Smallpox, Slavery and Toubou Warriors

Peace Corps Volunteers fought smallpox with a hydraulic gun, powerful technology from an alien world. In 1967, the dread disease flared randomly in the Sahel, a vast and remote scrubland that spans the width of Africa south of the Sahara. The sere terrain seemed empty, but invisible boundaries divided pastoral nomads and bandits. 

Toubou Nomad Camp 1967

Like the Tuaregs, the Toubous still keep traditional (multigenerational) slaves in the remote Sahel. In Niger slaves are inherited, sold and made to work without pay — some as sex slaves. At first glance they are invisible, indistinguishable from other Africans. Since there are few racial differences, no public auctions and beatings, and no underground railroad for escaped slaves, the casual observer will not see them. Slaves are easy to deny or ignore, both for African governments and for idealistic foreign aid organizations. 


© G.B. Immega 2014