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Saturday, March 13, 1999 Published at 00:10 GMT

World: Africa

Sudan given anti-slavery plan

Women and children are mainly at risk from being enslaved, say NGOs

The Sudanese government has been presented with a plan to end slavery in war-torn country.

Unicef, the United Nations children's agency, drew up the four-point plan after an appeal for help from Khartoum.

[ image:  ]
Unicef says it believes thousands of Sudanese are being kept as slaves - most of them Christian women and children abducted by Muslim armed militia based in government-controlled parts of the country.

The practice is officially banned in Sudan and the government has, until recently, denied it still exists.

Sudan accuses the West of exaggerating the charges as part of a campaign to impose economic and political embargoes against the Muslim government.

But last month, Khartoum invited United Nations investigator Leonardo Franco to visit southern Sudan to assess the situation.

Price of freedom

Unicef has also criticised other non-governmental agencies (NGOs) who have paid money to free the slaves.

[ image: The war pits the Muslim north against Christian south]
The war pits the Muslim north against Christian south
One NGO, Christian Solidarity International, has run a high-profile campaign to buy slaves' freedom.

It said in January that it had freed more than 1,000 slaves, most of them children, with the help of European and North American financial backers.

Unicef head Carol Bellamy said that the organisation did not condone these efforts as it believed they did not tackle the root problem of slavery.

She said: "The sobering truth is that these efforts will not end the enslavement of human beings."

Unicef conceded the best way to put a stop to slavery was to end the civil war between the Islamist government in the north and Christian and animist rebels in the south. More than 1.5 million people have been killed since 1983.

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