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World - Africa

Forum focuses on modern-day slavery in northern Africa

Moctar Teyeb
Moctar Teyeb   

February 26, 1999
Web posted at: 12:02 a.m. EST (0502 GMT)

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Moctar Teyeb, a native of Mauritania, is a man in the United States, but he is "property" in his homeland.

Teyeb was among those who gave first-hand accounts Thursday of modern-day slavery experiences in Sudan and Mauritania at a symposium held by the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

Several hundred people listened to Teyeb tell a particularly harrowing story of his life as a slave in Mauritania.

People are "bought and sold like property and bred like farm animals," Teyeb said.

Teyeb, who has been living in the United States for the last four years, added, "I am still my master's property because I don't have papers to show my freedom."

He emphasized the importance of fighting for not just his freedom but that of the thousands of slaves he left behind. He thanked the organizers of the symposium and said knowledge and power were the paths to freedom.

The symposium, "A Call for Freedom," was co-sponsored by the American Anti-Slavery Group and Loveland Church. It included 10 panelists from Sudan and Mauritania.

Thousands of blacks still said to be enslaved

speakers at symposium
Speakers at the symposium, "A Call for Freedom."   

Charles Jacobs, president of the American Anti-Slavery Group, told participants that thousands of black people still are bound in slavery, even as the world nears the 21st century.

He said men, women and children are bought and sold in Sudan and Mauritania for hard labor and sex.

Among others on the panel were Tom Hayden, the California state senator; John Eibner, who claims to have rescued more than 4,000 slaves with the group Christian Solidarity International; and Samuel L. Cotton, the author of "Silent Terror," a book about a trip to Mauritania where he collected interviews about the slavery experience.

In a message on its Web site, the Wiesenthal Center says the goals of the forum are "to expose the plight of black slaves in Sudan and Mauritania, where today tens of thousands of black people still suffer the scourge of slavery."

U.N. concerned over slavery allegations

Meanwhile, a U.N. special envoy for human rights in Sudan held talks with the government on slavery allegations earlier this month after a brief visit to the war-torn south of the country, the official news agency reported.

Rights groups have accused Sudan and its collaborators of enslaving southern Sudanese captured in the county's civil war. The government has denied the charge.

Leonardo Franco traveled to Bahr el-Ghazal, southern Sudan, and met its governor and religious leader, the Sudan News Agency reported. He also visited the prison in Wau, the provincial capital.

Franco then returned to Khartoum and discussed allegations of human rights violations with Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail, the agency said.

He is to submit his findings to the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Committee by March 22.

Rebels from southern Sudan have been fighting for autonomy from the north since 1983. More than 1.9 million people have died in the war and attendant famines.

American Anti-Slavery Group
Anti-Slavery International
Christian Solidarity International
Loveland Church Online
Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance Multimedia Learning Center
African Studies WWW (U. Penn) - Mauritania
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