WASHINGTON, Nov. 1, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Today, Christian Solidarity International (CSI) urged President Obama to address the persistence of slavery in Northern Sudan. The appeal – conveyed in a letter from CSI-USA‘s CEO, Dr. John Eibner – follows testimony given to Congress by a former Southern Sudanese slave, Ker Aleu Deng, on October 4.
Ker was captured as an infant, and was taken, together with his mother, into slavery in Northern Sudan. Ker was liberated and repatriated to South Sudan through the efforts of CSI and Arab slave retrievers, but only after his master deliberately blinded him. Ker is receiving eye treatments in the U.S. His mother remains in captivity.
Addressing the Africa Subcommittee of the US House of Representatives, Ker said, “You are powerful men and women. Please, find some way to help.”
The practice of slavery was revived in Sudan during the 1983-2005 civil war between the Islamist-dominated government in Khartoum and southern black African rebels. Tens of thousands of black southerners, mostly Christian and traditionalist, were enslaved by jihadists backed by the central government.
In his letter to the president, Eibner noted that both of Obama’s predecessors in the White House pledged to take action on the issue of Sudanese slavery. President Clinton condemned “the scourge of slavery in Sudan.” His Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Susan Rice, met with freed slaves and stated, “We have an obligation…to ameliorate the suffering.” Rice is now the United States‘ ambassador to the UN.
In 2001, President George W. Bush invited CSI representatives and a former Sudanese slave, Simon Deng, to the White House to discuss the slavery issue, and initiated a peace process that eventually led to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. President Bush’s Sudan envoy, Senator John Danforth, identified the end of slavery in Sudan as a precondition for real peace.
But while the peace agreement put an end to slave raiding in Sudan, it did not include a mechanism for returning captured slaves home to South Sudan. Eibner cited James Aguir, a leading member of the Sudanese government’s now-defunct showcase “anti-abduction” committee, who claims that at least 35,000 southerners remain enslaved in the North.
Eibner wrote, “Mr. President, the world has yet to hear you express opposition to slavery in Sudan and compassion for the victims of this heinous crime.” Eibner asked President Obama to invite Ker to the White House, and to back a domestic Sudanese conference on slavery and an international campaign for the eradication of slavery in Sudan – two proposals made by the late John Garang, Chairman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and subsequently First Vice President of Sudan.
CSI has been active in liberating Southern Sudanese slaves since 1995. To date, CSI has documented the return of tens of thousands of former slaves. CSI’s efforts to free the slaves of Sudan are ongoing.