banned across Africa but the practice of inherited servitude persists in the Saharan nations of Mauritania, Niger and Sudan.

The American Anti-Slavery Group says more than 200,000 people work as slaves on centuries-old Arab-African Saharan trade routes. Born into slavery, children become the property of their masters and can be passed from one slave owner to another as gifts or as part of a dowry. In Niger, slaves are not on the electoral roll and are not entitled to vote.

Niger formally outlawed the practice in May 2003.

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