Slavery in Sudan was revived in 1983, when the Arab Muslim government began using slavery as a weapon in its war to put down Southern rebellion against the government imposition of Islamic law. Tens of thousands of people were enslaved.
The Christian Solidarity International (CSI) started working in Sudan in 1985. In 1995, the organisation discovered a local network of Africans and Arabs working together to retrieve the slaves. With the CSIs assistance, a sophisticated ‘underground rail road’ grew. A peace treaty in 2005 put an end to the slave raids. However, the treaty does not provide for those already enslaved.
The CSI is a Christian human rights NGO (non-governmental organisation, although it can be funded by a government, a foundation or a business) based in Switzerland, and works worldwide. The CSI also operates a clinic to provide medical care for returning slaves and other locals, and regularly leads expeditions to South Sudan for journalists and lawmakers, to highlight the persistence of slavery in Sudan.
Now, I have given you the nitty-gritty of this admirable organisation – which is not without criticism. Let me give you an extract from my book ‘Where Lies My Heart’ (not finished yet) to explain this criticism.
A representative of the CSI is speaking: (character name deleted).
‘The organisation has been criticised for its liberation of slaves, claiming that paying to free slaves provides cash to purchase weapons in this war-torn country. And buying back slaves could encourage monetary incentive for further slave raids, or fraud with people posing as slaves.’
‘(Character’s name deleted) you are different from all the other people we have rescued, the others had been captured from surrounding tribes. After we have ensured they are in full health, we supply them with a survival kit, containing food, cooking utensils, mosquito net and other supplies for them to return to their homes.’
Further on, the character tells the CSI representative the following:
‘The criticisms about the CSI are all wrong, in my opinion. I can’t thank you enough for rescuing me from a life of hell.’
Today, the CSI works continuously to restore slaves to their homes. The CSI claims to have freed 80,000 enslaved southern Sudanese to date.