triumph of the human spirit, it was reported last week that a woman sold into slavery
at age 12 in Niger successfully sued the West African
country’s government for not protecting her from this barbaric practice. Besides
winning her case, the woman, Hadijatou
Mani, 24, who was physically and sexually mistreated for years, also
experienced the satisfaction of drawing the world’s attention to the obscenity
of child slavery in Islamic countries.
perhaps no where is child slavery more prevalent in Africa than in the
Sudan. A Ugandan parliamentary committee
heard last week that as many as 30,000 children
abducted in Uganda over nearly two decades by the
savage, anti-government Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) for use in its operations
had been sold in Sudan’s Darfur region. The LRA has been fighting
the Ugandan government for years with Sudanese government support. After their
sale in Darfur, the children were employed as child soldiers
and laborers, while others were “sold as sex slaves to the Sudanese.”
the Sudan from 1992 to 1996, Osama bin Laden
was known as one of the biggest buyers of LRA-supplied children. The Islamist
Khartoum government had given the al Qaeda leader one million acres of farmland
“in perpetuity” for a road he had built in their country. It is believed bin
Laden wanted the children as laborers for his farm, paying the LRA the price of
one Kalashnikov rifle per child.
“Terrorist Osama bin Laden has used child
slaves he bought from Ugandan rebels as forced labor on marijuana farms in
Sudan in order to help fund his global
terrorist network,” said a Ugandan general at the time.
Canadian diplomat Stephen Lewis twice tried to
speak with Sudan’s Islamist president, Omar Hassan
al-Bashir, about LRA children in the Sudan when Lewis was deputy director at
UNICEF. Lewis wanted the children returned to Uganda, but al-Bashir, who was
indicted last March by the International Criminal Court for crimes against
humanity committed in Darfur, “categorically denied” any such children existed
in his country.
must admit that in all my time at Unicef…I had never dealt with anyone like Omar
Hassan al-Bashir,” wrote Lewis recently. “I felt as though I had encountered
evil incarnate. The fact that he was knowingly presiding over the death and
emotional dismemberment of thousands of children mattered to him not one
from Sudan’s Arab North used to obtain most of
their child victims from the country’s civil war-torn, black African South,
using the brutal, old-fashion method of the slave raid. Francis Bok, a former
Sudanese African child slave, who told his story in Front
Page Magazine, was captured in one such horrifying raid at age seven and
wrote of his years working for a cruel Arab master in his book, Escape From Slavery: The True Story Of My Ten Years In Captivity
And My Journey To Freedom In America.
But a peace
agreement in 2005 ended the 16-year conflict between the Christian and animist
South and Muslim North. Since then, a program to repatriate the estimated 200,000 southern
Sudanese slaves, mostly women and children, from the Arab North has been
peace in the South has not spared Sudan’s Darfur region, where the
Khartoum government’s other civil war has
been raging since 2003, from the blight of child slavery. Besides the abduction
of children by slave hunters from refugee camps, a UNICEF report earlier this
year indicated attacks against civilian targets to obtain child slaves is
occurring once again.
report stated that hundreds of children in West Darfur were missing after the Sudanese
government-backed militia attacked and burned two towns there. But it is the
disappearance of as many as 800 children that has left the UN workers scratching
“There are an unknown number of children aged 12-18 who
are missing, especially boys. Nobody knows what happened to these children,”
said a UN official.
Besides their own personal depravity, a main reason why
Islamists like bin Laden and al-Bashir, who is reputed to own slaves himself, do
not care “one whit” about enslaving children is that under sharia law, which
rules the Sudan, they are legally allowed to own slaves. Bernard Lewis, the
eminent scholar of Islam, writes “…the institution of slavery is not only
recognized but is elaborately regulated by Sharia law.” Another important reason
is the Muslim prophet Muhammad was also a slave
while only infidels are supposed to be enslaved, Sudanese Muslim children, like
those in Muslim Darfur, also fall victim to this inhuman practice. But in these
cases it is not religion that matters but rather race. In her book Slave: My True Story, Mende Nazir, a
Muslim African girl captured at age 12 during a slave raid on her village in
Nuba Mountains, wrote her Arab mistress’s racism
never allowed her to acknowledge Nazir’s religion, although she prayed five
times a day. Nazir was simply told that Islam was not for black people.
Francis Bok, Nazir also escaped, but from her mistress’s sister’s house in
London, England, where she had been sent to work.
The husband was the press attaché at the Sudanese embassy. Part of his job would
have been to deny to Westerners the existence of child slavery in the
death and psychological destruction of innocent slave children in the
Sudan and other countries goes largely
unnoticed in the West. For it to disappear, Western countries would have to act
with resolution and not with mere words. Boycotting the upcoming West- and Israel-bashing Durban II conference and substituting a world child
anti-slavery conference, with the focus on the
Sudan, in its place would be a start.
Electing Hadijatou Mani as its honorary chairwoman would be its light of hope.