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Slavery in East Africa

Bought Freedom

In charter No. 11, dated January 18, 1895 the Imperial Government of Deutsch-Ostafrika (German East Africa) declares the redemption of the pupil Songorro, of male sex, 5–6 years, slave of the Selimani in Lindi.

St. Ottilien missionaries succeeded in redeeming a large number of slaves.

In East Africa the slave trade reached a first peak under the Abbaside dynasty (from A.D. 750). Between the 17th and 19th centuries the center of East African slave trade was located on the island of Zanzibar off the coast.

The slave trade in East Africa reached its zenith during the 19th century. On the West African coast lived too few people and consequently too few potential slaves. Therefore, European slave traders settled down on the east coast and recruited from there slaves for America and for the islands in the Indian Ocean.

The demand declined later (1848 ban on slavery in France, 1865 in the United States). Thus prices for slaves decreased. Buyers from Africa and from the Arabic-Islamic region (Near East, clove plantations on Zanzibar) could buy an increasing number of slaves.

Whole regions in East Africa were depopulated by extensive slave hunts. The dreaded Zanzibar slave trader Tippu-Tip penetrated with his expeditions as far as the Central African Kongo Basin.

The fight against slave trade was one of the legitimations for East Africa's colonization by European states. The German East African colony (1885 - 1919) included today's Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi with a territory of 1 million square kilometers.

The 1926 League of Nations' Slavery Convention had only small impact. In 1948, slavery was banned once more in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the effect was similarly small. A further treaty in 1956 was signed by 40 nations.

Officially, slavery is abolished worldwide.
But forms of modern slavery like child labor and forced prostitution, serfdom and economic plundering still exist. An estimated 40 million people worldwide are affected by slavery today.