ZURICH, Switzerland, JAN. 22, 2001 (Zenit.org) .-
Troops belonging to the Sudanese army are again carrying out slave raids on villages, a Protestant group said.
Zurich-based Christian Solidarity International said that armed forces of the government in Khartoum on Jan. 12 enslaved at least 103 women and children during coordinated raids on the villages of Chelkou and Mabior in Aweil West County, southern Sudan.
Early reports indicated that 15 civilians were killed, three were wounded, thousands of people had been displaced, and more than 3,000 head of cattle were stolen, County Civil Commissioner Simon Wol was quoted as saying.
Local community leaders estimate there are more than 100,000 chattel slaves now in bondage in northern Sudan. The Islamic government has been persecuting the Christian and animist south for years.
At Chelkou, government troops burnt the compound and vehicle of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Christian Solidarity International said the slave raids were carried out by the Popular Defense Forces (PDF), an official branch of the armed forces. One PDF unit attacked Chelkou, 12 miles southwest of Marial Bai, while another unit attacked Mabior, between Marial Bai and Nyamlell, from government garrisions east of Nyamlell near the River Lol.
Khartoum announced Jan. 15 that there had been heavy fighting between its army and the Sudan People´s Liberation Army near the River Lol bridge. This coincided with the recent slave raids.
Once in the north, the slaves are divided among their masters and are routinely subjected to beatings, sexual abuse, work without pay, and forced conversions, according to successive U.N. special rapporteurs.
The attacks on Chelkou and Mabior are the second set of government slave raids this year. On Jan. 3, the PDF abducted 122 women and children from five villages in the Aweil area, according to a UNICEF spokesman in Khartoum quoted by Reuters.
Community leaders in Aweil West expect the government to initiate a major offensive later in the current dry season, ending in May or June. According to a spokesman for the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Khartoum, “starvation” is likely to set in by April, when local food stocks will be depleted. The drought will severely affect 400,000 people, the spokesman told Agence France-Presse last month.
In a statement Sunday, Christians Solidarity´s president, the Rev. Hans Stickelberger, urged incoming U.S. President George W. Bush to support the formal proposal by U.N. High Commissioner Mary Robinson for international action to disarm Sudanese militias that enslave women and children.