Flashpoint for Conflict
DAWN OF ABOLITION
Influenced by the primarily European-driven campaign to abolish the slave-trade, Muhammad Ali, the Khedive of Egypt, closed the public slave-markets in Khartoum.
In June 1864 the Khartoum authorities established a police river patrol to track down traders' boats, and seized more than 3,500 slaves, but many slave-traders eluded or bribed the patrols.
In August 1877, the Khedive agreed to the Anglo-Egyptian Slave Trade Convention, prohibiting the sale and purchase of slaves in the Sudan by 1880.
General Charles Gordon, British Governor General of Sudan, mobilised some Baggara chiefs against the notorious Sulayman of Bahr al Ghazal and other Jallaba slave-traders, and tried to hit at the root of the problem. Top
With the Mahdist revolution and Gordon's death, the slave trade blossomed again. Slaves were used as currency in the market as well as for tending the nomads' herds of cattle.
The Ansar (followers of the Mahdi) held contemptuous attitudes towards the "infidels" from the South: "The sophisticated Arab, with a culture and tradition centuries old, felt, not unnaturally, that he was superior to the simple African who was created by Allah to be a slave." (1)
During this period slave-trading was carried out only by the Mahdist forces, while private trade was prohibited. Individual merchants were not permitted to acquire private armies that might pose a threat to the Mahdist government. Anglo-Egyptian forces re-conquered Sudan in 1898. Slave raiding and trading were virtually ended, but existing cases of slavery and exploitation of slave labour continued into the early 20th century. It is reported that many of the men who fought in General Kitchener's army in 1898 were slaves. Top
Although it took measures to halt slavery around the capital, Khartoum, during the first two decades of the 20th century the attitude of the Anglo-Egyptian condominium administration towards the practice in the "marginal areas" of Sudan was either lax or pragmatic.
The authorities of Bahr al-Ghazal region, short of funds and personnel, often did not take direct action against slavery but appealed to the tribal chiefs to end the practice.
With no enforcement, these appeals were ignored. Slaves were still captured and smuggled in to be sold in the markets of Darfur and Kordofan.
In 1907, the Slavery Repression Department
believed that most towns of the western district concealed slaves bound
for the north. Top