Journal of the People’s Pastor

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


Darfur Diary: Part IV
– My Journey To Chad, Central Africa
Meeting with Mr. Khalil Ibrahim, President of (JEM)

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 13, 2008.

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 capital, Khartoum.

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 in English.

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 God.

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 fail.”

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 in 1957.

To be continued…

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