Wednesday, March 21, 2007 (Part B)
As I prepared to submit my next article to the Daily Challenge regarding
the series entitled, My Journey To Chad, a Darfurian leader, Mr. Khalil
Ibrahim, President of Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) launched a
surprised attack on Khartoum, capital of Sudan. For 3 straight days,
starting Sunday, May 11, the New York Times carried articles related
to the attack; also the story was carried in the Daily Challenge, May
The New York Times stated, “Darfurian rebels staged a bold attack
on Saturday, advancing to within a few miles of the center of Sudan’s
The conflict in Darfur, a desiccated region of western Sudan hundreds
of miles from Khartoum, has been raging on and off for years. But the
attack on Saturday is the first time major fighting spilled into the
capital’s suburbs, a possible sign of rising instability to come.”
In the Daily Challenge’s article date Tuesday, May 13, 2008, entitled,
Darfur rebel leader vows more attacks on Khartoum stated, “Darfur
rebel leader Khalil Ibrahim said yesterday he would launch more attacks
on Sudan’s capital Khartoum until the government fell.
“This is just the start of a process and the end is the termination
of this regime.” Ibrahim, whose Justice and Equality Movement
(JEM) attacked Khartoum at the weekend, said in a satellite phone call.
“Don’t expect just one more attack.”
An interesting development growing out of this attack, Mr. Hassan al-Turabi
was arrested. Mr. al-Turabi, who heads the Popular Congress Party (PCP),
is in opposition to el-Bashir, President of Sudan. Turabi was a mentor
of Bashir and Ben Laden. At the time, the US government considered Sudan
a hot bed of terrorist training. Eventually, Turabi broke with Bashir
and started his own party. Mr. Ibrahim was also a student of Turabi.
President Bashir thinks that Turabi was in on the attack. All of them
are called Islamists, meaning they believe the government should implement
the laws of Islam.
In addition, Mr. Bashir severed diplomatic ties with Chad. He accused
Chad of supporting JEM. Some observers believe the JEM attack on Khartoum
was in retaliation for the Bashir’s support for the Chadian rebels
who attacked N’djamena, Capital of Chad. Mr. Idriss Deby, President
of Chad, denied the connection and condemned the attack.
Significantly, call it coincidence or providence, the timing is uncanny.
In this article, Part IV (B), I discuss my meeting with Mr. Ibrahim.
Following is the article:
We were greeted warmly with handshakes and embraces. Rugs were spread
out on the sand floor. Shoes were removed and we sat around in a circle.
Can sodas were provided. I refused, pointing to my trusty bottle of
water. Off in the distance sat another group. There I was told was Ibrahim.
There was a white man (he appeared to be white, he might have been Arab)
who sat across from Ibrahim, the chairperson. Yahya and I exchanged
glances. Our minds were running on the same track. “What is this
white man doing here?” he asked. The conversation turned to small
talk about our health, our travel and families. Looking across the terrain,
I thought what rugged beauty this place is. The endless stretches of
sand, the hills and mountains, the trees, grass, shrubbery, fighting
for survival. In the sky, a quarter moon was hanging. The stars against
the dark blue background seemed to be watching over us. The gentle wind
had ceased to blow. There was an ire calm. “It is so still.”
Yahya said in amazement. It was as if Mother Nature was waiting with
bated breath for our meeting with the chairperson of JEM.
The chairman arose, followed by the men around him. The white man gave
parting greetings, and then went across the small mountain of sand to
his SUV. We gathered up our shoes and made our way to the waiting chairperson
and his entourage. We were greeted with firm handshakes and warm embraces.
After introductions, we were invited to sit. We took off our shoes and
sat down on the rug. The chairman spoke first in Arabic, Yahya interrupted
He spoke in a slow resonant voice. Choosing his word carefully. He was
tall, sitting above the rest of us. His dark, well-trimmed mustache,
his small eyes, seemingly smaller by his large face, a small patch of
gray hairs escaped from beneath his kalmooze, otherwise his face was
youthful. His whole barring was of a man of strength, determination,
wisdom, and commitment.
He introduced his executive council, about 14 men, all youthful, I guessed
between the ages of 20 to 40, mostly in their 30ies. They were all friendly,
but intense. They all wore green. “We welcome you,” he said.
“It is time for prayer. Afterward we will talk” Some of
the men began washing their hands. They gathered in different places.
Behind me stood the chairman and his executive council. They were in
one line. All around, they gathered, two, three, ten, etc. All doing
the same act. I prayed too in a sitting position. While we called upon
different Gods, but whom we call by different names, I felt a unity.
Under this beautiful sky, inexorably growing darker, the sand and mountains
fading, here in the heart of Africa, I felt a oneness with these Muslim
brothers. But most of all and because of all, I felt a oneness with
These are the moments I wish I could capture and prolong. But they leave
us, not really though, the places, the physical presence leave us, but
never the moment. I was to say later to the chairman and his entourage,
“I really feel at home.”
These moments explain the reason why there are monuments, and worship
places constructed and there is literature and art. It is an attempt
to hold on to a sacred, mysterious moment.
When the prayer was over, we regained our places and the Chairman resumed.
Again he thanked me and my organization, the American people and the
people of the world, who had supported them. He proceeded to recite
the history of Sudan, Darfur and the struggle. “We fight against
a small elite in northern Sudan that has oppressed, murdered, and raped
and marginalized the majority – the majority of indigenous African
people. They have done this to hold on to power.
No matter what name the government calls itself, democratic, theocratic,
it has always been this small elite. It is not about religion. I am
Museum. Darfurii are Muslims and we are killed, our villages destroyed
and our women raped.
The government has supported Arab militia, called janjuweeds, with arms
forces, including airplanes. They have taken our homes and land.
We decided we had to fight. We are human beings. We deserve to be treated
like human beings. We hope our fight for freedom will result in all
Sudanese being set free and gain a better life. We have received no
support from the Arabs world. Little support from the Europeans, some
support from the African Union AU. Our main support is from America
and the UN. We thank the American people and again we thank you. We
didn’t sign the Peace Agreement, because it didn’t alter
anything. It did not include land and power sharing. We knew it would
It was dark before he finished. I could barely see body shapes and movements.
What a strange setting, I thought. Way out here in this barren place
with armed solders all around, I am listening to a man I know not, talk
of fighting and freedom. I thought of other times I had sat with freedom
fighters. The IRA in Belfast, the FALN in Nicaragua. In the garden of
Tanzania east Africa, at the 6th Pan African Congress, we sat and listened
to Ras Makonen. Makonen had participated with African freedom fighters,
i.e. Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyetta, etc, in fact was at the at the 5th
Pan African Congress in 1945 in Manchester England when 200 African
and Africans in the Diaspora met to chart a course of action that would
free Africa. We were enthralled as Makonen related stories of how they
fought for freedom. Makonen had been with Nkrumah when they freed Ghana
To be continued…
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