Human Rights Action
United States
The Baltimore Sun
In Whose Interest?
Defending the Sudan Government


Pragmatists and Hardliners
Khartoum Investigates
Shifting the blame

'There has been an alarming increase in the number of reports ... of slavery, servitude, the slave trade and forced labour. 1 regret the total lack of interest shown by the competent Sudanese authorities...' -  Dr Gaspar Biro, UN Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan, February 1996 

Since 1992, the ILO and other organizations have systematically reported the re-emergence of slavery in the Sudan. In a report submitted to the General Assembly, the UN Secretary General reiterated the same accusation.  611 The UN Commission on Human Rights is "deeply concerned about continued reports of activities such as slavery, servitude, the slave trade and forced labour, the sale and trafficking of children, their abduction and forced internment at undisclosed locations, ideological indoctrination or inhuman and degrading punishments, especially but not exclusively affecting displaced families and women and children belonging to racial, ethnic and religious minorities from southern Sudan, the Nuba Mountains and the Ingessana Hills areas." Top

In a resolution passed on 19 April 1996 at its 52nd session the Commission urged the Government of Sudan to carry out investigations into such cases without delay. 

The UN Special Rapporteur on Sudan, Dr Gaspar Biro, was careful to distinguish slavery from other extreme abuses. He was also careful to demarcate governmental responsibility for the practice.Top

He said: "the total passivity of the Government after having received information for years regarding this situation can only he interpreted as tacit political approval and support of the institution of slavery." 

Others, however, have gone further and have asserted that the government itself is actively engaged in the slave trade. For instance, Christian Solidarity International (CSI) claim .s that "Government troops and Government -backed Arab militias regularly raid black African communities for slaves and other forms of booty." Top

The militias have done so, but the charge that government troops engage in raids for the purpose of seizing slaves is not backed by the evidence. 

Another Christian group - the South African-based Frontline Fellowship - is also making a cause out of slavery. "Tens of thousands of Sudanese Christian men, women and children have been kidnapped and sold as slaves by government soldiers." Top

The organisation's philosophy appears in some ways as a mirror image of the government's jihad: a previous newsletter includes an article entitled "The Challenge of the Crusaders", adorned by a romantic engraving of Richard the Lionheart. It argues: 
"there is much we can learn from the faith that inspired these epic undertakings..."

To Southern Sudanese desperate for international recognition and support in their plight, the Christian Solidarity International / Front Line Fellowship approach may be highly attractive, and to criticise it may seem like hair-splitting. But if it is charged specifically with engaging in the slave trade, the Sudan Government may escape blame.

A rigorous inquiry would probably find that it is condoning enslavement, but would not be able to demonstrate a policy of slave trading. Top