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


Pragmatists and Hardliners
Khartoum Investigates
Shifting the blame
The Baltimore Sun buys "slaves" to challenge Louis Farrakhan

"U.N. Organizations have reported for years that children are sold into slavery in Sudan. But African Arnerican leader Louis Farrakhan charged that the reports were false... The Baltimore Sun recently decided to investigate, sending two reporters to Sudan. Their report of a transaction ... proves beyond doubt the existence of slavery." 

"Two reporters from the Baltimore Sun newspaper travelled to [Southern Sudan] to see the situation for themselves, and even went through the process of buying slaves.... Publicity about it is creating greater awareness in the United States about slavery in Sudan. Top

"The State Department, international human rights organizations and Sudanese opposition groups have long been saying that slavery exists in Sudan. But many Americans, including politicians, ignored the story, refusing to believe it was true. 

Then last March [1996], Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan was asked about the issue at a news conference in Washington. He had recently concluded a tour of Africa that included visits to Sudan, Libya and other countries opposed to the United States. Mr Farrakhan challenged the person asking the question to go to Sudan and get proof that slavery exists. Top

The Baltimore Sun decided it would take on that challenge and sent two reporters - one black and the other white - to a remote, dangerous area where slave trading was reportedly taking place.  They were flown in by the Swiss-based human rights group, Christian Solidarity International (CSI). 

In a three-part newspaper series based on their findings, the reporters accuse the Sudanese government of involvement in slave trade. They say unpaid Arab militia are directly helping the Islamic government in its 13-year war against rebels in the mostly Christian and animist south. Top

The reporters spoke to locals who told them the militia raid villages with the consent of the government and take whatever booty they want - including humans, who are traded in the north and elsewhere as household slaves and concubines. 

To prove to Minister Farrakhan that slavery was indeed real in Sudan, an editor at the Baltimore Sun told the reporters to try to buy a slave. Reporter Gilbert Lewthwaite explains what happened: 

"We had learned during our research of a system that has been established between the chiefs of a local Arab tribe in the region we were in and the local Dinka tribe.Top

In return for getting grazing rights in the Dinka land, [the Arab tribe] have undertaken to try to facilitate the return of enslaved women and children, but for a price. But the price is five cows each or 500 dollars, and that's the price we paid. 

The day after we arrived we heard in the nearby market town that an Arab trader had arrived with a group of young children to return them for the asking price to their parents. We met him under a mango tree and he agreed to sell us one of the slaves..." (Voice of America 26 June 1996) 

"Such outside intervention with big sums of money may make matters worse and can encourage others to capture and "facilitate" the retrieval of more children for economic motives." - a source close to the Dinka retrieval committee.Top