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Shofar FTP Archive File: places/sudan/slavery/naacp-pressures-sudan

Archive/File: places/sudan/slavery/press/naacp-pressures-sudan
Last-Modified: 1997/01/29
Source: The Baltimore Sun, June 23, 1996, p.1A

NAACP to add pressure on Sudan; Group will intensify opposition to
slavery, its head, Mfume, says

By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite

WASHINGTON -- The NAACP will become "more activist" in
opposing slavery in Sudan and elsewhere, the Baltimore-based
organization's executive director Kweisi Mfume said yesterday.

Speaking after publication of a three-part series in The Sun
describing how two staffers illegally entered Sudan to buy and free
two young slaves for $1,000, Mfume said: "I have always brought a
sense of activism with me, and I expect the NAACP, which has
traditionally been an activist organization, will become more

While the new leader of the nation's leading civil rights
organization prepares a stronger line against slavery, the chairman
of the congressional Black Caucus is also drafting legislation to
increase the pressure on Khartoum.

Rep. Donald M. Payne, a New Jersey Democrat, will propose a
total multinational economic embargo, except for humanitarian aid,
on Sudan "until appropriate action is taken to eliminate chattel

A draft outline of the legislation also calls for:

An international arms blockade against the government in
Khartoum, which is believed to get most of its weapons from Iran
and Libya.

The stationing of U.N. and U.S. human rights monitors in the
region -- A U.N. plan "to put an end to slavery where it exists."

Payne did not respond to telephone requests for an interview yesterday.

At its 87th annual convention in Charlotte, N.C., next month,
the NAACP is expected to propose similar measures against the
Islamic fundamentalist government in Khartoum, including economic
sanctions, a break in diplomatic relations, and a call to the
Organization of African States to agree to a plan to abolish
slavery that's become a part of the civil war between the
government forces and southern Sudanese non-Muslims whose people
often are kidnapped into slavery during government-sanctioned raids.

"We believe our government ought to be taking the lead in
working with governments in Africa to bring about real and lasting
change," said Mfume.

Such a call for action from the NAACP on the issue of slavery
will mark a major strengthening of the organization's previous
opposition to slavery.

`The larger question'

"We believe slavery is wrong no matter where it exists," said
Mfume. "The organization is as deeply concerned with slavery in
Sudan as it would be with slavery in this country. It gives us a
great deal of concern. Even though we are talking about a situation
outside of the United States, it raises the larger question of what
kind of nation are we prepared to tolerate."

Charles Jacobs, co-founder of the Anti-Slavery Group, said
black leaders have traditionally shied from anti-slavery activity.

"Where is the speech?" he asked. "Where is the mobilization?
Where is the outreach? Is it because there is no bad white in this
story? Is it because of the Farrakhan angle? Or is it because there
is not enough news footage for people to identify with?"

Minister Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam, has
questioned the existence of slavery in Sudan. "Where is the proof?"
he asked at the National Press Club in Washington in March.

Farrakhan has not responded to requests from The Sun for his
reaction to the series of articles, which documented that slavery
exists today in Sudan.

Asked if Farrakhan's skepticism has been a brake on earlier
NAACP action against slavery in Sudan, Mfume, the former Maryland
congressman who became executive director of the group in February,
said: "It has not been a dampener on us. Our position has always
been that slavery is wrong.

"I have only been on the job for 120 days, and I can't really
peak for what happened before that. But people who know me know
where I am on issues like this and I don't shy away."

Joe Madison, an NAACP board member whose 1994 resolution put
the organization -- "as descendants of slaves" -- formally on
record as opposing slavery, said: "This is going to have to become
a major, major issue in this country. It is going to take time, but
unfortunately the people who are enslaved don't have a lot of time."

The increasing pressure for action against slavery in Sudan is
likely to underscore a difference between State Department
officials who are intent on continuing the dialogue with the
National Islamic Front in Khartoum and White House officials who
are more ready to see the regime fall.

Call for action

Bona Malwal, an exiled Sudanese opposition leader who was in
New York and Washington last week lobbying for stronger action
against the regime in Khartoum, said it was clear from his meetings
that the United States did not want to get directly involved in
Sudan but was trying to apply pressure on the Khartoum regime
through neighboring countries, such as Egypt and Eritrea.

On June 10, he said, opposition leaders still in Khartoum
signed a public demand for an immediate end to the military regime.

"This is the first time in the political history of the regime
that people have challenged this regime and it didn't take action
against them," he said.

"You would have expected this regime to come down hard on
these 10 political leaders. I think their reading of the situation
is that if this had happened they may have had a political uprising
on their hands."

Malwal called on the U.S. and the U.N. to increase sanctions
on Sudan, starting with an embargo against flights by Sudan's
national airline. That, he said, would send a message to ordinary
Sudanese that the government was being isolated.

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