Over four dozen boy slaves have been freed from cattle camps near the border between northern and southern Sudan.

According to Christian Solidarity International, the operation to free the 56 boys was a joint effort of CSI and the Arab-Dinka Peace Committee. The boys had been abducted during jihad slave raids sanctioned by the Khartoum government that targeted non-Muslim communities in northern Bahr El Ghazal.

The boys, who were rescued at the end of April, had been serving as slaves in cattle camps of Arab nomads.

Though the head of one camp claimed the boys were happy with their masters, affectionately calling them “father,” interviews with the former slaves painted a different picture, CSI said in a statement.

The organization says the boys revealed a clear pattern of physical and psychological abuse. They reported cases of beatings, stabbings, rape, racial insults, death threats and forcible conversion to Islam.

A 12-year-old slave named Piol said:

My master (Ibrahim Mohammed) told me not to ask about my mother and father, and ordered me to call him “father.” Whenever I displeased him, he beat me. Once he hit me on the head with a cow’s horn. Another time, he burned me on the arm. Sometimes he refused to allow me to eat. Ibrahim’s son, Khalid, also bullied me. He threw stones at me, and called me “dog,” “bastard” and “slave.” Ibrahim made me go to Quranic school. The teacher, Mohammed Razik, said that we should forget about the religion of our people and become Muslims. Otherwise, we would be infidels.

Slavery is an internationally recognized crime against humanity, CSI explained. In the spring of 2002, a U.S. government-sponsored international Eminent Persons Group charged Sudan’s Islamist regime of using slavery as a weapon of war against southern Sudan. At the beginning of his mission, the U.S. special envoy for peace in Sudan, former Sen. John Danforth, identified the eradication of slavery as a pre-condition for a just and lasting peace. The issue of slavery, however, has not yet been placed on the agenda of the peace talks between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

CSI’s president, the Rev. Hans Stuckelberger, has pledged that “CSI will continue its campaign to eradicate slavery in Sudan until the last slave is free”.

Ironically, just yesterday, Sudan was voted in as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Commission. The representative from the United States walked out of a session of the U.N. Economic and Social Council to protest the move.

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