We must help the world that wants to be free.
—Secretary of State Colin Powell, Senate confirmation hearings, January 17
On January 13, a New York Times editorial finally focused on the government of Sudan’s terrorism against black Christians and animists in the south. The writer mentioned that the national Muslim military regime of General Omar Hassan al-Bashir was targeting black Africans—and pointed out that “some 4.4 million southern Sudanese have been driven from their homes, the largest displaced population in the world.” (Emphasis added.)
Strangely, the editorial did not say one word about the slave raids made on the south under the auspices of the military government in the north. Nor has the news section of the Times seen fit to focus substantively on this violation of the fundamental right to be free—often accompanied by gang rapes of the captured women.
On December 22, Christian Solidarity International reported: “Soldiers of the government of Sudan’s Popular Defence Forces (PDF) systematically gang-raped and enslaved black African women and girls during and after slave raids on villages in southern Sudan, according to testimonies of scores of ex-slaves recorded last week by CSI and independent researchers.”
Many of the ex-slaves interviewed by CSI had themselves been raped during raids and “bore thick, herniated scars, especially in the area of the breasts, that were the result of mutilation committed by rapists.”
Surely the “compassionate conservative” now in the White House will be interested in telling the world the United States’ reaction to these atrocities. George W. Bush asks us to judge him by what is in his heart, doesn’t he?
This is what is in the heart of a 20-year-old woman named Aluel Mangong Deng: “I was enslaved five years ago during a raid on my village, Agok. I tried to run away from the soldiers, but they caught me and threw me to the ground. I struggled to get away, so they held down my hands and feet and cut my throat and chest with a knife. As I grew faint, one of them named Mohammed raped me then and there. That night, I was again raped by different men. They came one after another. This also happened to other women, and even to young girls. It took about 30 days before we reached Poulla, north of Babanusa. This kind of rape happened just about every day along the way.”
Aluel Mangong Deng was among 4119 slaves bought back from slave raiders by CSI representatives John Eibner and Gunnar Wiebalck in Sudan between last December 13 and 18.
Eibner reports that “since 1995, 42,537 slaves have been liberated through the cooperative efforts of CSI, southern Sudanese community leaders, and local Baggara Arabs.” Money has also been contributed by American schoolchildren, and the American Anti-Slavery Group in Boston has been instrumental in organizing the new abolitionist movement in the United States.
In December, CSI noted that “the leaders of the Black African communities affected by the government of Sudan’s slave raids estimate that more than 100,000 of their people remain in bondage in northern Sudan.”
Since then, the number has increased. On January 8, CSI sent me information on at least 72 black African women and children taken in raids by the PDF. John Eibner notes: “It is the custom for PDF troops to gang-rape enslaved women and girls, and execute those who cannot walk quickly during the forced marches to the north. Once in the north, the slaves are divided amongst their masters and are routinely subjected to beatings, sexual abuse, work without pay, and forced conversions, according to successive United Nations Special Rapporteurs.”
On January 12, 103 black African women and children were enslaved in other raids, and presumably some were also gang raped. On January 21, 72 more women and children were taken. Killed were 53 civilians, including 14 children and 23 women.
Charles Jacobs, president of the American Anti-Slavery Group, makes a logical comparison when he says, “The world reacted strongly to this horror in Kosovo. We expect the same response when the victims are black women.”
Jacobs tells me that a number of American feminist leaders “are showing concern” about the enslavement and raping of these women. I trust they will communicate that concern to George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and the most publicized new member of the Senate, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Meanwhile, Colin Powell’s first stop at the State Department was at its Africa desk. And during his confirmation hearing, my source tells me, he was informed about the slavery and genocide in Sudan by an impassioned Republican senator, Sam Brownback of Kansas, who has been to the south of Sudan and has spoken with some of the liberated slaves. Where are some of the liberal Democratic senators? Brownback is a conservative.
Brownback showed Colin Powell photographs taken in Sudan by a member of his staff. One of those photographs is on this page.
Several of the interviews with the black Sudanese who had been raped by soldiers of the National Islamic Front government will appear in a future column.
I hope someone will show these columns to George W. Bush. The January 20 New York Times reported that Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, has spoken to the president about the atrocities in Sudan. Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse operates a hospital there, which was bombed by the Sudanese Air Force.
Bush should also see the columns and photographs of Joe Madison, a former longtime board member of the NAACP. Now known as the “Black Eagle,” he hosts a popular radio show on WOL-AM in Washington, D.C. Madison’s firsthand reports are in the November/December issue of the NAACP’s New Crisis magazine and in last year’s September 30 and October 7 issues of the Baltimore Afro-American. He was deeply involved in ending apartheid in South Africa and is mobilizing forces to end slavery and genocide in Sudan. If Bush wants to show authentic concern for blacks, he should join Joe Madison.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 6, 2001