Racism in Africa: Wikis


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Since the mid-1990s the central government of Botswana has been trying to move Bushmen out of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve even though the national constitution guarantees the Bushmen the right to live there in perpetuity. As of October 2005, the government has resumed its policy of forcing all Bushmen off their lands in the Game Reserve, using armed police and threats of violence or death.[1] Many of the involuntarily displaced Bushmen live in squalid resettlement camps and some have resorted to prostitution and alcoholism, while about 250 others remain or have surreptitiously returned to the Kalahari to resume their independent lifestyle.[2]

“How can you have a Stone Age creatures continue to exist in the age of computers?“ asked Botswana’s president Festus Mogae.[3] A report released by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination condemns Botswana's treatment of the 'Bushmen' as racist.[4][5]

Ivory Coast

In the past recent years the Ivory Coast has seen a resurgence in ethnic tribal hatred and religious intolerance. In addition to the many victims among the various tribes of the northern and southern regions of the country that have perished in the ongoing conflict, foreigners residing or visiting the Ivory Coast have also been subjected to violent attacks. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, the Ivory Coast government is guilty of fanning ethnic hatred for its own political ends.[6]

In 2004, the Young Patriots of Abidjan, strongly nationalist organisation, rallied by the State media, plundered possessions of foreign nationals in Abidjan. Calls for violence against whites and non-Ivorians were broadcast on national radio and TV after the Young Patriots seized control of its offices. Rapes, beatings, and murders of white expatriates and local Lebanese followed. Thousands of expatriates and Lebanese fled. The attacks drew international condemnation.[7][8]


Ethnic tensions in Madagascar often produce violent conflict between the highlanders and coastal peoples. The Merina people in particular are often the targets of violence especially during political campaigns to elect a new president.[9]


Slavery in Mauritania persists despite its abolition in 1980 and affects the descendants of black Africans abducted into slavery before generations, who live now in Mauritania as "black Moors" or haratin and who partially still serve the "white Moors", or bidhan, as slaves. The practice of slavery in Mauritania is most dominant within the traditional upper class of the Moors. For centuries, the so-called Haratin lower class, mostly poor black Africans living in rural areas, have been considered natural slaves by these Moors. Social attitudes have changed among most urban Moors, but in rural areas, the ancient divide is still very alive.[10]

The ruling bidanes (the name means literally white-skinned people) are descendants of the Sanhaja Berbers and Beni Hassan Arab tribes who emigrated to northwest Africa and present-day Western Sahara and Mauritania during the Middle Ages. Many descendants of the Beni Hassan tribes today still adhere to the supremacist ideology of their ancestors. This ideology has led to oppression, discrimination and even enslavement of other groups in the Mauritania.[11]

According to some estimates, as many to 600,000 black Mauritanians, or 20% of the population, are still enslaved, many of them used as bonded labour.[12] Slavery in Mauritania was finally criminalized in August 2007.[13]


Jews and Christians were expelled from Morocco and Islamic Spain during the reign of Berber dynasty of Almohads in the 12th century. Almohads gave a choice of either death or conversion to Islam, or exile. Some, such the family of Maimonides, fled east to more tolerant Muslim lands, while others went northward to settle in the growing Christian kingdoms.[14][15] Jewish population were confined to mellahs in Morocco beginning from the 15th century. In cities, a mellah was surrounded by a wall with a fortified gateway. In contrast, rural mellahs were separate villages inhabited solely by the Jews.[16]


In October 2006, Niger announced that it would deport to Chad the so called Diffa Arabs: Arabs living in the Diffa region of eastern Niger.[17] This population numbered about 150,000.[18] While the government was rounding Arabs in preparation for the deportation, two girls died, reportedly after fleeing government forces, and three women suffered miscarriages. Niger's government had eventually suspended a controversial decision to deport Arabs.[19][20]

In Niger, where the practice of slavery was outlawed in 2003, a study has found that more than 800,000 people are still slaves, almost 8% of the population.[21 ] .[22] Slavery dates back for centuries in Niger and was finally criminalised in 2003, after five years of lobbying by Anti-Slavery International and Nigerian human-rights group, Timidria.[23]

Descent-based slavery, where generations of the same family are born into bondage, is traditionally practiced by at least four of Niger’s eight ethnic groups. The slave masters are mostly from the lighter-skinned nomadic tribes — the Tuareg, Fulani, Toubou and Arabs.[24] It is especially rife among the warlike Tuareg, in the wild deserts of north and west Niger, who roam near the borders with Mali and Algeria. In the region of Say on the right bank of the river Niger, it is estimated that three-quarters of the population around 1904-1905 was composed of slaves.[25]

Historically, the Tuareg swelled the ranks of their black slaves during war raids into other peoples’ lands. War was then the main source of supply of slaves, although many were bought at slave markets, run mostly by indigenous peoples.[21 ][26]


See Rwanda genocide

South Africa

Racism is still a fact of life in South Africa.[27] The end of Apartheid might have removed the legal framework allowing institutionalised racism, but racism in South Africa both predates and encompasses more than just the institutionalised racism of apartheid.

Colonial racism

The establishment of the Dutch East India Company settlement at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652 brought with it the established slave labor practices of the company.[28] Many of these slaves were imported from the companies more established settlement in India and the East Indies.[29] Slavery was by no mean just restricted to the European slave trade. During the Difaqane the Zulu under Shaka overrun many smaller times and enslaved them.[30]

Slavery in South Africa was officially abolished in 1833 with the Slavery Abolition Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.[31]

There are many examples of racism and discriminatory practices during the colonial period, such as the allocation of rations during the Siege of Ladysmith

For Whites—Biscuit, 1/4 lb.; Maize meal, 3 oz.

For Indians and Kaffirs—Maize meal, 8 oz.
Europeans—Fresh meat, 1 lb.
Kaffirs—Fresh meat, 1-1/4 lbs. (Chiefly horseflesh.)
For White men—Coffee or tea, 1/12 oz.; pepper, 1/64 oz.; salt, 1/3 oz.; sugar, 1 oz.; mustard, 1/20 oz.; Vinegar, 1/12 gill.
For Indians—a little rice.

H. W. Nevinson [32]

Even Mohandas Gandhi who worked to eradicate racism and in particular racism that affected the Indian communities in South Africa, was not immune to racism during this period. In one of his early articles for the Indian Opinion he writes:

Kaffirs are as a rule uncivilised - the convicts even more so. They are troublesome, very dirty and live almost like animals.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi [33]

Apartheid racism

Post apartheid racism


In the Sudan, black African captives in the civil war were often enslaved, and female prisoners were often used sexually,[34] with their Arab captors claiming that Islamic law grants them permission.[35] According to CBS news, slaves have been sold for US$50 apiece.[36] In September, 2000, the U.S. State Department alleged that "the Sudanese government's support of slavery and its continued military action which has resulted in numerous deaths are due in part to the victims' religious beliefs."[37] Jok Madut Jok, professor of History at Loyola Marymount University, states that the abduction of women and children of the south is slavery by any definition. The government of Sudan insists that the whole matter is no more than the traditional tribal feuding over resources.[38]

The United States government's Sudan Peace Act of October 21, 2002 accused Sudan of genocide in an ongoing civil war which has cost more than 2,000,000 lives and has displaced more than 4,000,000 people since the war started in 1983.[39]

It is estimated that as many as 200,000 people had been taken into slavery during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005). The slaves are mostly Dinka people.[40][41]

In 2004, it became widely known that there was an organised campaign by Janjaweed militias (nomadic Arab shepherds with the support of Sudanese government troops) to get rid of 80 black African groups from the Darfur region of western Sudan. These peoples include the Fur, Zaghawa and Massalit.[42][43]

Mukesh Kapila (United Nations humanitarian coordinator) is quoted as saying: "This is more than just a conflict. It is an organised attempt [by Khartoum] to do away with a group of people. The only difference between Rwanda [in 1994] and Darfur now is the numbers of dead, murdered, tortured and raped involved"[44][45][46][47] A July 14, 2007 article notes that in the past two months up to 75,000 Arabs from Chad and Niger crossed the border into Darfur. Most have been relocated by the Sudanese government to former villages of displaced non-Arab people. Some 2.5 million have now been forced to flee their homes after attacks by Sudanese troops and Janjaweed militia.[48]


Prior to the 16th century, the bulk of slaves exported from Africa were shipped from East Africa to the Arabian peninsula. Zanzibar became a leading port on this trade. Arab slave traders differed from European ones in that they would often conduct raiding expeditions themselves, sometimes penetrating deep into the continent. They also differed in that their market greatly preferred the purchase of female slaves over male ones. Zanzibar was once East Africa's main slave-trading port, and under Omani Arabs in the 19th century as many as 50,000 slaves were passing through the city each year.[49]

David Livingstone wrote of the slave trade:

"To overdraw its evils is a simple impossibility.... We passed a slave woman shot or stabbed through the body and lying on the path. [Onlookers] said an Arab who passed early that morning had done it in anger at losing the price he had given for her, because she was unable to walk any longer. We passed a woman tied by the neck to a tree and dead.... We came upon a man dead from starvation.... The strangest disease I have seen in this country seems really to be broken heartedness, and it attacks free men who have been captured and made slaves."

Livingstone estimated that 80,000 Africans died each year before ever reaching the slave markets of Zanzibar.[50][51][52][53]

The Zanzibar Revolution of January 12, 1964 put an end to the local Arab dynasty. As many as 17,000 Arabs were massacred by the descendants of black African slaves, according to reports, and thousands of others were detained and their property either confiscated or destroyed.[54][55]


The accession of the Almohade dynasty to the throne of the Maghreb provinces in 1146 proved very disastrous to the Jews of Tunis. Jews as well as Christians were compelled either to embrace Islam or to leave the country. Abd al-Mu'min's successors pursued the same course, and their severe measures resulted either in emigration or in forcible conversions. Soon becoming suspicious of the sincerity of the new converts, the Almohades compelled them to wear a special garb, with a yellow cloth for a head-covering.[56]

Mistranslations of Arab scholars and geographers from this time period have lead many to attribute certain racist attitudes that weren't prevalent until the 18th and 19th century to writings made centuries ago.[57] Although bias against those of very black complexion existed in the Arab world in the 15th century it didn't have as much stigma as it later would. Older translations of Ibn Khaldun, for example in The Negro land of the Arabs Examined and Explained which was written in 1841 gives excerpts of older translations that were not part of later colonial propaganda and show black Africans in a generally positive light.

When the conquest of the West (by the Arabs) was completed, and merchants began to penetrate into the interior, they saw no nation of the Blacks so mighty as Ghanah, the dominions of which extended westward as far as the Ocean. The King's court was kept in the city of Ghanah, which, according to the author of the Book of Roger (El Idrisi), and the author of the Book of Roads and Realms (El Bekri), is divided into two parts, standing on both banks of the Nile, and ranks among the largest and most populous cities of the world. The people of Ghanah had for neighbours, on the east, a nation, which, according to historians, was called Susu; after which came another named Mali; and after that another known by the name of Kaukau ; although some people prefer a different orthography, and write this name Kagho. The last-named nation was followed by a people called Tekrur. The people of Ghanah declined in course of time, being overwhelmed or absorbed by the Molaththemun (or muffled people;that is, the Morabites), who, adjoining them on the north towards the Berber country, attacked them, and, taking possession of their territory, compelled them to embrace the Mohammedan religion. The people of Ghanah, being invaded at a later period by the Susu, a nation of Blacks in their neighbourhood, were exterminated, or mixed with other Black nations. [[58]]

Ibn Khaldun suggests a link between the decline of Ghana and rise of the Almoravids. however, there is little evidence of there actually being an Almoravid conquest of Ghana [[59]] [60]


Former British colonies in Sub-Saharan Africa have many citizens of South Asian descent. They were brought there by the British Empire from British India to do clerical work in Imperial service.[61] The most prominent case being the ethnic cleansing of Indian (sometimes simply called "Asian") minority in Uganda by strongman dictator and human-rights violator Idi Amin.[61].

The 1968 Committee on "Africanization in Commerce and Industry" in Uganda made far-reaching Indophobic proposals. A system of work permits and trade licenses was introduced in 1969 in order to restrict the role of Indians in economic and professional activities. Indians were segregated and discriminated against in all walks of life. After Amin came to power, he exploited these divisions to spread propaganda against Indians involving stereotyping and scapegoating the Indian minority. Indians were stereotyped as "only traders" and so "inbred" to their profession. Indians were attacked as "dukawallas" (an occupational term that degenerated into an anti-Indian slur during Amin's time).[61].

In the 1970s Uganda and other East African nations implemented racist policies that targeted the Asian population of the region. Uganda under Idi Amin's leadership was particularly most virulent in its anti-Asian policies. In August 1972, Idi Amin declared what he called an "economic war", a set of policies that included the expropriation of properties owned by Asians and Europeans. Uganda's 80,000 Asians were mostly Indians born in the country, whose ancestors had come to Uganda when the country was still a British colony. [2] [3] Indians were stereotyped as "greedy, conniving", without any racial identity or loyalty but "always cheating, conspiring and plotting" to subvert Uganda. Amin used this propaganda to justify a campaign of "de-Indianization", eventually resulting in the expulsion and ethnic cleansing of Uganda's Indian minority.[61].

India had refused to accept them.[62] Most of the expelled Indians settled in Britain.[63] The forced expulsion of Uganda's entire Asian population attests to the persecution of Asian peoples residing in the country at the time. Today, Asian/Indian residents of Uganda continue to face marginalization being given an inferior status.


  1. ^ "Bushmen forced out of desert after living off land for thousands of years". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/10/29/wbot29.xml&sSheet=/news/2005/10/29/ixworld.html. Retrieved 2005-10-29.  
  2. ^ African Bushmen Tour U.S. to Fund Fight for Land
  3. ^ Exiles of the Kalahari
  4. ^ News by tribe |Survival International
  5. ^ UN condemns Botswana government over Bushman evictions
  6. ^ [news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/Africa/1932930.stm Ivory Coast "fanning ethnic hatred"]
  7. ^ The night westerners were hunted for being white - Telegraph
  8. ^ Europeans flee Ivory Coast violence. 13/11/2004. ABC News Online
  9. ^ Ethnic strife rocks Madagascar
  10. ^ Reuters AlertNet - Slavery still exists in Mauritania
  11. ^ Fair elections haunted by racial imbalance
  12. ^ The Abolition season on BBC World Service
  13. ^ Mauritanian MPs pass slavery law
  14. ^ The Forgotten Refugees
  15. ^ The Almohads
  16. ^ The Jews of Morocco, by Ralph G. Bennett
  17. ^ BBC NEWS | Africa |Niger starts mass Arab expulsions
  18. ^ Reuters AlertNet - Niger's Arabs say expulsions will fuel race hate
  19. ^ BBC NEWS | Africa |Niger's Arabs to fight expulsion
  20. ^ UNHCR |Refworld - The Leader in Refugee Decision Support
  21. ^ a b The Shackles of Slavery in Niger
  22. ^ Born to be a slave in Niger By Hilary Andersson, BBC Africa Correspondent, Niger
  23. ^ On the way to freedom, Niger's slaves stuck in limbo
  24. ^ Born into Bondage
  25. ^ Slavery in Niger
  26. ^ NIGER: Slavery - an unbroken chain
  27. ^ Englert, Birgit. "Interview with Prof. Alfred Tokollo Moleah, South African Ambassador to Vienna" (PDF). Universität Wien. http://www.univie.ac.at/ecco/stichproben/Nr6_Interview_Moleah.pdf. Retrieved 2008-11-19.  
  28. ^ "Slavery at the Cape". Iziko Museums of Cape Town. http://www.iziko.org.za/sh/resources/slavery/slavery_world.html. Retrieved 2008-11-19.  
  29. ^ "Indian Slaves in South Africa". African National Congress. http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/solidarity/indiasa3.html. Retrieved 2008-11-19.  
  30. ^ "Destinations: South Africa - Pre 20th Century History". International Student Travel Conveduration. http://www.isic.org/sisp/index.htm?fx=destination&loc_id=131114&section=culture. Retrieved 2008-11-20.  
  31. ^ "Slavery Abolition Act 1833". Houses of Parliament, Palace of Westminster, London.. 1833-10-29. http://www.anti-slaverysociety.addr.com/huk-1833act.htm. Retrieved 2008-11-19.  
  32. ^ Ladysmith, The Diary of a Siege by Henry W. Nevinson at Project Gutenberg
  33. ^ The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. 8. pp. 199.  
  34. ^ Arab militia use 'rape camps' for ethnic cleansing of Sudan
  35. ^ Islam and Slavery
  36. ^ Curse Of Slavery Haunts Sudan CBS News. January 25, 1998
  37. ^ U.S. State Department report says 'religious intolerance remains far too common' around world. September 6, 2000 CNN US News
  38. ^ Jok Madut Jok (2001), p.3
  39. ^ U.S. Department of State: Sudan Peace Act October 21, 2002
  40. ^ War and Genocide in Sudan
  41. ^ The Lost Children of Sudan
  42. ^ Jonathan Clayton Desert hides world's worst humanitarian crisis in The Times May 13, 2004, Page 2
  43. ^ Hilary AnderssonGenocide lays waste Darfur’s land of no men in Sunday Times November 14, 2004
  44. ^ Fred Bridgland Darfur: Africa’s hidden holocaust? in Sunday Herald April 11, 2004
  45. ^ Darfur, Sudan: Crisis, response and lessons UK Parliament Press Notice 14, Session 2004-05
  46. ^ Collins, Robert O., "Civil Wars and Revolution in the Sudan: Essays on the Sudan, Southern Sudan, and Darfur, 1962-2004 ", (p. 156), Tsehai Publishers (US), (2005) ISBN 0-9748198-7-5 .
  47. ^ Power, Samantha "Dying in Darfur: Can the ethnic cleansing in Sudan be stopped?"[1], The New Yorker, 30 August 2004. Human Rights Watch, "Q & A: Crisis in Darfur" (web site, retrieved 24 May 2006). Hilary Andersson, "Ethnic cleansing blights Sudan", BBC News, 27 May 2004.
  48. ^ Arabs pile into Darfur to take land 'cleansed' by janjaweed
  49. ^ Swahili Coast
  50. ^ Remembering East African slave raids, BBC
  51. ^ David Livingstone; Christian History Institute
  52. ^ The blood of a nation of Slaves in Stone Town
  53. ^ Zanzibar
  54. ^ Country Histories - Empire's Children
  55. ^ Heartman, Adam (2006-09-26). "A Homemade Genocide". Who's Fault Is It?. http://whosfaultisit.blogspot.com/2006/09/homemade-genocide-arab-world-is.html.  
  56. ^ The History of The Jews of Tunisia
  57. ^ http://www.jstor.org/pss/3590803 Translation and the Colonial Imaginary: Ibn Khaldun Orientalist, by Abdelmajid Hannoum © 2003 Wesleyan University.
  58. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=6swTAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA61 The Negro land of the Arabs Examined and Explained
  59. ^ http://www.arts.ualberta.ca/~amcdouga/Hist446/readings/conquest_in_west_african_historiography.pdf Not Quite Venus from the Waves: The Almoravid Conquest of Ghana in the Modern Historiography of Western Africa by Pekka Masonen; Humphrey J. Fisher 1996
  60. ^ http://www.jstor.org/pss/3171598 The Conquest That Never Was: Ghana and the Almoravids, 1076. I. The External Arabic Sources, by David Conrad and Humphrey Fisher © 1982 African Studies Association
  61. ^ a b c d General Amin and the Indian Exodus from Uganda Hasu H. Patel, Issue: A Journal of Opinion, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Winter, 1972), pp. 12-22 doi:10.2307/1166488
  62. ^ UK Indians taking care of business
  63. ^ Uganda's loss, Britain's gain

See also

Racism by country

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