UN agency condemns slavery in Sudan

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afrol News, 5 June - "Many women and children abducted in Sudan during the civil war have been reduced to a state of slavery," a new UN report concludes. "Very often they fall victim to brutal treatment, including rape." Forced labour and slavery were serious and ongoing problems in Sudan, not taken seriously by the government. 

A dossier describing the labour situation in Sudan was presented at the annual session of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva today. Forced labour in Sudan was one of the main issues at the UN agency's conference. The problem, which is widely denied by Sudanese government officials, usually is avoided in UN reporting over Sudan, while heavily denounced by non-governmental organisations.

According to the "facts" presented at the ILO conference, "Sudanese militiamen (sometimes supported by official forces) have attacked villages, massacring the men and leading away women and children." These women and children were then "forced to work for their kidnappers or are sold as slaves," the document outlines.

The ILO dossier further holds that these slaves "are subjected to torture and cruel treatment, including rape." The assessment thus goes further than streamline critics against forced labour in Sudan, in particular when it mentions the support of government forces in the slave raids. 

Most of the victims belong to the Dinka tribe, the largest ethnic group in the southern part of the country. In 2000, the Dinka Committee, which supports the Sudanese Committee for the Eradication of the Abduction of Women and Children, estimated that some 14,000 women and children had been abducted in the south and then brought to the northern part of the country.

ILO at several occasions had offered to send a direct contacts mission to Sudan "to help the government put an end to forced labour." The government however still had not taken up this proposal, "which it claims to be considering." 

- In recognition of the practical difficulties faced by the Sudanese Committee, on numerous occasions the ILO has asked the government of Sudan to punish the kidnappers," the dossier says. Trade union demanded that the Sudanese government immediately take up the ILO's offer of direct contacts and "cooperate closely with the ILO in an attempt to put an end to the abduction of women and children and to the situation of slavery in which they find themselves."

Further demands were that governments of the ILO member states, employers' organisations and trade union organisations throughout the world make every effort to encourage the Sudanese government to improve the situation. Also other UN agencies and international financial institutions should now draw their attention "to the gravity of the situation in Sudan." 

A report published by the UK-based organisation Anti-Slavery International on slavery in Sudan only one week ago also concluded that the Sudanese government was "failing to take adequate steps to end raiding and slavery." Statements by President al Bashir dismissing reports of slavery in Sudan as "mere media propaganda" had the unfortunate effect of indicating that the government does not regard the practice as a serious problem, the group complained. 

Sources: Based on ILO and afrol archives

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