Sahara ! Sunset or Sunrise ?
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Discussions on slavery are complex in Mali, with many people arguing it does not exist. Some Gao residents said individuals might stay with their "masters" more out of economic necessity than anything.
Today the Bella have become largely assimilated into Touareg culture, keeping similar cultural traditions and speaking the same language (Tamasheq), and many of the Bella are known as Black Tamasheq. The Touareg masters and the Bella people have lived in a complex caste system for many decades and some say little has changed in this power relationship - much of the northern region's property and livestock remains in the Touareg hands.Most of the slavery in Mali, takes place between the Berber-descended Touaregs and the indigenous Bella people who live in this region, although the Peul and Songhai communities have also been known to use slaves in the past, according to Temedt.
Iddar Ag Ogazide, a Bella, said he lived as a slave in Ansongo, 80km south of Gao, where he worked for the Touareg Ag Baye family for 35 years without receiving a salary or an education. The Ag Bayes bought his great-grandmother and inherited his family members from one generation to the next. In March 2008 Iddar finally could not take any more and hatched a successful escape plan - he is currently living in Gao.
The Touareg used to hold slaves in their society, and used the slaves to work as herders and for other menial tasks. The practice was frowned upon by the French when they colonized the area, but there was no little effort to end it.
Martin Klein estimated in his book Slavery and Colonial Rule in French West Africa (1998) that there was estimated 50% of the
population in French Controlled Sudan were slaves. This estimate shows that slavery was so ingrained into society, that to end the practice suddenly would likely have caused widespread rebellion among the populace, which of course the French occupiers did not want. So instead acts were passed which abolished slavery, but there was no effort to enforce the new law.