There are an estimated 465,000 people living in modern slavery in Sudan (GSI 2018). Between 1983 and 2005, the central government of Sudan enslaved tens of thousands of black South Sudanese Christian and traditionalist people. It was part of a genocidal war against South Sudan, with a simple aim: to force South Sudan to become Arab and Muslim.
Agany Ateny Angony was abducted from South Sudan in 1986. Upon arrival in the North Agany was told that if he wanted to be free he must become a Muslim. After his conversion the beatings stopped but he was still unable to leave and forced to work. Agany eventually escaped to join his two wives in an IDP camp, however life there was no better. He finally returned to South Sudan with the help of a slave retriever.
I am from Uyon in South Sudan. I am 46 years old. I was abducted in 1986. At the time, I was married with two wives, and I worked as a cattle keeper.
The Arab raiders found me and ordered me to take them to the Dinka cattle camp. At first, I refused. One of the raiders was a Dinka man who was living and fighting with the Arab army. He had been renamed Ajabana Abakar. He tried to stab me with a knife, but the other raiders stopped him. Then they beat me with sticks on the head until I agreed to show them where the cattle were. That’s where I got my head scar. After I brought them to the cattle, they took me to the North. Ajabana put a hook in my mouth, and tied the hook to a horse to force me to go with them.
In the North, I lived in Debeb in Kordofan, with a man named Mamoot Abdullah, one of the raiders who stopped Ajabana from killing me. When I arrived in the North, I was told, “If you want to be free, you must become a Muslim. If you do, we won’t bother you anymore.” So I did. After that, the beatings stopped. But I still had to work on the farm, and they still wouldn’t let me eat with them. I asked them, “Why? I’m a Muslim now,” but they refused. If I had tried to leave, I would have been killed.
There was a big famine at the time I was abducted, so after I was taken, my wives moved to the North to get food. They stayed in the North, in an IDP camp in Meiram. Fourteen years ago, I ran away from Mamoot and joined them. The Arabs didn’t chase me, because by then, I was too old to be valuable to them.
Life was not good in the IDP camp. It was congested, and didn’t have anything we needed. There was only an occasional sorghum distribution. One of my wives and two of my children died of sickness in the camp. My other wife, Ayak Akuei, is still alive. We have two children.
The slave retriever brought me here. Without him, it would have been impossible to return to South Sudan – too dangerous.
I am so happy to be here. I didn’t think such a thing could happen. I have everything here now – sorghum and the survival kit. I will build a hut and a farm for my family.
Narrative provided by Christian Solidarity International