Journal of the People’s Pastor

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

DARFUR DIARY

Darfur Diary: Part IV – My Journey To Chad, Central Africa


Visiting the Darfurian Refugee Camp



Wednesday, March 21, 2007 (Part A)

I was up at 5:00am. It was a restless night. I was eager to start our journey to Abecha and the refugee camp. Yahya and I were joined by Muhammad Salim and a man named Esau. I had a fruit breakfast, mangos, melons and papaya – same as last night.

An official SUV was waiting for us. Walid, our cameraman, met us at the airport. In the daylight, the airport’s scarcity could be seen. Already the hawkers were gathering, but there were no beggars. The flight was scheduled for 7:30am. We arrived at 7:00am. To our disappointment, we discovered the flight had been cancelled. I began to think of staying. If we didn’t get to the refugee camp, our trip would be of little value. But, I would miss our church’s National Holy Pilgrimage and Memorial Ceremonies. It was a difficult dilemma for me. Then to our great relief and joy, we were told President Deby would provide us with his plane.

It was a small propeller, seating 8 passengers, including the pilot. In our party were Walid, Yahya, and Muhammad. There were three others, two were Eritreans, both were stern. One was swarthy with wavy straight hair. He wore a blue suit. The other was balding slightly, portly, with a long face and olive completion. I learned later, they didn’t like Americans. US had supported Ethiopia in their war, where 25,000 solders/civilians Eritians had been killed. In addition, they wanted no American involvement in the peace efforts. Their body language and facial expression (and they weren’t hiding it.) spoke volume of their antipathy toward us, or me.

I thought later, they who were supposed to be open to all people, capable of making a distinction between government and citizens of a country, exhibited the same old dogmatic infantile stupidity of exaggerated generalizations. I too, resented some of the US government’s policies. For all they knew, I could have supported Eritrea. In addition, they rejected Walid filming. They angrily reprimanded us for not seeking their permission before filming. They were right on that point. We apologized and ceased filming. When Muhammad offered them tobacco, or whatever it was, there were no conversation. They took the stuff, rolled it in a small piece of paper and put it in their mouths. The older gentleman put it in the bottom of his lip, sat back if in complete satisfaction. I wonder what it was that could tame this tiger.

It was a surprisingly smooth ride for a small plane. It took a couple of hours. I didn’t see much. The sun was bright and penetrating. The curtains had to be pulled down. Occasionally, I would peak out of the window. I saw nothing but desert and mountains and here and there, patches of green.

We landed smoothly in the ancient city of Abeche. It sits in the farther most eastern boarder that Chad shares with Sudan. Rebels were known to make their assault on N’djamena, the capital city from Abeche. About a year ago, the rebels and the Chadian government solders engaged in a series of clashes. The rebels won a temporary victory. But was beaten back by the government.

Surveying the airport, it was the most underdeveloped airport I have ever been in. Everything was old and primitive. The hot rugged desert added to the crumbling appearance of the structures. The toilet was a stone enclave. The ground was the commode, which reminded me of the outhouses I remembered, when I lived in Georgia. There they had wood houses. Here the outhouses were made of stone.

The signs of war were all around. Groups of solders watching, turning, shifting their weapons, were everywhere. We were motioned to a pickup truck driven by a young solider, cold black, with his weapon by his side. I sat in the front with him. Everyone else sat in the back of the open truck with armed solders. With great skill, he drove across the dirt, bumpy, debris-strewn roads or pathways. There are no paved roads in Abeche. Occasionally, the vehicle had to slow down because of the bumps and holes, and deep cut gullies in the road. There were no signs or lights. I commented on this to Yahya, he replied, “They know the roads. They grew up in this area. Not only that, but they know how to travel in the desert.”

We passed 3 crowded markets and streets. It seemed everything was in the market and every body had something to sell, even children were trying to sell something. Also it seemed that it was the only gathering place. Everybody, except foreigners or those visiting, wore long clothing. The same for children as it was for adults. There was a lot of color in the apparel. Men wore the Emma, the turban like headpiece. They folded it in different shapes. There is another more practical reason for the headpiece. In addition to beautification, there is protection from the dust and the sun. Plenty of dust blows all the time and everywhere. It can be blinding and suffocating. I was told all the solders had to wear the Emma. After all, they could not be worrying or hampered by dust while they were trying to fight. The houses or huts were made of mud, brick and stone. Looking out across the land everything was brownish tan in color. Always there is a patch of green grass, trees, or bushes. There seem to be a message in this – nothing can defeat life.

Our first stop was at a house, which seemed to be a guesthouse. Men lolled around. Immediately upon our entering, a rug was brought out, we sat for a moment, drank some tea and set out to secure a car. Walking along the dusty road, we came to a mosque with a tall spire which could be seemed across the city. School children dressed in blue headed to the nearby school. Muhammad, who had hopped on a bike to secure a taxi, returned in an old yellow car. We went to the market place where we paused for water and greetings. Yahya insisted that I drank a bottled liquid called guava. It was delicious, not only so, but it revived me. I had begun to feel dizzy as we waited for the taxi in the burning heat. I drank 21⁄2 bottles of the stuff. When the car and driver were secured, we drove to the hotel where we were to stay.

The hotel looked like it had once been the home of a wealthy family. Like all the buildings, it was one story. It had a stone fence around it. It was a square maybe 50X50 feet. Inside there was a courtyard. Two very inexpensive tables with plastic chairs, sat beneath the trees. Underneath the extended roof were a soft, red flower design and two chairs. There is always the modern technology present – TVs, cell phones and vehicles. Muhammad, who had come to my room to assure my comfort, turned to the English speaking Aljazeera TV station. “It is the most widely watched station in the world now.

Outdoing CNN,” he said. The last time I was on Aljareeza was in March 2003. It was in Iraqi. I was interviewed about our mission there. I had led a multi-racial, interfaith delegation in an attempt to achieve peace.

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.