It was February 1995 when the dawn raiders attacked the Sudanese village of Sokobat in northern Bahr-El-Ghazal. Apin Akot was already out tending his cattle with his two-year-old son when his wife and two daughters, ages five and nine, were rounded up by fundamentalist Islamic militia. They had been armed and encouraged by the government of Sudan to carry out a jihad (holy war) against the Africans—mostly Christians—of the south. The government, the National Islamic Front (NIF), is a totalitarian military regime, which seized power in 1989. The government cannot pay salaries, but the militias can keep the bounty of war as their reward—including human bounty. On that fateful February morning, when his wife and daughters were taken, his five-year-old could not keep up with the raiders as they drove their captives northwards. So they tied her onto a horse, damaging a nerve and paralyzing her left leg.
Apin Akot is a loving husband and father; he is also a brave man. He sold all his cattle, took his money, and, risking capture, torture, and death, walked north for many days to find his enslaved family. Paying an Arab to help him find them, he confronted their owner and tried to purchase their freedom. He negotiated the release of his wife and five-year-old daughter, but the master would not relinquish the nine-year-old: she was nearly old enough to become a concubine and much more "valuable."
Apin Akot did not have enough money for her and had to return with his wife and little daughter, leaving his eldest daughter to her fate. As he left, she said, "The worst thing for me would be to die. As long as I stay alive, I know you will come for me."
Our group met Apin Akot soon after his return and felt his family's ...1