NIAMEY (AFP) — The government of Niger has launched a probe into the extent of slavery in the impoverished west African country, an official said Friday. Unofficial estimates put the number of slaves at some 800,000.
“The government wants to really know if there are people living in these conditions (of slavery) or whether these are just baseless allegations,” said Garba Lompo, head of the National Commission of Basic Rights. The three-month probe was launched Thursday. About 100 people — mostly university students — are involved in the exercise.
Timidria, which means fraternity in the Tuareg language, is the country’s only non-governmental organisation fighting slavery. It estimates there are 870,364 slaves spread across six of Niger’s eight regions. The organisation, founded 15 years ago, says slavery stil exists in the northern and western regions of Niger inhabited by Tuaregs.
In 2004, Timidria was awarded a prize by the London-based Anti-Slavery International (ASI) for ensuring the introduction of laws banning and punishing slavery and for engineering the release of around 200 people.