Tuesday, March 20, 2007 (Part A)
It was 8am when I awaken, which is unusually late for me. The sun was
already up and working hard to guarantee another hot day. Looking out
of my ground floor picture window, I could see people were already moving
about. The streets, across the grass, bushes and dirt yards, were busy
with pedestrians’ vehicles and bikes, motor and manual.
Yahya came by my room. He was beaming. He recited our itinerary, meeting
with the US Ambassador and the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR).
He would try to secure a meeting with Mr. Salva Kiir, Vice President
of the Central Government of Sudan and President of the South of Sudan.
Also, he will get a cameraperson and book flight to Abeche. We prepared
a couple of gift packages, consisting of books, newspaper clippings
and T-shirts. Then we went to breakfast.
It was a buffet breakfast. A roundtable of cold cereal and meats, cheese,
fruits, juices, yogurt and milk. There were eggs, cooked according to
the customers’ liking. Across the room in the corner were breads
of all kinds and shapes, pure honey, jelly and jams. Against the wall
were hot cereals and meats – beef, pork, and lamb stew. Also there
was soup, coffee and tea.
I decided on pineapple, herbal mint tea and water. I was halfway through
the tea then realized I should not drink the water. If it were broiling,
I thought, it might be alright; but I wasn’t sure the water had
broiled. In countries where contagious diseases are rife, I try to confine
myself to a very sparse eating program, with lots of bottled liquids,
Our first stop was the American Embassy. We drove along dirt, garbage-strewn
roads where puddles of water and large holes abound. There were paved
roads, too. But, they were like asphalt streets running through a desert.
Even when the roads were paved, the side streets that ran into the road
were dirt. Let it be remembered, this is desert country. However, there
is greenery and farmland, but always the desert is present. From the
dirt, clouds of dust were pervasive. Along the streets, vendors were
everywhere. There was even street-side gas selling. Nigerians are the
greatest sellers. The gas is sold in all kinds of bottles. There is
cooking, too. On the sidewalk, people sat and ate their cooking –
plantains, tea, and gugas (wheat cakes) which are dipped into the tea,
dunked in donut style. Vehicles and bikes flooded the streets. Crowds
of people were moving apparently purposefully, some hurrying, others
strolling, still others drove their vehicles leisurely. I wondered,
where they were going. What was so important in this sun-baked city
to all these people that moved them with such alacrity and determination?
The American Embassy covered a couple of blocks. However, there was
no show of luxury, except behind the old stonewalls, with barbwire atop.
As we passed through black supervised security, we saw in the open courtyard
a number of modern vehicles and well kept buildings. We never got beyond
the second security station. After giving personal information on a
card, the regional security person came out to greet us. He was white.
I guessed southern. We inquired about security in the refugee camp area.
He said the rebels, against the Chadian government, are attacking. They
hope to make an impact in the area before the rainy season in June.
They do not come into the city. They attack from a distance, hoping
to draw the soldiers away. Then, they enter, loot and destroy. “Be
sure to contact our people there when and if you plan to go,”
Next stop, the UNHCR. More crowds along the way, and more dirt roads.
The UNHCR is a wall complex similar to the American Mission. “They
are supposed to help refugees, yet they hide behind walls,” said
Yahya. The security was even more secure than the American Embassy.
Yahya knocked on the iron wall. A peephole opened. Barely seen was a
dark face with white eyes. The security person inquired reason for our
knocking. After responding to his question, a security officer was sent
to lead us into the compound.
Walking pass the security station, we received identification badges
with a ribbon that was to be placed around our necks. We were led into
an office. There sat a slender white woman. She looked efficacious.
She was courteous, knowledgeable and articulate. She was Danish. She
said, “The refuges are growing. There are over 200,000 from Darfur
and almost 200,000 displaced in Chad.” Yahya inquired about the
airplane. The small plane was already filled till next Monday. She told
us, the World Food Project (WFP) has a larger plane. She gave us their
number. She asked us if we were taking anything to the refugee camp.
“Yes, t-shirts,” said Yahya. “Which camps are you
planning to visit?” she asked. “Fontana or Gaga,”
Yahya replied. “Why does every body go to Fontana?” she
asked. “Because it is close to Abecha,” answered Yahya.
Abecha is where the planes land.
The UN person said, “I am curious, why are you going to that camp?”
“It is a Muslim Camp.” Yahya replied, “I am Muslim.”
I responded, “So what? In our organization, we have members who
are Muslim. But we only thought of the refugees as humans.”
I thought about it later. It never crossed my mind that in some camps
there were Muslims. To me, they were all suffering. In times of great
suffering, the biblical statement becomes powerfully real, “God
is no respecter of person. God has made all flesh of one blood.”
In the suffering of Darfur, everybody is the same. I felt the same way
when I went to the Bronx to give my prayers and support to the family
and friends of the African Muslims whose love ones were killed in a
fire. I never thought to ask their religion. There was pain. The human
family was hurting. And I was supposed to be present and to help anyway
I remember when I walked into the mosque; there were whispers and nods
in appreciation. I overheard several persons whispering. In fact, others
came and greeted me with hugs. They said, “We knew you would be
here.” Nobody made a religious distinction. People were hurting
and people were responding to the pain.
Returning to the hotel at 11:30am, I walked out by the pool. I estimate
the size to be 30X15 yards. The water was blue. Lolling around the pool
were white, scantly clad females. Some sat beneath umbrellas and others
swam. The men sat around looking and talking. There was a beach restaurant
and bar close by. At the counter stood white men drinking. There were
a couple of black men, too. Even in this international setting, in an
African country, it is still clear, white men rule. That is the picture
and message they conveyed. “We are still in charge. Africans are
still our servants, cleaning, digging, planting, repairing and polishing.
They are still supposed to serve us food and drink and cut our grass
and shrubbery.” They seem to be saying.
I sat at the table, not far from the pool, surveying the scene. Off
to my left was a river; on the other side of the river was Cameroon.
People waited on the parched banks to be ferried across. “When
the rainy season comes (June), the river overflow all the way to the
edges of the pool and courtyard,” said Yahya.
To be continued…
Attend the Timbuktu Learning Center’s weekly Thursday Night Community
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Join Operation Life Line if you need assistance or know someone who
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Attend NRLAA’s monthly forum Focus on Africa the 2nd Saturday
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Keep abreast of our Darfurian activities by checking our web page @
On Monday, May 12, 2008, 5pm – 7pm, join Rev. Daughtry and the
members of NRLAA on a March & Rally in Support of Darfur. At 5:00pm,
we will assemble at the Chinese Mission and march from there to the
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