The Sudan Slave Story

          In December I was invited by Christian Solidarity International to accompany them to the Sudan to document the purchasing of slaves to free them. This is a remarkable story in the world. Against the backdrop of a continuing eighteen year war of genocide of the northern government predominantly Arab Muslim on the African Christian south, in a country that is the size of the United States east of the Mississippi River, It is one of the world's most tragic stories. The north in its efforts to force a national religion is conducting an unrelenting religious war to force the issue. It is despotism at its worst. Two million people have died in the conflict, mostly civilians. In the center of this carnage a huge slave trade is going on. Civilians, mostly women and children, with their husbands slain  have little ability to resist and are being sold into slavery to the northern Sudan Muslims and the eastern emirates.  Most civilized nations have turned a deaf ear to this great holocaust now going on. It is one of the shames of the world that considers itself civilized. These are the stories as they appeared somewhat edited in the Santa Fe newspaper New Mexican in the February and March of 2001. Included are images that appear in a new book, Africa, The Holocausts of Rwanda and Sudan,  University of New Mexico Press  February 2006 by Lucian Niemeyer


The Sudan, A Saga of Genocide and Enslavement

Christmas 2000

    In a land in the northeastern horn of Africa, the oldest known history of man has been revealed, dating back over two million years. Here man would find the roots of known civilization in the ancient accounts of Egypt, the White and Blue Nile, Khartoum, Lawrence of Arabia, the Mahdi, Nubia and Gordon Pasha. In the Christmas season of 2000 under a blanket of a brilliant black velvety night and brightly twinkling stars that covers the whole earth, a deadly drama of genocide and human slavery is being enacted in this land, in a manner that should revolt all civilized people. For in Southern Sudan the native Dinka and Nuer people of the Christian faith are being killed and enslaved in large numbers, in a most cruel manner by members of the Islamic faith abetted by the government of the Sudan. While the Israeli and Palestinian confrontation to the north, is the more visible and well known of this religious world conflict, southern Sudan is the frontier. For here genocide is practiced with a malice that knows no human boundaries. In this oldest of human backdrops, the human condition has not advanced far.

  Dinka elder and youth

    The war between the Islamic north and Christian south Sudan has old roots, stemming back to the 1950s when the country, separated at the time was made one by the western world after World War II. Shortly the country of Sudan was emancipated from England. A war between the two religious factions broke out in 1983, with the Islamic north invading the southern Christians. This is considered the time by which the current struggle is measured. From 1983, it is estimated that at least two million people have been killed in this genocide, mostly Christians, for sure civilians. Early on in this conflict, two professors at the University of Khartoum; Ushari Ahmad Mahmud and Suleyman Ali Baldo learned about the genocide and enslavement being practiced on the Dinka people and had investigated it. What they found was that raiders from the north were killing the men and had taken women and children and into slavery for over two years. They wrote their report in 1987. It was widely circulated and was denied by the Sudanese government. The UN assimilated the report and then discounted it as hearsay. These two humane professors were incarcerated by their government and then were discredited throughout the world. The civilized world would not and could not hear.

                                  Dinka tukuls in southern Sudan

    The rumors persisted. The Catholic, Presbyterian and Anglican churches have had a strong presence in southern Sudan as well as world providers (non-governmental organizations or NGOs) who gave food, medicine and agricultural assistance to the affected people in this sub-Saharan land. We all have heard about the starvation of the Dinka people in this area with the southward movement of the desert conditions combined with the uncertain and devastating conditions of war. A normalized situation would be difficult for the people, but under the war conditions, it is intolerable, and the tribes suffer greatly. The United Nations, the European Common Market countries and the United States have all played significant roles in the area. All have received reports about the genocide and the slavery being enacted in the Sudan. All have turned a deaf ear with chilling results. In President Clinton's address to the world about Africa, "mistakes were made by the US and the world in the Rwandan genocide", he vowed that the policy of the US would not allow genocide to happen again in Africa and apologized for the US role. Just as this speech was being given, the State Department had sent an assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Susan Rice to the Sudan to investigate the depth of the genocide and slavery. Her report was an horrific account of slavery being practiced in the southern Sudan region with interviews of former slaves being taken. The US government was in possession of an earlier report issued in 1994 of the slavery issue as were the United Nations, the European community as well as the three churches, which explained in some detail, the episodes of raids, the genocide and the wide scope of the slavery. By this time several organizations had attempted to buy back slaves from their Islamic masters and had limited success. Christian Solidarity International, (CSI) headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland was asked by local communities in 1995 to expand their operations to include the purchasing of slaves and has been quite successful. The extent of the human disaster has been only succeeded by the hypocrisy of the world community, both moral and political, and I am so ashamed.

Is the moral and political evaluation of the progress of our human struggle to be measured by the acceptance of genocide and slavery in Sudan by the world community?


    Some years ago, the United Nations took the firm position that genocide and slavery were world crimes, should be eradicated and those engaged in it should be put on trial by the world court in The Hague, (Resolution 260 (111 A), UN General Assembly). This action has been the modis operendi in the case of Kosovo. Yet the world has not addressed the crimes being committed in southern Sudan. Indeed, it has not even acknowledged that crimes are being committed. It is now the correct politic direction by the churches, UN, US and the European community, to assuage the Khartoum government into joining the world community by negotiation and not to create tension via confrontation among those Islamic movements that are destabilizing large communities of the world. The term used by the government of Sudan in answer to the questions by the world community is "abductions". Certainly the spin fits the needs of the world community. Meanwhile help from Europe and the UN has all but stopped in southern Sudan, based on the notion that the world community should work with the government to solve the problem. The Khartoum government has put into place a fact finding commission to investigate the crimes and assuage the world community that slavery does not exist in the Sudan. It was as recently as several months ago that the President of the Sudan has stated in New York that "there is no slavery in the Sudan". While it is true, that very recently the Sudan was denied membership in the UN security council by not being elected, a firm resolve by the civilized powers of the world to end the genocide and slavery has not been mandated or stated. Meanwhile the atrocities continue unabated. Only a few non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and food given by the United States, fills the vacuum of need, while the greatest problems are coming. The drought and the coming offensive by the north during the dry season will create chaos in southern Sudan again. The few brave NGOs who give their help to save the people, while this terrible catastrophe is unleashed in the next few months, will be the only front line for the innocent people. The rest of the world community will wring their hands and say, how terrible.        

                                                   Slaves at redemption site

Sudan - Christmas 2000

    It is the dry season in the White Nile region. The Khartoum government is massing for an offensive into southern Sudan. The Russian built Antonov planes fly overhead each day bombing and supplying garrisons, from which new offensives will take place. On one day, seven planes passed overhead, resupplying garrisons or bombing strategic locations south of us. When this attack commences, men will be killed and new women and children slaves will be taken along with cows and goats. The cycle will be repeated while much of the world looks on, enjoying the peacefulness of Christmas, Hanukkah and Ramadan in safe places and good will. In southern Sudan the genocide and taking of slaves continues. The durable Dinka and Nuer people will face their continuing struggle for survival from a belligerent Islamic government and an Islamic Jihad combined with starvation.

    Let me tell you my experience in going to the Sudan this Christmas season.

    In early December I received a call that invited me to travel with Christian Solidarity International (CSI), a human rights organization based in Switzerland which has specialized in helping the Dinka people in southern Sudan via medicine and the redeeming of their tribal members from slavery since 1995. The invitation that I received was through another human rights organization (Jubilee Campaign) with whom I was invited to travel with in the Spring of 2000, to document the persecution of Christians in Indonesia by the radical Islamic community. As I had done work documenting the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, creating articles and a traveling exhibition Rwandan Refugees, A Story of Life, it was natural that I had an interest in genocide in other parts of the world and especially Africa. As the invitation was to travel some four days later, I had little time to get tickets and prepare for the trip. Yet I arrived in Zurich to meet with the executives of CSI and traveled with them to Nairobi. We boarded a small charter aircraft owned by Trackmark, a relief service airline to southern Sudan. We were eight persons, five CSI staff, a human rights worker on a US senators staff, a human rights activist, and myself. I knew from past briefings and research into the situation that southern Sudan was a war zone. It was also my understanding that we were going into the midst of it. In fact I had to sign a document to CSI releasing them from my liability while I was in their care. There were daily bombings conducted by the government on the tribes of southern Sudan. I also knew that there would be no protection for me by the US government and that the government of Sudan was seeking to destroy CSI, which had embarrassed them including the plane that provided the logistics. Let me describe the area in which I was to work.

    The Sudan is a large country, the size of the eastern US from the Mississippi River to Maine. Through it runs the great river Nile and its tributaries, otherwise it would be almost a desert but for a few coastal regions. Historically there has always been a northern Sudan and a southern Sudan. Southern Sudan is a large arid country, undeveloped by US standards with one railroad running from north to south. There are few passable non-paved roads. In the rainy season the  roads are quite impassable, while in the dry season they are meager at best. They provide the arterial connection between towns and trading centers. Almost always this trade is by foot traffic. The main distinguishing geographical features revolve around the Nile and its tributaries, The White Nile, the Blue Nile and the river Lol. The southern Sudanese people are mostly tribal people living in small villages served by a few regional markets. The people survive by tending to their flocks and by growing crops of corn and other staples. They live in small grass and mud tukuls usually arranged in small villages near the flood plains of the tributaries of the Nile. The Dinka are a large tribe living in the Bahr El Ghazal region which is the western part of southern Sudan. It is here that the genocide and the raiding of slaves takes place in regular northern government offensives, in the dry season. The boundary of northern Sudan from the south has another most important attribute. It is the separation from the Islamic north to the Christian south. Thus the religious separation, genocide, slavery and war creates a very separate politic which is a quite difficult breech to overcome. Yet in this region Christian Dinka farmers quite often work closely with neighboring Arab Islamic traders, both creating a living for themselves in this very poor region. The weak and economically poor central government of Sudan plays a very little role in administrating this area.

Sudan - Slavery

    The government of Sudan for decades has attempted to force a national religion, Islam, upon all of its people, including the Christians in the south. In its many years of war and genocide it has been unsuccessful to force its will on the south, resulting in a defense organization, the SPLM/SPLA, which provides the overall defense for the southern people. The Sudanese government forces have occupied some regional trading centers, Wau, Aweil and Juba, garrisoning them with troops, yet little affecting the people. The government troops remain in isolated compounds whose soldiers can not foray into the countryside, without danger. They are logistically supported from the air and the railroad. The railroad is usually controlled by the government, but runs only sporadically. Thus the vast open spaces populated by small Christian villages are a particular problem for the central government to control. The people are for the most part self-subsistent. This sets the stage for the genocide and slavery that the Sudanese government has forced upon its southern people in its attempt to subject them and assimilate them into the Islamic religion of northern Sudan.

    Over the years the Sudanese government has conducted major forays into the south, destroying villages, killing the men and taking into slavery, the women and children in addition to their animals. Raids conducted two, three, four, six, eight and ten years ago are documented. These coincide with the years that the slaves told me that they have been in servitude. The average is between four to six years of servitude, while one woman told me that she had been in slavery over twelve years. Approximately 6 years ago, CSI was asked to take over the program of purchasing slaves from their masters. The redemption was originally an effort implemented by the local chiefs. Some of the local Arabs which worked and traded with the Dinkas had a problem with the continual warfare and raids, which eliminated total villages and enslaved tens of thousands of their friends. When the Dinka chiefs attempted to find their stolen relatives, the friendly Islamic Arabs would seek out where the slaves were and inform the chiefs. Then the chiefs would raise the ransom that the northern Arabs asked for plus a fee for the intermediaries for the costs they incurred. Over time, a monetary standard was established which amounted to $35 per slave for redemption. A new trade was created. Usually the Arab masters would sell the weaker, older and less able slaves for currency. As this network became more established, it has become a source of hard currency for the Arabs and the redemption of slaves has grown into sizable numbers. Masters now had a ability to raise scarce cash; the friendly Arabs would be the go-between, providing the logistics and risking the wrath of the government. Soon the local chiefs ran out of the ability to raise the cash needed to redeem the slaves. CSI took over the trade when 15-20 slaves would be redeemed. As the network has improved the slaves redeemed in a single five day period has risen to average 4000, while a single trip has bought back over 5000 slaves. CSI conducts these very secretive trips to new locations each two to three months. They have redeemed over 42,000 slaves and the flow of the trade shows no sign of abatement. The trip that I was on brought home 4119 slaves plus one, when you add the boy that was born on the redemption day. I witnessed the birth.

    On the first day we flew 600 miles into the Sudan to a small town right on the border, lying on the north south road and on the front lines. We landed at a small dirt airstrip in the evening that appeared out of nowhere within a half a mile of putting down. The rough dirt strip was just long enough to handle the small plane, which piloted by an experienced bush pilot, was still a handful to bring to a stop in the very short runway. Upon arrival, the local commissioner and the tribal chiefs met us and greeted us warmly. They had been informed in advance that we were coming and that slaves would be redeemed on this trip by CSI. Our luggage was taken to a baay, or an enclosure of matted reeds which contained several tukuls around an open area. Armed guards with Russian AK47 automatic weapons taken from the enemy, surrounded the area. We pitched our tents and then walked to the center of the village which contained the ceremonial fire. Unique Dinka chairs, which defy all normal furniture practices for stability and longevity were brought and there was a meeting of greeting and introductions. Around the meeting place the massed townspeople stood and watched with avid interest. The political structure that has arisen from this continued war contains local tribal chiefs, a commander for an area selected by the SPLA and the regional commissioner by the SPLM, usually an elder selected because of leadership ability which reports to the rebel civil government. All three were at this meeting. After the introductions and discussion, music and dancing by the local village members commences. Later a feast of chicken, bread and fish are brought out to welcome the CSI personnel. We, as outsiders, but as guests of CSI are welcomed warmly too. It is a lovely evening. In the middle of the center of the village stands a covered machine gun captured from the government troops. It stands there forever reminding us that we are on the front lines, as do the armed guards that are all around us.

    As I had been asked to go on such short notice and was told to be in Zurich at a specific time with very little other instructions, I did not realize that I should take a bed role, mattress pad, food and a tent. I was fortunate to be invited to share the tent of the human rights worker but I had to sleep on the floor of the tent with a thin cloth over me. In the day it was very hot, but in the evening the temperature would drop into the low forties. So I covered myself with my jacket, the thin cloth and used my photographers vest for a pillow. The ground was as hard as concrete. I was very uncomfortable and it took some time to drop off in a fitful sleep. We awakened early the next morning to take the plane to the first redemption site. We had to take off very early so the government planes would not spot our plane and bomb it. After a breakfast of tea we were escorted to the plane and in a cloud of dust and a highly revved engine, we took off for a forty-five minute flight to a new dusty rough airstrip. As before, we unloaded and were taken to a compound where we pitched our tents and prepared ourselves for the first redemption of slaves. We walked for a way and soon saw a great number of people sitting under a huge tree, women and children, quietly somber. In all, there were 292 people herded together in a small group. To the side, a number of Arabs were waiting, clothed in white robes with white face coverings to prevent photographs that would enable  northern Khartoum leaders to identify them for retaliation. The slaves had been waiting, some for two months and some just arriving a few days ago. They lived in the open, protected at night by a cloth held up by sticks to protect them from the elements and the mosquitoes. Their food was a gruel of corn ground into a fine mush and water. Many slaves showed signs of malnutrition over an extended period. I spoke to some of the women and children through an interpreter. Without exception, the younger women told the story of a raid destroying a whole village by fire, killing the men and capturing the women and children. They told of soldiers in fatigues coming in trucks and Arabs with white robes and horses conducting the raid, killing and burning. The people were then herded into a march to the north. On the way the women were gang raped. Then they were taken by a master to a home. Here the story changes. Some women become concubines, some servants in the house, some work in the fields, all are sexually used on a regular basis. The young girls as young as six, speak of rape. In this group the average time in enslavement was four years. Some women were noticed with large protruding scars. Without exception these were created by their capturers, using iron rods, knives and fire, usually because of resistance to sex. We were told by some women of genital mutilation but I did not witness it. Young boys were used as herdsman, for sex and as they grew older would be inducted into the army while the younger ones would be used for security purposes. Most of the boys were given instruction in the Koran. Some wore the traditional caps worn by Islamic people. A young boy of 14 told of the raid and capture six years ago, which included his father's herd of 30 goats. His cousin was also captured with a herd of 20 goats. His cousin lost one and was killed on the spot. The cousins herd was added to his own, and he was told that if he lost one he would too would be killed. He proudly told us that in the six years he did not lose one goat. His whole village had been obliterated. Six years later the ruins of the tukuls were covered with brush and trees taking over the area of the former village. He did not know anybody. When asked where he would go, he replied that he would go to the local chief for help. Many of the women had Arab children and/or were pregnant by their masters. Some of the women could not identify the father due to the multiple rapes which they had suffered. Some gave the name of their masters. In this group 11 had died enroute to the redemption site.

         Slave girl and boys

Sudan - More Slave Redemptions

    The CSI leader then explained to the slaves that they were being purchased to be freed. After some documenting and assuring that the roster was accurate; they would be fingerprinted, photographed and released to go where ever they wanted to go. Throughout the process of verifying the numbers and the roster, the murmur of the crowd got more and more animated. Smiles started to appear. Families which had lost wives and children waited in the brush as the process continued. As family members spotted each other, recognition and joy would appear. It was lovely. Finally the process was over and the CSI leader sat down with the intermediaries and counted out the piles of money, 35 dollars multiplied by 1500 (the value of local currency to the dollar) by the number of slaves redeemed. Immediately after the transaction, the leader stood up and told the crowd, you are free to go. Immediately a roar went up, the freed surrounding the CSI personnel, some rushing to their family, some going slowly, as if there are some questions of their acceptance in the community, others drift quietly into the underbrush returning to their villages. Some would walk for days and weeks to find their relatives. It is a heart wrenching time for my colleagues and me. Later, I understood that all would be received warmly into their communities, the Arab children would now be accepted as Dinka family members. Pregnant women would be received by their husbands. Many would ask that I take a picture of them. Most of them had never seen a white man.

        Slave women

    The next group of slaves was nearby and consisted of 322 women and children. The stories were the same. The procedure followed the same ritual. The intermediaries were different. This was Schindler's List revisited. It was easy to dislike the white robed Arabs as they were conducting the transaction, but as they said later at a meeting. "Yes, we do it for money, but the money could not pay us for the danger we are incurring. These are our friends and we do not agree with slavery and genocide." Without exception we were told of the Arab intermediaries kindness in the redemption process, as the slaves were treated kindly, even some receiving needed medical help after being purchased from their masters. We also heard other stories that some of their Islamic masters were kindly, and even though they expected sexual favors, the slaves were treated with respect. Usually these slaves were sold to the redeemers because of a jealous Islamic wife's intervention. In this dusty, remote and beautiful dry land the human condition realizes one moment of absolute freedom for the redeemed slaves. Others are not so fortunate.

                                                     Arab retrievers

    The return to the compound brings somber reflection for what we have witnessed. Is it real? Can it be like this? The thoughts race through our minds with stunning power. The Dinka people are simple people with old values. Here truth is a basic value between people. Too many historical facts would have to be arranged by these simple people, to arrange these stories. With a dawning it comes. This is real. Slavery and cruelty does exist just as it did in America 150 years ago. How can this happen in our modern society? How can the world powers accept this basic value adopted as a world crime by all of the United Nations? How do the churches rationalize the morality of the situation ? Do all of the worlds organizations not recognize what is being told to them? If they know, then are they not part of the crime? Here where the roots of American slavery started, the cruel attempt to assimilate the Dinka people into the Islamic religion is being recreated for all the world to witness. Here genocide and slavery are revealed in all of its horrific attributes and appendages. Here human life is valued at $35.00.

    We eat a visitors feast of goat stew with bread and water for dinner. The villagers have a gruel with touches of green and meat. The star studded sky is peaceful and a little later, the brilliant moon lights up the compound as though it is day. Finally the quietness of the evening lulls us to sleep on the hard earth. We are awakened by the sound of a donkey braying before dawn, fifteen feet away and the roosters crowing. Dawn rises with the red sun awakening through the acacia trees. For yesterday's redeemed slaves it is a new day.

Slave group

Sudan - Slavery, Angel and the Church

    Today we pack our tent and wait for Heather Stewart and her Trackmark Cessna to pick us up to take us to the next town. Her story is quite unique. A grandmother with five children, she owns Trackmark flying relief service and a rest camp nearby, in a Kenyan border town near southern Sudan. When the starvation was going on in southern Sudan some years ago, the United Nations and other non governmental organizations (NGOs) utilized her services to ferry goods and people into southern Sudan. The Sudan government are continually bombing the southern Sudanese airstrips and have attempted to prevent this logistical pipeline from continuing, so her work is with risk. At that time Heather owned a fleet of 14 planes and 22 pilots. Trackmark, her company also ferried the CSI personnel in and out of southern Sudan redeeming slaves. As the slave trade was denied by Sudan and the story accepted by the UN, the CSI personnel were considered non-grata by the United Nations, UNICEF and the European Common Market countries. They were considered alarmists and meddlers which did not meet different politics of the nations in addressing the region. Whether Heather lost the United Nations contract for supporting CSI would be a matter of interpretation. The NGOs pulled out of southern Sudan and the United Nations contract was awarded to a South African company. They still call on Heather when an seriously ill person needs hospital care or where there is a dangerous run over the border for an emergency relief effort. Now her business has been reduced to one plane and herself as the pilot. Mrs. Stewart is a legend to those chiefs and commissioners in southern Sudan, whose tribes depend on her for logistical support and medicines. Her primary account now is CSI, and the mission is both secret and dangerous. Without her logistical capability, the redemption of slaves would not be as great. With a whoosh and a cloud of dust the Trackmark plane taxis to a halt near our compound and a beaming Heather greets us. She is a flying angel.

                                                   Plane refueling

    Today we go to a more central village. Upon our arrival, we are greeted and taken to a compound where we do the usual setting up. We then go to a distant location in a truck where there are two new groups waiting with new intermediaries. The same procedure takes place and two groups, amounting to 680 slaves are redeemed this day. It is a extremely hot day and we are very dry, but the experience of the slaves and their trials keeps our attention riveted to the event. I visited a dusty market and the school. The children sang a song for us. It is the universal language of man to see happy laughing children, and so it should always be. I think of those children with their lost years of slavery and those still in slavery and it makes me weep.

    The following morning Heather returns with a plane full of medicine for the local hospital, diesel fuel for the few trucks and miscellaneous supplies for the tribes. We then take off for another short and dusty runway and a new village with 800 slaves. After our return to the compound from the slave redemption we sit and rest in the unique Dinka chairs. An Anglican/Episcopalian Bishop of Wau, Henry Chuir Riak enters the compound with a priest. After greetings and some discussions, I ask why the church is not a more visible critic of the slave trade taking place in his diocese. I am met with the statement from the bishop, "that there is some slavery in his diocese but it is not the central church politic to broach the matter". After some more discussion regarding his incarceration by the Sudan government from which he was released only a year ago, I repeat the question, informing him that I am an Episcopalian. Now he acknowledges that genocide and slavery is widespread in his diocese, practiced by the northern Islamic people, on his flock. The Bishop adds that the number of Christians are increasing due to the war. He thanks the leaders of CSI profusely for redeeming his people. He invites us to have breakfast with him the next day. The next morning we go to his compound where he greets us. CSI staff asks to do a recorded interview and he agrees. The Bishop acknowledges the widespread slavery, captured by agents of the northern government are taken from his diocese and renounces those people responsible for it. It is a powerful statement from an important local religious leader against slavery and genocide. He then asks us to go to his church where he is confirming children and adults in his congregation this day. The church is packed with 700 to 800 singing and joyful people. It moves me greatly.

Sudan - More Redemptions and Horror

    The next morning we fly to an airstrip that Heather had never flown to before. Our GPS radio tells us that the airstrip is very close, within a mile. We look down and see a very narrow dogleg to the right. It is inconceivable that we will land at that strip. Also Heather does not know the quality of the surface. Yet down we go, making a pass over the runway and then landing. It is rough and scary. At the last moment the landing strip straightens out and we come to a sharp braked stop just at the end of the rough dusty strip. As usual there are friends there to meet us as well as the chiefs. We are taken to a nearby compound near a river. It is extremely hot and we sit under a beautiful tree near the water. Here it is hard to remember the horror of the mission that we are all on. It is so tranquil with colorful birds nosily welcoming our presence. After some tea and snacks we walk two miles to the redemption site. After walking through the tent village we see the large group waiting for us under a large tree. Nearby are the Arab intermediaries. Two stories told to me by slaves stick out sharply in my memory. A young beautiful women has a remarkable scar around three quarters of her neck, two to three inches high, protruding in an even manner 3/4 of an inch. We ask her how she received the scar. Quietly she tells us that her throat was cut. Her age is 22. She was captured six years ago. While resisting her captors advances, her throat was cut and the cut extended down to her breast. She was asked how she survived the wound. She could not answer how. The answer was simple, many did not. She was taken as a concubine when she recovered. In her masters house she slept on the veranda. Finally the wife of the master had her ejected and she was sold to the redeemers. Each question elicited more answers, one more horrific then the other. Many times the master would come in the middle of the night to visit her. After the wound, she did not reject him. Her master called her by a generic name like she, ignoring that she had a given name, the whole time of her captivity. She knew that there were many other slaves nearby, both by her master and others that remain in captivity. She did not offer answers but quietly answered each question that was asked of her, evenly without emotion.

                                                      Arab retrievers

    A young boy of 8 was captured in a raid. While walking to the masters homes a young girl could not walk further and collapsed. The Arabs cut her head off killing her immediately. They told the young boy to carry the head. For five days the boy carried the head. By this time the head was disintegrating and was so smelly that the captors told him to burn it. In the Dinka tradition, burning any human body parts was taboo. An older woman nearby raised her hands and voice in protest. She was severely beaten. Then the captors put a gun to the head of the boy and he burned the head. That was six years ago. The memory was evidently fresh as if it was today, in his mind. I heard so many stories like this one. A girl resisting rape had her hand placed into a bed of hot coals causing her fingers to be burned off. Then the five captors each had their way with her. Another very pretty girl had her captors get into a fight over her. Each wanted her for his wife. After a severe fight they stopped, determining that she was the cause. They placed hot knife points to her chest and burnt it severely. It was one episode after another. The cruelty of the northern Moslems on the Christian Dinka's, whom they considered unclean and an inferior people, is uniquely sadistic and cruel. Today 707 slaves were redeemed

    As we walked the two miles back on the dusty and hot path we passed two more groups of slaves waiting to be freed. Some of the already freed slaves walked with us telling the remaining groups that they would be freed. There was pandemonium. The retrievers had difficulty to maintain order so that a correct accounting could be made on the morrow.

                                                     Young women slaves

    When we got back to the compound, I used the extra time to visit the market, a hospital and the river. After a meal of goat stew and bread we lay down for a fitful sleep. Africa is so beautiful, yet it can be so cruel.

    The last day of the redemptions for this trip, broke early with the braying of an ass and the crowing of roosters. An early foray into the countryside revealed wonderful villages of friendly people, all wanting to be photographed, striking a serious, severe pose, I love it. The emotions of the last few days were the most extreme that I have ever had. They have etched and seared me forever.

    Today two large groups amounting to 1318 Dinka's were redeemed. A difference in the day was, that when we arrived the groups knew that they were to be freed and the sullenness encountered in earlier groups was absent. They were more interested in the process and us as white people. The boys were mischievous and the girls had more smiles. The huge pile of money that was used to redeem this large group was spread over a large cloth and was six inches high. I noticed in this wetter region, malaria was a normal sickness. This group had traveled for up to four weeks to get to this camp and there was more serious illnesses here then in other camps.

    At the end of the day, I added up the number of slaves that had been purchased on our trip and it amounted to 4119 people of the Dinka tribe, with one newborn boy. In all, CSI have redeemed 42,537 slaves in the past years. The Sudanese government and the UN, US and European personnel and leaders combined with the church leadership that think that the slave trade is random, small and a local problem, do not understand the scope of the genocide and slavery in the Sudan. They do not wish to confront these terrible world crimes. They have become part of the problem.

Sudan - Genocide and Slavery - Epilogue

Christmas 2000

    As I sit here on the eve of Christmas, writing this account of my experiences earlier this month, I can not help but reflect on the condition of this earth we live on and my own little role in it. The beauty of where we live wafts about me like a lovely breeze. The smells and sounds of Christmas give me a wonderful thought process on the deep and satisfying traditions that my parents gave to me. I am looking forward to this evening when my daughter and her husband come to share Christmas with us. The same traditions and warm thoughts are found in the Dinka people in the heart of Africa. There is little difference between us except distance and economic circumstances. Yet today they are facing a survival problem because of extreme religious and political zeal and a continuing global warming, which creates desert in the area where they live. What can be their future? What is mine? How are ours intertwined?


    The next morning after the last redemption we had to leave early to escape detection by the governments planes. We flew to Lokichoggio, the Kenyan border town where we were to refuel and proceed to Nairobi for departure to Zurich and then home to Santa Fe. When we arrived at the border town in the afternoon, there was an urgent radio message from a Doctor in the Sudan regarding a patient who was having a problem giving birth and needed to be hospitalized. Heather turned to us, either we go to Nairobi as planned or does she fly the other way to save a life. The patient won and we stayed over in Lokichoggio an extra night, rising early to fly and catch our plane. This is what the African bush represents and Heather and her flying relief service epitomizes the kind of dependency and help that people give because it is the humane thing to do.

    Yet in this remote land there is a horror that is exceptional in this world that we live in. The religious differences between Islam and Christianity have magnified a genocide between people that history will regard as one of the worst ever recorded. The Holocausts of Russia and Germany, then followed by Uganda, Angola, Rwanda, Cambodia and so many more, need to be reexamined, so that we can place them into our value structure of what is acceptable and not acceptable on this world stage. We as people need to set minimal standards of behavior in our societies and then to enforce them evenly. While genocide and slavery have been determined as world crimes by the United Nations, the executives of the worlds leadership have selectively chosen which genocides to address. Politics have been included in these decisions that cloud the actuality of what is really happening. I can not think that the results of the years after World War II in addressing this problem has been either just or correct. For sure we as a world community have let the people of southern Sudan down, specifically the Dinka and the Nuer people, as we did the Tutsis in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. American Africans specifically need to address this global oversight as well as all of the religious denominations of the world, which should be the moral guide for our human condition. This has gone on too long. The Sudanese cry out for help in their pain, and people of goodwill must respond throughout the world. You can help, you must help.

Christian Solidarity International

 Zelglistrasse 64, PO Box 70

CH-8122 Binz  (Zurich)


Phone 41(0)1 980 47 07 



   Some two weeks after I was there, Marial Bai; a village where we redeemed slaves and met with the Anglican Bishop of Wau, was attacked and destroyed. After some killing over 100 women and children were taken as well as livestock. The Bishop was evacuated by the United Nations on January 3rd. Five Dinka men followed the northward bound column attempting to recover their wives and children. They were discovered and their arms were cut off at the shoulders and were left to die. Three men did die from the loss of blood and two survived. They were airlifted by CSI to Nairobi, where to the best of my knowledge they are recovering. Maybe it was in retribution to our visit. For sure the cruelty and the genocide does not stop.

by Lucian Niemeyer

Santa Fe, NM

Christmas 2000

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Last updated: January 10, 2008 .