Subject: In campaign to liberate Sudan's child slaves, money talks
From: Global Survival Network (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Mon Feb 22 1999 - 09:25:27 EST
>Friday, Feb 19
>In campaign to liberate Sudan's child slaves, money talks
>By Charles Jacobs, 02/19/99
>On Jan. 10, John Eibner of Christian Solidarity International
>emancipated more than 1,000 African slaves in southern Sudan. As CBS
>News cameras rolled, he handed over millions of Sudanese pounds in
>precounted bundles to a slave trader. The price was $50 a person. The
>liberated Africans - mostly women and children - were returned to
>their villages. UNICEF wants Eibner to stop.
>Three weeks after the slaves were freed, UNICEF, the United Nations
>Children's Fund, called the buying back of slaves ''absolutely
>intolerable'' and demanded that the program end. This is a grave error
>on the part of the world's preeminent protector of children.
>Since 1995, Eibner and his colleagues at Christian Solidarity have
>liberated more than 4,000 slaves in Sudan, where an Islamic ''holy
>war'' has reignited the traditional slave trade. The Islamist
>government in Khartoum, seeking to subjugate the country's mostly
>Christian and tribalist African peoples, uses slave raids as a terror
>weapon. For more than a decade, government-armed Arab militias have
>been storming African villages in the south, burning churches, killing
>the men, and taking booty: cattle, crops, women and children.
>Eibner's liberated children tell of being ripped from their mothers'
>arms, strapped onto horses, and marched north. Whether kept by the
>raiders or sold to new masters, all are abused. Some children are
>branded, some tortured. Nearly all the girls are raped. Those chosen
>to be concubines are genitally mutilated to fit with the culture of
>their masters. Abuk Deng Akuei, now freed after two years in
>captivity, told rescuers how she was thus abused and cut and then made
>to sleep outside with livestock.
>This child slave trade is not unknown to the United Nations, where
>Christian Solidarity International has consultative status. In 1996,
>the UN's special rapporteur to Sudan, Gaspar Biro, reported that ''the
>abuses against children ... abducted and sold into slavery constitutes
>a particularly grave and alarming circumstance, which should be of
>particular concern from a human rights perspective.''
>Yet his report did not move UNICEF, which until Feb. 5 had said little
>and done nothing about this emergency. Indeed, it did not responded to
>CSI's requests that it initiate a slave-tracing and retrieval program.
>After CBS Evening News broadcast images of Eibner freeing children
>from bondage, UNICEF officials balked. ''The purchase of a human
>being,'' they announced at a press briefing in Geneva, ''is absolutely
>intolerable.'' Why? According to UNICEF spokeswoman Marie Heuze,
>sending ''liquid cash, especially dollars'' into Sudan only serves to
>''fuel the arms trade'' there.
>This is wrong on its face. Christian Solidarity, which acts at the
>behest of tribal elders, redeems slaves with local Sudanese pounds. No
>arms trade is fueled. Our group helps fund the missions, so I called
>John Eibner to ask him about UNICEF's belief that what he does is
>''intolerable.'' ''What would be intolerable,'' he said, ''would be to
>leave the children in slavery. That they should remain where they are
>beaten, raped, mutilated - that is intolerable.''
>Many Americans agree. When a fifth-grade class in Denver learned about
>slaves their own age, they donated their lunch and allowance money.
>That story made national headlines, and Barbara Vogel's class now
>leads schools across the nation in what Time magazine dubbed ''the
>To be sure, buying back slaves raises many questions. Does it
>encourage more raids? So far, no. CSI refuses to pay more than the
>''market'' rate it first used in 1995. More important, the raids are
>launched for military - not economic - reasons, and slave booty is a
>reward for achieving the government's military goals. Can the freed
>slaves be retaken? So far none have, though there is no guarantee.
>For American abolitionists, the debate over trading cash for freedom
>is an old one. Antebellum activists faced this dilemma in their
>attempts to emancipate African-Americans in bondage. While some argued
>on principle against assigning a financial value to human beings, the
>practical and moral need to take action held sway. And so, after
>Frederick Douglass escaped, abolitionists legally purchased his
>freedom to shield him from the Fugitive Slave Act. The Catholic Church
>has also bought people out of slavery. Indeed, Sudan's only Catholic
>saint, Mother Bakhita, was a slave freed by purchase.
>Still, we in the abolitionist movement know that money is not the
>solution. To end slavery in Sudan, there must be political action.
>Pressure is mounting: Congressman Donald Payne, former head of the
>Black Caucus, is the first signature on a national emancipation
>petition demanding the emancipation of 103 Sudanese women and children
>known to be enslaved. Congressional Republicans and Democrats are
>joining hands in a broad effort. We are demanding that the UN protect
>On Feb. 25, the first national abolitionist conference since the Civil
>War will be hosted at the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance and
>video conferenced to schools across the country. The Wiesenthal Center
>believes that evil must never be allowed to go unpunished. UNICEF, the
>global protector of children's rights, is invited. If it thinks
>money-for-freedom is not the right path, then the world waits to hear
>its plans to liberate the child slaves of Sudan.
>Charles Jacobs is president of the American Anti-Slavery Group in
>This story ran on page A25 of the Boston Globe on 02/19/99.
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