More than 300 slaves in Sudan bought, returned to homes by Canadians, others Evangelical TV host says his show, villagers, Europeans raised money

April 02, 1997|By Gregory P. Kane | Gregory P. Kane,SUN STAFF

More than 300 slaves were returned to their families in southern Sudan last month after their freedom was purchased with money raised by a Canadian television evangelical show and other groups, a co-host of the Canadian show said yesterday.

Cal Bombay, vice president of Crossroads Christian Communications Inc. (CCCI), said that on March 12, he witnessed the freeing of the 319 slaves in southern Sudan -- including 200 whose freedom was purchased with funds raised by his show.

Some of the women slaves said they had been forcibly circumcised, said Bombay, who flew with his cameraman into southern Sudan on March 12 and filmed the release of the slaves who had been returned to the village of Manyiel.

Bombay said contributions of more than $86,000 were sent in by viewers of his show "100 Huntley Street" after he broadcast a report last year about a three-part series in The Sun by two reporters who went to Sudan to prove slavery existed there by actually buying the freedom of two slaves.

The Sun series, "Witness to Slavery," was published in June.

"It was your articles that really got to me," Bombay said. "I've always been interested in the [slavery] issue, being Canadian. Canada took in many black slaves who escaped from America."

Bombay and the CCCI cameraman entered southern Sudan with Lady Caroline Cox and John Eibner of Christian Solidarity International, a Swiss-based group that documents slavery in Sudan and collects funds to buy the freedom of slaves. Cox and Eibner accompanied Sun reporters when they went to Sudan.

No men were in the group of slaves five Arab traders brought back from villages in the north when he was there last month, Bombay said.

"It was women and children," he said. "Some of the boys were up to 13 years old and some of the women had been forcibly circumcised."

Bombay said some of the women had been slaves for more than five years and some of them were pregnant.

Bombay said that money raised by CCCI was used to purchase the freedom of 200 slaves. Another 20 were freed through donations from European sources and the other 99 were freed with money gathered from Bahr al-Ghazal villagers who sold cattle, goats and other livestock, Bombay said.

The price for a slave's freedom from the middlemen who bring them back from their masters in the north can be as high as five cows, or the cash equivalent of $500, which is what The Sun reporters paid.

The Sun reporters found that slavery is a product of the Sudanese civil war that has been going on for years between the Islamic fundamentalist government in the north and the non-Muslims in the south. Slaves are taken in raids carried out by government-supported militias and end up with Muslim masters in the north. Middlemen have been able to buy back or simply take back slaves and sell them to their families in the south.

It was in this sort of exchange last year that The Sun reporters were able to buy the freedom of two slaves and a similar exchange last month in which CCCI was able to purchase the freedom of 200 slaves.

Bombay said about 33,000 Canadian dollars -- or $20,000 in U.S. money -- were used to buy the freedom of the slaves he encountered last month. He said other CCCI money was used to buy medical supplies and pay for the logistics of the trip.

An ordained minister, Bombay is one of four hosts of "100 Huntley Street." He spent 17 years as a missionary in Kenya and Uganda, where he said, "We always heard ugly whispers about what was going on in the Sudan but could find no proof."

Eltayeb Ali Ahmed, a consular official for the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, repeated the government's contention that slavery is not condoned by the government.

"As we say all the time, the allegations of slavery are politically motivated," Ahmed said. "When the Baltimore Sun went there, you were accompanied by Baroness Cox. That was politically motivated. Slavery is not the policy of the Sudan. It's against our law and we have strict punishment for those violating it. This is nothing new. Baroness Cox has continued the same practice against the Sudanese government. It's no different from the trip you made and the trip NBC made."

Pub Date: 4/02/97

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