Abyei Mou (Sudan), Nairobi, May 3, 2004. – 56 boy slaves were liberated at the end of April from the cattle camps of Arab nomads in the borderlands between northern and southern Sudan. Their liberation was a joint action undertaken by CSI and the Arab-Dinka Peace Committee based at the borderland market town of Warawar. The boys had been abducted during government sponsored jihad slave raids against Black African, non-Muslim communities in northern Bahr El Ghazal.
Upon releasing the slaves, the head of the Baggara cattle camps between the Bahr el Arab and Lol Rivers, Shegir Al Agar, claimed that the boys had been very happy with their masters, whom they affectionately called “father”. However, interviews with the boys revealed a clear pattern of physical and psychological abuse. They reported cases of beatings, stabbings, boy rape, racial insults, death threats, and forcible conversion to Islam.
A 12-year-old slave named Piol recalled:
“My master (Ibrahim Mohammed) told me not to ask about my mother and father, and ordered me to call him “father”. Whenever I displeased him, he beat me. Once he hit me on the head with a cow’s horn. Another time, he burned me on the arm. Sometimes he refused to allow me to eat. Ibrahim’s son, Khalid, also bullied me. He threw stones at me, and called me “dog”, “bastard”, and “slave”. Ibrahim made me go to Koranic school. The teacher, Mohammed Razik, said that we should forget about the religion of our people and become Muslims. Otherwise, we would be infidels.“
CSI encountered two slaves who were not released by their masters. Osman was in the bush looking after cows, and Majok Miir was making tea for cattle camp masters. Shegir Al Agar reported that there were many more slaves in the area. The Baggara will start moving their cows and slaves back to their home areas north of the Bahr El Arab River later this month when the rainy season begins. They had brought their cattle south of the river last February, during the dry season, in search of water and pasture land.
Slavery is an internationally recognized crime against humanity. In the spring of 2002, a U.S. government-sponsored international Eminent Persons Group charged Sudan’s Islamist regime of using slavery as a weapon of war against Southern Sudan. At the beginning of his mission, U.S. Special Envoy for Peace in Sudan, former Sen. John Danforth, identified the eradication of slavery as a pre-condition for a just and lasting peace. However, the issue of slavery has not yet been placed on the agenda of the peace talks between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. CSI’s President, Revd. Hans Stuckelberger, has pledged that “CSI will continue its campaign to eradicate slavery in Sudan until the last slave is free”.