Sunday, March 18, 2007
I awakened this morning with Darfur on my mind. Everything was set,
airlines reservations were fixed. We had been sitting on pins and needles
as of yesterday. Yahya had called from Washington, D.C., to say only
one seat was available. It seemed that there was a high level meeting
in Chad. VIPs connected to the meeting had claimed all the seats. Late
last night, a second seat had become available. We would have to leave
two persons behind.
I completed our two worship services, 8am and 12noon. At both services,
I emphasized the importance of my journey to Chad. We, who named the
name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, had been called to be at
the cutting edge of life and death issues. The stakes were high in Africa
generally, Sudan in particular. The life of generations hung in the
balance. There is a great potential for regional conflict involving
many African countries. Nine (9) countries borders Sudan.
Refugees from Sudan were fleeing into Chad, which is contiguous to the
western region of Sudan. The United Nations has called the situation
in Darfur the worse humanitarian crises in the world today. It has been
reported that 200 to 400,000 people have been killed and 21⁄2
million displaced since 2003. The incursion of masses of destitute men
women and children put a staggering burden on Chad, which was already
in a desperate stage of development. In addition there were rebels,
believed to be supported by the Sudanese government, threatening to
overthrow the government of President Idriss Déby Itno. Even
as I write, there are reports of warfare in the eastern region of Chad,
where we are headed. The refugee camps we planned to visit are in that
area. We had not succeeded in securing visas to visit Sudan, thus we
had to go into Chad to visit the camp.
As always on these trips, I try to prepare the people for the possibility
of my death or my not returning. I reassured the people with my contentment
of being where I was called to be, to be on a monumental mission in
Africa, is the way I would want to die. I quoted Dr. William Jones,
the deceased pastor of Bethany Baptist church, “I don’t
want to die in shallow waters.” There weren’t any joyful
responses, only heavy silence.
After service, I had dinner with my family. Returning to the church,
we began to pack for the journey. We had purchased two hundred (200)
T-shirts to be distributed in the refugee camp. On the front of the
baby blue shirts, printed in black letters, were the words, “The
National Religious Leaders of African Ancestry Concerned About Darfur
– We Stand With You.”
Helping us pack for the trip were Cuyler Cohen, Omar Wilks, Kefentse
Johnson, and Caleb Miller. Bill Moore of the Amsterdam News and Lem
Peterkim of the Daily Challenge took photos, which later appeared in
the respective papers.
At 7:30pm, we departed from the church, arriving at the JFK Airport
at 8:30pm. After checking in, we had over a two (2) hours wait. The
waiting time gave me an opportunity to do some reading of my briefing
papers on Chad. The following information I read from material taken
from the Internet:
A landlocked country in north-central Africa, Chad is about 85% the
size of Alaska. Its neighbors are Niger, Libya, the Sudan, the Central
African Republic, Cameroon, and Nigeria. Lake Chad, from which the country
gets its name, lies on the western border with Niger and Nigeria. In
the north is a desert that runs into the Sahara.
The area around Lake Chad has been inhabited since at least 500 B.C.
In the 8th century A.D. Berbers began migrating to the area. Islam arrived
in 1085, and by the 16th century a trio of rival kingdoms flourished:
the Kanem-Bornu, Baguirmi, and Ouaddaï. In 1883–1893, all
three kingdoms came under the rule of the Sudanese conqueror Rabih al-Zubayr.
In 1900, Rabih was overthrown by the French, who absorbed these kingdoms
into the colony of French Equatorial Africa, as part of Ubangi-Shari
(now the Central African Republic), in 1913. In 1946, the territory,
now known as Chad, became an autonomous republic within the French Community.
An independence movement led by the first premier and president, François
(later Ngarta) Tombalbaye, achieved complete independence on Aug. 11,
1960. Tombalbaye was killed in the 1975 coup and succeeded by Gen. Félix
Malloum, who faced a Libyan-financed civil war throughout his tenure
in office. In 1977, Libya seized a strip of Chadian land and launched
an invasion two years later.
Nine rival groups meeting in Lagos, Nigeria, in March 1979 agreed to
form a provisional government headed by Goukouni Oueddei, a former rebel
leader. Fighting broke out again in Chad in March 1980, when Defense
Minister Hissen Habré challenged Goukouni and seized the capital.
Libyan president Muammar al-Qaddafi, in Jan. 1981, proposed a merger
of Chad with Libya. The Libyan proposal was rejected and Libyan troops
withdrew from Chad that year, but in 1983 they poured back into the
northern part of the country in support of Goukouni. France, in turn,
sent troops into southern Chad in support of Habré. Government
troops then launched an offensive in early 1987 that drove the Libyans
out of most of the country.
In 1990, Idriss Déby, a former defense minister and head of the
Patriotic Salvation Movement, overthrew Habré, suspended the
constitution, and dissolved the legislature. In 1994 a new constitution
was drafted and an amnesty for political prisoners was declared. Déby
won multiparty elections in 1996 and was reelected in 2001. His rule
has been marked by repression and corruption. Déby has faced
about a half-dozen insurgencies since taking office.
In June 2000 the World Bank agreed to provide more than $200 million
to build a $3.7-billion pipeline connecting the oil fields in Chad to
those in Cameroon. Oil revenues are estimated to earn $2.5 billion over
the next 30 years. Human rights groups are concerned they will only
benefit the oil companies and the political elite in Cameroon and Chad.
The World Bank, however, has forced Chad to agree to spend 80% of the
resulting oil revenues on education, health, infrastructure, and other
social welfare projects desperately needed by this impoverished country.
The deal has been hailed as a novel approach to ensuring that developing
countries with authoritarian governments manage to spend revenues to
alleviate the poverty of their people rather than enrich its elite.
(In 2005, Transparency International listed Chad as the world's most
corrupt country.) In the next 25 years Chad is expected to make $80
million per year, increasing the government treasury by 50%. But in
2006, after the pipeline was completed, Déby reneged on the deal
with the World Bank, saying he would spend the oil revenues to finance
the military, to buttress his nearly insolvent government, and to shore
up his fragile hold on power. In response, the World Bank suspended
its loans and froze Chad's bank accounts. In May the World Bank and
Chad reached a compromise: Chad's government would receive 30% of the
oil revenues, instead of the 10% originally agreed to, and the remaining
70% of revenues would be spent exclusively on programs to alleviate
the country's poverty.
By 2006, about 250,000 Sudanese refugees had fled to Chad to escape
the fighting in Sudan's Darfur region, where they face hunger and disease
in desperately undersupplied refugee camps. In April 2006, a coup to
oust Déby was averted with the help of French troops stationed
in the country. Opposition parties boycotted the May presidential elections,
and Déby retained the presidency.
Prime Minister Pascal Yoadimnadji died in February 2007. President Déby
named Delwa Kassire Koumakoye as his successor.
Rebels from three groups stormed N'Djamena in February 2008 and demanded
the resignation of President Déby. Chad's military, however,
repulsed the rebels. Leaders in Chad accused Sudan of fomenting the
rebellion, and tension between the two countries escalated. About 100
people died in the fighting.
To be continued…
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