Every year Christian Solidarity International (CSI) frees 1,500 people from slavery in Sudan and helps them begin a new life in their home village of South Sudan. CSI project manager Franco Majok travels to South Sudan to oversee five slave liberation actions a year. We caught up with him during a stopover in Switzerland and asked him to tell us about his life-saving work.
How many South Sudanese slaves are still in Sudan, approximately?
We don’t know how many slaves are still in Sudan; what we do know is that there are still slaves in Sudan. Most of the slaves in Sudan are in cattle camps and in remote areas where Arab masters use them to farm and take care of their cattle. They are on the move and outside the towns and cities, so it is hard to monitor and count them. Arab retrievers confirm that to us, also freed slaves tell us in every action that many people are still in slavery.
Can you briefly describe the ways in which slaves are freed?
CSI frees slaves through Arab retrievers in Sudan. They move among villages and cattle camps to collect slaves. One way is through offering cow vaccines to Arab masters in exchange for a slave. It costs $60 per slave.
Another way is when slaves hear about Arab retrievers in their neighborhood and escape with them. Then the Arab retrievers protect them and take them to their camps where they feed them and give them clothes. Then they walk with them to South Sudan. There are some risks on the roads, but all the slaves want to come back to South Sudan to be with their families.
Does the ransoming of slaves not promote the slave trade? CSI has been freeing slaves in Sudan since 1995. Has any freed South Sudanese ever been known to be re-enslaved?
No, there is no promotion of the slave trade by freeing slaves. CSI has even helped to stop the abduction of South Sudanese people as slaves. CSI’s work helped the world to know that there was slavery taking place in Sudan. It helped to bring peace to Sudan, and it helped South Sudan to gain independence.
Is it right that since the 2005 peace agreement between the north and south of Sudan, no more people have been enslaved from the south to the north?
Yes, since 2005 there are no slave-taking activities in South Sudan. The slaves CSI is freeing today are those who were abducted before 2005, before the peace agreement, and those who were born into slavery.
Is it CSI’s goal to free all slaves in Sudan and return them to South Sudan?
Yes, CSI will not rest until every slave returns to South Sudan.