Black slaves are still available — just not in the United States. To make a purchase, you’d have to travel to the Sudan as Gerald Williams, Harvard University pre-med student, did in October 2000.
Slavery in the Sudan is in part a result of a 15-year war by the Muslim north against the black Christian and animist south. Arab militias, armed by the Khartoum government, raid villages, mostly those of the Dinka tribe. They shoot the men and enslave the women and children. Women and children are kept as personal property or they’re taken north and auctioned off.
In Sudanese slave markets, a woman or child can be purchased for $90. An Anti-Slavery International investigator interviewed Abuk Thuc Akwar, a 13-year-old girl who, along with 24 other children, was captured by the militia, marched north and given to a farmer. The investigator reported, “Throughout the day she worked in his sorghum fields and at night in his bed. During the march, she was raped and called a black donkey.” The girl managed to escape with the help of the master’s jealous wife.
Williams visited the Sudan as part of an eight-person delegation sponsored by Christian Solidarity International (CSI). CSI, as well as the Boston-based American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG), have a stopgap mission of buying, at a cost of $85 each, Christian African women and children whom Muslims capture and enslave. AASG’s purchase emancipates them.
Williams’ tales of Muslim atrocities are horrific. Six-year-old Mawien Ahir Bol failed to clean a goat pen to his master’s satisfaction. The penalty: His index finger was cut off. Yak Kenyang Adieu’s punishment for being too sick to tend to his master’s goats was the loss of all fingers on his right hand. Williams’ trip freed, through purchase, these two boys and 20 other slaves. Should you be interested in learning more about slavery, the American Anti-Slavery Group’s web site is anti-slavery.com.
Chattel slavery also exists in the former French colony of Mauritania, where it was officially outlawed in 1980. The U.S. State Department estimated that as of 1994 there were 90,000 blacks living as property of Berbers. The Berbers use their slaves for labor, sex and breeding. They’re also exchanged for camels, trucks, guns or money. Slave offspring become the property of the master. According to a 1990 Human Rights Watch report, routine Mauritanian slave punishments include beatings, denial of food and prolonged exposure to the sun, with hands and feet tied together. Serious infringement of the master’s rule can mean prolonged horrible tortures such as the “insect treatment” — where the slave is bound head and foot, and insects placed in his ears and other body orifices — and “burning coals,” where the slave is bound and buried with hot coals placed on parts of his body.
American Anti-Slavery Group says, “Most distressing is the silence of the American media whose reports counted for so much in the battle to end apartheid in South Africa.” Only recently, and thankfully so, have mainstream black organizations such as the Congressional Black Caucus and the NAACP taken a stand against chattel slavery in Mauritania and Sudan. At one time Minister Louis Farakhan simply denied that his brother Muslims could perpetrate such an injustice, but now he’s quietly accepted the evidence. Jesse Jackson remains silent.
Slavery is not the only African injustice that goes practically ignored. There’s the frequent outbreaks of genocide in Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia and the Congo. In fact, it’s fairly safe to say that most of today’s most flagrant human rights abuses occur in Africa. But unfortunately they get little attention — maybe it’s because Africans instead of Europeans are the perpetrators; Europeans are held accountable to civilized standards of behavior, while Africans aren’t.