"WHERE IS THE PROOF?" asked Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam in response to accusations that he had cozied up to a government that tolerated the enslavement of black people. "If slavery exists, why don't you go as a member of the press, and you look inside Sudan, and if you find it, then you come back and tell the American people what you found?"
The proof was evident to two Baltimore Sun reporters who took up Mr. Farrakhan's challenge, trekked into southern Sudan and purchased the freedom of two Dinka boys. Their story is compelling testimony to the abominable fate of thousands in that part of the world.
But will it shame the Sudanese government -- or Mr. Farrakhan and other supporters -- away from the policies and attitudes under which this scourge flourishes? Not unless the outrage stirs other governments into action.
Reports of slavery in Sudan are not new. One example: In 1993, the International Labor Organization surveyed forced labor and slavery-like practices around the world and noted that the practice of traditional slavery was growing in Sudan. The ILO said it had received the first detailed reports on the revival of Sudanese slavery in 1988, complete with allegations that the government had provided arms to unofficial militia groups so that they could raid Dinka villages and remove support for the rebels.
That report went largely unheeded, as did numerous reports from human rights groups, like the one that guided reporters Gilbert Lewthwaite and Gregory Kane, whose three-part series ends today in The Sun.
What can be done to end the bondage of human beings and the harm done to their families? A number of things would help:
An arms embargo against Sudan and a boycott of its exports.
The creation of a full-time U.N. monitoring team on slavery, accompanied by human rights education and other efforts to promote the principles and values of civil society.
International pressure on the Sudanese government and on rebel factions to permit access to relief operations.
Freezing Sudanese requests for loans and disbursements from international financial institutions while these practices continue.
No one of these actions will bring freedom to those in bondage in Sudan, especially with Farrakhan fantasies bolstering Muslim slave-masters exploiting the Christian/animist peoples in southern Sudan. But without such actions, and in the absence of world outrage over slavery, this horrible practice will continue.