Thousands of women and children were taken into slavery during the decades of Sudan’s civil war, mainly from Northern Bahr El Ghazal and the Nuba Mountains. Slave-taking was revived in 1985 by the National Islamic government of Sudan primarily as a weapon against counterinsurgents in the South, and secondarily a way to reimburse its surrogate soldiers for neutralizing this threat. In 1989 the government created the Popular Defense Forces (PDF), militia trained to raid villages and take people as slaves. PDF recruits were allowed to keep whoever they captured, along with booty of grain and cattle. One study documents 12,000 abductions by name, while NGOs offer estimates ranging from 15,000 to 200,000. The slaves were often moved to large towns in the north on week-long journeys during which the women were repeatedly raped, and then sold to new masters who used them without pay for farming and sexual services.
The peace process brought these PDF abductions to an end, but inter-tribal abductions continue in Southern Sudan. In addition, Sudanese children are used by rebel groups in the ongoing conflict in Darfur; Sudanese boys from the country’s eastern Rashaida tribe continue to be trafficked to the Middle East for use as camel jockeys; the rebel organization “Lord’s Resistance Army” has forcibly conscripted children in Southern Sudan for use as combatants in its war against Uganda; and the institution of chattel slavery continues in southern Darfur and southern Kordofan.
My master was called Mohammed. I never heard the rest of his name. He lives in Aliet. He had eight other slaves. One of them was Adut Tong, a woman from Warawar. He and his wife, Howeya, called me Miriam, and made me do everything like a Muslim. Howeya was an unkind woman. I had to do all kinds of work in their home. During the rainy season, I also had to do a lot of cultivation. Mohammed often beat me. He also raped me many times. I had to sleep outside with the cows and the goats. He would come outside at night and have intercourse with me. Whenever I resisted, I got a bad beating.
Mohammed and Howeya wanted me to be a Muslim woman, so they forced me to have my genitals cut. A man did it. I don’t know who he was. He tied my hands and legs down very tightly. You can still see the marks. It was so painful. I cried and cried. That was the worst thing they did to me.
I am so happy to be here now. I will go back to Warawar and Bac, and I will go back to church again. I can remember going to church in Warwar. The catechist there was Akuei Deng.
Narrative as told to Christian Solidarity International, January 1999, in Northern Bahr El Ghazal, Sudan.