This not only points to the kind of discrimination that South Sudanese have had to suffer at the hands of northerners, it also indicates the extent to which the legacy of slavery continued to inform structures of economic, political and social inequality long after the official abolishment of the practice in 1924, and the country’s independence in 1956.It provides a context for why most South Sudanese felt that there was no place for them in a larger Sudan in which they would always be looked upon as worse than second-class citizens.This controversy around slavery during the Sudanese civil war is an example of how difficult it often is to separate fact from fiction when talking about the two Sudans.At the crossroads of the Arab Middle East and Africa, and of Islam, Christianity and indigenous religions, the Sudans channel all kinds of conflicting agendas and narratives, both locally and internationally.The Sudans, however, always prove to be more complicated than any of these narratives assert them to be.Which brings me back to my own family history, for it is a history that sets into relief the complexity of identity in the region.Fatin Abbas is one of the 2015 winners of a Morland Writing Scholarship which will allow her to research and write a book on contemporary Sudanese identity.
These more sceptical voices also questioned whether there was indeed a coherent government policy underpinning the practice, something that the slave liberationist groups claimed.
It is for this reason that it is necessary to remember and reclaim stories such as my great-grandmother’s.
These stories allow us both to reconstruct historical legacies of oppression, and to deconstruct the myths of cultural and ethnic purity and “difference” on the basis of which much of this oppression has been justified in the region.
They organised slave redemption drives targeted at freeing slaves through monetary compensation.
On the other side, activists, researchers and others argued that these slave redemption drives made things worse by creating a market for slaves where there hadn’t been one to begin with.
Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s foreign minister, said today that a British woman extremist and "two or three" Americans were among the terrorists behind the attack.