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Slavery in Sudan

Since 1995, international rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and CASMAS have reported that slavery in Sudan is a common fate of captives in the Second Sudanese Civil War. Pro-government militias have been known to raid non-Muslim southern villages (particularly those of the Dinka) and loot them both for property and for slaves.[1] According to the Rift Valley Institute's Sudan Abductee Database, over 11,000 people were abducted in 20 years of slave-raiding in southern Sudan.[2] SudanActivism.com mentions that hundreds of thousands have been abducted into slavery, fled, or are otherwise unaccounted for in a second genocide in southern Sudan.[3] According to the American Anti-Slavery Group, black Africans in southern Sudan have been abducted for centuries in the Arab slave trade, but the slave raids by militia armed by the federal government of Sudan increased significantly after the 1989 military coup led by Colonel Omar al-Bashir, who is the current President of Sudan.[4]

However, the 2002 report issued by the International Eminent Persons Group, acting with the encouragement of the US State Department, found the SPLA as well as pro-government militias guilty of abduction of civilians.[5]

Christian Solidarity International claims that there are 200,000 slaves in Sudan, while Save the Children puts the number at 7,000. Italian missionary, Father Mario Riva and others who have witnessed "slave redemptions" have claimed that the process was a fraud as some of the "freed slaves" were collected by the SPLA with the promise of receiving money.[6][dubious ]


[edit] History of slavery in the Sudan

Slavery in the Sudan has a long history, beginning in ancient Egyptian times and continuing up to the present.

Prisoners of war were regularly enslaved by the ancient Egyptians, including Nubians.[1]

Soon after the Arabs conquered Egypt, they attempted to conquer Nubia; their efforts were unsuccessful, and in 652 they signed a treaty with the Nubian kingdom of Makuria, the Baqt. Under this treaty, the Nubians agreed to supply 360 slaves annually to their northern neighbors.

After the Nubian kingdoms' fall in 1504, the Funj came to the fore; these began to use slaves in the army in the reign of Badi III (r. 1692-1711)[2]. Following their own fall, the area again became a field for Egyptian slavers; notably, the ruler Muhammad Ali of Egypt attempted to build up an army of Southern Sudanese slaves. Slavery was banned by the colonial British after they conquered the region.

[edit] Reports of slavery

In 1995, Human Rights Watch first reported on slavery in Sudan in the context of the Second Sudanese Civil War. In 1996, two more reports emerged, one by a United Nations representative and another by reporters from the Baltimore Sun.

Though slavery never completely died out in Sudan, there has been a relatively recent upsurge in slave-taking that has its roots in Islam. According to John Eibner, an historian and human rights specialist writing in Middle East Quarterly:

' Sudan is the only place where chattel slavery is not just surviving but experiencing a great revival. This renascence of the slave trade began in the mid-1980s and resulted directly from an upsurge of Islamism in Sudan at that time, and especially from the Islamist emphasis on the renewal of jihad. After gaining the upper-hand in Khartoum by about 1983, the Islamists' immediate goal was to transform the multi-ethnic, multi-religious population of Sudan into an Arab-dominated Muslim state, and to do so through jihad. Under Turabi's powerful influence, the ruler of the time, Ja'far an-Numayri, declared himself to be (sounding like a caliph of old), the "rightly guided" leader of an Islamic state. '


John Eibner of Christian Solidarity International, as quoted by the American Anti-Slavery Groups, discusses slavery in Sudan. He states:

' "It begins when the armed forces of the government-backed mujadeen, or allied militias, raid a southern Sudanese village. They kill men on the spot, beat the elderly, and capture the women and children. Raiders and their victims start the horrific march to the North. Children are executed when they cry. People who try to run away are shot. The young girls are taken by soldiers into the bush and gang raped.

"Each victim later becomes one of two kinds of slaves, a house slave or a field slave. House slaves cook, clean, fetch water and firewood, and do other household chores. The field slaves cultivate the land, weed, and tend to livestock. Children usually tend cows and goats. But all slaves are mocked, insulted, threatened, and beaten into submission.

"Some masters are simply interested in labor and do not convert slaves to Islam. Other masters teach slaves Islam and give their slaves Muslim names. Many female slaves are subjected to genital mutilation or circumcision - a rite of passage for some Muslims, but something not practiced by the Dinka."



According to CBS news, slaves have been sold for $50 apiece. [5]

According to CNN, Christian groups in the United States have expressed concern about slavery and religious oppression against Christians by Muslims in Sudan, putting pressure on the Bush administration to take action.[6] CNN has also quoted the U.S. State Department's allegations: "The [Sudanese] government's support of slavery and its continued military action which has resulted in numerous deaths are due in part to the victims' religious beliefs."[7]

Writing for The Wall Street Journal on December 12, 2001, Michael Rubin said:

' What's Sudanese slavery like? One 11-year-old Christian boy told me about his first days in captivity: "I was told to be a Muslim several times, and I refused, which is why they cut off my finger." Twelve-year-old Alokor Ngor Deng was taken as a slave in 1993. She has not seen her mother since the slave raiders sold the two to different masters. Thirteen-year-old Akon was seized by Sudanese military while in her village five years ago. She was gang-raped by six government soldiers, and witnessed seven executions before being sold to a Sudanese Arab.

Many freed slaves bore signs of beatings, burnings and other tortures. More than three-quarters of formerly enslaved women and girls reported rapes.

While nongovernmental organizations argue over how to end slavery, few deny the existence of the practice. ...[E]stimates of the number of blacks now enslaved in Sudan vary from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands (not counting those sold as forced labour in Libya)...


The issue was the subject of a Channel 4 dramatised documentary, I Am Slave in August 2010.[7]

[edit] Fraudulent reporting

The Report of a Canadian Assessment Mission, which was published in February, 2007, was drafted by the Canadian Special Envoy to Sudan, John Harker:

' Reports, especially from CSI, about very large numbers were questioned, and frankly not accepted. Mention was also made to us of evidence that the SPLA were involved in 'recycling' abductees..

The Harker Report further documented the deliberately fraudulent nature of many 'slave redemptions.' Sometimes a 'redeeming group' may be innocently misled but other groups may be actively committed to fundraising for the SPLM/A and deliberately use 'slave redemption' as a successful tactic for attracting Western donors[8] .)...


According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, early trips of slave redemption, where charities bought the freedom of slaves, were successful in freeing thousands of slaves. CSW says some of their representatives discovered a man who was defrauding organizations that were trying to redeem slaves, and later a man came to the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army and confessed to having a part in defrauding these organizations. According to CSW, Dr. Samson Kwaje says he doubts that even 5% of the supposedly freed people were in fact slaves, and that many were instructed in how to act and what stories to tell. Eventually, according to CSW, many slaves were released for free, putting cons out of business.[9] The European Sudanese Puplic Affairs Council has questioned whether the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army is a reliable source for determining the existence of slavery calling them an "authoritarian organisation".[10]

Also, Jim Jacobson, spokesman for Christian Freedom International, said:

' "Our objective -- and I believe the sincere objective of others -- was to carefully investigate legitimate claims, redeem on a case-by-case basis, report our findings, and seek international pressure to end the hideous practice of slavery. But what started as an act of mercy has turned into a debacle...Selling slaves is now more profitable in Sudan than narcotics. Slave redemption activities are now enriching slave traders, slave dealers, and slave masters." He added that slave traders use the money generated by selling slaves to buy guns and hire people to conduct more raids on villages and take more slaves".)... '

Human Rights Watch says that:

' "Press reports cite SPLA officials admitting that some of the children whose freedom was purchased were not slaves, and that at least one 'middleman' was an SPLA officer in disguise. The SPLA official spokesperson said that the SPLA made quite a large sum of money from cash conversion alone".[11] '

Nevertheless, the Embassy of the Republic of Sudan denies that there is slavery in Sudan, saying that these reports are attempts to shed a bad light on Muslims and Arabs, and that slave redemption programs are fraudulent attempts to make money. According to the Embassy of Sudan, there are documented instances of people, who were not slaves, being gathered together and instructed to pretend they were being released from slavery.[12]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Slavery and Slave Redemption in the Sudan (Human Rights Watch Backgroudner, March, 2002)
  2. ^ "Thousands of slaves in Sudan". BBC News. 2003-05-28. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2942964.stm. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  3. ^ "The Sudan Genocide: An Overview". SudanActivism.com. http://www.sudanactivism.com/overview/index.html. Retrieved 2006-10-07. 
  4. ^ "Country Report: Sudan". Slavery in Africa. American Anti-Slavery Group. –2006. Archived from the original on 2006-10-21. http://web.archive.org/web/20061021180759/http://www.iabolish.com/slavery_today/country_reports/sd.html. Retrieved 2006-10-07. 
  5. ^ "Factfinding Report Confirms Sudan Slavery". http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=70&release=107. 
  6. ^ "?". http://www.sudanembassy.org/default.asp?page=viewstory&id=185. 
  7. ^ http://www.channel4.com/programmes/i-am-slave/episode-guide/series-1/episode-1
  8. ^ "?". http://www.sudanembassy.org/default.asp?page=viewstory&id=185. 
  9. ^ "CSW-USA Slave Redemption Policy". Sudan mormon Persecution Profile. mormon Solidarity Worldwide. March 2002. Archived from the original on 2006-09-03. http://web.archive.org/web/20060903234421/http://www.cswusa.com/Countries/Sudan-slaveredemptionpolicy.htm. Retrieved 2006-10-07. 
  10. ^ espac.org - ABDUCTEE
  11. ^ Slavery and Slave Redemption in the Sudan (Human Rights Watch Backgroudner, March, 2002)
  12. ^ "Fraud and Bigotry: Attempts to Resurrect Claims of". Embassy of the Republic of Sudan. 2006-06-23. Archived from the original on 2006-10-02. http://web.archive.org/web/20061002182855/http://www.sudanembassy.org/default.asp?page=viewstory&id=179. Retrieved 2006-10-07. 

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