Dut Yai Yai was ‘redeemed’ (bought out of slavery) by Christian Solidarity International (CSI), a Zurich-based international human rights organization, in January 2007. He told his story to CSI staff in Aweil State, Southern Sudan.
Along with the three main types of modern slavery (chattel slavery, debt bondage, and contract slavery), war slavery is another form of contemporary bondage. 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 enslaved when I was about four years old. I am a Muslim. When the murahaleen raiders came, they moved through the forest. I had been looking after goats and was ringing them back home.
After being captured, I was taken to a cattle camp at Omdriss. I couldn't escape. I didn't know where to go. I was captured with five other boys. Three of them were relatives. The other two were friends. We were all kept at Omdriss for about one year. Then they were scattered elsewhere. I remained in Omdriss. On the way to the North, two boys who were captured in Bako tried to escape. Their names were Bol and Garang. They were caught and had their throats cut right in front of us.
I had to walk the whole way to Omdriss. The Arabs beat me whenever I slowed down. All of us were boys, except for one lady, Ayak. Mahmoud Shegbebi was my master. He was the one that captured me. I had to look after his cows and goats. I stayed in the cattle camps. When it rained I slept under Mahmoud's shelter. Otherwise, I slept outside. Mahmoud had two other Dinka slaves, Dut and Akech. Akech was given to Mahmoud's brother Adam. They are still with their masters. They were all older than me.
The worst thing about slavery was getting sick. Even then I had to work hard. There was no rest and no money. I had to call Mahmoud “father.” But I still remember my mother and father. Mahmoud said: “You are my son and must go to Koranic school.” I was in Koranic school for one month. After that, I had lessons from a fekki in the cattle camps. I was taught that Dinka people were bad infidels. Mahmoud said: “A dog is better than an infidel.” This made me feel bad. I knew I was a Dinka. Mahmoud sent me away with nothing other than what I am wearing.
I have already seen my Uncle Yai Magok since I've been here. He has given me some food.
Narrative provided by Christian Solidarity International