Journal of the People’s Pastor

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

DARFUR DIARY

Part VII: Darfur Diary – My Journey to Juba, South Sudan


Thursday, December 6, 2007

It was 2:30am when I finished my diary entry. I received a wake-up call from the front desk at 6am. I really didn’t need her call. My biological clock obeys my command. My internal alarm went off at the appropriate time. For breakfast, I tried a scrambled egg and two pieces of toast.

The bus departed the hotel at 9:30am. It was a regular 40-passenger bus. There were several other hotel stops. By the time we reached the airport, the bus was full. Once again, traveling through the busy streets, in a different part of town, was an interesting ride. Starting at the hotel, shoe polishers were all along the route. It must be a good business, I thought to myself. I tried to figure why it should be so. Why would so many people want their shoes shined in a city where dust and dirt were pervasive? I wondered about the schools. The polishers seemed young. I read that in Juba, Sudan, someone was complaining saying that the youngsters ought to be in school. So, even in Juba, shoe polishers are ubiquitous. I wondered why the children couldn’t do both, polish shoes and go to school.

The shoe polishers reminded me of my shoe-shining days in Augusta, Georgia and in Brooklyn, New York. Also, the polishers in Iraq came to my mind. These polishers would hang out in front of the hotels. A question came to my mind, “Could they pop or make music with the shoe-shine rag like we used to do?” Along with the shoe-shine rage, similarly we used to do “hambone.” This was a rhythmic thigh, chest-thumping. While in this act, we would be saying, in a rap kind of way, “hambone, hambone where you been? Around the world and back again…” Sometimes, there would be tap dancing. This rhythmic, bodily action, I believe, derived from our African roots. African people can make music with whatever is at hand. And even when there is nothing, we still created rhythmic sounds with our hands, feet and body. How strangely comparable is the rapping of the present time.

Construction was conspicuous in this part of town too. School children in colorful uniforms were making their way to classrooms. We passed through the part of the city where tall buildings competed for the honor of being the tallest. There were 5-star hotels, shopping malls and stores; embassies, monuments, commercial offices and apartments which appeared to be condominiums. What was most noticeable was the contrast. Beside and/or behind these tall imposing structures were shanties – tin roof dilapidated houses; near to spic and span cleanliness were dirt and filth. Well paved streets and sidewalks along side broken sidewalks and streets. Near fancy edifices, washed cloths hung from the balcony of nearby deteriorated houses and hotels. Well groomed gentlemen and fashionable attired ladies mixed with ragged beggars with furlong faces and twisted bodies. Crowded hotels and homelessness abound. The contrast was personified when about 50 goats of all sizes moved along a classy boulevard with 5 or 6 men and boys behind them, and believe it or not, there were goats sleeping on the streets.

We arrived at the airport with time to spare. When it was time to board, we stopped at the desk and again were denied passage. We asked the young lady to call for the manager. She was reluctant to do so. Sharon went and found the manger. The manager was very annoyed at the receptionist because she had refused to call her on the telephone. Thus, causing her to waste time. We thanked the manger profusely. There is something, hard to define, that we observed in many of the Ethiopians. It is stubbornness or arrogance or an unwillingness to be cooperative or responsive to requests. Some say, it is an imperialistic mindset. It is reminisce of the French in France.
As we rode to the plane in a shuttle bus, I spied Condoleezza Rice’s’ blue and white plane with an American emblem.

On the plane we sat next to a white woman. She said she was an Apostle. She had worshiped at the Perfecting Church in Detroit, where she met Donnie McKlukin and the Winins. She said she had prayed for him, not knowing he only had three months to live (of course if she is telling the truth, he was healed and is very much alive as of this writing). She married a black man, had a son, and was forced to move from Canada, her home, because of the hate directed toward them. She decided to move to Africa. Her son insisted on returning home when he was 16.
Reluctantly, she granted his wish. He began to use dope, arrest followed and he is now in a maximum security prison. She knows not where. I told her I would help if she found the prison in which he is incarcerated. We had prayer. Sharon gave a monetary gift. We believed she was sincere.

After about two hours, we landed in Entebbe, the capital of Uganda. Apostle Mary disembarked. Sharon and I agreed that maybe one of the reasons we did not get on the plane on Monday, Dec. 3rd was to help this woman.
Who knows, it may be the means by which her son will be saved. At the least, she had some relief from the burden of guilt and disappointment.

From Entebbe to Juba is only 40 minutes. Coming in for the landing, we could see stretches of brown and red earth, a striking contrast of the green in Ethiopia and Uganda. When we disembarked, the burning heat welcomed us. But all discomfort and aggravation disappeared when we saw Yahya. He was sandwiched between two burley black men with an official look. We greeted each other with hugs, smiles and handshakes.

It really was good to see Yahya. He introduced the two gentlemen, Edward Lennoe, former Chair of Intelligence also a Member of Parliament and the Task Force. The Task Force is President Silva Kirr and the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) the South Sudan ruling party’ creation to assist the Darfurian leaders. The other gentleman, Ramadan Hassan, was also a Member of Parliament and the Task Force. In addition, I was introduced to a Reverend (his name escapes me), who heads the Task Force and his wife and daughter.

We went into the VIP lounge, while our bags were being retrieved. First bad news, my cell was missing. I made the mistake of leaving it in the bag I checked as we boarded the plane. Then, we couldn’t find the bags we had sent from Ethiopia on Monday.

Mr. Lennoe, Yahya and I discussed the progress of the Unity Meetings. There are now 17 groups, 12 have signed on to the Unification Agreement. Mr. Lennoe had some ideas on structure, constitution, the Army, and leadership, which he hauntingly shared with us. As he divided up leadership, I suggested a Central Committee. He said, “Yes, and then an Executive Committee.” Also, we discussed my itinerary for tomorrow. First the American Embassy, then a lecture, Yahya said, “the topic should be the Civil Rights Movement: Lessons on Failures and Successes and Uniting Leadership.” Then there would be more meetings in the evening.

Sharon returned with no bags. We were assured that they were in Custom. We were promised we would get them tomorrow. The two SUV’s carried us to the hotel. Mr. Lennoe rode with Sharon and me. He discussed the hardship of Juba. The government, meaning, “the Sudanese central government in Khartoum” had done nothing for us. There is only one paved road and several roads being worked on. As we rode over bumps, ridges and pools of water, Mr. Lennoe continued talking as we bounced up and down. “Then we had two wars and two famines. In 1988 1⁄2 million people died, in 1998, the big one, millions of people starved to death.” (I remembered there was a serious problem in 2005.) He continued, “there was nothing done prior to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signing in September 2003. What you see,” Mr. Lennoe pointing to new houses being built, not fancy but livable, “all this happened since 2004. We are making progress,” proudly he said.

There were scattered buildings – old and dilapidated, endless stretches of hard brown bare earth. The dust from the cars ahead of us made it difficult to see. We rode along side a graveled road in the process of being constructed. The hotel sits off this road in an opened space, with shanties in the distance. A dusty square park provided a play area for the youth. Inside there was an opened space surrounded by two-story buildings, which housed the rooms. There was a dining area straight ahead. “This hotel was built in 2006,” said Mr. Lennoe. We were now joined in the courtyard by Mr. Hassan and Yahya.

Our rooms were clean, comfortable with air conditioners and fans. Sharon was on the 1st floor, Room 10. I was put next to her, then moved upstairs. Proudly, they showed me the room. Sharon would be moving next to me when there was a vacancy. I was satisfied with the 1st room they showed me. But the second room was larger. I guess they were offering me the best they had.

We were very pleased with the hotel, hospitality and food. After a walk and Sharon’s work on the internet (yes, there is an internet or computer room), we had dinner. I had lentil soup, deliciously cooked with carrots, a few white potatoes and onions. I went back for seconds, unusual for me.

As we ate, Sharon and I discussed what I would talk about tomorrow. I said, “I’m not sure, but I’m thinking of the National Black United Front’s (NBUF) experience. She said she had dreamed she asked me about a speech and I had referred to NBUF.

As is the custom, the room is sprayed before retiring for the night. Returning to the room, I made my entry for the day. What an incredible world in which we live. I started out in the capital of one country, landed in the capital of another country and ended up in the capital of still another country. All the while speaking into little handheld gadgets that allowed us to communicate with people thousand of miles away.

It reminded me of a journey I made many many years ago to Vietnam as the war was ending. I had a leadership breakfast in Saigon, Vietnam, a leadership luncheon in Singapore, dinner in Jakarta, Indonesia and later that evening spoke at a rally.

To be continued...


Upcoming Events

Attend the Timbuktu Learning Center’s weekly Thursday Night Community Forums. All Forums are held at the House of the Lord Church from 7pm to 9pm.

The Timbuktu Learning Center cosponsored by the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DBNA) and the Alonzo Daughtry Family Life Services (ADFLS) presents A Community Forum on Mortgage Foreclosures, Predatory Lending & Debt Restructuring, Thursday, January 24, 2008, at the House of the Lord Church from 7pm to 9pm. Come hear from governmental officials.

On Thursday, January 31, 2008, at 7pm, The Brotherhood Department of the House of the Lord Church, during the Timbuktu Learning Center’s Thursday Night Community Forum, will sponsor The Screening of a Documentary entitled “Another Look at Egypt,” presented by Professor Clinton Crawford of Medgar Evers College.

Attend a Support Rally for the Sean Bell Family, on Sunday, February 3, 2008, 5pm at the House of the Lord Church. We will also be mobilizing for the upcoming trial starting on February 4th.

On Thursday, February 7, 2007, at 7pm the Timbuktu Learning Center cosponsored by the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DBNA) and the Alonzo Daughtry Family Life Services (ADFLS) will hosts it 3rd Community Forum on Mortgage Foreclosures, Predatory Lending, Debt Restructuring and Money Management. At this Forum we will hear a response from the lending institutions/banks.

Attend NRLAA’s monthly forum Focus on Africa the 2nd Saturday from 2pm to 4pm.

Organizing Meetings regarding Darfur every Thursday - 12noon @ the House of the Lord Church

Keep abreast of our Darfurian activities by checking our web page @ www.holnj.org

For further Information on all events, contact The House of the Lord Church @ (718) 596-1991.