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Slavery in Sudan Essay

Since the successful strife for independence from the UK in 1956 Sudan has been politically ruled by military regimes that favour Islamic orientated governments. Sudan has endured two prolonged civil wars in the remainder of the 20th century. These wars were rooted largely because of Islamic orientated Northern Sudanese dominating the non-Arabic and non-Muslim south. The first civil war broke out just before Sudan reached independence in 1956 but ended in 1972 after southern Sudan was granted the Addis Ababa Accords allowing regional autonomy concerning internal matters. (GlobalSecurity 2011)

Civil war erupted again in 1983 – this time the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army fighting against the Sudanese government. This war was the onset of a long line of human rights infringements influencing present day Sudan. The second civil war was largely a continuation of the first caused by South Sudan fighting for independence, but this war was one of the most violent of the late 20th century with a death toll of around 2 million civilians and displacing 4 million South Sudanese forcing them to flee their homes and the country. (Highland 2013) The war eventually ended in 2005 when a Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed and after six years of autonomy and a referendum South Sudan was granted independence.

After only a year of independence from south Sudan relationships with the newly found country quickly deteriorated leading to clashes along the shared border. The two governments signed an agreement in September of 2012 that compels them to resolve the main issues separating them and addressing the humanitarian crisis in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile states. This agreement enables the resumption of oil production if considered but due to a lack of regard, the fighting of government and the rebels continues in Darfur and both the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. This civil war, involving north-south tensions, has resulted massive population displacements as well as heinous crimes such as rape torture and killings.

A report into the human rights situation of Sudan in 2010 by the US Department of State found that the following rights have been abused, “abridgement of citizens’ right to change their government; extrajudicial and other unlawful killings by government forces and other government-aligned groups throughout the country; torture, beatings, rape, and other cruel, inhumane treatment or punishment by security forces; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention, incommunicado detention of suspected government opponents, and prolonged pretrial detention; executive interference with the judiciary and denial of due process; obstruction of the delivery of humanitarian assistance and the expulsion of humanitarian NGOs; restrictions on privacy; restrictions on freedom of speech; restrictions on the press, including direct censorship; restrictions on freedoms of assembly, association, religion, and movement; harassment of IDPs; harassment and closure of human rights organizations; violence and discrimination against women, including female genital mutilation (FGM); child abuse, including sexual violence and recruitment of child soldiers, particularly in Darfur; preventing international human rights observers from traveling to/within Sudan; trafficking in persons; discrimination and violence against ethnic minorities; denial of workers’ rights; and forced and child labor”. Disturbingly the government continues to restrict humanitarian aid in violation of international human rights and humanitarian laws.

The Sudanese government has signed the following treaties and/or agreements: The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights; African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights; and Arab Charter on Human Rights (The Charter Centre 2013).

The fighting that broke out in South Kordofan and later spread to areas of the Blue Nile states between the government and rebel groups has destroyed the lives of many civilians and abused their human rights. Heavy bombings by government forces have destroyed tens of thousands of lives of many civilians forcing them to flee their homes in shleters and caves where they lackbed basic needs like water and food. The Sudanese governments has blocked international aid and effectively cut of international monitoring refusing the UN a mandate in July. Daniel Bekele, the African director of the Human Rights Watch, commented on the ongoing conflict.

“The government needs to stop its unlawful attack on civilians, let aid groups in, and stop censoring the media and detaining people for their political opinions.” (Bekele 2012) The human rights situation in Sudan is disturbing and always has been due to conflicts and civil wars. Bekele says that “Darfur’s long-running war and the proliferation of conflicts in Sudan this year shows what happens when there is no accountability,” He also stated that “Sudan’s conflicts will continue unless the government brings abusers to justice and shows respect for human rights.” Figure [ 3 ] Source: http://fightslaverynow.org

Slavery has been an endemic in Sudan for a long time, and persists as a complex network of buyers, sellers and middlemen today. The Sudanese civil war that has raged on from 1983 between the Arab north and the Black south creates an ideal environment where slaves can be bought and sold. Allowed and even promoted in the Arab dominated Khartoum-government the state military, local militia and rebel groups have captured and forced countless women and children into slavery. These people are taken up to the north where they are forced into domestic service, concubines, farm labourers and even soldiers fighting on the front line against their own people. Khartoum has also instigated a process in which Arab herding consistently takes and sells the indigenous Nilotic peoples of Dinka and Nuer.

When the slave trade developed into a leading enterprise in the 19th century the Arab slave buyers verbalized distinctions based on race ethnicity and religion that identified the black southerners. They thought of the black southerners as indisputably inferior and marked them as “natural slaves”. Such traditions have lasted for many years and still today black southerners are seen more regularly in the slave trade. In the “mentality of the enslaver”, Southern Sudanese are seen as “less worthy” individuals whose rights can be violated at random…” says Lawrence Tung a Sudanese human rights reporter.

Slavery in all of its forms is a severe abuse of human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights explicitly forbids slavery and many of the practices associated with slavery. The following articles are breached by slavery: Article 1; “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” Article one speaks of “free” and “equal” in dignity and when you consider what a slave is it is clear that slavery is a breach of this human right. A slave is someone who is considered inferior to others and its masters, therefore slaves are not given equal dignity or treated in the spirit of “brotherhood”.

Article 3; “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” Slavery consists of the simple principle that a slave belongs to his owner and his owner has authority over him. This clearly takes away the slaves’ right to life and liberty as well as their security of person since they do not own themselves but someone else does. Article 4; “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms” Article 4 of the UHDR clearly states that no one shall be held in slavery or servitude. Article 4 clearly demonstrates that slavery is unacceptable and should not be tolerated.

The Sudanese government has claimed inter-tribal warfare responsible for the slavery in Sudan, mainly claiming that after a battle between two tribes one tribe would take several members of the other tribe as a prize for winning the battle and use them as workers. The government has also claimed that it has no control over the inter-tribal warfare and what happens with the members of each tribe, even though it is evidently apparent that they have made no attempt to enforce all laws against kidnapping, assault and forced labor. Michael Rubin writing for the Wall Street Journal indicates the following, “While non-governmental organizations argue over how to end slavery, few deny the existence of the practice. …Estimates of the number of blacks now enslaved in Sudan vary from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands”. (2001) Police rarely help families in relocating their children after forced abductions and the Sudan Criminal Code does recognize slavery as a crime but the government does turn a blind eye to raiding’s as “war prize” to be put into servitude or sold. Government backed militias have been found guilty of abducting Southern Sudanic people and selling as much as 20 000 slaves into various positions from 1995.

The Islamic-Orientated government of Khartoum has tried to force the religion of Islam onto all of Sudan. As the Nilotic tribes of southern Sudan are traditional and Christian, the government sees them as inferior to all of the Islamic Sudanese people and regularly sends Arab herders to gather entire villages of women and children to sell into slavery. The Dinka are situated in South Kordofan, an area known for recent conflict with the government authorizing the slave trade of the non-Arabs and non-Muslims. Extreme cases of systematic oppression are seen in this area. Cameron Duodo writes “Freelance raiders, aware that the government won’t ask too many questions about raids into the territory of the Dinka people — from whom Khartoum’s enemy, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), draws many of its recruits — take advantage of the situation to capture slaves.”


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