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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Sun, 20 Jul 97 18:51:57 CDT
From: Mark Graffis <ab758@virgin.usvi.net>
Article: 14884

Activist says child slavery exists in Sudan

By Alfred Taban, Reuters, 29 July 1997

KHARTOUM (July 20, 1997 09:57 a.m. EDT)—A Sudanese human rights activist says militias allied with the nation’s Islamist government are capturing children and selling them as slaves, charges that the authorities deny.

Santino Deng’s statement to Reuters was the latest accusations of slavery against the Khartoum government. There was no independent confirmation of Deng’s allegations, and the government has said it is deeply concerned about such allegations.

Slavery has died down in Africa, Gabriel Roric, a minister of state in the foreign affairs ministry, told Reuters.

In November, a United Nation’s report said probes by Sudanese groups into slavery and other human rights abuses glossed over available data and shed little light on any allegations.

Deng, who served as animal resources minister in the 1960s, said the militias this month raided Waraja in Bahr al-Ghazal state and took many children and about 10,000 cattle. More children and some 15,000 cattle were also taken after a raid on Shelkon, Deng added.

The children were taken to the market and sold, he said.

Deng said they were taken to Ariel, capital of Northern Bahr al-Ghazal state, and Wau, southern Sudan’s second largest city. He added slave seekers also raided Wetwil and Malwal.

He identified the alleged raiders as Islamic militias who are stationed in Babanusa, in neighbouring Kordofan in north Sudan, and said they also targeted Dinka villages.

The raiders at Thiet usually pass word to the Dinkas that if they want their children, they should come with cows. One cow for one child, Deng said, who is from the Dinka tribe.

He said more than 50,000 Dinka children were being kept in Babanusa while others were living abroad. Some of our children are in Djibouti, Gabon, Mauritania and Cameroon. Most of them are in Saudi Arabia and Libya.

Roric said the tribes were taking advantage of the lack of peace in the south and raiding each other.

The tribes in the area have often clashed over water and grazing areas, Roric said, but added that the government would form a committee to investigate Deng’s allegations.

Gaspar Biro, the special U.N. human rights rapporteur for the Sudan, said at the time he found it encouraging that the Sudanese government had appointed committees to investigate abuses and that it has also opened a centre for traumatized children in Khartoum.

But Biro said many answers he received to queries were incomplete and did not adequately deal with his earlier reports of killings, deportations, abductions, looting and enforced mass displacements against civilians by all sides in the country’s long-running civil war.

Rebel groups, led by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), have been fighting for autonomy or independance of the south for the past 14 years.

The government has, however, tried to put an end to the fighting and in April signed a peace treaty with several groups except the mainstream SPLA.

Deng alleged there were more than 700 distribution centres where children were kept. The main ones are Umdarab in central Sudan, Amardwish, Um Seila, Sagai, Wad Romli and Khartoum.