Tags: Activists | Decry | Sudan's | Atrocities

Activists Decry Sudan's Atrocities

Thursday, 10 May 2001 12:00 AM

Veteran comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory, along with Charles Jacobs, founder of the American Anti-Slavery group, and activist Keith Silvers were arrested at the front door of the mission for disorderly conduct, as supporters chanted slogans to "end slavery in Sudan."

It is the third time in less than a month that protesters have been arrested at the Sudanese regime's buildings in the United States while protesting slavery and persecution in Sudan. The gathering of about 30 protesters Thursday included southern Sudanese and representatives of Christian religious groups.

"All I hope to do today is disturb the peace, and in the process of doing that say 'we care' … we bind ourselves to the doors of the embassy of Sudan because this embassy represents a regime that continues to enslave black African Sudanese people," said Gregory.

"This regime continues to bomb innocent Sudanese children in schools, hospitals and playgrounds … it must be stopped."

Sudan is one of the world's most egregious violators of human rights. A 2001 Human Rights Watch report said at least 5,000 slaves were held captive by government-backed militia groups. An estimated 2 million people have been killed in the country's 18-year civil war between the Arabic Muslim north and the African Christian and animist south.

"We are hear today to scream out against the murder and enslavement of black Africans in Sudan … As to the pharaohs, we say to you, 'Let our people go,'" said Jacobs Thursday.

Jacobs was arrested during another protest at the Sudanese Mission in New York on May 3.

Accompanied by Washington's delegate to Congress Walter Fauntroy and radio personality and

In an April editorial to the Boston Globe, the anti-slavery activist described how during his four-day visit he witnessed several mass emancipations and spoke to dozens of slaves.

"An Islamist holy war in Sudan has rekindled the slave trade there … The Islamic fundamentalist regime in Khartoum is employing slave raids in order to impose Koranic law on all Sudanese. It is estimated that 100,000 black slaves, mostly from the Dinka tribes [in southern Sudan] now serve Arab masters in Sudan," wrote Jacobs.

Addressing the small group of protesters and onlookers gathered in front of the embassy, Jacobs asked them why the destruction of Buddhists statues by Afghanistan's Taliban regime drew international ire, while Khartoum's Islamic fundamentalists are allowed to blow up African villages and kill children.

"The world turns its head for two reasons: First, because no one wants to confront the religious bigotry of Islamic fundamentalism, and secondly because the world wants Sudan's oil," he said.

Accusing Europe of conspiring with Sudan against the United States during the recent U.N. Human Right Commission vote, Jacobs said the United States lost its seat at the commission's table because of Europe's desire to tap Sudan's plentiful oil reserves.

The oil fields being developed by foreign concerns, including a Chinese company, straddles the two regions. Entire villages, have reportedly been emptied of people to make way for the concerns and also to help ensure security.

"Sudan has oil the West wants, and so Europe pleases Khartoum," he added.

In its defense, the Sudan Embassy issued a statement calling the atrocities in Sudan "a self-perpetuating political cause for politicians and some faith-based organizations or non-governmental organizations."

"Sudan has a history, predating even its Anglo-Egyptian colonial period, of inter-tribal abductions and raiding between the Muslim and Arabic-speaking northern tribes and the southern Dinka and Nuer tribes who are animists and Christians … Traditionally, most abductees gain their freedom following negotiations by tribal elders. Pending their release, they are usually forced to work for their abductors," said the statement.

According to the Sudanese mission, the Sudanese People's Liberation Army in the south (originally a Marxist-Leninist movement) began attacking northern nomads as a way of escalating their war in southern Sudan to encompass the north. "As a result of that, the instances of abduction increased," it said.

The mission also accused the SPLA of converting to Christian fundamentalism to gain the sympathy of Western missionary organizations and Christians worldwide.

"Although this inter-tribal warfare exists in many parts of Africa and even in the Sudan, [it] occurs not only between northern and southern tribes, but also between tribes within those regions and has more to do with grazing patterns than religion or ethnicity.

"The SPLA (and its religious and political allies abroad) have attempted to portray it as a new tactic wielded by the government of Sudan," read the statement.

Removed from the front stairs of the Sudanese Embassy and handcuffed by police, Gregory, Jacobs and Silver were applauded by protesters, referring to the men as brave "soldiers."

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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Veteran comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory, along with Charles Jacobs, founder of the American Anti-Slavery group, and activist Keith Silvers were arrested at the front door of the mission for disorderly conduct, as supporters chanted slogans to end slavery in...
Thursday, 10 May 2001 12:00 AM
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