Le musée d'histoire de Ouidah (The Ouidah Museum of History) is located within the Old Portuguese Fort in Ouidah. The Fort was used to contain and transport enslaved Africans as part of the transatlantic slave trade, serving as the site for diplomatic presence of Portugal in the area. The fort became property of the Dahomean government in 1961, when it was restored and turned into a museum, opening in 1967. It is managed by the Department of Cultural Patrimony.
The museum's collections are grouped into six major exhibit themes: the Portuguese Fort (in which the museum resides), the Kingdom of Xwéda, the Kingdom of Dahomey, the Slave Trade, Vodun, and the cultural links between Benin and the New World. These collections are made up of artefacts, photographs and objects that have significant meaning to the history and culture of the museum's local area.
The history of slavery runs throughout the displays; from the Portuguese Fort display which discusses how enslaved Africans were kept there. The displays that explore the kingdoms of Xwéda and Dahomey use collections to emphasise the extent to which both of them were dependent on the trade in enslaved individuals with Europeans for riches and power. These include a range of archaeological finds, as well as engravings and drawings. The exhibition about the religious traditions of the area, in particular the development of Voodoo, reflects on the continued use of African religions by enslaved people in the Americas during the period of the transatlantic slave trade, using religious artefacts. A range of images and objects showcase the impact that people from Benin made on the cultures of New World societies, as well as the effects of mass repatriation to Benin after the decline of the slave trade.
The Slave Trade exhibits examine the system of transatlantic slavery from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century and how it impacted on the local area. The main focus is on the economic and social processes that the slave trade created in Benin, capture, enslavement and the Middle Passage. These themes are illustrated with a range of objects, artists' renditions and archival materials. Examples of objects on display include chains and yokes. Images are also used to give some information about the plantation system in the Americas and Caribbean.
There are an estimated 58,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Benin (GSI 2018). The country is an origin, transit and destination country for women and children subjected to trafficking in persons, primarily for forced labour and sex trafficking. Trafficking victims most often come from low-income families, and frequently lack formal education or basic identity documents including birth certificates and national identification. Internal trafficking primarily draws children from rural areas in the north to the urban south of Benin in search of economic opportunity. Children from Benin who are subjected to trafficking externally are transported to West and Central African countries. Some parents send children to wealthier families for educational or vocational opportunities; a practice called vidomegon. Some of these children are subjected to domestic servitude. Children from neighboring countries are forced to labor on farms, in commercial agriculture (particularly in the cotton sector), in artisanal mines, at construction sites, or as street or market vendors in Benin. Hada is from the prefecture of Blitta. He is typical of many boys who go with traffickers without the knowledge of their parents and end up in the plantations of Benin where they perform long hours of difficult, hazardous and unpaid labour.
There is an estimated 48,000 people living in modern slavery in Libya (GSI 2018). Libya is a major transit destination for migrants and refugees hoping to reach Europe by sea. Human trafficking networks have prospered amid lawlessness, created by the warring militias that have been fighting for control of territories since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Highly organized trafficking and migrants smuggling networks that reach into Libya from Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, and other sub-Saharan states subject migrants to forced labor and forced prostitution through fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or non-payment of wages, debt bondage, and verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. In some cases, migrants reportedly pay smuggling fees to reach Tripoli, but once they cross the Libyan border they are sometimes abandoned in southern cities or the desert where they are susceptible to severe forms of abuse and human trafficking. Amobi* moved to Benin after the death of his father. He was told to travel to Europe through Libya, where he was trafficked through debt bondage.