Few historical events have had such tragic, widespread, and lingering consequences as the exportation of slaves from Africa. While the abolition of western Africa’s transatlantic slave trade is well documented, the events and legal framework that led to the abolition of the slave trade in East Africa remain practically untold. There, an unlikely hero championed abolition: Missionary and explorer Dr. David Livingstone. His method: an ambitious publicity stunt to dramatically change international law.
This article will illustrate how explorer David Livingstone’s advocacy profoundly affected the legal landscape to restrict the slave trade in East Africa, and eventually dealt the deathblow abolishing it forever. Further, this article will illustrate how a lack of enforcement of the law and a policy of incremental restrictions on the slave trade, in lieu of outright abolition, was destructive to East and Central Africa, intensifying the slave trade with ramifications that can still be felt today. Finally, it will demonstrate, by modern analog, how strict enforcement of the rule of law is necessary in the developing world today.