The National Islamic Front (NIF), which seized power in Sudan in 1989, is a totalitarian military regime that has declared jihad (holy war) against those who oppose it, mainly the African Christians of the South. So far the war has claimed 1.5 million lives and displaced 5 million more. Troops sweep into villages with Jeeps or on horses and camels, killing or enslaving everyone they track down, looting livestock and property, burning homes and crops.
We had the strange experience of talking with Arab traders who buy slaves in the north or help them escape so they can be sold back to their families. "What we are doing is a favor [and] we often lose money on these deals. If we are discovered by the government we will be killed."
We were able to redeem some slaves. Under a huge tree in Wunrok, hundreds of children and families were gathered in the hope of being reconciled. The Arab traders brought about 1,000 slaves down from the North. Local families paid for the release of over 200; 110 escaped. This left 671 who needed to be redeemed. Our team was able to secure the release of all these individuals, despite the fact that our funds, combined with those of the local community, fell short of the $100 a child proposed by the traders.
We interviewed some of those who had been redeemed:
Mayen Anyang, 52, Dinka: "I was at the market in Abin Dau with my family, including our five children, when the raiders came. We were all taken captive. I was tied by my wrists in a chain to other captives. The journey to the North was very hard. We had to walk for about two solid days. We were given scarcely any food, and I and my children were beaten. I have a scar on my wrist from where I was bound. At the end of my journey I was separated from ...1