*** African slave trade -- East Africa and the Indian Ocean infividual countries

The African Slave Trade: The Indian Ocean and East Africa--Country Trends

Arab slave trade Indian Ocean
Figure 1.--The artists here depicts Arab slavers killing one of their Aftrucan captives somewhere along the Ruvuma River. Ruvuma River, also called the Rovuma. It ia an important river in the East African Great Lakes region. It is the brder between Tanzania and Mozambique for much of its course. One of the Arab slavers is depicted executing one of his captives, 'Slavers revenging their losses'. We believe this was a punishment meted out because one of their captives escaped. It was meant to serve as an example and to instill fear in the other captives. We are not sure yet who was the artist depicting this scene. At it is an engraving, it would have been done in the 19th century, perhaps in the 1870s or 80s. We see this image used on many websites, but we find no attribtion as to the original source.

Quite a number of African countries were involved in the Indian Ocean slave trade, but in different ways. This included both the Arab countries that were involved in slave trading as well as the African countries where slave traders captured Africans for sale. Countries is not quite the right term. There were not yet countries in Africa. The African slave rade began in ancuent times, but did not reach East Africa (except the Sudan and Ethiopia ) in any significant way until the rise of Islam and the Arab dominstion of the Indian Ocean. And the slave trde began well before the European countries colonized East Africa. There were also Indian Ocean islands colonized by the Europeans. The colonists there founded plantations and imported captive Africans to work them. Some slaves were marketed in the americas as well. These were mostly slaves from southern Africa, that the Portuguese sold from their coastal trading posts in Mozambique. Fewer East African captives were sold in the Anericas. By the time the slave trade had penetrayed deep into East Africa, the Royal Navy effort to end the slave trade was well under way. We have divided the examination of the East African slave trade into a disscyssion of modern states. These states of course did not exist, the discussion is centered in what occurred on the territory of the modern states well before these states as now constituted existed.

East-African Overview

Slavery was practiced in Africa long before the arrival of outsiders. It was a phenomenon of the ancient world which was practiced in Africa as well as other areas. One Uganda source writes with considerable insight, "Even if slavery was being practiced in Africa among Africans even before the arrival of outsiders, it was never a trade. Many tribes or clans would overrun another group and abduct their members and enslave them as unpaid labourers and sex slaves. In fact words associated with slavery existed in most African languages proving the existence of the practice; for example omuddu in Luganda, opii and moo in Luo, etc." It was not until Arabs arrived in Africa that anything like what we now see as the slave trade began. The slavce trade is generally associared ith he Europeans and the Atlatic slave trade, but it in fact began with the Arabs much earlier over the Sahara and Indian Ocean (8th century). The European slave trade began much later (15th cehntury). It existed ovr a much more narrow eriod, but the dimenionswere much larger than that of the Arab slave trade over any single century. The dimensions of the European Atlanhic slave trade are roughly known. The dimensions of the Arab slave trade are much less well established. We have seen estimates in the 15-20 million range, but no on knows with ny certainty. The Arab slave trade mostly affected western and southern Africa. Uganda was primarily affected by the Arab and Indian Ocean slave trade. An Ugandan author writes, "Arabs had been practicing slavery long before whites joined them and were even more heartless towards the commodity they were trading in. Despite the fact that millions of Black Africans were shipped to the Middle East as slaves, there are hardly any communities of African descendants (African Arabs) in the Arab World to speak of. Arabs were systematic and deliberate in destroying continuity among their Black slaves. Culturally they perpetuated heartless controls such as not allowing black slaves to have sex among themselves. Every male African slave was castrated using a barbaric method of chopping off the [penis]."

Specific Countries

The modern borders of Africa canme about in the late-19th century. as part of the European Scrable for Africa. We have detailed staristival data on the Atlantic slave trade (15-19th centuries). It took place in relatively historical times and very detailed recirds exist, especially for the later phase of the trade. East Africa is very different. It began almost a millennium earlier (8th century). And there are no historical records for most of the trade. There is good data only for the final century (19th century). Thus the dimensions of the Arab slave trade are simply not known. We know that the shipments were larger for any one year perios in the Atlantic slav trade. But we also know that the Arab slave trade went on more than twice as long as the Atlantic slave trade. The Arab slave trade also was active in West Africa, with captives transported across the Sahara. Most of the African captives in the Arab slave trade from East Africa were transported to the Middle East and finally to some of the French Indian Ocean islands. Very few were transportd to the New World, except for captives from the extrene south (Madagascar and Mozambique). Over time the center of the Indian Ocean Slave trade became centered on the Omani Sultanate which eventually relocated to Zanzibar. The coastal areas were the most affected (Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozamique), but gradually the tenacles of the slave trade reaching into the inland countries (like Malawi, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). Christian Ethiopia resisted the slave trade more than other countries, but the more primitive Nilotic Shanqella people in the interior were targeted. Ironiclly slavery played a greater role in domestic Ethiopian society than the other countries of East Africa.


Djibouti is a trading port on the Horn of Africa located at the strategic conjuction of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. We do not know about its role in the Indian Ocean slave trade, but given its location must have been considerable. During the slave trade era, it was an Arab sultunate, at times controlled by the Ottoman Empire. We know that it was still involved even in the 20th century despite French colonial rule. A Western journalist, John Laffin describes his observtions in slave market in Djibouti slave market (1956). African captives were being sold as slaves to the Saudi buyers. “Men, women and children were brought from a warehouse and paraded on a raised platform .... A trader would nudge a slave’s jaw with stick and the man would open his mouth to display his teeth. Another probe with this stick and he would flex his muscles. Young women were forced to expose their breasts and buttocks. A dispute arose over the virginity of a tall young ebony woman, and during an hour long argument, she was forced to squat while one of her most prominent buyers examined her with his fingers. She was terrified; her trembling was visible 50 yards away .... Occasionally children were sold in bunches. Boys of about ten to twelve had their anuses examined. Perhaps 200 slaves changed hands while I was present.” [Laffin]


Slavery existed for much of the 19th century in Egypt. Slavery in the Khedivate was not unlike slavery in Ancient Egypt. The great bulk of the labor force was the landless peasantry. Slaves were a small part of the labor force and concentrated in a few specific activities. Slavery followed the pattern set during earlier historical periods, most recently Egypt's position as a province of the Ottoman Empire. Slavery was similar in Egypt to that of the wider Arab world. The Mamuluks were destinctive to Egypt. Egypt had access to as well as access to African slaves and until the early-19th century had access to the European catives of the Barbary pirates. There were both white and black slaves as well as male and female slaves. Slavery gradually disappeared in Egypt during the 19th century. Formal abolition was just part of this transition. Although defeated by the Ottomans and Napoleon, the Mamluks still had considerable influence in Egypt and important positions. They were annililated in a great massacre conducted by Muhammed Ali (1811). This ended their rule as a ruling aristocracy. They continued to play an important role in the military and government administration. Many Mamluks and other white make slaves were owned by Turks (non-Arab Ottomans) and increasingly wealthy Egyptians. [Baer, p. 147.] The slave population of Egypt during the 19th century was an estimasted 20,000-30,000, although there is no precise accounting. Certainly they were a small fraction out of out of the overall populstion of about 5 million people. About half of Egyptian slaves were concentrated in Egypt. The number of slaves in Cairo has been estimated at 12,000-15,000 in a city of about 350,000 people. Female slaves might be kept in harems. Wealthy Turks preferred Circassian females (white women who were primarily obtained in the Caucasus). More humble Egyptain harems were more commonly Abyssinians (Africans). While male and female Negro slaves were commonly used as domestic servants. Black slaves were used as soldiers as well as the decling number of Mamluks. African slaves were also used as agricultural labor, although this was a very small part of the largely peasant labor force. The estates of the Muhammed Ali family were worked by African slaves. [Baer] The supression of the slave trade was largely brought about by the British. The first major step was the First Anglo-Egyptian Convention (1877). One focus of the effort was the Sudan. Sudan was seen by Egyptian officials as a part of Egypt. The Sudan was more traditional than Egypt itself and a more austere form of Islam widely followed. And the slave trade was an important part of the economy whoch was not the case in Egypt. British governors were appointed in the Sudan. The most notable was Charles "Chinese" Gordon. Special missions were dispatched to supress the slave trade. The Mahdist revolution delayed the effort in the Sudan (1881). More aggressive steps were taken after the establishment of the British Protectorate (1882).


Slavery in Ethiopia has existed since ancient times. Slavery has been an integral part of Afro-Asiatic-dominated Ethiopian society since its inception and contonues into the 20th century. The major source of slaves was Nilotic Shanqella people living in Ethiopia's southern interior. These were people with a lower level of development and technology and thus unable to defend themselves from slave rading. Another important source of slaves was captives taken in war. Slavery was not only an integral part of Ethiopian society, but a very complex social structure. The status of slaves as well as their treatment and duties varied in part on the source and how they were acquired. [Abir, p. 57.] Details on slavery in ancient times is limited. It is known to have existed. Little information is available on the extent and importance. We do not know about trade with the Roman Empire. We know they were African slaves in the Roman era, although the numbers seem limited. We believe they mostly came through Egypt, but some may have come through Ethiopia. Our impression is that Ethipoian slavery in ancient times was primarily domestic. More is known about the medieval era which essentially emcompses the era beginning with the Arab outburst from Arabia creating the Islamic era. Ethiopia participated in the Arab slave trade, but its role was different than in most of the rest of Africa. There were relatively powerful Ethiopian states that made the Arab slave trading that went on throughout the continent more difficult. It was Ethiopians who sold slaves to the Arabs. The numbers are unknown, but this trade went on for centuries. The Arabs used these slaves for a range of purposes, including concubines, bodyguards, servants, treasurers, and other duties. [Smith] As far as we can tell, the primary role of slavery in Ethiopia throughout the medieval era was domestic. There were major changes in the 19th century as Britain used the Royal Navy to end the slave trade, first the European Atlantic slave trade and than the Arab Indian Ocean slave trade. Thus with foreign markets severed, Ethiopian slavery thus became almost entirely domestic. Ethiopian emperors beginning in the mid-19th century began efforts to abolish slavery, but the institution was so ingrained that this proved difficult, but some progress was made. The firt emperor to ban slavery was Tewodros II (1855-68). Major efforts did not begin until Ethiopia joined the League of Nations (1923), but slavery was still a fact of life in many rural areas. The Italians also made some efforts after invading and seizing the country (1935), but again slavery persusted away from urban centers administered by the Italians ho were not aversed to using forced lbor themselves. The Western Allies which liberated Ethiopia durung World War II (1941), demanded that the country abolish abolished slavery and involuntary servitude. Emperor Haile Selassie issued a proclamation outlawing slavery (August 26, 1942). This and subsequent enforcement finally forvall practical purposes put an end to the practice.


Sultan Sayyid Said of Oman (1806-56) conquered all the coastal city-states along the Indian Ocean north of Cape Delgado in northern Mozambique (early 19th century). He established a thriving Indian Ocean commercial empire. He did not, however, move militarily against the Bantu clans in the interior. Controling the ports gave him a measure of influence and the abikity to profit economically fr trade. He moved his capital to Zanzibar, an island in present-day Tanzania. The clove plantations (Zanzibar) and the oil-palm groves (southern Somalia and Kenya) were major sources of the Sultan's income. They required a large labor force and this was met through the slave trade. The resulting slave trade was centered at Mombasa and Zanzibar. Captured Africans were brought from as far as Zaire. Swahili slavers would raid weak Bantu clans. They also traded for slaves from the stronger African states that were able to resist their deprdations. Reports of the cruelties involved brought the attention of the British whi after largely stopping the Atlantic slave trade began to move against the Eastern Slave Trade.


Several chiefs during the middle ages began to expand their power through maritime trade with East Africa, the Middle East and India. Some of the most important were the Sakalava and Boina. The Arab slave trade became an important part of the economy. Madagascar tribal chiefs participated in the profitable export of slaves. Madagascar was the pimary source od slaves for the plantations on Mauritius and other Indian Ocean islands. Madagascar natives elected a king--Móric Beňovský (1776). Merina rulers became increasingly dominant (1790s). The British efforts to end the Indian Ocean Arab slave trade in the 19th century adversely affected the Sakalava as the Merina expanded their influence. The Merina ruler and the British governor of Mauritius signed a treaty abolishing the slave trade (1817). A second treaty further restructed slave trading (1820). The British helped replace income from the slave trade with military and financial assistance. Unaddressed by these treaties was domestic slave trading. At about the same time the Merina began importing slaves, a new phenomenon. This was one result of the growth of the Merina empire, the econony of which was based on slave labor. As the Merina expanded so did the demand fior slave labor. Slave-trade networks were relastively stable on Madadagascar, regardless of local rivalries. A major factor here was due largely to the Arab Antalaotra, an experienced body of traders. The Indian Karany supplied the needed financing. [Campbell] British influence was important, but France invaded Madagascar in what historians call the first Franco-Hova War (1882-85). The French broke the the Merina Empire. This created an unstable situaion on the island which temporarily exoabded the slace trade. It also caused the Creoles to demand French intervention. The French did so (1895). The French abolished slavery (1896). This, and the effective military occupation effectively endedthe slave trade on Madagascar.


David Livingstone was the first European to reach and report on the area that is now Malawi (1850s and 1860s). Cecil Rhodes's British South African Company was awarded a charter to develop the country (1884). His Compamy soon came into conflict with Arab slavers who continued to operate there (1887–89). Britain annexed what was then nammed Nyasaland (1891). It was made a protectorate (1892). Sir Harry Johnstone, the first high commissioner, employed Royal Navy gunboats to finally defeat the slavers.


Mauritius was discovered by the Portuguese (1507). The Dutch attempted to settled the island, bringing the first slaves with them (1516). The history of Mauritius like many Caribbean islands which the British and French fought over is strongly associated with the slave trade. After the Dutch left (1710), the French founded a colony on the island--Isle de France (1715). The French imported slaves from nearby Mozambique and Madagascar. In the early-129th century the population was 78,000 peoplem variously estimated at 80-85 percent slaves. The British seized the island during the Napoleomic Wars (1810). This effectively ended the importantion of slaves as the British previously had banned the slave trade (1807). The Merina ruler of Madagascar, the primary source of Mauritian slaves, and the British governor of Mauritius signed a treaty abolishing the slave trade (1817). A second treaty with Rafana was nore definitive (1820). Mauritius slave trading thus became a local market selling domestically owned slaves. Men an women were sold separately, apparently due to concerns over modesty. Children were sold with their mothers as a bundle. there were a small number of Indian slaves who sold for much less than proices of African slaves, apparently because the Indiuans were phyically smaller. Indentured laborers were obtained in India. The first imported Indian workers arrived (1829). The British abolished slavery throughout the Empire (August 1833). The most important event under the British colony was the emancipation of the slaves (1835). Large numbers of Asians (Indians and a smaller mumber of Chinese) in the 19th and early-20th century emograted to Mauritius, changing the ethnic makeup of the island.


Portuguese explorers reached Mozambique in the 15th century. Portuguese setlers began colonizing coastal areas and movng up the Zambezi River. ThPortuguese officially made Mozambique a colony (1752). Slaves became an important part of the Portuguese colonial econmy in Mozambique. Yao traders were active in developing slave networks. Africans were capture from the Marave area (tip of Lake Nyasa) Kilwa, and Mozambique Island. Prazo traders along the Zambezi River offered gold and slaves from obtained in Zumbo, Tete, and Manica. The slaves were purchased by Portuguese merchants in Quelima. A estimated 1 million slaves were transported from Mozambique. The Bantu tribes largely gained from the slave trade, other tribes were weakened or actually killed. Royal Navy patrolls in the Mozambique Channel attepted to supress the Portuguese slave tarade. [Barnard] Portugal officially abolished slavery (1869), but slave trading on a smaller scale continued into the 20th century.


The Arabian peninsula juts out into the Arabian Sea/Indian Ocean. Thus as might be expected, the Sultanate of Oman played aajor role in commerce between Africa and the Middle East. Little is know about this trade in the early years after the Arab outburst (7th century AD). We do know that Muscat and the Sultanate of Oman was an important part of that trade and slaves were an important part of that commerce. More is know about after the arival of the Europeans in the Indian Ocean. Vasco de Gama reached the Cape of Good Hope (1488). This opened up the possibility of direct European trade with the Orient fir the first time. First thec Indian Ocdean had to be made safe for European shipping. The Battle of Diu premanently broke Muslim (Ottoman/Arab/Persian) naval dominance in the Indian Ocean (1509). This ended Muslim dominance of the Indian Ocean, but it did nor end Muslim (mostly Arab trade) in the Arabian Sea. And this included the trade in slaves. The numbers of enslaved Africans, primarily from East Africa, sold into the Middle East by Arab traders, however, is not well documented. Arab commerce was, however, limited by the fact that the Portuguese dominated much of the eastern coast of Africa south of what is now Somalia. The Portuguese were, however, by the end of the 17th century, the weakest of the European colonial powers. Omani ruler Saif bin Sultan decided to challenge Portuguese control of the western Indian Ocean by seizing their fortified trading posts (1690s). The first to fall to the Omanis was Fort Jesus which was at Mombasa in modern Kenya (north of Zanzibar). It fell after a 33-month seige (1699). The Omanis subsequently seized one Portugrese base after another as far south as Kilwa in modern Tanzania (south of Zanzibar). The island strionghold of Zanzibar fell (1699). It was more secure than the mainland outposts and became the center of Omani trade in East Africa, although the Omanis also garisoned Pemba (a smaller island near Zanzibar) and Kilwa. The Omanis did not give great attention to their African conquests. And they did not move inland, although Arab traders from their coadtab bases did set up trade networks inland. Products included gold, ivory, and slaves. Trade began to expand (late-18th century). The most importantv commercual centers Kilwa Kivinje (modern Kenya) and Bagamoyo, Lindi, Mikandani, Pangani, and Tanga (modern Tanzani)on the African mainland. Mikandani was the soutghernmost extent of Omani rule. The Portuguese held control of Mozambique to the south. Much of the trade from these outposts were chanelled through Muscat which became an especially importanht slave market for supplying the wider Middle East. Eventially the slavec trade became so important that the Sultanate seat of rule to Zanzibar.


Réunion has a similar history to Mauritius. The island was an uninhabitd Indiab Ocean iskland. It wa visited, but not settled by a series of seafarers (Malay, Arab, and finally European mariners beginning with the Portuguese). The small archipelago, cononsists of Mauritius, Rodrigues and Réunion. Portuguese navigator Pedro de Mascarenhas christened the islands the Mascarenes (1512). The French began the settlement (1642). The French exiled twelve convicts there. La Compagnie des Indes Orientales (the French East India Company) sent the the St-Louis. The King of France offcially claimed the island and named it ile Bourbon. The French settlement created a poopulation of white French landowners and African and Malagasy (Madagascar) slaves (late-17th century). The population was vry small and only a few slaves were imported. The French did not show a great interest in Reunion. There was no great rush to populate and develop the island. Few wanted to invest capital or time in the enterprise. The French presence was so tenuous that pirates began using Ile Bourbon as a base for their operagtions and trade there (about 1685). Colonization began at about this time with the first 20 setlers. The French East India Company for decades was content to produce provisions only for its own needs and those of any passing ships. This changed when coffee was introduced (1715). Coffee quickly became the island's principlal cash crop which fundamentally changed the economy. The French enslaved more Africans to carry out the intensive labour required for growing and harvesting coffee. The French also introduced other cash crops (cereal grains, spices and cotton). Gradually sugar emerged as the major cash crop. And this meant more slaves were needed. The French enslaved more Africans to conduct sugar operations. Gradually sugar emerged as the major cash crop. And this meant more slaves were needed. Most of the slaves were imported from Portuguese Mozambique and French Madagascar. Réunion is a very small iskand. Many of the white settlers arrived too late to obtain land cincessions. They were thus excluded from the plantation system. They retreated to the highlands where a poor white population ( Petits blancs ) developed. The new French Government with the Revolution, renamed the ialand, La Reunion (1792). The British seized control of the island during the Napoleonic Wars. And the British began to end the Indian Ocean slave trade and eventually abolished slavery (1848). The labor force needed by the sugar planters led to the recruitment indentured laborers in India, particularly Tamils. Most of the Tamils stayed at the end of their 5-year contracts and continued to work for the white landowners. At the turn of the 20th century, plantes imported some Chinese and Muslim Gujaratis.


Somalia with its large extensive coast juutting out into the Indian Ocean south of Arabia wasore exposed to Arab influence than any other sub-Saharan African country. It was thus more heavily Arabized than othr African countries. Islamic tradition did not allow Muslims to nslave other Muslims. Thus slaves to wotk coastal plantations had to be brought in from other areas of Africa. Africans captives were transported to the Somali port cities of Merka and Brava where they were forced to work on palm oil plantations along the coast and in the Shabelle River valley. Many of those enslaved were Bantus from northeast Tanzania and Mozambique. Few of these slaves ever returned. An influential female Zigua leader, Wanankhucha, led many of her people out of Arab slavery in Somalia (mid-19th century). They hoped to reach Tanzania. They made it to the lower Juba River valley. Here they not only were able to farm, but alsoprotect themselves from hostile Somalis. Wanankhucha took a recent earthquake in the valley as a sign that they should settle there permanently instead of continuing their journey back to Tanzania. Italian authorities after seizing control freed the first slaves (1895). It was a small group of 45 slaves. The chartered company, V. Filonardi, took the action. No further action was taken until an anti-slavery crusader, Robecchi Bricchetti, began publicizing the extent of slavey in Somalia and the failure of the Italian colonial authorities to take any action. Public opinion in Italy pressed for action. Italian authorities finally banned slavery in the early 20th century when they acted in accordance with the Belgium protocol. Some slaves in remote rural locations remained in bondage into the the 1930s. Fascist authorities soon moved to reintroduce a system of coerced labor that wasnot that different from slavery. Freed slaves were conscription by Italian authorities for the agricultural industry. Italian authorities had opened more than 100 plantations in the river valleys. The emancipated Bantu slaves were formed into labor brigades from vilages establishd near the plantations. They were forced to work as farm laborers on plantations owned and operated by the Italian colonial government. The Italians employed non-Bantu personnelto oversea the Bantu workers, in many cases former slave owners. The Bantus had to abandon their own farms and villages. A British official reported, "The conception of these agricultural enterprises as exploitation concessions engendered under the [Italian] fascist regime a labour policy of considerable severity in theory and actual brutality in practice. It was in fact indistinguishable from slavery."


The slave trade in the Sudan has ancient origins. There is until the 19th century, however, only limited information on the dimensions of the slave trade. Geography was an important factor. The Sudan is composed of two different regions. The largely African, equitorial south and a Saharan north. The Blue and White Niles join in Sudan to provide a water route north to the Mediterannean. This is the only watrer route through the vast Sahara Desert. It is importsant because it provided a route through which where African captives taken in the south could be readily marketed. Egypt itself was not a slave society, in part because the peasanty were basically serfs tied to the land. There were slaves in Egypt and other anient civilizations such as Greece and Rome. Unlike Egypt, these weee salave societies. And references to Nubians suggest that they enslaved in the Sudan or through Cushite slave markets. Some believe that Aesop was a Nubian. We certainly knew Nubian slaves. There are many references to Nubians in Roman manucripts. It must be remembered, however, thar slsavery in the ancient world was not a racial matter and thus Nubian did not equate with slave. Another complication is that most Africans in Rome were called Nubians, including those with no connection to Cush. We are not sure just how important Nubian slaves were to Rome. Give the ditance from Rome and the fact that Rome never occupied Cush/Nubia militarily, we suspect that Nubians made up a basically small proportion of the Roman slave population. Perhaps mpdern DNA studies will shed some light on this. The slave trade continued into the Christian era and then into the Muslim era. We know this because of the 652 treaty between the Kushites and Arab invaders under which Kush would pay an annual tribute. This may sound like a small number, but this was just the tribute and does not address the trade between Kush/Nubia and Egypt which was probably many time the number of Africans delivered as tribute. Unfortunately the historical record is very limited until the arrival of the British and efforts to wipe out the slave trade (19th century). The British certainly sharply reduced the slave trade, but did not end it. Even after independence (1956), the slave trade comtinued. And it became a factor in the civil war following independence. Press reports of the slasve trade in Sudan continue to this day.


Africans from what is now Tanzania was particularly affected by the slave trade. Zanzibar lies off of southern Tanzania and Arab slavers were particularly active in this area. Written accounts from the 19th century describe how Arab slavers marched African captives 400 miles from the area around Lake Malawi in the interior of Tanzanian to the coastal city of Kilwa Kivinje. Many Somali Bantu refugees (Zigua and Zaramo) describe how their ancestors were transported by sea from the Tanzanian port of Bagamoyo to southern Somalia to work on palm oil plantations. Severe drought affected the area of current Tanzania (late 1830s). This caused crop failure resulting in starvation and death. Starving Africans accepted the Suktan's offer of wage labor in a foreign land. The Bantus transported to Somalia claim that were sold as slaves on the Benediri coast and, later, to nomadic Somalis.


Uganda located deep in East Africa was not affected as severly by the slave trade as coastal areas of East Africa. As slavers began depopulating coastal areas, they had to move deepwe inland in search of healthy captives. The distance and terraine to an extent protected the people of what is now Uganda. Slavers found it difficult to drive captives across long distances over rough terrain to the coastal forts and ports like Zanzibar and Mombasa. The Kabaka of Buganda began bartering ivory and other valuables with Arab traders for guns and cloth. Eventually they began collaborating with Arab slave traders, essentially turning against their own people. We are not sure to what extent the Kabakas were pressured by well-armed Arab traders. We are sure their were enticements in valuable trade goods. This was a phenomenon occuring over and over again throughout Africa. An unknown number of Ugandan captives were sold in the slave trade. We know of no actual data. Egyptian slave traders from the Sudan operated as far south as Bunyoro (northern Uganda). Ismail Pasha, the Ottoman ruler of Egypt at the time, contracted with British explorer Samuel Baker to seize Bunyoro for Egypt. We notice one Ugandan source as accusing Baker as trying to more firmly establish the slave trade in this area. We are not entirely sure about Egyptians motives, but Baker was a dedicated abolitionist. nding the slave trade in Uganda was complicated by the continued commitment to the slavery trade among Muslim fundamentalists in the Sudan resulting in the Mhadist revolt. It was largely ended wih the British defeat of the Mhadist forces and protctorate in Uganda.


Yemen because of its location between the Middle East and Africa and at the juncture between the Arabian Sea abnd Red Sea was an important cog in the Indian Ocean slave trade. We know that trade was well developed in antiquity and Yemen was oerfectly positiion to ol=[;ay an importnt role in that trade. Slavery and the slave trade must have ore-dated the Islamuc era, but little information is available. We know there were African slaves in Ancient Rome, but we are niot entirely sure of the source. As they were often called Numbians, the modern Sudan may have been the primarily source. More information becomes available, although there is still little is known about the early Islamic period. The earliest available Arab sources report commerce across the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The slave trade at this tome seems to have been localized with slaves flowing from Abyssinia (Ethiopia to Yemen and Arabia. It is dificult to quantify the volume. There is not alarge African ethnic presense in Yeman and Aabia, but the castration of males may have been a factor here. And DNA stidies report important African traces. Arab sources report annual caeavans from Mecca. [Mujr] Thios refers to the 7th cehntury, but the Caravans in Mohammed's time would have surely been a contunuation of commerce established in antiquity. Of course one of those Arab traders was Mohammed's grandfather Abdal Muttalib. This trade which included African slaves led to the emergence of Mecca and Medina as well as other places in Araabia as important trading centers and Ethiopian communities. The best known individual to history is Bilal, who was Mohammed's muezzin. It was Bilal who called the first Muslims to prayer. Mohammed called him, 'the first fruit of Abyssinia'. The crossing from Africa to Arabia would have occurred at Yemen. More ingormation becomes available as time progresses. Arab sources report a sizeable trade which included leopard skins, anber, and slaves.


The Indian Ocean slave trade began with the Arabs. There was an established slave trade between Ethiopia and Yemen before the Islamic period. And during the Islamic period Arab traders dominated the Indian Ocean. We know that slaves were an important part of their commerce. We are unsure, however, to what extent the Arab slave trade extended into East African interior. The Portuguese rounded the Cape of Good Hope (1492). Within only a few decadeds, the Portuguese defeated the Arabs at Diy for control of the Indian Ocean (1509) and established trading posts along the coast of Mozambique (1515). Early trade from Easter/Central Africa was ivory and copper, but slaves fairly soon became a central part of African trade. The territory of modern Zambia is an inland area. Thus it was at first somewhat insulated forom the depridations of the slave trade, but over time it became increasingly important. This was about the same time that Iron Age monarchies were becoming establihed throughout the region. Slavery was not new to Africa. Domestic slavery was an established part of the traditional African social order. Servitude varied in precolonial Africa. Often those enslaved were primrily various miscreants, criminals and those captured in battle. The Portuguese and the other Europeans who followed them did not themselves penetrate as far into the interior as Zambia. They sold trade goods to rulers along the coast, goods like cloth, rum, jewellery and firearms were offered coastal rulers. Most did not have aot to offer the Portuguse so they turned to capturing or trading for captives from the interior. And with the fire arms from the Portuguese they were able to conduct slave rading expeditions. While the Europeans did not participate in the slave raids, the arabs did. and the Sultan of Oman turned Zanzibar into a major slave trading center (1830s). Slave trading expeditiins penetrated deeper and deeper into the interior. This included both Arabs and Arabized Africans. Captives from Zambia were sold into Middle Eastern markets, Indian Ocean islands where plantations were established, and the Americas. We believe that the number of slaves from Zambia reaching the Americas wa limited because by the time the slave traders extended their reach into Zambia that the effort to end the slave trade was well underway (19th century).


Trade contacts between the Middle East, India, and East Africa date back to antuquity. Trade with Africa was for slaves, gold, ivory, and wood. After the Arab expansion (7th century AD), armed Arab merchants set up bases in Indian Ocean islands for sectirity reasons. Zanzibar became the most important. It was not only a secure base for trade with East Africa, but it also was a source for spices, a particularly valuable trade commodity. They called Africa Zenj (black in Arabic) or Azania. The more important island bases became independent Muslim sultanates. On islands the Arab merchants were not ethnically swamped by the African population of the mainland. They developed mixed Arab-African populations. The early history of Zanzibar and the Arab presence is largely unknown. The oldest surviving ediface on Zanzibar is a mosque at Kizimkazi (1107). The dimensions of the slave trade in the early Arab period is unknown. Trade expanded and eventually sattracted Indians who settled on Zanzibar as as shopkeepers, traders, and artisans. The Portuguese briefly ruled Zanzibar in the 16th century. When the British after the Napoleonic Wars began their campain to end the slave trade, it was apparent from an early point that the Sultan of Oman/Zanzibar was the key to ending the Arab slave trade in the Indian Ocean. The slave trade was largely overseen by the Sultan and allied African tribes. Zanzibar developed into the most important source of cloves as well as the largest slave trading center on the East African coast. The Sultan and othef Omanis organised caravans into the interior of the East African mainland. It was not an entirel Omani Arab activity. The descdents of ethnic Indians living in Zanzibar, olften working for for Bombay interests helped finance the slaving and other East African trade activities. The spice trade related to the slace trade, African slaves were used to grow and harvest cloves. And both were shipped to ports all along the Indian Ocean, including the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. Slaves were usually shipped Bagamoyo on the mainland to Zanzibar. The peak of East African slave trading through Zanzibar was probably reached with the development sugar and clove plantations on Mauritius and Reunion (18th century). The British began using diplomacy even before he Royal Navy had an effective presence in the Indian Ocean. They largely imposed the the Moresby Treaty (1822) and the Hamerton Treaty (1845) on the Sultan to limit the slave trade. These treaties weee, however, onl partially effecive. The British consul on Zanzibar took the lead in the anti-slave-trade movement in East Africa. The British offered guarantees of continued protection to the the Sultan if he would limit the scope of the slave trade (1850s). Finally Said's son, Barghash (1870-88), fearing that the British might simply seize his Empire agreed to a limited form of abolition (1873). Zanzibar became a British protectorate (1890) and after considerable agitation, authorities abolished slavery on the island. The slave owners, mostly Arabs operating spice plantations, were compensated.


The area encompasing modern Zimbabwe was primarily affected by the Arab slave trade. As Zimbabwe is a land-locked country, it was not as strongly affected as coastal areas and areas further north. Arab slaver catchers, however did penetrate into the interior. We know of no detailed research on the slave trade in Zimbabwe. Only the sketchiest informtion exists. The Shona people were subjected to Arab slave raiding. They had been protected to some extent by the Urozwi Kingdom. Slave raiding was complicated if there were strong native political structures in place, although African states not uncommonly prticipated in the slave trade themselves. The Ndebele people under Mzilikaze fleeing the ravages of the Zulus in South Africa moved north and in the process destroyed the already declining Urozwi kingdom (1830s). This created a power vacuume in which Arab slave raiders could flourish. Soon after the British began to reach the area (mid-19th century). Britain by this time was not only not participating in the slave trade, but actively trying to supress it. David Livingstone, the famed Scottish missionary and explorer, played a major role in opening central Africa to European penetration. He explored areas of the African interior unknown to Europeans (1850s-60s). His explorations and writing included powerful descriptions on the deredations of slave raiders. By this time, the Atlantic slave trade was largely ended by the Royal Navy. Thus the Arab slave raiders plied an easterly oriented trade, moveing their tragic captives east toward trading posts along the Indian Ocean coast. Livingston's writings helped stimulate support in Britain for using the RoyaL Navy to end the slave trade in the Indian Ocean and East Africa. He also helped generate interest in missionary activity.


Abir, Mordechai. Ethiopia: the Era of the Princes: The Challenge of Islam and Re-unification of the Christian Empire, 1769-1855 (Praeger, 1968).

Baer, Gabriel. "Slavery in nineteenth century Egypt," Journal of African History Vol. VIII, No. 3 (1967), pp. 417-41.

Campbell, Gwyn, "Madagascar and the Slave Trade, 1810-1895," The Journal of African History Vol. 22, No. 2 (1981), pp. 203-227.

Laffin, John. The Arabs as Master Slavers (1982).

Mujr, William. Life of Mahomet (1861).

Smith, Clarence-Smith. William Gervase, ed. The Economics of the Indian Ocean Slave Trade in the Nineteenth Century (London, England: Frank Cass, 1989).


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