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[Published: Monday October 27 2008]

Niger government found guilty of slavery

Niamey , 27 Oct-(ANA)- Niger's government has been found guiltyby a West African court of failing to protect a woman from slavery in alandmark case for the region.

Hadijatou Mani, who saysshe was sold aged 12 and made to work for 10 years, has argued in a regionalcourt that the government failed to protect her.

The government of Niger says ithas done all it can to eradicate slavery.

Despite being outlawed,slavery also still exists in other West African states such as Mauritania and Mali.

Ms Mani, now 24, says shewas sold to a man called Souleymane Naroua when she was 12 years old. The pricewas the equivalent of around $500 (315).

She says she was forced tocarry out domestic and agricultural work for the next 10 years.

Ms Mani says she was rapedat the age of 13 and forced to bear the man's children.

"I was beaten so manytimes I would run to my family," she told the BBC's World Today programme."Then after a day or two I would be brought back.

"At the time I didn'tknow what to do but since I learned that slavery has been abolished I toldmyself that I will no longer be a slave."

In 2005, her master freedher and gave her a "liberation certificate", reports Anti-SlaveryInternational, which is helping her bring the case.

But when she left him andtried to marry another man, her "master" said they were married.

A local court found infavour of Ms Mani and she went ahead with her new wedding.

But this was thenoverturned on appeal and she was sentenced to six months in prison for bigamy.

She took her case to theCourt of Justice of the West African regional body Ecowas earlier this year.

Ms Mani accused thegovernment of Nigerof failing to protect her from slavery, which was criminalised just five yearsago.

She is also seekingfinancial compensation.(ANA)

FA/ANA/27 October 2008---

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