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Archive/File: places/sudan/slavery/press/what-will-farrakhan-say
Last-Modified: 1997/01/29

Source: The Baltimore Sun, June 25, 1996, p. 9A (Editorial)

"What will Farrakhan say now?"
By Clarence Page

WASHINGTON -- The challenge came from Nation of Islam
Minister Louis Farrakhan, and it has been answered.

The challenge came back in March at the end of a press
conference in Washington, where Mr. Farrakhan was presented with an
award by the black-oriented National Newspaper Publishers

He was on his way out the door after answering questions about
his earlier Africa tour, which included visits to Libya, Sudan and
other countries opposed to the U.S. when someone shouted a question
to him about slavery in Sudan.

Reports from the State Department and a variety of respected
human rights groups show slavery to be thriving in the civil war
between the Islamic government in the country's predominately
Muslim north and the mostly Christian and animist ethnic blacks in
the country's south.

According to the human rights groups, the Sudanese government
arms militias and allows them to keep the "booty" of war, instead
of paying them. The "booty" includes humans, who are captured in
the south and then traded in the north and elsewhere as household
slaves or concubines.

At least one State Department report shows some 400 black
Sudanese were sold in Libya with the apparent knowledge of its
strongman leader, Moammar Gadhafi who, like, Lt. Gen. Omar Ahmed
al-Bashir, Sudan's president, is a Farrakhan friend.

Cat got his tongue?

The usually talkative Farrakhan turns remarkably mute when
Sudanese refugees and others ask him to use his considerable clout
in the Arab world to attack present-day slavery in Africa as
fiercely as he attacks Jews in the United States.

When the charges came up again at his press conference, Mr.
Farrakhan rushed back to the lectern and demanded proof. "If
slavery exists, why don't you go as a member of the press?" he
said, pointing at the questioner. "And you look inside of the Sudan
and if you find it, then you come back and tell the American people
what you have found. But don't let the State Department be your
official source."

Very well. Two reporters for the Baltimore Sun, one black and
one white -- Gregory Kane and Gilbert A. Lewthwaite -- recently
risked their lives to take up Farrakhan's challenge. Guess what?
They have found proof.

Irrefutable proof

They found a slave market, bought two boys, aged 10 and 12,
and gave them back to their families in a Dinka tribal village. The
boys were half-brothers who had disappeared along with 59 other
children from the village since 1987. Purchased under a mango tree
in a remote rural marketplace, they each cost $500, or the
equivalent of five cows, to be bought back and returned to their
overjoyed parents.

It is the sort of good deed Bishop Macram "Max" Gassis, south
Sudan's exiled Catholic bishop, has been doing for years. But it
was the first time two American reporters had done such a deed.
They were helped by the Swiss-based Christian Solidarity
International, one of the human rights groups that has been trying
to draw world attention to the slavery issue.

Attention is not easy to get. Dramatic as the Sun reporters'
story may be, it was not quickly snapped up by other media.
American media seem to be embarrassed by such atrocities in Africa,
when they give any attention at all.

Forgotten Africa

I wonder, for example, how Americans would react if the
slavery was going on in Europe instead of Africa.

I wonder how Americans would react if the slaves were
apple-cheeked little white kids instead of brown-skinned little
black kids, their hair faded into a rusty color by malnutrition.

I wonder how Americans would react, then, to the lame excuses
Sudan's apologists make about slavery in that country.

For that matter, I wonder what Mr. Farrakhan is going to say
now. In the past he has stood with the Sudanese government and
denounced its critics, including me, as tools of Zionist or State
Department conspiracies.

But the Roman Catholic bishop of south Sudan is not an
Israeli. Neither is Randall Robinson, president of TransAfrica
Forum and leader of the movements to help liberate South Africa and
Haiti, who expressed "shock" and "disappointment" at Mr.
Farrakhan's support for Sudan.

What Mr. Farrakhan has to say is important. He commands
considerable respect among the black American masses, who are the
last, best hope for their enslaved African cousins. We, the
descendants of American enslavement of Africans, are morally
obliged to reach out to today's African slaves in Africa.

Congressional hearings on African slavery in March opened a
lot of eyes but did not lead to much action. The Congressional
Black Caucus is considering a resolution to put further pressures
on Sudan. It would be better for Mr. Farrakhan to support that move
than to oppose it.

Mr. Farrakhan asked for proof. He's got it. The next move is
up to him.

Clarence Page is a syndicated columnist.

Pub Date: 6/25/96

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