Release Date: July 10, 1996
The Wisdom Fund, P. O. Box 2723, Arlington, VA 22202
Website: -- Press Contact: Enver Masud

Antislavery Advocates Allies In Exploitation Of Sudan?

WASHINGTON, DC -- Are antislavery advocates unwitting allies in the propaganda campaign to exploit Sudan? If they're not careful, they may become just that.

Sudan is the largest country in Africa, slightly more than one-quarter the size of the US, and is dominated by the Nile and its tributaries. According to the CIA World Factbook the ethnic background of the 30 million Sudanese is 52% black [African?], 39% Arab, 9% others. The major religions are Sunni Muslim 70% (mostly in the north), indigenous beliefs 25%, Christian 5%. Several languages are spoken.

Sudan emerged from British colonialism, and Egyptian domination, on January 1, 1956 with power concentrated in the central government, and disparities among the regions. The colonial masters attempted, as in India, to exploit religious and ethnic differences to turn the North against the South; to divide and rule. In 1956 the South had a single elementary school.

Since independence Sudan has had several governments. A series of conferences, sponsored by the current government, have led to plans for sharing power and resources among the 26 newly established states (previously there were 9 regions), and for addressing the issues confronting this emerging nation. Recently, Sudan has been threatened with 'compulsory withdrawal' from the International Monetary Fund, and foreign intervention over allegations of slavery.

Sudan has reserves of petroleum, iron ore, copper, chromium ore, zinc, tungsten, mica, silver, and gold which the West would like to exploit. Is Sudan facing IMF sanctions because it is in arrears, or because it exceeded IMF targets for development? And, like Libya which was threatened with US bombing over a weapons factory at Tarhunah (which Libya claims to be an irrigation tunnel), is Sudan being threatened with intervention over slavery to provide an excuse for Western domination or justification for US defense spending which former Defense Secretary McNamara testifed could safely be cut in half?

The Sudan government claims that the 'slavery' is in fact hostage taking among rival tribes in the largely non-Muslim South which the government is trying to control. We are told this has been common practice over the ages, and the hostages (or prisoners) are usually returned or exchanged within days.

One thing is certain. No Sudanese government can justify slavery to a largely Muslim people. Islam, the faith of the Muslim people is unequivocally opposed to slavery. In fact the first call to prayer at the Quba mosque in Madinah, built by the Prophet Muhammad himself, was given by the freed slave Bilal. Much of the conversion to Islam, wrongly attributed to the sword, was because of the equality Islam offered from its very beginnings in the early seventh century. It is something that the US only promised in 1776, began to deliver in 1964, and the promise has yet to be fulfilled.

So before the antislavery advocates rush to judgement, and support measures which may force the North-South division sought by Sudan's colonial masters, they should ask: "Are we helping the Sudanese people, or those who seek to dominate and exploit them?"

[See the Sudan Foundation web site at]

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