Flashpoint for Conflict
Encouraging Hostility
Rise of the Jallaba
Vivid Memories
"My Cousin Mohamed" - poem
 Seasonal Migration
 Dawn of Abolition


Pacification & Closed Districts


The First Civil War
 Abyei - A Premonition?
A Ngok Dinka Song
 "Islamic" Law
 Civil War re-ignites
 Loss of Moral Authority
Slavery in the Sahel region of Africa is hundreds of years old, and Sudan was a very active participant in the slave trade until early this century. The south-western region of Bahr al-Ghazal was one of the most prominent centres of slave trading on the African continent in the late 19th century. 

South-western Sudan, on the border with the Central African Republic, is divided by the Bahr-al-Arab and Bahr-al-Ghazal rivers into two zones. With followers of Islam in the north and of Christianity and traditional religions in the south, it is a microcosm of the way the country itself is divided. It has long been a flashpoint for conflicts, often spurred by competition for resources, and compounded by racial, religious and cultural differences. 

For centuries northern Sudanese and Turco-Egyptian traders raided along the Nile, deep into Upper Nile, Equatoria and into the vast lands of Bahr al-Ghazal. Here African villagers were caught, beaten and roped together. Then they were walked and shipped great distances to be sold on as domestic servants, farm hands or concubines, in Northern Sudan, neighbouring countries like Egypt and Libya, or across the Red Sea.Top

Raiding and hostage-taking, slave-like conditions and child trafficking among rival Sudanese tribes existed before the arrival of invaders from the north. From the niid-1800s, however, foreign traders encouraged hostile tribal groups to raid each other for booty including ivory and slaves. The Baggara, Muslim cattle-herders who regard them- selves as Arabs, penetrated south into Bahr al-Ghazal, the land of the Dinka and other African, non-Arabised tribes.Top

In the early 19th century, the "Jallaba", a group of northern Muslirn traders mostly from the Ja'aliyyin and Danagla tribes of the Nile valley, came in increasing numbers to southern Sudan, especially northern Bahr al-Ghazal, which became an important source of slaves. The Jallaba made their fortunes in the slave trade, although some also worked as boatmen and soldiers. They sent the slaves overland to markets in the north, and kept them in enclosures with thorny fences, called zaribas, en route. The Jailaba prospered, and became a powerful and wealthy community - with vested interests in slavery. To this day, Southerners sometimes refer to Northerners as "Jallaba" as if, to them, the merchant class represents the entire society. Top