Slave Trade in Uganda

Slave Trade in Uganda

Even if slavery was being practiced in Africa among Africans even before the arrival of outsiders, it was never a trade. Many tribes or clans would overrun another group and abduct their members and enslave them as unpaid labourers and sex slaves. In fact words associated with slavery existed in most African languages proving the existence of the practice; for example omuddu in Luganda, opii and moo in Luo, etc. It was not until Arabs and whites stormed the continent abducting Africans in what became known as the Slave Trade that the practice took catastrophic dimensions.

The savagery and barbarity of Slave Trade, which swept through Africa for over 300 hundred years between 15th to 19th centuries, cannot be compared to any recorded injustice ever committed by man. This evil trade peaked in the 18th century and was conducted in two main axis namely: the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade and the East African Slave Trade.

Uganda, located deep inland in East Africa was not spared as slave traders navigated their way deep inland in search of the hot commodity. However, unlike coastal areas of Africa, she was not heavily devastated by the trade as slave traders encountered serious difficulties marching slaves across long territories of tough terrains to the coastal forts and ports such as Zanzibar and Mombasa.

In Uganda, the Kabaka of Buganda who started by bartering ivory for guns and cloths from Arabs, later on collaborated with Arab slave traders and sold unspecified number of Ugandans in slave trade.

On the other side of northern Uganda, Egyptian slave traders came as far as Bunyoro; and through their British agent Samuel Baker, they set out to establish their base in Bunyoro.  Ismail Pasha, the ruler of Egypt at the time, instructed Samuel Baker to overrun Bunyoro and raise Egyptian flag over the territory, but Baker was resisted and forced to retreat. Baker later wrote a damning report in a British journal recounting how treacherous he thought the Banyoro people were.

Even if many factors fostered the trade, the emergence of a belief that blacks were physically stronger and endured resiliently harsher conditions such as hard labour, rough terrains and extreme weather, attracted many to the trade. Consequently, millions of Africans were abducted and shipped across oceans to different places especially Americas, Europe, Middle East, India, etc to work as slaves in farms, factories, homes etc. Nobody knows for certain how many Africans were shipped into slavery; however estimates range between 10–30 million for the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, and as many as 17 million in the East African Slave Trade.

The enormity of slave trade was apocalyptic! Firstly, the Trade boomed and became such a big global industry that even African leaders of great Kingdoms such as Ashanti and Buganda turned against their people and bartered their most energetic subjects for material gains.

Secondly, the fruit of the evil practice became so sweet that an attempt to abandon it led to a devastating American war between the southern and northern states. The Southerners insisted on maintaining their rights to own slaves and practice slavery against the wishes of the Northerners, who had had enough of the savagery and wanted it no more.

Harrowing accounts of the horror in which the trade was conducted are endless; and a slave once abducted, was destined for a nonstop excruciating physical and mental suffering throughout their new life in Hell on Earth. Surviving the Slave Trade process and journey was a matter of chance for most slaves because many collapsed and died during the march; others died awaiting sale in slave forts, some were thrown out in the ocean because they were too sick, some died of hard labour, some were used as rats in deadly scientific experiments, and on and on…

David Livingstone, a British explorer narrated his encounters in Africa in a British Journal in 1878. “We passed a woman tied by neck to a tree and dead; we saw others tied up in a similar manner and one lying in a path shot or stabbed, for she was in a pool of blood. The explanation we got invariably was that the Arab who owned these victims was enraged at losing the money by the slaves becoming unable to march.”

Arabs had been practicing slavery long before whites joined them and were even more heartless towards the commodity they were trading in. Despite the fact that millions of Black Africans were shipped to the Middle East as slaves, there are hardly any communities of African descendants (African Arabs) in the Arab World to speak of.

Arabs were systematic and deliberate in destroying continuity among their Black slaves. Culturally they perpetuated heartless controls such as not allowing black slaves to have sex among themselves. Every male African slave was castrated using a barbaric method of chopping off the dick.


While the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade was at a ratio of one female slave to three male slaves, the Arabs favoured and took more women than men. The women became concubines or sex slaves and any child born by a slave was killed at birth.

Slaves in the Middle East were starved and undernourished. It is widely reported that most slaves who worked in salt mines in the Arab region died within five years because of the harsh conditions in which they worked.

Those who were recruited in the army were deployed in terrible wars and losing battles where survival rates were extremely low.

Arabs, who have been practicing slavery long before anyone else, were shamelessly the last to disown the practice. Some Arabs countries and regions like Oman and Muscat have not yet out-rightly banned slavery. There have been reports even as recent as 1956 where open slave trading continued to be practiced by Arabs.

For instance a Western journalist, John Laffin recorded his experience in slave market in Djibouti in 1956 where black captives were sold as slaves to the Saudi buyers. “Men, women and children were brought from a warehouse and paraded on a raised platform….A trader would nudge a slave’s jaw with stick and the man would open his mouth to display his teeth. Another probe with this stick and he would flex his muscles. Young women were forced to expose their breasts and buttocks. A dispute arose over the virginity of a tall young ebony woman, and during an hour long argument, she was forced to squat while one of her most prominent buyers examined her with his fingers. She was terrified; her trembling was visible 50 yards away… Occasionally children were sold in butches. Boys of about ten to twelve had their anuses examined. Perhaps 200 slaves changed hands while I was present.”

Slave trade boom brought enormous wealth to many people and companies in the West, and also led to the birth and flourishing of manufacturing and processing industries in Europe and the Americas. Liverpool and Amsterdam are examples of cities that prospered thanks to Slave Trade. There are countless companies in the West that profited or were built out of slavery. Bank of America, for example, used to accept slaves as collateral; others like Barclays Bank, the Merchant Bank, the Canadian National Railway Corporation, New York Life, JPMorgan Chase, Yale University, Brown University, etc; all profited directly or indirectly from the infamous Slave Trade

Estimated statistics about Trans Atlantic Slave Trade

1) Embarked and disembarked slaves

Embarking from Africa – 13 million

Disembarking overseas – 11 million

Dead and unaccounted for – 2 million

2) Major slaves exit points

Congo/Angola – 3 million

Senegambia – 2 million

Slave Coast – 2 million

Benin – 2 million

Gold Coast (Ashanti) – 1.5 million

Mozambique/Madagascar – 1 million

Loango – 750,000

Windward Coast – 250,000

Ivory Coast – 250,000

Cameroon/Gabon – 250,000

Total – 13 million

3) Destinations and Trips

Portuguese Brazil – 4 million (trips- 30,000)

Spain/Spanish South American – 2.5 million (trips 4000)

France/French West Indies- 1.6 million (trips 4200)

Holland/Dutch West Indies – 500,000 (trips 2000)

Britain/British North America & West Indies – 2.7 million (trips 14000)

Denmark – 50,000 (trips 250)

Others – 50,000 (trips 250)

4) Employed/Deployed

Sugar plantations – 6 million

Coffee plantations – 2 million

Mines – 1 million

Domestic labour – 1 million

Cocoa fields – 250,000

Buildings – 250,000

Total – 11 million

US slavery statistics

(a) In 1860, every one in three families in most southern states of the US owned a slave.

(b) As for the number of slaves owned by each master, in South Carolina and Mississippi, for example, 88 percent of masters owned more than 20 slaves.

(3) $97,100,000,000,000 is the estimated value of the labour performed by black slaves in the US between 1619 and 1865.

(4) 7.5 percent of all free blacks in the US owned slaves in 1830.


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