Modern-Day Slavery in Africa

Combating African Slavery: Urgent Intervention to End the Plight

For many years, the widespread modern-day slavery in Africa remained hidden from the world’s attention. However, in the 1990s, a breakthrough occurred when Mohamed Athié, a political refugee from Mauritania, and Charles Jacobs, president of the American Anti-Slavery Group, exposed the shocking reality in The New York Times.[1] Their revelations unveiled a distressing tale of tens of thousands of African women and children from Christian villages in Sudan being enslaved during the Sudanese Civil War.[2] This article explores the profound issue of African slavery, underscoring the urgency of intervention and immediate action required to combat the scourge of modern-day slavery on the continent.

Unveiling a Dark Chapter

The Sudanese Civil War became a breeding ground for the enslavement of African women and children. Abduction, rape, beatings, forced conversions, and genital mutilation became a haunting reality for countless individuals.[3] Between 1995 and 2011, Christian Solidarity International, a grassroots human rights group, undertook remarkable efforts, liberating over 100,000 of these slaves through European and American-funded slave buy-backs. However, the magnitude of the issue persisted, and even after the split of South Sudan from the north in 2011, an estimated 35,000 individuals remained enslaved in the northern region

The distressing plight of Africa’s Black slaves should strike a chord within our hearts and compel us to take action. Jacobs passionately asserts, “Human bondage is a moral outrage. All decent people should see its victims as their own brothers, sisters, and children and act to rescue them. It is time for human rights groups to focus on freeing Africa’s slaves.”[4] The urgency to combat modern-day slavery in Africa has never been greater, with countless lives hanging in the balance.

International Outrage: #BringBackOurGirls

One of the most widely publicized incidents of modern-day slavery occurred in 2014 when Boko Haram, a terror group, kidnapped and enslaved hundreds of Christian schoolgirls in Nigeria. This heinous act sparked international outcry and led to the emergence of the powerful #BringBackOurGirls movement. Former First Lady Michelle Obama, along with numerous celebrities, joined forces to amplify the message of rescuing these innocent girls.

The harrowing stories of Boko Haram’s victims are deeply disturbing. Many of these young girls were forced into the clutches of sex trafficking, where their lives were irreversibly shattered.[5] The militants even resorted to using victims as suicide bombers, displaying an unimaginable level of cruelty and disregard for human life. The international community must not turn a blind eye to the ongoing attacks and raids on Christian villages in Nigeria, where inhabitants face routine killings and enslavement.

A Dire Consequence: Nigerian Women in the Sex Trade

The repercussions of Boko Haram’s actions extend beyond Nigeria’s borders. Thousands of Nigerian women, driven by desperation and limited opportunities, end up in the illicit sex trade in Europe, falling victim to sexual slavery.[6] Shockingly, an article in TIME reveals that between 2016 and 2017, an astounding 80% of the 16,000 Nigerian women who arrived in Italy fell prey to sex trafficking.[7] These women are destined for a life of sexual slavery in the streets and brothels of Europe, a harrowing reality that demands immediate attention.

Among the tales of despair, there are stories of resilience and escape. Reuters recounts the haunting journey of a young Nigerian woman who was forced into sexual slavery, enduring unspeakable horrors, and being made to have sex with up to 20 men a day.[8] Trapped for three agonizing years, she finally managed to break free after a chance encounter with a representative from an aid agency at a metro station. Her story serves as a testament to the urgent need for aid, intervention, and support for those trapped in the clutches of modern-day slavery.

The fight against modern-day slavery in Africa demands our attention, action, and solidarity. The tireless efforts of activists, human rights groups, and individuals must be strengthened to combat this grave injustice. As we shine a light on the hidden darkness of modern-day slavery, let us remember that the victims are not distant strangers but our own brothers, sisters, and children.

Together, we can work towards a future where the chains of slavery are forever broken, and every individual can enjoy the freedom they deserve. Amidst this fight, organizations like GFA World have stepped up to make a difference in Africa. Through initiatives like the Child Sponsorship Program in Rwanda’s slums, GFA World is actively working to address the root causes of poverty, lack of education, and spiritual deprivation. By training national missionaries, implementing clean water projects, providing medical care and education, empowering women, and engaging in community development, GFA World is making a tangible impact on the lives of Africa’s most vulnerable communities.

Learn more about modern slavery in Africa

[1] Jacobs, Charles, and Mohamed Athie. 1994. “Opinion | Bought and Sold.” The New York Times, July 13, 1994, sec. Opinion.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Jacobs, Charles. “Thousands of Black People Are Still Slaves. So Why Haven’t You Heard About Them?” The Federalist. Oct. 14, 2019.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Topham, James. “#BringBackOurGirls: Beyond the Hashtag.” Reliefweb. April 24, 2018.
[6] Baker, Aryn. “‘It Was As If We Weren’t Human.’ Inside the Modern Slave Trade Trapping African Migrants.” TIME. March 14, 2019.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ukomadu, Angela; Chile, Nneka. “West African slavery lives on, 400 years after transatlantic trade began.” Reuters. Aug. 7, 2019.