Rooted in History
On the Street & In the Mind
Anger & Denial
A Clue to Conflict
Fabrication or Fact ?
Slavery exists in Sudan today. A series of human rights and media reports has brought slavery in Sudan to prominence in the mid-1990s, but its re-appearance was first documented in detail by two Khartoum University lecturers in 1987. It is sometimes argued that allegations of slavery in Sudan are fabrications intended to defame Islam, yet both authors are Sudanese Muslims. Sudanese journalists obtained and published the testimonies of escaped slaves in the late 1980s. 

After much denial and delay, the Sudan government of the time agreed to an international inquiry by the Anti-Slavery Society (now Anti-Slavery International). The inquiry was aborted when the current government seized power in a military coup in 1989. Other bodies including the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the UN Commission on Human Rights have continued to gather evidence and to call on the Sudan government to take effective action. 

The western media paid only occasional attention to these investigations until 1996, when its imagination was stirred by reported purchases of slaves by western journalists and other foreigners. Top

Slavery has been illegal in Sudan for a century, and the enslavement that has been going on recently is furtive - no-one publicly admits to taking or owning slaves. The current government eventually responded to international pressure in 1996 by setting up investigative committees while continuing strenuously to deny that slavery is going on. 

Access to government-held territory where slaves might be held is extremely difficult for foreign investigators. Nonetheless, reports and testimonies from reliable sources have built up a body of evidence about the reality on the ground: who is responsible, how they take captives and from where, and how they can be freed and returned to their families. 

There are no precise figures for the total number of people enslaved in the last ten years, and it has been impossible to track how many have escaped or been returned to their families, but estimates consistently suggest that several thousand are involved. Although slave raiding may have decreased from a peak in the late 1980s, there are continuing reports that confirm the existence of slavery as an institution.Top