Theatre tour to raise awareness about the fight against descent-based slavery from August 14 to 18, 2021 in Western Mali, Diéma, Kayes, Nioro (August 2021)

On August 14, 2021, a team of the Association Donkorisa, a partner in the SlaFMig research-action program, started to carry out a theatre awareness-raising tour on the issue of descent-based slavery in Western Mali, in the cities of Kayes, Diéma and Nioro.

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In Diéma, the team was welcomed by the village chief, the deputy prefect and the first deputy mayor. Afterwards they met with the theatre team led by actor Kari Coulibaly. With the approval of the National Youth Council, the play was presented to the public of Diéma on August 15, 2021. The interventions that followed the theatre performance showed the reluctance of certain parts of the population to address the issue of descent-based slavery and to recognise that this phenomenon does exist in the region. Some speakers clearly stated their distrust of this kind of awareness-raising campaign and especially of the work of the anti-slavery movement Gambana, which they accused of stirring up tensions within communities. Others defended what they consider ‘traditions’ rather than slavery practices, the cessation of which would undermine what they consider the social cohesion inherited from their ancestors. Finally, some argued that even if the sketch reflected certain realities in the region, this was not the case in Diéma, where issues of social hierarchy based on slavery were no longer relevant. Faced with the difficulty of the debates, Mamadou Sène Cissé (Secretary General of Donkosira) recalled that the sketch did not specifically concern Diéma but had been developed for a national issue.

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On August 17, the theatre team performed in Kayes in front of the village chief of Khasso, the Mayor of Kayes and the communal youth representatives. The local authorities thanked them for their work and support in the fight against descent-based slavery. The chief of the Khasso district, Mr. Diarra, emphasised that this struggle is particularly that of the younger generations. He stressed the importance of a law criminalising slavery, even though the legislators themselves benefit financially from conflicts related to slavery. Awareness-raising is important but must be accompanied by criminal sanctions. Mamadou Sène Cissé recalled that the SlaFMig project also works with academic and associative partners who are conducting research on the causes of the phenomenon and are working for the adoption of a law criminalising descent-based slavery in Mali. One contribution also denounced the intervention of the diaspora, which used to build schools, hospitals and mosques, and today finances both sides in the destruction of the latter. On this occasion, Mariam Coulibaly of Donkosira recalled the message of unity and equality of all Malians that Donkosira spreads.

The tour ended in Nioro on August 18, 2021. The performance hall was crowded with representatives of the town hall, youth organisations, children and youth. The latter spoke out in favor of the fight against slavery, which is especially rampant in the villages of their region. The youth representatives welcomed the initiative and asked that this activity should be carried out in the remote areas of Nioro.

Despite the difficulties encountered in Diéma, we can say that the tour was a great success with a remarkable support that was noticed among the youth of the region.


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