The author below asserts that the commercial slave trade across the Red Sea ceased due to the efforts of Emperor Haile Selassie, and the steady depopulation of the remote region adjacent to the Sudan. “Slavery diminished for the simple reason that there were no more slaves to find.”
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Persistent African Slavery
“The name “Ethiopia” comes from the Greek, and means “burned face.” Most citizens dislike the older, more conventional name for their country – “Abyssinia” – because this has an Arab origin and connotes “mixed.” [The high altitude] . . . helps to keep disease down, because the sunshine is so sharp. Recently, an officer of the World Health Organization said of it, “A filthy country – but most sanitary.”
Coffee is the most important crop; our word “coffee” comes, in fact, from the Ethiopian place name “Kaffa.” Parts of Ethiopia are still semi-savage; it is one of the few countries in Africa where, in some areas, it is distinctly unsafe for a person to go about alone. (There are some similar areas, of course, in New York City).
Some Ethiopian women – until quite recently – wore their hair plaited with the bowels of oxen, and among the Gallas [tribe] dead children may be hung on trees instead of being buried.
Whether or not slavery still exists substantially [in Africa] is a moot point. Of course there are slaves – it is impossible to draw the line in many parts of Africa between slaves, family retainers, or servants who just don’t get paid. Abyssinia was for generations (along with the southern Sudan and northern Uganda) the chief source of slaves shipped to Arabia and the Yemen.
When Ethiopia entered the League of Nations in 1923, Haile Selassie pledged himself to wipe out slavery, and did his best to do so. Yet the Italians say that, when they took the country [in 1936], they released no fewer than 420,000 slaves.”
(Inside Africa, John Gunther, Harper & Brothers, 1955, excerpts, pp. 261-262)