Journal of the People’s Pastor

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

DARFUR DIARY

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



Tuesday, March 20, 2007 (Part B)

How many times have I witnessed this scene in Africa? Whites controlling, in charge of everything. Sometimes it is blatant, other times it is subtle. However subtle, the swagger is still there. The audacity, the rudeness and the body language, it is all there. Any person of African Ancestry, who is relatively conscious or aware, can see and/or feel it. As I pondered these matters, Yahya came running to my table, the Vice President will see us in a half hour. I rushed to my room, put on the proper apparel and rushed to the waiting car. At the car, Yahya introduced me to a leader in the Justice Equality Movement (JEM). The driver was sent from the official pool of the President.

In no time, we were at the hotel. The most imposing hotel building maybe in the country. It was across the street from the parliament and another grayish-white stone finished building. This structure or hotel was far more regal and impressive then the President’s palace or home and workplace. Maybe that is the way it ought to be. Those who serve the people ought not live far removed from the people or place, which represents the people. The hotel had been built by the Libyans – again, the ownership of everything, it seems, is in the hands of others.

When we reached the hotel where the Vice President was staying, we rushed up to the 8th floor. We were greeted or met by security people. Obviously, the whole floor was reserved for the Vice President. The Sudanese Ambassador to Chad was there. (A good sign, I thought to myself.) We went through a thorough search, and then entered what appeared to be an office. A mahogany desk with leather chairs set in the corner with a picture window behind the desk. Two men sat in this area. They gave us the same intense look that had met us when we arrived on the 8th floor.

Then we were led into the living room or President’s room. It was tastefully done in red décor. The Vice President, Mr. Salva Kiir was impressive. He was seated with his shoes off watching a soccer game on television. Yahya and I sat on either side of him. Yahya spoke in Arabic, and then in English. He said nice things about me. Then the Vice President turned to me. I said, “Your excellency, thank you for your time. I know you are very busy with important meetings. And the world is waiting with bated breath. First let me express my admiration for your courage, wisdom, compassion and perseverance. I’ve done a little research. I know a few things about you. Let me ask you, how are the meetings going?” I assured him, that our conversation would be held in strict confidence. (Mr. Kiir was in N’djamena to forge unity among the Darfurian leaders and countries surrounding Sudan.) He said, “We should always have hope.” (How many times have I heard that before? Bishop Tutu used to say in South Africa long before the end of apartheid. “I am addicted to hope.) “It’s hopeful that Eritrea, Libya, the Sudanese government representatives and some of the rebel groups are all participating in the discussion,” he continued. “This time we are convening ourselves. However, there are rebel leaders who refuse to attend the meetings. Even though we offered to send a plane for them.”

Before we could complete our talk we were told we had to leave. There were representatives of rebel groups and the Sudanese government. They needed to have an emergency meeting. We left the room, met the representatives as they were entering. I wanted to say, “Mr. Vice President, I know there are serious differences. Be it far for me to enter the dispute, but speaking on behalf of suffering humanity, especially African people, I plead with you to continue your determined efforts until unity has been achieved.”

As we waited in the conference room with a panoramic view of the city below and beyond, it was obvious this was an impoverished city. Why? Why, is so much of Africa improvised when there are vast resources? The young assistant who waited in the room with us must have been reading my mind. He said, “There have been so much exploitation by others and internal fighting, Chad hasn’t had time to develop the resources and the country. When peace comes progress is made. Then war comes again. We waited in the conference room for about 45 minutes, hoping to see Mr. Kiir when the meeting was over. It didn’t happen. They left in a hurry to see the President, Mr. Deby.

On our way back to the hotel, Yahya explained, he has two seats on the plane and a cameraman. “The cameraman cost $800 US for the duration of the time we will be in Chad. Now he needed one more seat. In the evening we will have two meetings,” he said, “with rebel leaders.”

Before the interviews, we decided to eat dinner. There was a wide variety of foodstuff. I opted for a fruit dish of watermelon, cantaloupe and mangos, all delicious. The interviews took place in the garden near the pool. The first interview was with Dr. Ahmed Diringe, leader of the National Redemption Front and Sudan Federal Alliance. He was an elderly man, knowledgeable and expressive. He had resisted the Sudanese government since 1969. He headed the opposition party. He was former governor of Darfur. He is widely respected. He represented the resisters at the peace treaty.

In his interview, he recounted the history of the struggles in Sudan. He said, “Sudan gained its independence in 1956 and has never been able to formulate a democratic government or a strong federal government.” He indicated he had met with President Salva Kiir because he and all rebels wanted peace. The Sudanese government had sent Mr. Kiir to ask what did the rebels want? He hoped that a peaceful solution could be achieved.

The next interview was with Muhammad Salim. He was much younger. There was more fire in his belly than Dr. Diringe. He like Dr. Diringe wanted peace. But, he felt the government’s policy drove them to arms. He was critical of those who came out to the refugee camps, took pictures, made money and was never heard from again. I assured him that it would not be that way with us. Both interviews lasted over an half hour each.

Both interviews were video taped by our cameraman named Walid. It was after midnight when we made our way to our separate places. It had been a along day, but very productive, I do believe.

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 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 Sudan Mission.

NEED QUALITY CHILD CARE? – Call the Alonzo A. Daughtry Memorial Daycare Center Located at 333 Second Street, (Between 4th & 5th Avenues) downtown Brooklyn, NY (718) 499-2066. Immediate openings in a state of the arts center.