The Abolition Of Slave Trade

The campaign of abolition of slave trade was mainly spear headed by the British.

Reasons for the abolition of slave trade

  • The missionaries attacked slave trade as an inhuman act and therefore they persuaded the  traders to stop slave trade
  • The industrial revolution in Europe (1850) led to the introduction of machines which replaced human labour hence slaves had lost market in Europe.
  • Population increase in Europe made it useless to bring in more people whose services were by this time not needed.
  • The industrial revolution created a high demand for raw materials and therefore slaves had to be brought back to Africa to grow cash crops to feed the ‘hungry’ industries in Europe.
  • Over production of goods like sugar, clothes made it necessary to re-settle slaves so as to provide market for these excessive goods produced in European industries. 
  • Slave strikes had become so frequent e.g. they demanded holidays on Sundays and worship rights hence there was need to abolish slave trade. 
  • The abolition of the Trans- Atlantic slave trade in West Africa made it   equally important for the same trade to be abolished in E.A. 
  • Change in politics of Europe meant that more Europeans were coming to East Africa and therefore there was need to stop slave trade in East Africa so as to create peace and security. 
  • The issue of treaties against slave trade also led to the abolition of slave trade e.g. the 1822 Moresby treaty, 1845 Hamerton treaty and 1873 Frere treaty.
  • The role of missionaries under different religious groups e.g. they set up homes for the freed slaves who were already Christian converts and this encouraged the process of abolition of slave trade. 
  • The role of the British navy led to the abolition of slave trade. It patrolled the Indian Ocean waters to track down traders who were using it for smuggling slaves.
  • European explorers had earlier on drawn the map of the interior of East Africa which also encouraged the abolitionists to come to East Africa and stop the trade.

Obstacles/problems faced during abolition of slave trade

  • Anti – slavery campaigns were only concentrated at the coast and on the Indian Ocean waters neglecting the interior which was the heart of slave trade.
  • Lack of co-operation from other European countries e.g. Spain, France and Portugal etc…Which all looked at the British Anti – Slave trade campaign as selfish. 
  • It was a big financial burden for the Britain because she single handedly patrolled the Indian Ocean waters and compensated slave traders.
  • Slavery was an accepted custom among many African societies because it was a way of getting rid of wrong doers in the society e.g. criminals and therefore African chiefs saw no problem with it.
  • Hostile tribes e.g. the Yao and Nyamwezi didn’t want any foreigner to cross their land hence delaying the abolition process. 
  • Freed slaves were also reluctant to be free because many of them didn’t have any land, property and also lacked practical skills to sustain themselves.
  • Wild animals also scared the few abolitionists who attempted to go into the interior mainly because East Africa was covered by thick forests.
  • Physical geographical barriers E.g. Rivers, lakes, valleys etc blocked the movement of the abolitionists.
  • Tropical diseases e.g. Malaria, Sleeping sickness, typhoid reduced the number of the abolitionists.
  • Lack of transport and communication lines i.e. there were no developed roads leading into the interior. 
  • Language barrier i.e. abolitionists were not familiar with the languages of the interior so they found it hard to negotiate with the traders to stop slave trade.
  • Many people had migrated to different areas meaning that when the British came in to stop slave trade they found it hard to bring together people who had scattered in different areas.


  •   The Arab slave traders were always armed with guns and were always ready to fight whoever interfered with their trading activities.
  • There was lack of alternative means of transport to replace human porterage which was mainly done by the slaves.
  • In some societies, there was no immediate alternative economic activity because it was their only source of livelihood e.g. in Nyamwezi land where it was very infertile for agriculture.
  • Slave traders were very cunning and they could always raise British      \
  •  flag when they saw a British patrol ship approaching.