Journal of the People’s Pastor

“Writing The History I’ve Lived, Living The History I Write!”

DARFUR DIARY

Darfur Diary: Part II – My Journey To Chad, Central Africa
Visiting the Darfurian Refugee Camps



Monday, April 07, 2008

Well it was 7:20pm US Eastern Standard Time (EST), 2:20am Chadian time, when I crawled into bed. We started in New York JFK at check in time 8pm. The Air France flight was scheduled to depart at 11pm EST. We departed at 2:46am after sitting on the runway from 12:45am. We landed in Paris at 9am US time. It was a smooth ride, although we were late departing. However, we still arrived with an hour and a half wait time before boarding the next plan for Chad. We departed Paris at 5pm. (For my reflections on Paris and my visit with Jesse Jackson at the UNESCO Conference see my book, No Monopoly On Suffering, printed 1997, Africa World Press, Inc.). It was raining very hard. It had snowed earlier. We arrived in N’djamena, the capital of Chad, at 9:50pm Chadian time. So for 24 hours, we had been traveling.

During the travel time, I continued to study my briefing book, studiously prepared by Bro. Omar Wilks. The history and contemporary developments in the area is a painful study of foreign conquest, enslavement, colonization, domination and exploitation of African people and African people’s fragmentation, internecine wars, disunity, suppression and corruption, indeed, there were/are too many instances where African people had learned to imitate all of the destructive practices of Europeans and Arabs.

The issue that summoned us to this part of Africa was/is the suffering in Darfur. Everybody agrees there is a problem. Everybody has a reason how it started and offers opinions on how to stop it. But, death and destruction still continues.

The Sudanese government, headed by Omar El Bashir, says leaders of governments and activist groups who really want to get control of his land and resources have blown the problem out of proportion. There are those who say, let the UN supply adequate troops to protect the people and humanitarian aid workers.

The airport in N’djamena was small. The security was intensely methodical. Several friends of Yahya met us at the airport. Two wore traditional tunics, the other had on shirts and trousers, Euro American style. On the bus that took us from the plane to the terminal, I started a conversation with a man I overheard was from the USA, Alabama to be precise. He asked, “What are you doing in Chad?” I replied, “I plan to visit the Darfurian refugee camps.” “Good!” he said, “I hope you get the real story. The media isn’t telling the truth.” I wondered what he meant. But the bus had arrived at our destination. Once we completed the process, we walked through a small waiting room where crowds of vendors and service givers descended upon us. There was the musky smell of bodies unwashed, mangled with tobacco smoke. I almost suffocated from the smoke as the puffers sucked their poison sticks as if they were trying to make up for the denial of other things.

Outside, in the open air, the warm climate had a jasmine fragrance. The stars, as if welcoming us, bedecked the dark velvety ski. The ride was five (5) minutes to the hotel. The Novella Hotel is one of the two (2) five star hotels in N’djamena. It is small and unimposing; in fact, it is a very simple place.

I was amazed at the foreigners in the hotel. I remembered what Yahya had observed as we disembarked from the plane. “There are only three (3) Chadians on the plane,” he had said. Inside the hotel, the reception area was tiny compared to five-star hotels in other parts of the world. There was a restaurant to the right and a lounge about the same size of the restaurant. The smoke was as thick as the smoke in the airport. It seemed that all Arabs are chain smokers. Then add the Europeans to the puffers and you get suffocation and maybe, no, no maybe about it, early death.

The music was old USA sounds. There was Peggy Lee singing, “Get out of here and get me some money, too.” What a contrast! In the heart of Africa, in this hotel run by Africans, notice I didn’t say owned by Africans, it seems there is very little in Africa owned by Africans, a white woman sings an old American tune. I coined a sentence years ago, as I travel all over the continent, “something for everybody in Africa except Africans.”

As I retired for bed, in my small but comfortable room, which costs $180 US dollars per night, I turned on CNN. The reporter reminded the world this was the 4th Anniversary of the war in Iraq.
There was the usual attempt to give both sides of the story. There was President Bush making the same old argument, “We can’t go home now.” It used to be we can’t “cut and run.” There was a woman, I didn’t get her name, who quoted revealing statistics – 61% of Iraqi supported attacks on US troops, 80% opposed American presence, 35% want the US to get out now. There were interviews with Iraqis who boldly stated that things were better under President Hussein, probably the most powerful statement was made by a person who pulled down Hussein’s statue, now he regretted pulling the statue down. He stated things were better under Hussein. They showed a family being forced to move because the US Army wanted to secure the area. The woman was asked how she felt being forced to move. She replied, “How would you feel if you were forced to move out of your home?” There was no need to answer. It reminded me of a statement a general made during the Vietnam War, “We had to destroy it to save it.”

The Iraqi equivalent, “We have to force you out of your house so we can save your house.” Is there any wonder the people of Iraq harbor such resentment towards the US. President Bush seems determined to save Iraq even if they don’t want his brand of salvation, or if he has to destroy it.
I went to sleep thinking about my trip to Iraq, which significantly took place in March of 2003. I led an Interfaith, Interracial delegation to Iraq. It was a last desperate effort to avert the war. Obviously, we failed. I sometimes wonder what the world would be like, how many lives would have been saved and how much property would not have been destroyed, how much resources could have been diverted to providing food and medicine and shelter to the destitute masses of the world, in a word, how much better the world would have been had the American people listened to us? We tried to tell them that this war, which Mr. Bush and his cohorts were bent on starting, was unnecessary and unjustified. It wasn’t about getting rid of weapons of mass production, which was proven there were none; it wasn’t about Suddam's involvement in the events of 911, it had nothing to do with Suddam’s connections to Ben Laden, they hated each other. It had nothing to do with democracy and freedom; it was about America’s leaders’ ego, Iraqi’s oil and American hegemony.

To be continued…

Upcoming Events


Attend the Timbuktu Learning Center’s weekly Thursday Night Community Forums. All Forums are held at the House of the Lord Church from 7pm to 9pm.

Join Operation Life Line if you need assistance or know someone who needs assistance with their mortgages as it relates to foreclosures, predatory lending and/or subprime lending.

Attend NRLAA’s monthly forum Focus on Africa the 2nd Saturday from 2pm to 4pm.

Organizing Meetings regarding Darfur every Thursday - 12noon @ the House of the Lord Church
Keep abreast of our Darfurian activities by checking our web page @ www.holnj.org.

On Thursday, April 24, 2008, 7pm-9pm, Dr. Adelaide Sanford will be the guest speaker at the Timbuktu Learning Center Weekly Forum held at The House of the Lord Church, 415 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. Her topic will be: “My Years as an Educator.”