War and Slavery in Sudan
by Jok Madut Jok
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001. 211 pp. $55 ($24.95, paper).
Reviewed by John Eibner
Christian Solidarity International
Middle East Quarterly
Slavery and the rape of enslaved women and girls in the context of warfare are both internationally recognized crimes against humanity. Yet these well-documented consequences of the government of Sudan's declared jihad against black communities that resist the imposition of dhimmi status - i.e., subjugation of non-Muslims to discriminatory Islamic rule - has hitherto generated meager output within academia.
Jok, a teacher of history at Loyola Marymount University from a Dinka background, has the honor of publishing the first monograph on this topic. Based largely on his own field research in northern Bahr al-Ghazal, Jok confirms the causes and the grisly pattern of the revived slave trade published by this author in this journal two years ago.1 He accurately documents the central role of the Sudanese government in this revival of slavery and rightly links it to (1) Arab racism and (2) the ascendancy of Islamism in Khartoum since the mid-1980s.
Cultural relativism does not cut much ice with Jok, a committed abolitionist whose sympathies lie with the slaves. "The only solution," he writes, "is to put pressure on the government of Sudan to end the raids, trace the abducted, and reunify the families." He demonstrates the failure of the international community to push for any of these remedies. He also demolishes opposition to those who mobilize international opinion against the slavers and liberating slaves via indigenous slave retrieval mechanisms. War and Slavery in Sudan exposes the flimsiness of the Arab League's denial and the European Union's cover-up of Sudanese slavery. It should inspire further research into an issue that touches a raw nerve throughout the international community.
Unfortunately, Jok's masterly grasp of key issues is not always matched by a firm command of details. For example, he gives several low and inadequately sourced estimates of the number of slaves in bondage. Dinka civic leaders from northern Bahr al-Ghazal estimate that at least 200,000 of their people are currently enslaved by Arabs in northern Sudan.2 This estimate does not include the many black slaves from the upper Nile and the Nuba Mountains.
1 John Eibner, "My Career Redeeming Slaves," Middle East Quarterly, Dec. 1999, pp. 3-16.
2 Civil commissioners of Twic, Abyei, Gogrial, Aweil East, Aweil West, and Aweil South counties.
Related Topics: Slavery | John Eibner | Spring 2002 MEQ
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