Rooted in History
On the Street & In the Mind
Anger & Denial
A Clue to Conflict
Fabrication or Fact ?
On the streets of Sudan, it is still common for a citizen from the south of the country to be called a slave - 'abd - by a fellow citizen from the north. 

This single word, used in a dismissive and casual manner, embodies the painful history of conflict between northern and southern Sudan, and demonstrates how attitudes of racial and religious supremacy remain deeply ingrained in Africa's largest country. 

It provides a clue to the civil war that has kept southern Sudan in chaos for a generation, ruined the economy and brought hundreds of thousands of deaths. It also raises ghosts that will not be laid to rest by political settlement alone.Top

Any discussion of slavery arouses powerful emotions. The legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade from Africa to the west still has a profound effect on people whose ancestors were enslaved and who are calling for reparations for the damage that was done. The descendants of people who captured, owned or traded slaves often have difficulty either acknowledging the facts or resolving a sense of guilt. 

Exactly the same is true in Sudan, where to raise the subject brings anger, mistrust and denial. Northern Sudanese reactions are strongest when the accusation is made that slavery is still going on, or that responsibility for its re-emergence is not confined to the current rnilitary-Islamist regime.

Southern Sudanese, on the other hand, feel frustrated by the absence of acknowledgement of what was done to their kinsfolk, and feel betrayed by any attempt to minimise their claims. They are often vehement in their antipathy towards Arabic and Islamic culture as a result of their experiences. Top

Among the non-government organisations giving humanitarian assistance to the people of Sudan, there are also strong differences of opinion on how to respond. 

Some regard it as their moral duty to expose slavery; some go as far as to portray it as government policy. Others are anxious about giving excessive publicity to what they consider a marginal activity, for fear of jeopardising other operations. 

However, the slavery issue is such a vital clue in the struggle to resolve the conflict in Sudan - at the human level as well as the constitutional level - that it cannot be sidelined on the grounds of its sensitive nature. Top