The statement emanates from the oral traditions of the Mandinka hunters in the area covering parts of modern Mali, Senegal and Guinea and is said to date back to approximately 1222 in the reign of King Sunjata of the Mandinka.
This charter is from La grande geste du Mali. Vol. 2 Soundjata ou la gloire du Mali by Youssouf Tata Cissé and Wâ Kamissoko (Karthala-Arsan, 1991).
Translation into English by Michael Neocosmos.
1.The hunters declare:
Every human life is a life.
It is true that a life comes into existence before another life
But no life is more “ancient”, more respectable than any other
In the same way no one life is superior to any other
2. The hunters declare:
As each life is a life,
Any wrong done unto a life requires reparation.
No one should gratuitously attack his neighbour
No one should wrong his neighbour
No one should torment his fellow man
3. The hunters declare:
That each person should watch over their neighbour
That each person should venerate their progenitors
That each person should educate their children as it should be done
That each person should provide to the needs of their family
4. The hunters declare:
That each person should watch over the country of their fathers
By country, or motherland, or “faso” one must understand also people
For “any country, any land which were to see people disappear
Would soon become nostalgic”
5. The hunters declare:
Hunger is not a good thing
There is nothing worse than this on this earth
As long as we hold the quiver and the bow
Hunger will no longer kill anyone in the Manden
If by chance hunger were to arrive,
War will no longer destroy any village for the acquiring of slaves
That is to say that no one will from now on place the bit in the mouth of his fellow man
In order to sell him.
Furthermore no one will be beaten
And all the more so put to death because he is the son of a slave
6. The hunters declare
The essence of slavery is today extinguished
“from one wall to the other” from one border to the other of the Manden
Raids are banned from this day onwards in the Manden
The torments born of these horrors have ended from this day onwards in the Manden
What an ordeal this torment is!
Especially when the oppressed has no recourse
The slave does not benefit from any consideration
Anywhere in the world
7. People from the old days tell us:
Man as an individual
Made of flesh and bone
Of marrow and nerves
Of skin covered in hair
Eats food and drink
But his “soul”, his spirit lives on three things:
He must see what he wishes to see
He must say what he wishes to say
And do what he wishes to do
If one of these things were to miss from the human soul
It would suffer and would surely become sick
In consequence the hunters declare:
Each person from now on is free to dispose of his own person
Each person is free to act in the way he wishes
Each person disposes of the fruit of his labour from now on
This is the oath of the Manden
For the ears of the whole world.