HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH "Crises in Sudan and Northern Uganda"
Testimony of Jemera Rone, Human Rights Watch Before the House Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights and the Subcommittee on Africa July 29, 1998
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The Train, Relief For The Displaced In Garrison Towns, And Slavery In Sudan

One of the most dramatic abuses of human rights in Sudan, the resurgence of slavery, is a by-product of the war: children and women are abducted in military-like raids on civilian Dinka villages.

The muraheleen descend on civilian villages on horseback, armed with the government's automatic weapons. The raids are conducted where there is no SPLA presence; the objective is not to kill enemy troops but to enslave "enemy" civilians and weaken the Dinka, economically and socially. The Dinka are outgunned and horseless; they cannot protect their women, children, or cattle. Those who resist are killed.

These raids now are often conducted by the muraheleen accompanying the train from the north to Wau, the southernmost terminal of the line. This train has been used for solely military purposes for years, taking troops and military supplies to Wau and Aweil and other military posts along the route. The train transports muraheleen horses, which they use to raid and loot Dinka villages along the way, taking women and children captive. On the way north, they take the looted cattle they could not sell in the Wau market on the train, and sometimes they take the abducted women and children, although usually the abductees are forced to walk, hands tying them to each other, behind the horses.

Now the government offers to use the train to transport relief food to the government garrison towns where the Dinka, fleeing muraheleen and government army raids, are now starving. The government, however, has had ample opportunity to transport relief food on this train but has not done so for years. The current motivation appears economic, or sanctions-busting: the government wants U.S. economic sanctions on Sudan lifted so that it can acquire the spare parts needed for the train, which are said to be manufactured in the U.S.

The government may be hoping that the U.S. government is ignorant of the history of the 1988 famine in Sudan, when the government promised to deliver relief on this train andcomplied with about five percent of its promise (using most of the train's capacity for military supplies and troops, and the rest for merchants' goods). It also may hope that the U.S. government is ignorant of the terrible role the train plays in human rights abuses in Sudan in 1998, including as an important means of transportation for slave-raiders.

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July 1998

Human Rights Watch