Journal of the People’s Pastor

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


A Visit to the Gaga Refugee Camp

Thursday, March 29, 2007 (Part A)

I was awakened around 1:30 am. I don’t remember when I went back to sleep. I’m not sure if I ever slept. I went to sleep thinking about the decision we have to make and the consequences. I was strongly leaning toward staying another week. There were two challenges: justification and money.

How could I justify staying another week? Visiting the refugee camps, if that were resolved.

a) Leadership meetings – President Deby and other rebels, and religious leaders.
b) Mediation – helping the Darfurian leaders to obtain unity.

Where would I get the money? We could use our credit cards or request money from home.

Around 7:30 am as I was lying in bed, I felt the sharpest pain in my chest area. It lasted for about five (5) minutes. There were several cessations then return of pain. I wondered if the pressure was the causative factor, although I pride myself on my capacity to absorb or adjust or handle the most tension packed situations. I was more concerned that a prior heart condition had returned. It lasted until 10:30 am.

At 8:00 am I went to the courtyard. I was told that the governor had agreed to our visit to the refugee camp. I mumbled to myself, “I will believe it when it happens.”

I forgot to mention, during my morning walk I met Kurdofani. I had seen him yesterday in the courtyard. He heads the Union of the People of Darfur in Britain. He was headed toward the bush to meet Telhideem. We shared our exasperations with how slowly things move in Chad. When I mentioned that I had been to Belfast, he heaped lavish praise on President Clinton for helping to resolve the hundred of years of conflict.

At 9:30 am sitting in the courtyard, eating an orange and conversing with the Norwegian and four (4) Darfurian leaders, complaining about the media, a call came to the Ambassador from Telhideem, he had the authorization from the Governor. Everything was okay. I said, “Thank God, Thank God!!” At 10:00 am Yahya was back at the hotel. He was beaming. He had the documents. We were set to go. There was one hitch. Mohammad couldn’t go. The Governor gave us authority for only three (3) persons. Telhideem came to my room to explain. Mohammad was very sad. I thought he would cry. He had been with us from the beginning. Now on this most important journey, we had to separate. But the governor’s word is final.

Yahya went to change our money. We were checking out of the hotel today. There was high-level meeting going on in the yard. Musa, Khariss, representatives from JEM, the usual Abeche group, i.e. the Ambassador and lawyer, etc., were all seated at a table. Soldiers were everywhere. When I returned to the yard, I received a rousing reception. Everybody was smiling and making some friendly physical gestures toward me. I was elated. These are the moments, this show of gratitude and brotherhood; make it all worthwhile in spite of all the hardships and disappointments. And these were all Muslims.

It was 11:30 am when we departed for the refugee camp at Gaga. We arrived at the entrance to the camp at 2:00 pm. We departed from the refugee camp at 5:30 pm and arrived back at the hotel at 7:30 pm.

The camp is three (3) square miles. Seventeen thousand (17,000) inhabitants dwell there. Thousands are still pouring in. The World Food Project supplies 239.399 tons of food per month. The camp stretches out across round rough landscape that is consistent with the area. Battling the hard dry earth, eternally, is the green of life. Green trees, grass, bushes insist on living, asking only for water. Mother nature and her children have not let them down – most of the time. From water beneath the ground, water from the sky and water piped in by human hands, Mr. and Mrs. Green stay alive – and even barren soil is compelled to give birth to more green and foodstuff which vouchsafes the perpetuation of green and life.

When we entered the camp, the first stop was made at the military security. We sat, conversed and took pictures with the soldiers. They were happy to see us. The Cornel observed that I looked like him. I said, “Hundred of years ago, my parents were stolen from this land.” There were smiles all around.

After examining our papers, confirming that everything was in order, we when to the camp manager’s office. A beautiful sister sat at the door. The office manager was in Abeche. The assistant manager, a slender man, gave us directions to the next stop across the street. Three men dressed in white sat beneath a tree. They were the Chiefs in the camp. They, too, welcomed us heartedly.

Next was the civil security officer. A huge black man was the head of this office for all refugees. There was another man we met smiling with a handshake. He was the sheriff of the Gaga camp. The big man suggested that our first stop should be the hospital. “The hospital chief would welcome us,” he said. He was right; the hospital chief did welcome us. She is middle-aged, portly, and short of stature. She is from Kansas USA. She greeted us with smiles and handshakes and an air of arrogant authority. “Welcome,” she said, “but you can’t take pictures in the hospital, nor can you interview anybody.”

Of course I understood the precautions. Still, it is hard to take it from a Euro ethnic. I have mixed feeling regarding their involvement or mission or philanthropic work. Thank God for the help they have rendered. But to a large extent in many places, directly and/or indirectly, they are the cause. So much of Africa’s ills, lack of progress can be traced to their years of trafficking in Africa. Now, they come as great saviors, caregivers, do-gooders, as though their hands were clean. And it’s all Africa’s fault. So, Africans receive very little benefit from their own suffering beyond handouts. Observe who heads all the charity organizations. So, no matter how you cut it Euro ethnics are in Africa to stay. In some way, shape or form they will always involve themselves in Africa and they will always strive to be in charge.

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