Slavery in Niger has a deep-rooted history that dates back to pre-colonial times and has persisted into the present day. Even before European colonization, slavery was prevalent in Niger, primarily in the form of domestic servitude and forced labour. Enslaved people were considered property and commonly bought, sold, and passed down through generations.

The dominant ethnic groups often held enslaved people from marginalized ethnic groups, slavery was intricately linked to caste systems and social hierarchies. The caste system, a hierarchical social structure, has been present in some of Niger’s traditional societies, notably among the Tuareg, Fulani, and Songhai ethnic groups. However, it is essential to recognize that Niger’s society is highly diverse, comprising numerous ethnic groups such as Hausa, Zarma, Songhai, Dendi, Touaregs (Tamachek), Arabs, Fulfulde (Peulh), Kanuri, and Gourmantché. Consequently, the caste dynamics vary from one community to another. In some Nigerien societies, castes were divided into distinct groups, each with specific societal roles and functions. These groups were generally determined by birth, and it was difficult for
a person to change caste during their lifetime.

Castes were often based on occupation and economic activities. For example, the Tuareg hierarchy comprised-Imajaghan (nobles), Ineslemen (warriors), Imrad (craftsmen), and Iklan (enslaved people), in this order. Each group had its own set of rights, obligations, and specific restrictions. Members of the slave caste were commonly regarded as inferior with limited rights. In the 19th century, Niger was affected by the trans-Saharan slave trade, which involved the capture, sale and transport of enslaved people across the Sahara desert to the Maghreb and Middle East regions. This led to an increase in the slave trade in the region, with caravans traversing Niger territory. The slave trade gradually ended with the advent of European colonization and the subsequent abolition of slavery in many countries.


To collect all population and related data disaggregated by ethnicity, caste, and other intersectional factors to enable better policymaking for advancing
the rights of CDWD and other marginalised groups.

To review existing legislation and, accordingly, effectively enforce existing laws and, where required, amend/ and/or repeal them.

To design a focused poverty reduction, empowerment and rehabilitation programme for the freed enslaved persons, formerly enslaved and descendants of enslaved persons.

Due importance to be given to socio-economic empowerment, free and compulsory education of children, support of CDWD children for professional studies, livelihood education and skill development, housing and health care, among others.

To strengthen policies to ensure that businesses follow due diligence in sourcing from supply chains that do not engage in modern slavery and are liable and accountable for modern slavery in their supply chains.

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

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