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Slavery in Sudan

Slavery in Sudan began in ancient times, and has continued to the present day. During the Trans-Saharan slave trade, many Nilotic peoples from the lower Nile Valley were purchased as slaves and brought to work elsewhere in North Africa and the Orient by Nubians, Egyptians, Berbers and Arabs.[1]

Since 1995, many human rights organizations have reported on contemporary practice, especially in the context of the Second Sudanese civil war. Both the government-backed militias and the rebels (led by the SPLA) have been found guilty of abducting civilians, according to a 2002 report issued by the International Eminent Persons Group, acting with the encouragement of the US State Department.[2][3] The Rift Valley Institute's Sudan Abductee Database contains the names of over 11,000 people who were abducted in 20 years of slave-raiding in Northern Bahr el-Ghazal state in southern Sudan, from 1983 to 2002 when, according to the Institute, "abduction…effectively ceased".[4][5]

The Sudanese government claimed that the slavery is the product of inter-tribal warfare, over which it had no control. Human Rights Watch rejected this and stated that the government is involved in backing and arming numerous slave-taking militias in the country. It also found the government failed to enforce Sudanese laws against kidnapping, assault and forced labor. Police rarely help victims' families in locating their children. While the Sudan Criminal Code of 1991 does not list slavery as a crime, Sudan has ratified the Slavery Convention, the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery, and is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).[6]

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.[7]

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).[8] 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 later banned by the colonial British authorities in 1899, after they conquered the region.

Modern-day slavery

In 1995, Human Rights Watch[9] and Amnesty International[10] 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.

Estimates of abductions during the war range from 14,000 to 200,000.[11]

The CEO of Christian Solidarity International-USA, John Eibner, argues that the Arab-Muslim state of Sudan started reviving modern-day slavery starting in the mid-1980s. He claims that this slavery is a result of a jihad led by the state against the non-Muslim population.[12]

According to CBS news, slaves have been sold for $50 apiece.[13]

Writing for The Wall Street Journal on December 12, 2001, Michael Rubin said:[14]

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 Sudanese government has never admitted to the existence of "slavery" within their borders, but in 1999, under international pressure, it established the Committee to Eradicate the Abduction of Women and Children (CEAWC). 4,000 "abducted" southerners were returned to South Sudan through this program before it was shut down in 2010.[15]

Slave redemption efforts

According to CNN, many groups in the United States have expressed concern about slavery and religious oppression in Sudan, putting pressure on the Bush administration to take action.[16]

Beginning in 1995, Christian Solidarity International began "redeeming" slaves through an underground network of traders set up through local peace agreements between Arab and southern chiefs. The group claims to have freed over 80,000 people in this manner since that time.[17] Several other charities eventually followed suit.

In 1999, UNICEF called the practice of redeeming slaves 'intolerable', arguing that these charities are implicitly accepting that human beings can be bought and sold.[18]

UNICEF also said that buying slaves from slave-traders gives them cash to purchase arms and ammunition. But Christian Solidarity said they purchase slaves in Sudanese pounds, not dollars, which could be used to purchase arms.[18]

In response to UNICEF's accusation, in December 1999, 46 South Sudanese chiefs, administrators and activists from the area affected by slave raids released a letter[19] in support of Christian Solidarity International's slave redemption activities, stating,
We, the senior community leaders of the Dinka people of northern Bahr el-Ghazal, denounce the government of Sudan for enslaving our women and children, and express profound thanks to Christian Solidarity International (CSI) for supporting our efforts to redeem them and return them to their families. We ask CSI to continue their program of slave redemption and other forms of community support as long as the government of Sudan's war against our people lasts.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide states that while early trips of slave redemption, where charities bought the freedom of slaves, were successful in freeing thousands of slaves, later trips fell through because of fraud. CSW representatives say they discovered a man who was defrauding organizations that were trying to redeem slaves, and later a man came to the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement 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. As a result of the fraud allegations, CSW has suspended its "slave redemption program" indefinitely.[20]

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.[21]

The European Sudanese Public 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".[22]

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.[23]

Christian Solidarity International continues redeeming slaves to this day.[when?] On its website,[24] the group states that it employs safeguards against fraud, and that allegations of fraud are "unsubstantiated".

See also


  1. ^ Labb¿, Theola (2004-01-11). "A Legacy Hidden in Plain Sight". Washington Post. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Factfinding Report Confirms Sudan Slavery". 
  4. ^ Vlassenroot, Koen. "Rift Valley Institute". Retrieved 2014-03-13. 
  5. ^ "Thousands of slaves in Sudan". BBC News. 2003-05-28. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  6. ^ "Slavery and Slave Redemption in the Sudan (Human Rights Watch Backgroudner, March, 2002)". Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  7. ^ "Ancient Egypt: Slavery, its causes and practice". Retrieved 2014-03-13. 
  8. ^ "Africa and Slavery 1500-1800 by Sanderson Beck". Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  9. ^ “Children in Sudan: Slaves, Street Children and Child Soldiers,” Human Rights Watch,September 1995 [1]
  10. ^ “Sudan:‘The tears of orphans’: no future without human rights,” Amnesty International, January 1, 1995
  11. ^ "Slavery, Abduction and Forced Servitude in Sudan". US Department of State. 22 May 2002. Retrieved 20 March 2014. 
  12. ^ John Eibner. "My Career Redeeming Slaves". Middle East Forum. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  13. ^ Of Slavery Haunts Sudan - CBS News Of Slavery Haunts Sudan - CBS News.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ Michael Rubin, "Don't 'Engage' Rogue Regimes," Wall Street Journal, December 12, 2001 [2]
  15. ^ Michaela Alfred-Kamara, “Will Independence Lead to the End of Slavery in Sudan?” Anti-Slavery International Reporter, Winter 2011 PDF
  16. ^ "Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News -". CNN. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  17. ^ John Eibner, "Q&A on Slavery and Slave Redemption in Sudan."
  18. ^ a b Lewis, Paul (1999-03-12). "U.N. Criticism Angers Charities Buying Sudan Slaves' Release". New York Times. 
  19. ^ Cited in Jok Madut Jok, War and Slavery in Sudan, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001), p. 178-179
  20. ^ "CSW-USA Slave Redemption Policy". Sudan mormon Persecution Profile. mormon Solidarity Worldwide. March 2002. Archived from the original on 2006-09-03. Retrieved 2006-10-07. 
  21. ^ Mckay, Mary-Jayne (11 February 2009). "60 Minutes II: Slave Trade". CBS News. Retrieved 20 February 2013
  22. ^ " - ABDUCTEE". Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  23. ^ "Slavery and Slave Redemption in the Sudan (Human Rights Watch Backgroudner, March, 2002)". Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  24. ^ John Eibner, "Q&A on Slavery and Slave Liberation in Sudan,"

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