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.
Anyang was abducted by Arab Murahaleen in 1998. Upon arrival in the North she was given to a man and forced to milk his cows.
I was captured in April 1998. Several hundred Arab Murahaleen attacked our village in the afternoon. They came on horses and many wore army uniforms.
My husband Garang Acuil Atany was at Warawar at the time of the attack. I don’t know whether he is still alive. The attackers took myself, my children Acien Garang and Garang Acuil and a son of my sister who happened to be with us at the time of the attack. I was pregnant at that time.
The raiders ordered me to milk the stolen cattle on the way. I also had to lead the cattle with a stick and carried loot on my head at the same time. Some of the stolen children had to lead the goats. We were forced to march fast because the raiders feared that they would be attacked by our people from behind. We walked for five days until we reached Adeela. I thought that I would die on the way because I was totally exhausted. In Adeela we were divided. The two children stayed with me. I was given to an Arab by the name of Hamid. He ordered me to milk his cows… It will be good to die in my own land. I am very happy now.
Narrative as told to Christian Solidarity International, January 1999, in Northern Bahr El Ghazal, Sudan.