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100 years ago: Slavery still an open sore

31 March 2023

March 29th, 1923.

HITHERTO such nations as had a conscience in the matter of slavery have been left to put up their own fight against it. Our own record is for all the world to see; England has done much, is doing much, at great cost to heal that open sore of the world. France also; the anti-slavery record of the Republic has been admirable, and her action firm and consistent. Seldom has any case of slave-owning or slave-trading been brought to the notice of the French authorities without energetic action being taken. Even to-day France is using her naval force to stop slave-trading between Madagascar and the mainland of Africa, and to hinder the heavy traffic between Abyssinia and the Arabian ports. The latter traffic is now the worst in the world. Vast areas of Abyssinia are going out of cultivation, partly owing to brigandage and partly owing to the slave-raiding, and the conditions under which the Abyssinian slave lives are, in the opinion of travellers, who have lately visited the country, the worst that have ever cursed the Dark Continent. The evil reaches south to the borders of the British Kenya, north to the Sudan, eastward to the ports and hinterland of Arabia. There is also a revival of slave-running in the Persian Gulf. It is clear that whatever individual countries may do, concerted action is the only means by which the traffic in lives can be suppressed. In September the League of Nations is to apply itself to the solution of the problem. If a convention be adopted and observed, it may be possible in the course of a few years to put down slavery which is open and avowed. It will then be possible to deal with those forms of slavery which are concealed beneath the systems of forced, indentured, and contracted labour.

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