Christian Solidarity International (CSI) has for several years beenactively involved in what the organization has termed "slave redemption"within Sudan, whereby the organization claimed to have been "buyingback" large numbers of southern black villagers who had been taken as"slaves" by northern Sudanese forces. These activities have for severalyears been criticized as lacking credibility and fuelling kidnapping andabduction within war-torn southern Sudan.
Perhaps the most devastating criticism of the claims made by ChristianSolidarity International was contained in the Canadian government's"Human Security in Sudan: The Report of a Canadian Assessment Mission,"which was published in February 2000. This report was drafted by theCanadian special envoy to Sudan, John Harker. One of the two missionswith which John Harker was tasked was to: "independently investigate human rights violations, specifically inreference to allegations of slavery and slavery-like practices inSudan."
While Harker was clearly critical of many human rights abuses in Sudan,he clearly questioned claims of large scale "slave redemption." Hespecifically touched on the credibility of Christian SolidarityInternational's claims of large-scale "slave redemption."
"[R]eports, especially from CSI, about very large numbers werequestioned, and frankly not accepted. Mention was also made to us ofevidence that the SPLA [Sudan People's Liberation Army] were involved in 'recycling' abductees...."
"Serious anti-abduction activists...cannot relate the claimedredemptions to what they know of the reality. For example we were toldthat it would be hard not to notice how passive these 'slave' childrenare when they are liberated or to realize how implausible it is togather together so many people from so many locations so quickly--andthere were always just the right number to match redemption fundsavailable!"
There has long been a history of tribal raiding in several parts ofcentral and southern Sudan, often between tribes competing for water andpastures at given times of the year. A spate of such raids was normallysettled at an inter-tribal peace meeting, which would traditionallyreturn those abducted. In central Sudan, traditional rivals have beenthe Dinka and various Arabized Baggara tribes. These rivalries wereexploited and heightened in the 1980s, when both the government and theSPLA armed various tribes with modern, automatic weapons and encouragedthem to attack each other. Since then, there has been considerable inter-tribal conflict, in the course of which men, women, and children havebeen abducted and kidnapped. The vastness of Sudan, much of which hasalways proved difficult to administer--even without the dislocation ofcivil war--has made it very difficult for effective action againstthose responsible for such activities.
It is these tribal raids, and the abductions which have occurred duringsuch conflict, that have been presented by Christian SolidarityInternational and other activists as "slavery." Despite the factthat the Dinka are overwhelmingly animist, CSI have additionallypresented the conflict between the Dinka and the Arabized Baggara as areligious one. These groups have also claimed that the Sudanesegovernment are themselves intimately involved in these "slave raids." Itis also a matter of fact that almost identical patterns of inter-tribalraiding and abduction between the Dinka and Nuer, two black southernSudan tribes, have not been described as "slavery," while the sameactivity when it is between the Baggara and Dinka is presented as"slavery" and "slave raiding."...
In May 1999, The Christian Science Monitor also clearly stated:"There are increasingly numerous reports that significant numbers ofthose 'redeemed' were never slaves in the first place. Rather, they weresimply elements of the local populations, often children, available tobe herded together when cash-bearing redeemers appeared."
Christian Solidarity International's claims of tens of thousands ofpeople "enslaved" in Sudan have also been challenged by human rightsprofessionals, and experts on the issue of "slavery." Anti-SlaveryInternational, in its 1999 submission to the Working Group onContemporary Forms of Slavery, for example, stated that:"A representative of Christian Solidarity International spoke at thebeginning of this year of 'tens of thousands' of people in slavery inSudan, and of 'concentration camps' for slaves. At Anti-SlaveryInternational, we know of no evidence to justify an assertion that20,000 people or more are currently held as captives and slaves in theseareas of Sudan."
It has been said that the road to hell is paved with goodintentions. Even assuming CSI claims about abduction and "redemption"were remotely accurate, CSI's cash-rich officials have probably createdtheir own market in kidnapping and abduction. And despite their studiedclaims to the contrary, CSI is clearly dealing with those who aredirectly engaged in kidnapping and abduction.... CSI's "slave redemptions" and its claims about thenumbers of "slaves" in Sudan and the Nuba Mountains have also beenchallenged by reputable human rights groups and activists.