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Achai

1999 (Narrative date)

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 at home when the soldiers came. I heard guns, and started to run. Everyone else was running too. Some went in this direction, and others went that way. I ran to the forest, but I was caught by two soldiers. I had to walk to the River Kiir, and then on to Daein. They made me carry a sack of durah on my head. The journey was about ten days long. I was together with a lot of other girls. The soldiers would take them away for sexual intercourse. The leader of the soldiers, Musa, did this to me. On the way, Musa did not beat me, but he gave me hardly any food. Musa kept me for himself. He called me ‘Sudan.’ He took me to a camp for soldiers near Daein. Musa had a home in Daein town, but he never took me there. I had to stay at his home at the army camp. It was a place where soldiers marched and learned how to prepare their guns and to shoot. There were both Arabs and Dinkas there. I had to do housework for Musa. I could not leave the camp. Many times each day, he would say that he would shoot me or cut my throat if I tried to escape. I was very sad, and couldn’t help crying. He would beat me when he caught me crying. Musa used me as a concubine. I am now about five months pregnant. Musa let me go away with the trader. I think he did this because I was so sad and tearful that he didn’t want me any more. I am a Christian and used to go to church at Nyamlell. One of the catechists named Mario is my friend.
Narrative as told to Christian Solidarity International, January 1999, in Northern Bahr El Ghazal, Sudan.