Journal of the People’s Pastor

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


Darfur Diary: Part V – My Journey To Chad, Central Africa
Continuing the Meeting with Khalid Ibrahim

Thursday, March 22, 2007 (Part A)

I awakened this morning at 5:00am feeling a little tired. But I was determined to catch up on my journal entries. I had completed most of yesterdays when an aide to Mr. Ibrahim came for us. Yahya, rushed to get ready. I was already prepared to go. Since last night, I was pushing the daylight forward.

It was 7:30am Chad time when we departed the hotel. I rode up front with the solder/driver; his weapon was leaning against the seat. The Chairman’s aide rode in the back. Following were Yahya, Muhammad and Waleed, our cameraman.

The same scene greeted us as the night before. When we arrived our attention was immediately directed to our banner, which they had conspicuously hung up. We went through our usual greetings. The brothers were wide-awake and looking strong. I inquired about filming. They said emphatically, yes!” In fact, they encouraged us to talk to anyone of the solders. I was surprised.

I went over where they were eating. The solders were knelling around a platter of food. I knelt and joined them. They, smiling welcomed me. Then reaching my hand into the platter, I tasted the food. It looked like porridge. But I couldn’t discern the taste.

Then I went up by the well of water. A pouch was caste down into the deep hole. Water was brought up on a pulley. I resisted the urge to taste it.

I walked about ten yards to where a young sister was squatting pulling up what appeared to be parsley. It was gerger. I tasted it. It did remind me of parsley. She was preparing for the market. I offered to purchase more. She refused. She wanted to make a gift.

In another garden, not far away, a solder pulled up several small leaves. I tasted it. It had the taste of peppermint. Moving back across the grounds, I shook hands with the solders as I passed by. I went to another group of solders cooking. One was chopping and putting something into a pot, then stirring it. I looked into the pot. It was filled with onions and oil. Then he chopped some more, while another solder stirred the pot. It was meat wrapped in a cloth that was put into the pot. The aseeda was already made. It was covered on a platter. His weapon never left his side. It was true of all the solders. Whatever they did their weapons were close by.

I interviewed several young solders. I asked their age, they responded 19, 21 and 22. I inquired why they were out here in the army. The stories varied little. Their family members had been killed and/or raped. Their homes and land had been taken.

I walked back to where the rugs were placed. I was called to a gilda, a goatskin filled with water. A goat or sheep was killed and their insides were removed. Water was poured on the inside of the empty skin. It was hung from a tree where the wind would cool it. Thus, it could be taken across the desert – always cool. There was a sprout or opening which allowed the water to pour forth freely. I tasted the water. It was cool. I didn’t taste enough to describe the taste.

Now the Chairman with his entourage, made his appearance. We greeted each other with the same handshake and embrace and touching our faces from side to side. Papers were given to him to review. It was his statement.

We sat with our banner behind us. He started his reading of the statement. He thanked my organization, the American people and me. Essentially, he repeated what he had said before. When he was finished, I thanked him and promised to continue helping. He pinned a JEM button on my shirt and gave me their booklet, which I read later. We shook hands again as he departed. He stopped by to chat with a cluster of solders, got into his SUV, and with trucks of solders and machine guns, sped away.

We returned to the hotel. Seated in the courtyard was the Ambassador. He had been at the hotel from the day we arrived. We commenced conversing as I waited for word on our next move. Yahya told me earlier that President Deby was in the area and hopefully we might get a chance to see him. Ismiel Kefir is the head of the Darfur People’s Forum. It is an organization that tries to act as a moderator between governments and rebels and tries to mobilize and educate Darfurians. He is a quiet man who speaks and moves softly. He reminds me of a diplomat who knows how to talk tough and remain on good terms with everybody.

Later, the head of the Secret Service came by. The authorization to visit the refugee camps goes through a process that includes the Interior Minister and the Secret Service. Once the Interior Minister signs, the others will rubber stamp. This process has been implemented because different groups or persons were entering the camps filming and interacting for their own purpose. Also, recruiting by rebel groups was happening.

Yahya showed me the authorization papers. I had a copy made for my files. We received word that Muhammad who had been working on the authorization signature by the Interior Minister, wanted to be picked up. He was very disturbed. For hours he had waited for the signature. But, for unexplained reasons, the office was surrounded with security officers. I learned later, Sudan had been accused of bombing two Chadian cities. When we picked him up at the market, he said, the Interior Minister said that he would sign at 7:00am tomorrow. We laid out our plans. We would visit the camp tomorrow morning, pack our bags and go from the camp to the airport. Tonight we would visit another rebel leader.

To be continued…

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