The Dinka community has set up its own "retrieval committee" to secure the return of enslaved women and children. It operates independently of the government and often at personal risk to its representatives.
Mrs Ayuel Anyai, the mother of four boys and a girl who were "hired" to Lagabi Suleiman Hassan but never returned, took her case to Aweil Dinka chiefs in Khartoum in 1989. Recognising the need to accumulate evidence with which to approach the (then civilian) government on such cases, in April 1989 the chiefs assembled a group of six dedicated young men and sent them to conduct investigations in Darfur. Top
They left Khartoum on 6 June 1989 and travelled to Darfur in secrecy, posing as workers looking for jobs. They worked on a number of agricultural schemes and farms as rnigrant labour. Moving from area to area, they compiled a list of people holding Dinka children, and managed to register hundreds of children by name.
Their findings enabled the Dinka chiefs to make a detailed report on enslavement in August 1989. Copies were sent to the Revolutionary Command C6uncil (RCC), which had seized power on behalf of the National Islamic Front on 30 June; to the Governors of Bahr al-Ghazal and Darfur; to the indigenous NGO Sudan Aid and to the office of the Catholic Archbishop of Khartoum. Top
A sympathetic erstwhile government official helped open channels to the Governor of Darfur, Abu al-Gasim Ibrahim, in November 1989, and to the government of Southern Darfur. Abu al-Gasim gave the Dinka delegation accommodation in the state guest house, and on 16 December he called together the leaders of the Rezeigat groups to whom the main slave raiders belong, as well as Rezeigat intellectuals and other citizens.
Initially the Rezeigat denied holding any Dinka children against their will. Then the Dinka delegation brought forward four of the victims: Adeng Akok (12 years); her brother Akok Akok (10 years); Mual Aguer (8 years); and Kuol Nyot. Their testimonies confirmed that Dinka villages had been raided.Top
The Rezeigat leaders admitted this was so, but added that only certain sections had been responsible. They agreed that if the Dinka would provide transport (muwassalat) and food expenses (muwassareef), then the Rezeigat would secure the retrieval operation and accompany the Dinka delegation to the locations where captives were held. 103 children were subsequently freed.
To keep the retrieval operation going, in March 1991 a fund-raising campaign was launched among the Southern Sudanese community in Khartoum, which collected over two hundred thousand Sudanese pounds (less than US$1,000) over the next four years.Top
The majority of the contributors were themselves displaced people, victims of continuous forced relocation to camps outside Khartoum, and financially hard pressed.
Despite their limited funds, the committee was able to bring cases of abducted children to the attention of the Bahr al-Ghazal authorities, solicit funds for their retrieval, trace the parents of identified children and inform their parents to receive the children when they were brought from Western Sudan. Two persons always accompanied any group of retrieved children. Top
The Dinka committee continues to co-operate with the State Government of Darfur: when it collects information about the slaves, it presents it to the government of south Darfur.
If the evidence is accepted, its representatives are given a police escort to confront the captors, and the children are then taken back without any money changing hands. Such operations are rarely straightforward in practice. Top
A LOW PROFILE
The committee identified and retrieved 4 children in Decetnber 1989, 111 in March 1990, 16 in August 1993, 15 in 1994, and 39 in 1995. These children were re-united with parents or other surviving relatives. Many of these relatives currently live in the displaced camps of Jebel Aulia, Gaborona, Salama and Sabra- Mayo (15-40 kilometres from Khartoum city centre).
Ten of these children were recovered in the last quarter of 1995 between
ad-Daein and Nyala. Another group was located in Raga, Northern Bahr al-Ghazal,
in April 1996. Only Southern Darfur was covered by the survey, and that
only partially. In Northern Darfur and Kordofan, which were not covered,
the investigators fear that thousands of children rnay still be held.Top