Illegible/invisibilised protracted rural displacements: slavery and forced internal migration in Mali

Lead Research Organisation: School of Oriental & African Studies
Department Name: History, Religions and Philosophy

Abstract

Descent-based slavery and its legacies continue to prevail in most communities of the west and south of Mali today. Because of the lack of protecting legal framework, populations victims of slavery-related violence often have little choice but to escape to more 'hospitable' areas, having been systematically barred from land access in their home village by the local elite. Those populations with ascribed slave status are the poorest and the most vulnerable populations in the Sahel. In many cases though, those displaced, mostly agricultural populations continue to live in precarious conditions because of continuing marginalization and stigmatization in new host communities, with risks of new forms of servitude strongly overlapping with the legacies of historical slavery. Slavery-related displacements in West Africa have been largely overlooked in the development and humanitarian practice and reporting. This is certainly a major omission in view of the Sustainable Development Goals
Our project looks at the most invisibilised historical and contemporary slavery-related internal displacements, those taking place within the rural areas in the Kayes region and which concern in their vast majority women and children because men of those communities are migrants elsewhere in cities and abroad. In such crisis situation as the one prevailing today in Mali, working with populations who are considered of 'slave descent' is thus an urgent equitable development issue.
Our research programme aims not only to analyse and map the long history of slavery-related protracted displacements in the Kayes region, but more importantly we propose concrete measures to redress this unacknowledged long-term crisis situation by sensitising the local and national government in Mali at every level to anticipate and efficiently manage those 'fugitive' displacements of people with ascribed slave status.
Our project team brings together a unique combination of expertise and methods in African history, comparative literature, law, social anthropology and political sciences, which are less common in development approaches. It aims at constructing a synergistic approach with transformative and catalyst effect by exploring both affordable and upscalable solutions for sustainable livelihoods and proposing directly actionable recommendations for the surveyed communities (and beyond). The transformative aspect of this research relies on bridging the gaps between practitioners and scholars in and with the surveyed communities through a website, policy papers, documentary films, teaching material, trainings, research dissemination and advocacy at appropriate policy-making levels, facilitated by two Malian partner NGOs, Donkosira and TEMEDT.

Planned Impact

The project will promote the economic development and welfare of forcedly displaced populations with ascribed slave status in the Kayes region (Mali) by taking positive action to expose their situation which has remained until recently mostly unintelligible and invisible for development and humanitarian practitioners. It will do so through a website, policy papers, documentary films, teaching material, trainings, research dissemination and advocacy at appropriate policy-making levels. In partnership with the Malian organisations Donkosira and TEMEDT, the project will work on legal and civil rights awareness and support for those communities, but will also explore affordable and upscalable solutions for sustainable livelihoods. It will allow girls and women in particular to escape further risks of exploitation by re-appropriating their role as valuable economic agents and contributors to the development of their own community. Those legal and practical resources will be useful for NGOs and policymakers to plan community-centred and locally informed interventions which place equitable development at their centre. The project's impact which encompass both legal and development-focused solutions, will be facilitated by the partnership with the Malian NGO Donkosira and TEMEDT. By providing more information, awareness and 'visibillity' of the issues at stake to key stakeholders including local and national governments, national and international NGOs and agencies, the project will help to make development and humanitarian interventions in the Kayes region relating to land access and protracted rural displacement more effective by targeting directly the involved communities, which are often bypassed by local elites. This in turn, will have a much more long-lasting impact on the concerned communities.
The consortium will organise workshops informed by field research, focus groups and case studies to promote prevention, awareness and step change in the management of 'slavery crisis' and related forced displacements; training workshops and advocacy with local and national authorities and key stakeholders; paralegal training on historical and contemporary slavery and law clinic activities; engagement with schools and cultural institutions to raise awareness and change attitudes; crowdfunding campaigns for securing land access for displaced communities with ascribed slave status; recommendations for scale-up and replicability - with limitations - in both similar contexts and at a larger scale.

Publications

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Description publication in Africa is a country blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We published one blog pieces on the topic of our research for Africa is a country, which is an independent news blog, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://africasacountry.com/2021/03/the-fight-against-descent-based-slavery-in-mali
 
Description publication in The Conversation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We published a piece about our research project with The Conversation to reach a broader audience.
The blog post was read by more than 4,000 people, it was commented, share, re-twitted a dozen of times.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://theconversation.com/mali-fails-to-face-up-to-the-persistence-of-slavery-147636