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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 March 2008, 11:26 GMT
Slave rescue bid resumes in Sudan
By Joseph Winter
BBC News

Former slave Abuk Atak Deng
Abuk Atak Deng is waiting to see her twin brother again
At least seven South Sudanese have been freed from their Arab abductors after the resumption of an operation to rescue them, the BBC has learnt.

The seven have been taken to a transit camp in the South Darfur capital, Nyala, the head of the operation says.

Ahmed Mufti said the latest operation would seek to free 1,200 people, with the first group going home next month.

Some 8,000 people are thought to remain in slavery after being captured during Sudan's north-south conflict.

The conflict ended in 2005 but the programme to return the slaves had ended in a row over money.

Mr Mufti told the BBC that the semi-autonomous South Sudan government had given his Committee for the Eradication of Abduction of Women and Children (CEAWC) $1m to resume the programme.

Arek Anyiel Deng

It's like I was still in the camp, it's the same situation as in the north

Arek Anyiel Deng

He said the operation had restarted earlier this week, with his officers going to the states of South Darfur and South Kordofan.

He also said the tribal communities had no problem with releasing the remaining "abductees", as he calls them.

"They have no problem - the only problem was the money," he said.

Mr Mufti insists that no money is given to the abductors - the money he needs is to pay for the transport costs for the workers and then to feed, clothe and provide shelter for those freed.

He said CEAWC had details of where the remaining "abductees" were being kept but he did not have enough funding to rescue those.


In some parts of South Sudan, relatives of those abducted can be found easily.

Abuk Atak Deng told the BBC last year in the village of Malualbai that she and her two brothers had been abducted by Arab raiders.


"Garang is my twin and I do not feel complete without him," she said.

She managed to escape in November 2006, along with the child she had had with her abductor.

The UN children's agency, Unicef, is currently discussing the question with Sudan's federal government and may resume funding the programme.

During the 1984-2005 war, Arab militiamen would ride into South Sudan on horse and camels, seize women and children and take them back to their cattle camps in the north.

They were generally forcibly converted to Islam.

The women and girls would be taken as "wives", while the boys were used to tend cattle.

Between 3,000 and 6,000 slaves have already been returned but donors withdrew the funding following reports that people had been taken back to the south and abandoned and that others had been forced to return against their will.

Arek Anyiel Deng told the BBC that she was glad to be free from her "master".

But she now finds herself back in the south with five children to care for and no-one to help her.

"It's like I was still in the camp, it's the same situation as in the north," she said.

Mr Mufti said the whole operation was now being monitored by aid workers from international agencies.

Sudan's government has always rejected claims that people are living in slavery but admits that thousands were abducted during the war.

It says this is an ancient tradition of hostage-taking by rival ethnic groups.

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