The Tuareg community, traditionally nomadic people of pastoralist and trading occupations, are found in different parts of Africa, including Mali. A rigid caste system operates  that divides the community into nobles, freeman and slaves. Known as Bellah, the slaves were traditionally raided from neighboring countries. Although slavery has been abolished by law, it is still practiced among the Bellah community, especially in remote areas.

They were traditionally brought as slaves and worked as unpaid manual labourers, producing goods for their ‘owners’. The position of the Bellah as ‘slaves’ has put them in a disadvantaged position in terms of access to basic rights. Slavery is a status ascribed at birth for the Bellah community, with very little scope of any change. Women face double discrimination as a member of slave caste and also because of their gender.

‘Some people have described the Bellah as a “traditional indentured servant caste”, as they have not been “forced” into slavery. However, the existence of local NGOs that are working against this practice suggests that not all Bellah are willing to accept this situation.


To compensate all the victims of discrimination based on work and descent, whose livelihoods (farmlands) were taken from them, or who were forced to relocate to other regions of Mali due to violence or the threat of violence.

To invest in training and sensitisation of law enforcement and judicial officials, for effective reporting, investigation and prosecution of slavery crimes.

To conduct a countrywide awareness campaign including digital, on the existence of slavery and slavery practices and the detrimental impact on communities affected by it.

To make annual budget allocation for combating slavery and slavery- like practices and other discrimination based on work and descent.

To conduct a nationwide survey on the nature and extent of slavery in Mali, followed by a practical National Plan of Action for eradicating slavery and slavery-like practices.

Courtesy Rights Expert Mali and Country Report on Status of CDWD in Mali.

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