Between Slavery and Post-slavery
Citizenship, Dependence, and Abolitionism in African and Indian Ocean Societies
Hosted by the University of Mauritius in collaboration with the University of Birmingham and SLAFNET
10-12 April 2018
In October 2014, the international conference Slavery in Africa: Past, Legacies and Present (SLAFCO) was held at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) in Nairobi. This three-day conference brought together over sixty scholars from all over the world and representatives of African anti-slavery NGOs and civil society organizations.
Building on this first experience of exchange between researchers and activists, ‘Between Slavery and Post-Slavery’ will focus on (1) the recent legacies of past slavery; (2) contemporary forms of exploitation akin to slavery; and (3) the political mobilisation of African grassroots activists and politicians in various countries in Africa and in Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean islands.
(1) Legacies of past slavery: This workshop will explore the political and social marginalization of persons of slave descent in different African societies today. In some contexts, groups of slave descendants are classified, collectively, through labels that indicate slave origins in particular African languages. These labels have derogatory connotations and are often accompanied by ideas about the sociocultural and biogenetic inferiority of those classified as slave descendants. These groups suffer from specific vulnerabilities ranging from political exclusion and ‘second-class citizenship’, to economic exploitation and restricted opportunities for social mobility, to increased exposure to violence and exactions. Contributions focused on slave descent will study identity-based discrimination: what forms it takes and what responses it elicits in terms of resistance and grassroots activism.
(2) Slavery today: A second strand of phenomena examined here is the resilience of actual slavery, as an institution that enables control tantamount to possession over those enslaved. In spite of worldwide legal abolition, slavery has not ended. In the African continent illegal enslavement takes different forms. It can be a consequence of discrimination based on slave descent in areas where erstwhile slave-owners retained power and slave descendants remained vulnerable to extreme forms of exploitation. But slavery does not affect only persons of slave descent. Like elsewhere in the world, in Africa too, there is a persistent demand for cheap and easily controllable labour and exploitable persons. Human trafficking, especially in women and children, is well documented in different African regions and between Africa and other countries. Furthermore, recent African wars resulted in abductions and violence directed against civilians, primarily women, leading to the prosecution of perpetrators for crimes of sexual slavery. Some political movements, such as Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria, openly advocate the legitimacy of slavery as an institution. Contributions focused on slavery will consider its manifestations, discourses about slavery’s (il)legitimacy, and the resistance of those enslaved or at risk of enslavement.
(3) African anti-slavery movements and grassroots activism: A third axis for reflection and discussion will focus on African anti-slavery NGOs and forms of political mobilization against slavery and the discrimination targeted at slave descendants. Some researchers described African anti-slavery NGOs as phenomena of extraversion, aimed at accessing international funding through links with ‘Western’ anti- slavery organisations. But African abolitionist movements are diverse. Some engage more with national politics than with international donors, as in the case of the Zoam Marxist movement founded by Malagasy slave descendants in the 1970s. Undoubtedly some of the main African anti-slavery NGOs benefit from the support of international anti-slavery organisations. But this does not make their struggles any less ‘real’. Their membership and opposition are national and local. Hence the question is not only whether the agenda of African anti-slavery NGOs chimes with the goals of global anti-slavery organisations: it clearly does. More specifically, we invite contributions that explore the meanings and functions of abolitionism in Africa today; the challenges identified by the leaders and grassroots members of these organisations, their driving ideas and political strategies.
- Slave descent, post-slavery, and classificatory slavery:
- Following legal abolition, what were the opportunities available to different groups of
enslaved persons in different African regions and contexts?
- What strategies did different categories of slave descendants unfold, and why?
- How, if at all, did relations between former slaves and slave-owners change?
- Why are certain groups classified as coming ‘from slavery’, with what consequences, and
giving rise to what forms of resistance and/or identity politics?
- How was slavery, as an institution, transformed following legal abolition? What forms of
labour replaced slave labour? How were the roles of slaves in sexual, reproductive, and domestic domains reconfigured?
- Following legal abolition, what were the opportunities available to different groups of
- Slavery today:
- What types of slavery, if any, exist in contemporary African societies? What groups are involved? How do war and conflict influence practices of enslavement?
- What forms of resistance, and by which actors, does contemporary slavery gives rise to?
- How does the international definition of slavery, based on the 1926 Slavery Convention of the League of Nations, relate to contemporary African phenomena and national legislations?
- How is slavery defined and characterised in contexts marked by legal pluralism?
- Who, if anyone, defends the legitimacy of slavery today, through which arguments, and with
what practical consequences?
- African anti-slavery movements, neo-abolitionism, and grassroots activism:
- What forms does abolitionism take in Africa today, what practices does it give rise to, and what are the ideological roots of different African abolitionist discourses?
- What are the main forms of anti-slavery advocacy in Africa today (e.g. national and international NGOs, political parties, grassroots movements, religious associations, etc.)?
- Who becomes a member of African anti-slavery movements and why?
- What challenges does African anti-slavery activism face and why?
- How, if at all, do African abolitionist movements differ from those of African diasporas in Europe and the Americas?
DAY 1: Tuesday 10 April – VENUE: ELT 2 Engineering Tower
9.15 – 10.00 Launching Ceremony at the Nelson Mandela Centre
Welcome and introduction
10.00 Tea and coffee served
10.30 – 12.15 PANEL 1: CITIZENSHIP, SLAVE DESCENT, AND THE QUEST FOR EFFECTIVE EMANCIPATION
Chair : Olivette Otele
1. Abena Ampofoa Asare, Disappeared Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRCs): The (Im)Possibility of Historical Justice in Contemporary Africa
2. Jimmy Harmon, The FCM Manifesto (2009): A road map to the Afro-Kreols of Mauritius
3. Melchisedek Chetima, A la Quête d’une Émancipation Effective: Esclaves Royaux, Paradoxes
de Statut et Allégeance Politique dans le Lamidat de Rey-Bouba
4. Eric Hahonou, Pourquoi pas nous? Emancipation politique et citoyenneté des femmes gando
12.15 – 14.00 Lunch
14.00-14.45 Keynote address by Sylvio Michel, politician and activist, Mauritius. 14.45-16.15 PANEL 2: THE ENDURING STIGMA OF SLAVE ORIGINS
Chair : Olivette Otele
1. Patrick O. Abungu, The consequences of slavery heritage on memory, identity and human rights in Kenya
2. Klara Boyer-Rossol, After slavery, the emancipation strategies of the Makoa, their stigmatization and the persistence of servile practices in western Madagascar.
3. Valerio Colosio, We are not “sons of the people”. Post slavery, origins and citizenship rights in contemporary Chad.
16.15 – 16.45 Tea break
Presenters: Patrick Abungu and Abubacar Fofana
16.45 – 18.45 Screening of 2 films – The Slave Route, Kenya and Mozambique Cocktail at Institut Francais de Maurice (TBC)
Patrick Abungu and Okoko Ashikoye: “Silent Memories: the Unbroken Chains” – A Chestial Touch Production, Mombasa, 2014, 16:39 min.
DAY 2: Wednesday 11 April – VENUE: ELT 2
MORNING: 4 KEYNOTE ADDRESSES & DEBATE ON AFRICAN ABOLITIONISM 9.00-12.00 PANEL 3: AFRICAN ABOLITIONISM AND ANTI-SLAVERY
Chair Benedetta Rossi
1. Biram Dah Abeid, Mauritanian politician, anti-slavery advocate, founder of IRA-Mauritania, (30 min), Mauritanian abolitionism: ideas and strategies of struggle
Biram Dah Abeid is a leading anti-slavery activist and human rights advocate in Mauritania. He is renowned nationally and internationally for charismatic leadership. In 2008 he founded the Initiative of the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA), an organization committed to eradicating slavery in Mauritania. Because of his successful campaigns of public awareness to end slavery, he has been repeatedly arrested and detained. He has received numerous prizes including the 2013 UN Human Rights Award. In the Mauritanian presidential election of 2014, he ran on human rights agenda as an opposition candidate, but lost to the incumbent Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.
2. Ali Bouzou, Nigerien activist, anti-slavery advocate, Secretary General of the NGO Timidria, (30 min), Nigerien abolitionism: ideas and strategies of struggle
Ali Bouzou is a Tuareg activist and politician in Niger. He has a long political career in which he fought for the rights of black Tuareg communities. From 2015 to date he is Secretary General of BEN Timidria.
3. Ibrahim Ag Idbaltanat pour Temedt, Malian activists, anti-slavery advocate, founder of the
NGOs GARI and Temedt, (30 min), Malian abolitionism: ideas and strategies of struggle Ibrahim Ag Idbaltanat is an activist in Mali, and founder of the NGO GARI (1987) and Temedt (2006). With these NGOs Ibrahim has advocated for peace and human rights, especially for those of slave ancestry. In recognition of his work, he was awarded the International Slavery Award (2012) and the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence (2014).
4. Moses Binoga, Uganda’s National Coordinator Prevention of Trafficking in Persons and Police Commissioner, (30 min), Uganda’s fight against slavery and trafficking in persons
Binoga Moses is a Commissioner of Police in the Uganda Police force, with over 30 years of experience in the Police Force, and since 2013 National Coordinator Prevention of Trafficking in Persons in Uganda. In 2015 he was named Hero Acting to End Modern Slavery in recognition of his efforts to combat this crime.
Discussant: Benedetta Rossi: Reflections on African Abolitionism
13.00-14.30 PANEL 4: THE TRAFFIC IN WOMEN
Chair Preben Kaarlsholm
1. Ramola Ramtohul, The gender dimensions of slavery in the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius 2. Hannah Baumeister, Forced Marriage in Times of Armed Conflict: A Form of Sexual Slavery? 3. Irene Kamaratou, African women in Greece – a case study
14.30 – 16.00 PANEL 5: BONDED MIGRANT LABOUR, PAST AND PRESENT Chair Stephanie Tamby
1. Preben Kaarsholm, The changing faces of servitude: From slavery and indenture to postmodern labour in the Western Indian Ocean
2. Deepa Gokulsing, Verena Tandrayen-Ragoobur, Priyanka Gopall and Yashna Damry,
Nineteenth Century Indentured Laborers and Today’s Foreign Labor in Mauritius: Any Similarity?
3. Emma Christopher, When Legacies of ‘Old’ Slavery and Methods of Resisting ‘New’ Slavery Overlap: The Banta of Sierra Leone
16.00 -16.15 Tea break
16.15 – 17.00 Transport to carry participants to Le Morne (45-min journey)
17.00 – 21.00 Visit to Le Morne and dinner hosted by Le Morne Heritage Trust Fund (TBC)
DAY 3: Wednesday 12 April – VENUE: TBC
9.00 – 10.30 Panel 6: HISTORICAL SLAVERY: THE PAST OF THE PRESENT? Chair Myriam Cottias
1. Eugénia Rodrigues, The instability of freedom: freeing slaves and their posterity in Mozambique before abolition
2. Valerie Delali Adjoh-Davoh and Kwame Osei-Kwarteng, Pawn child labourers in cocoa exports in the Winneba districts of colonial Ghana 1874- 1920
3. Benigna Zimba BIographies of female slaves: a comparative study of Mozambique and Kenya 10.30 – 11.00 Tea break
11.00-12.30 Panel 7: LANGUAGE AND POWER: SLAVERY IN HISTORICAL AND LEGAL DISCOURSE
Chair Marie Pierre Ballarin
1. Felicitas Becker, Slavery in Tanzanian narratives of statehood
2. Lotte Pelckmans, Mobilising ’slave testimonies’ on internal African slavery: layered authorities
of the written for African anti-slavery cases
3. Sophie Le Chartier, Descendants of Afro-Malagasy or Descendants of Slaves: their experiences
in contemporary Mauritius
12.30 – 13.30 Buffet lunch
13.30-15.30 Panel 8: OPEN DISCUSSION BETWEEN RESEARCHERS, CIVIL SOCIETY, AND ACTIVISTS: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Chairs and facilitators: Vijaya Teelock & Myriam Cottias
Q&A on the ideas discussed during the previous two days, reflections on ‘lessons learned’ from policy advocacy and historical research, suggestions for future work and collaboration.
15.30-16.00 Closing session