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