Anti-Slavery Drive in War-Torn Sudan Provokes Response
Olivier, Charles, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
KHARTOUM, Sudan - The campaign against slavery in Sudan took off in 1996 when a Swiss charity, Christian Solidarity International, took reporters from the Baltimore Sun to "buy" slaves in southern Sudan.
The resulting article, "Witness to Slavery," caused an outrage in the United States and won a Pulitzer Prize.
Outraged by tales of Christian children being hunted down by gangs of Muslim soldiers and sold in open-air slave markets, churches and schools across America joined a crusade against the Sudanese government.
Fifth-graders at the Highline Community School in Aurora, Colo., wrote thousands of letters to President Clinton, Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, calling for sanctions against Sudan. Festivals were held and plays put on to raise money for the cause.
Much of the money raised was spent buying the freedom of slaves. Christian Solidarity Worldwide - the British branch of Christian Solidarity International, which separated from the Swiss parent group in 1997 - "redeemed" more than 25,000 slaves, paying $50 to $100 per head to slave traders.
Deluged with letters claiming the Khartoum government was deliberately kidnapping Christians as part of an Islamic Jihad (holy war), the U.S. government imposed sanctions on Sudan in 1997.
But interviews with Dinka leaders and Sudanese aid workers by The Washington Times last month suggest many claims by Christian Solidarity were exaggerated.
Sir Robert Ffolkes, head of Save the Children (U.K.) in Khartoum, says the government is not involved in a jihad against Christians.
"I do not believe the government is involved in slave-taking. Some of the tribal militias used by the army do take slaves. But that does not make it deliberate government policy."
None of the 50 slaves interviewed by The Washington Times had been branded or sold in open-air slave markets, contrary to claims by the American Anti-Slavery Group - a Boston-based organization that raised funds for CSW saying this was common practice.
Many of the women had been treated appallingly. …