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.
Francis was seven years old when he was taken by North Sudanese militia and enslaved on a farm in North Sudan. He was beaten and force to sleep with the animals. After 10 years Francis was finally able to escape. He now travels around with antislavery organisations telling his story and raising awareness of modern day slavery.
Hello my name is Francis Bok, I wanna talk about my experiences here’s my story. In 1986 when I was 7 years old in my former country Sudan, my mother asked me one evening to go to the local market to sell eggs and beans. I went to the market, where there are militia from North Sudan came to the market and killed the people around me. And they captured me and many other kids. And after they finished, once they had destroyed everything on the market, they marched us all to the North, and we were divided up to militia mans. I was given to the guy named Juma Abdullah who took me to his farm and he sent his children to beat me, and they were always shouting. Saying Abeed, Abeed. So one day, I learned Arabic in a few months Juma come to me to bring me something to eat and before he returns. I asked him why he called me Abeed and the whole family called me Abeed, black slave. And why they forced me to sleep with the animals. And I also asked him why no one loved me, my master didn’t answer my question. His answer was beat me. He grabbed a stick and beat me with the stick and he told me never ever ask me again these questions. Two days later he came to me and he said, the reason we called you Abeed, black slave and make you sleep with the animals is because you are an animal.
I used to cry daily, day and night. They never ever felt my pain and what was going through with me as a young child. I finally said its time to get away from this farm. It’s time to really leave this family and seek for the place that I can be free and live as a human being. So, I lived a double life with him until when I reached the age of 14 years old, 7 years working with them, I first decided to escape. I failed my first attempt because I went the wrong direction, because I didn’t know nowhere when I were taken to that community. I was too young, 7 years old, and I didn’t know anything. So, someone else saw me and the brought me back to my master’s home. So, I waited three more years, I didn’t rush until when I was 17 years old. Which is 1996. I finally said it is time to get away from this farm. So, I made my last decisions and commitment to escape. For 10 years I was serving the master as his slave. And 10 years later, I escaped and made my way to the capital city of Sudan, Khartoum, where I spent two years and eventually made my way to Cairo, Egypt in 1998.
In 1999 with the help of the UN I made my way to the United States, to Fargo, North Dakota. In 2000 I decided to work with American antislavery groups and the human rights organisations for fighting against slavery worldwide in Boston, Massachusetts. And today I speaks at many public schools, colleges and universities and community centres and Christian churches and synagogues. To tell my personal story and to speak on behalf of my people, South Sudanese. In order to speak on behalf of 27 million people who are still enslaved today worldwide.
I have to use my freedom to free those who are still in my positions. Because for 10 years I lay awake at night and wonder who’s going to come and free me? And I’m glad I actually made my way to freedom and this way I call myself a lucky man.