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Date: Mon, 1 Feb 1999 17:59:26 -0800 (PST)
From: Hisham A. Mageed <hmageed@SEAS.SMU.EDU>
Message-ID: <Pine.SUN.3.91.990201175705.20451B-100000@igc.apc.org>
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Sender: owner-brc-news@igc.org
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] Sudanese government denies any slavery on its own territory
To: brc-news@igc.org

[Moderator: From the international SUDANESE mailing list]

Sudanese government denies any slavery on its own territory

AFP, 31 January 1999

KHARTOUM, Jan 31 (AFP)—The Sudanese government on Sunday strongly denied the existence of slavery on territory held by pro-Khartoum forces in the strife-torn country, dismissing a reports by a western church agency.

Ali Ahmed Al-Nasry, head of a government committee set up in 1995 to investigate claims that the slave trade was being practised in Sudan , said that if such activity took place, it was in areas held by rebels.

Nasry, whose statements were published in Sunday’s Al-Rai al-Aam daily, specifically dismissed a report by Swiss aid agency Christian Solidarity International (CSI), which last Thursday said it has bought back a total of 5,066 slaves in Sudan over the last four years.

A latest group of some 1,050 people, mainly women and children, were released earlier this month after CSI paid 50 dollars each for their freedom in the southern Bahr-el-Ghazal province, the agency said in Geneva.

Those CSI allegations are related to areas under the rebel movement, Al-Nasry said, referring to the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) led by Colonel John Garang, which has fought successive Khartoum governments since 1983.

If there is a slavery trade in those areas, the rebel movement is to blame, he added.

Al-Nasry said his own committee had found that people considered to be slaves by CSI—which had for its part repeated an appeal for action to the United Nations—were prisoners of war taken in fighting between local tribes.

Such captives were usually liberated on payment of a ransom by their own people or by the government through its Zakat, or Islamic tax, office, Al-Nasry said.

He also criticised CSI for entering Sudan by the back door without obtaining an entry visa.

CSI said it paid money to Arab traders who find the slaves in the north, then bring them back to the south.

The agency added that it estimated that thousands of people had been abducted during raids by pro-governmental militias in the south. They are reportedly sold into slavery in the north or enlisted to fight rebels.

Witnesses among those freed spoke of physical and psychological ill-treatment, including cut throats, excision, death threats, forced conversions to Islam and beatings, the agency reported.

The organization works under the terms of 1990 peace accords reached between Sudanese Arabs and members of the Dinka community, which called on the Arabs to help Dinkas recover women and children sold into slavery.

The SPLA is fighting to free the mainly animist and Christian south from domination by the Arabised north, where the current military regime, which took power in 1989, is backed by Islamic fundamentalists.