E-Letter To The Washington Post and William Raspberry Re: The Am-I Dreaming Team

As usual, I found your recent column, "The Am-I Dreaming Team" as interesting as the rest of your informative and provocative articles. Anyone who is not impressed by the coalition that is beginning to form around the issue of "slavery" in the Sudan just does not understand how difficult it is to overcome partisan rivalries and big egos in politics. Having established that, we do find it more than peculiar that the Sudan slavery coalition has so easily allowed itself to become the pawn of Christian Solidarity International (CSI) who is inaccurately depicting the Sudan situation in a "Black" - "Arab"; "Muslim" -"Christian" dichotomy. We are also intrigued by the anti-slavery coalition's decision to overlook the "slavery" practices of the supposedly "Christian" Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA/M).

Everyone that we have spoken to who has traveled to the Sudan, who has lived there and come to the US, or who still lives there now, informs us that the dichotomy being projected by the anti-slavery movement is not accurate. They clearly indicate that the vast majority of the people in the north of Sudan are Black-skinned and those in the south are Black-skinned. Both groups are as Black or "Blacker" than the vast majority of Black people in the United States.

They also refute the clear distinction made by the anti-slavery coalition that those who are enslaving others or who are slaves are either light-skinned Arab Muslim or dark-skinned Black Christian - with the "Arab Muslims" bearing the brunt of the association as slave masters. This is simply not accurate. The practice of "slavery" in the Sudan precedes the current government in Khartoum today by decades and was carried out by various tribal militias. In fact, the Sudanese government and the Sudanese opposition have actually helped to aggravate tensions and the "slavery" or "mutual abductions" that were taking place between tribes. Their support of these tribes and supply of weaponry to them has only made the pre-existing "slavery" problem worse.

Again, the portrayal of this as a light-skinned northern Sudanese Arab Muslim slavery exercised upon Black-skinned southern Sudanese Christians is a creation of the West and Christian Solidarity International, and unfortunately the anti-slavery coalition has bought into it, completely. In many cases there is no recognizable physical differences in terms of skin color between the northern Muslim and Arab influenced tribes like the Baggara, and the southern Christian or animist influence tribes like the Dinkas. In fact, many such tribes operate along the "north-south" border and have been intermarrying and interacting for years.

Lastly, there is the glaring omission of the SPLA/M from the discussion of slavery. Mr. Raspberry, even you in your column fail to mention the documented fact that the SPLA/M has been and currently is involved in the practice that the anti-slavery coalition has defined in "slavery". Even the U.S. State department identified the SPLA/M in the early 1990s as enslaving Sudanese. And guess what? They were "enslaving" Blacks from the southern Sudan. That fact alone destroys the myth being projected by the anti-slavery coalition. The SPLA/M made up of Blacks from the southern Sudan has "enslaved" fellow Blacks from the southern Sudan.

Today, they even persist in the practice of what some are calling "military slavery" where adolescent "slaves" are acquired and trained and employed by the SPLA/M. Even the current Human Rights Watch Report raises serious questions about the age of the males in the SPLA/M. For years, human rights organizations have detailed the SPLA/M's practice of abducting young "Black Christian" boys and either putting them to work on SPLA farms or forcing them to join the military and enter into combat

Why aren't Joe Madison, Walter Fauntroy, Michael Horowoitz, Sen. Sam Brownback, Rep. Charlie Rangel, and Rep. Dick Armey saying anything or having press conferences about the "slavery" of the SPLA/M?

We attribute the silence of the anti-slavery coalition to two factors. The first being that Christian Solidarity International (CSI) has been very effective at depicting the scenario in the Sudan as a return to the Crusades, in addition to the fact that CSI is actually financing the trips to Sudan of many in the anti-slavery coalition and arranging the "slave-purchases", in SPLA-controlled areas, we might add. They control the entire debate from A-Z. The anti-slavery coalition does not have to do any thinking of their own, if they don't wish to. They simply have to read from a CSI talking-points memo, get on a plane to the Sudan, redeem slaves and come back on a plane (paid for by CSI) and broadcast to an uninformed and unsuspecting American population that "slavery exists in the Sudan"

The second reason for the silence on the SPLA/M by the anti-slavery coalition is because the SPLA is being backed by the West. However, this was not always the case. But in the early 1990s the US decided that it could not work with the Muslims in Sudan and decided to back the SPLA, publicly and privately. That is when the "slavery" practices of the SPLA/M were forgotten in the interests of the larger picture of the US and Britain's geopolitical interests in Sudan and in Africa. Again, Mr. Raspberry, I have to remind you that the US State Department in its country report on the Sudan, identified the SPLA/M as having "forcibly conscripted at least 10,000 male minors".

We agree with you that the anti-slavery coalition represents a very interesting and impressive list of opinion leaders and newsmakers. But we are less than impressed with the selective nature of their presentations and the manner in which their efforts dove tail with the US and British foreign policy objectives in Africa.

While we want any and all human rights abuses stopped, we want such in an honest and fair manner. We certainly do not want our sincerity and recognition of evils to cause us to join a movement that serves an even larger and more evil purpose that some may be currently unaware of. Even the current emphasis on "slavery" and the coalition surrounding it, is causing many people to overlook the fact that a civil war is taking place where over 2,000,000 people in the Sudan have lost their lives.

We are convinced that "slavery" in the Sudan would end once the civil war ends. While the anti-slavery coalition may represent powerful alliances and a noble sounding cause, there are suspect motivations and too many inconsistencies in their position(s) for us to join their ranks.

Perhaps you will be the first in the mainstream media to put the hard questions before the members of the movement.


Cedric Muhammad

Tuesday, May 8, 2001