A 20-year civil war in Sudan has pitted the Muslim majority north against the Christian majority south. An estimated two million people have been killed in the conflict. In 1986, Muslim invaders attacked the village where Francis's mother had sent him on an errand. Francis was 7 years old, and he spent the next 10 years in slavery, where he worked on a farm. He's now telling his story in the new book, Escape from Slavery (St. Martin's Press).
What happened that day you were taken, in 1986?
We went to the market, and I sat underneath the big tree where a lot of people come from all different villages, selling and buying. And while I was sitting there, I heard adults saying that they saw smoke and pointing toward the village that we came from. Some other adult said he heard guns shooting. I wasn't really aware what happened right away after we left the village until when I saw a lot of people start leaving the markets—and then I also looked behind me and I saw all these horsemen, people who dressing differently, with machine guns. They surrounded the market and started shooting.
I stood up and tried to run, and one of the horsemen came toward me, grabbed my hand, and was speaking a strange language I couldn't understand at that time because I didn't speak Arabic. And I was very confused and very, very afraid. I thought maybe he was going to kill me.
They just destroyed everything in the market. And after they finished, they stole some of the stuff. They marched us all over to the north. I witnessed a 12 year-old-girl shot on the way because she was screaming. She couldn't stop crying, and one of the militiamen told her to stop and she couldn't. The guy just took her out of the group and he shot her in the head.
That hurt me a lot ...