It was the kind of excitement that made children uneasy.
Grownups were pointing toward the river. Others were arriving at a run. The bustling atmosphere in the market place of the peaceful African town of Nyamlell in the Dinka tribal area in the southern Sudan was changing.
Worried adults could see what a seven-year-old Dinka boy, Francis Bok, who had gone to the market that fateful day with older village children to sell his mother’s eggs and peanuts, could not: “a storm of smoke” rising from a nearby village. Sellers frantically began to gather up their wares and hurry away with the buyers. The adults understood. They recognized the approaching signs of the dreaded scourge that most people believed had disappeared from the pages of African history long ago: a slave raid.
It was 1986 and Bok was about to see his happy world of family and village shattered forever by a centuries-old, barbaric practice that has never died out: the violent capture and enslavement of black Africans by Arabs.
“The Arab militias were told to kill the men and enslave the women and children,” said the now 28-year-old Bok, who was himself captured and enslaved that day, to an audience of 80 people at the University of Toronto recently where he had been invited to speak by the campus organization, Zionists at U. of T.