Implications of the slave trade for African societies

18Jan 2019
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Implications of the slave trade for African societies

THE history of slavery spans many cultures, nationalities, and religions from ancient times to the present day. However the social, economic, and legal positions of slaves were vastly different in different systems of slavery in different times and places. Slavery can be traced back to the-

the earliest records, such as the Mesopotamian Code of Hammurabi (c. 1860 BC), which refers to it as an established institution, and it was common among ancient peoples

The best global estimate we have is that over more than 40 million people were victims of modern slavery or forced labour in 2016. With target 8.7 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, countries committed to take effective measures to eradicate forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking by 2030. If governments are serious about meeting that target, that would mean around 9,000 people need to be removed from such bondage each and every day. But as we enter 2019, we simply don’t know how close we are to achieving that aggressive rate of reduction or what interventions are the most effective at doing so.

Slavery is rare among hunter-gatherer populations, because it is developed as a system of social stratification. Slavery was known in the very first civilisations such as Sumer in Mesopotamia which dates back as far as 3500 BC, as well as in almost every other civilisation. The Byzantine–Ottoman wars and the Ottoman wars in Europe resulted in the taking of large numbers of Christian slaves. Slavery became common within much of Europe during the Dark Ages and it continued into the Middle Ages. The Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese, British, Arabs and a number of West African kingdoms played a prominent role in the Atlantic slave trade, especially after 1600. David P. Forsythe wrote: "The fact remained that at the beginning of the nineteenth century an estimated three-quarters of all people alive were trapped in bondage against their will either in some form of slavery or serfdom." Denmark-Norway was the first European country to ban the slave trade in 1802.

Although slavery is no longer legal anywhere in the world, human trafficking remains an international problem and an estimated 25-40 million people are enslaved today. During the 1983–2005 second Sudanese civil war people were taken into slavery. Although slavery in Mauritania was criminalised in August 2007, in Mauritania it is estimated that up to 600,000 men, women and children, or 20 per cent of the population, are currently enslaved, many of them used as bonded labor. Evidence emerged in the late 1990s of systematic slavery on cacao plantations in West Africa.

International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, August 23 of each year, the day designated by UNESCO to memorialise the transatlantic slave trade.That date was chosen by the adoption of resolution by the Organisation's General Conference at its 29th session. The Director-General invited ministers of culture to promote the day. The date is significant because, during the night of August 22 to August 23, 1791, on the island of Saint Domingue (now known as Haiti), an uprising began which set forth events which were a major factor in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.

UNESCO member states organise events every year on that date, inviting participation from young people, educators, artists and intellectuals. As part of the goals of the intercultural UNESCO project, "The Slave Route", it is an opportunity for collective recognition and focus on the "historic causes, the methods and the consequences" of slavery. Additionally, it sets the stage for analysis and dialogue of the interactions which gave rise to the transatlantic trade in human beings between Africa, Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean.The International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition was first celebrated in a number of countries, in particular in Haiti on August 23, 1998 and Senegal on August 23, 1999.