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Fraud and Bigotry: Attempts to Resurrect Claims of

PRESS RELEASE | Thursday, June 26, 2003

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 06:27:03): The anti- Sudan slavery industry, partly in the shape of Freedom House, have recently been at the forefront of attempts to resuscitate clearly discredited claims of “slavery” and “slave redemption” in Sudan. In May 2003, for example, Freedom House issued a press release claiming that ten thousand people had been “enslaved” in Sudan.

This is the largest attempt to resurrect what had previously been a useful and lucrative anti-Sudanese propaganda vehicle. Sudan has been caught up in civil war for decades, and has been caught up in the propaganda that so often accompanies such conflict. Groups such as Freedom House, intent on demonizing the Sudan, have acted as a vehicle for often lurid propaganda claims, alleging, for example, that “slavery” is government sponsored.

It is worth examining the credibility of these allegations. They have long been questioned by reputable observers such as the then co-director of African Rights, Alex de Waal, who has stated that: “There is no evidence for centrally-organized, government-directed slave raiding or slave trade”. Anti-Slavery International have also warned against such claims. In a submission to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Anti-Slavery International publicly stated:

There is a danger that wrangling over slavery can distract us from abuses which are actually part of government policy – which we do not believe slavery to be. Unless accurately reported, the issue can become a tool for indiscriminate and wholly undeserved prejudice against Arabs and Muslims. [We] are worried that some media reports of “slave markets”, stocked by Arab slave traders – which [we] consider distort reality – fuel such prejudice.

In any instance claims of “slavery” and “slave redemption” for propaganda and financial motives have come to be identified with systematic fraud. Millions of dollars for “slave redemption” have been raised on the back of what have clearly been exposed as a systematic fraud. This has been clearly documented by articles in several newspapers of record, including The Washington Post, The Irish Times, International Herald Tribune and London’s Independent on Sunday in February 2002. The Washington Post reported that in numerous documented instances “the slaves weren’t slaves at all, but people gathered locally and instructed to pretend they were returning from bondage”.

The Independent on Sunday reported that it was able to “reveal that ‘redemption’ has often been a carefully orchestrated fraud”. The Irish Times stated that in many cases “the process is nothing more than a careful deceit, state-managed by corrupt officials…In reality, many of the ‘slaves’ are fakes…The children are coached in stories of abduction and abuse…Interpreters may be instructed to twist their answers.

In May 2002, the CBS “60 Minutes” program, in a separate investigation, independently confirmed the fraud at the heart of claims of “slavery” as outlined by
The Irish Times and The Washington Post. Referring to these claims, CBS anchorman, Dan Rather, observed: “What has been done to these people and to these children may not be what it appears. One insider has come forward with claims that the scenes of mass redemption seen around the world are a hoax.” The insider, Christian activist, Jim Jacobson, stated: “it’s a show, it’s a circus, it’s a staged event.”

Sadly there continue to be groups within the United States that seek to peddle allegations that not only deliberately continue to distort the image of Sudan but which also clearly seek to impede the significant good faith progress made by sincere Sudanese in negotiating a peaceful solution to our conflict. Former President Carter has observed that foreign interests have previously succeeded in artificially prolonging the Sudanese civil war. This sort of re-hashed propaganda also seeks to prolong our agony.

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  Washington Journal
    Interview with Mustafa Osman
    Ismail, Sudanese Foreign
    Minister, on C-SPAN (5/21/03)
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  Eyewitness Sudan
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  Ambassador's Treasure
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  The Sudan Slave Trade
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  The Sudan Project
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