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.
I was captured in my home village Kur Awet near Warawar. It was early in 1997. We were suddenly surrounded by countless horsemen. A lot of my people were shot dead. The attackers who caught me were dressed in military uniforms. They raped me and many other girls. Our village was burned down completely. I lost my parents as well as my four brothers and two sisters in the attack. I don’t know whether they are still alive. The attackers killed my uncle Alou Alou Deng right in front of me. We walked for about ten days, I had to carry a heavy load of sorghum grain. They had looted it from our stores.
My master was Mahmoud Mahdi. I was mistreated terribly by him. I, together with 15 others, had to stay in an open pen near his house. He lived in Sidam. My master repeatedly raped me. Various other men who came at night also did this to me. I was given the name of Fatima. I was forced to pray the Islamic way, and now I can speak some Arabic. Slaves who tried to escape were immediately killed by my master. I saw the execution of some of them.
Narrative as told to Christian Solidarity International, January 1999, in Northern Bahr El Ghazal, Sudan.