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
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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