Ralph J. Bunche Center Howard University

Eminent Persons Panel Views Slavery in Sudan

An international Eminent Persons Group has completed a major new study that identifies slavery as one of a series of continuing human rights abuses in Sudan. Ambassador George Moose, currently on assignment from the U.S. State Department as Senior Fellow at Howard’s Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center, was one of two U.S. members of the Group, which also included representatives from France, Italy, Norway and the United Kingdom.

The mandate for the Group’s study emerged out of the mediation efforts of former U.S. Senator John Danforth, who last September was designated by President Bush as Special U.S. Envoy for Sudan. In an effort to promote an end to Sudan’s 19-year-long civil war, Danforth was able to get the two main warring parties – the Government of Sudan and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement, - to agree to a series of four confidence-building measures. One of these was the agreement of both sides to cooperate in a study of "Slavery, Abductions and Forced Servitude," issues that have been at center of the grievances that have fueled the civil war.

The eight-person eminent Persons Group, supported by technical experts from Canada, the UK and the U.S, undertook two missions to Sudan and neighboring Kenya and interviewed scores of individuals in both northern and southern Sudan. The principal conclusion of the Group’s 55-page report is that during the period since the outbreak of the present civil conflict in 1983, there has been an upsurge in abductions and in related human rights abused, some of which meet the international definition of slavery.

The report states that this recent upsurge is not a continuation of traditional practices that existed into the early part of the 20th century.

Rather, it is a direct consequence

of raids, abductions and other activities carried out by armed, northern militias that have been encouraged and supported by a succession of governments in Khartoum. In this regard, the report takes direct issue with the position of the Sudanese Government. While acknowledging that abductions do occur, the Government has consistently denied the existence of slavery and forced servitude in Sudan.

At the same time, the report acknowledges the Government’s recent efforts to address the problem of abductions, including its establishment in 1999 of the Committee for the Elimination of Abductions of Women and Children (CEAWC). It nevertheless raises questions about the government’s commitment to this effort, as measured by the level of its financial and administrative support, as well as its cooperation with international agencies seeking to eliminate the practice.

While most of the report’s most pointed findings are aimed at the Khartoum government, the group also registered its concern over a continuing pattern of abductions and other human rights abuses committed by forces of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and Army (SPLAM/A). It further notes that the absence of democratic institutions and practices in both the north and the south contributes to the perpetuation of serious human rights abuses.

Most of the Group’s recommendations for elimination of the practices of slavery, abduction and forced servitude are similarly addressed to the government in Khartoum. These include the need for strong and publicly committed leadership from senior government officials, including the President; serious reform of the judicial system so as to make it possible for advocates of abducted or

Ambassador George E. Moose

enslaved persons to seek and obtain legal redress; clear measures to end the impunity of military and paramilitary elements for violations of both domestic and international laws; and more concerted efforts to identify and locate persons who have been abducted or enslaved, in order to enable them to exercise their right to return home.

Despite its grim depiction of the current human rights situation in Sudan, the report expresses hope that current political circumstances may make progress toward the elimination of these practices possible. In this regard, it cites as encouraging signs the willingness of both parties to conflict, and especially the Government, to receive and cooperate with such a mission. The full report of the Eminent Person’s Group can be found on the web site of the U.S. State Department, www.state.gov, under the listing for the Bureau of African Affairs.

Ambassador George E. Moose has been
at Howard during the 2001-02 academic
year as the first Senior Fellow in International Affairs. He recently was promoted to Career Ambassador, the most senior rank in the U.S. Foreign Service. Ambassador Moose has lectured to university
audiences and counseled students throughout
his stay at Howard, serving also as an adviser on international affairs to senior administrators and faculty. A product of Grinell College and the Maxwell School
Syracuse University, he has headed U.S.
diplomatic missions in Benin, Senegal,
and in Geneva as Ambassador to International Organizations.

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