Journal of the People’s Pastor

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


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

Saturday, December 8, 2007

After an hour workout, I went to breakfast. I was disappointed. We had purchased watermelon, ate half yesterday, and we were looking forward to finishing it for breakfast. The watermelon was put in the freezer, it was frozen stiff. I settled on chopped pineapples, came to my room and continued eating nuts, dried raisins and cranberries; I called them my survival edibles.

After lunch, I ate soup and cooked veggies. We decided to ask our driver to take us sightseeing. It was 4:00pm when we set out for the Nile River. We arrived 30 minutes later. It wasn’t that it is that far from the hotel, it is the roads. There is one paved road, about 500 yards long that ends at the Nile River. As I have discussed before, the roads are unbelievably bad. What adds to the amazement is that we take paved roads for granted in the USA. Then, to find yourself in a country where a paved road is a luxury is hard to digest. There are only three (3) roads that they were working on. I’ve already described them in another place.

You really have to be here to see it. Although the roads and sidewalks are very difficult to navigate, there are still lots of vehicles and people moving about. In time, they will make smooth roads. We were told that the vehicles have substantially increased since 2005. All across the open spaces, in what appears to be unorganized arrangements, are tents, shanties made of straw and mud. There are some stone and brick houses. Even some of the hotels are made of tents. Everything, café, restaurants, grocery stores, seemed old and/or dilapidated or falling down. Garbage seem to be everywhere, however, the University of Juba was the most imposing structure. Perhaps that is as it ought to be. It shows the high regards for education. There were no tall buildings. The school was surrounded by a colorful brown and white stone wall about five (5) feet high. There were other fairly well constructed buildings – churches, mosques, schools and hotels.

When we reached the Nile River, its appearance seemed appropriate for this time and place. It was like a snake, long and twisting, but narrows at its width. It too seemed old, dirty and polluted.
We rode further up the road, got to a bridge which was broken; only one lane could be used. It discouraged us from crossing to the other side. There at the River bank, people washed clothes and themselves, planted gardens, built huts, lived and died, and the mighty Nile rolled on. It reminded me of the Ganges River in India. One of the cities I visited while in India was Calcutta. Some people call it the low point of human suffering. I went down to the Ganges River. By the side of the River was a crematory, or the place where dead human bodies were burned. They would bring the corpses borne on a makeshift bed of sticks and twigs. There was a line of people coming to the place of cremation. Having arrived and having located a place, they would put the corpse on top of a mount of wood, set fire to the wood, stand and/or sit and watched the bodies burn. The sight, smell and feeling will forever be etched in my memory. And then, looking out from the crematory was the Ganges River. Along the River, people prayed, washed clothes, bathed, ate, played and answered the call of nature.

We departed the Nile River and headed for the mountains. There seemed to be one mountain range. It is not huge as mountains go. It’s one unique feature that I could see. Its huge rocks and/or boulders seemed to be stuck on the side of the mountain. It seems that they were ready to slide down at anytime. Needless to say, we didn’t spend a lot of time viewing the mountain and its surrounding. After a brief stay, we headed back to the hotel. When we arrived at the hotel, we were joined by Yahya. He had been in meetings through the night and day. He said, he is afraid to go to sleep. He might miss something. I asked him, how was it going? “They haven’t moved an inch,” he said. Slumping down and shaking his head, I tried to encourage him. I said, “But its all worthwhile. Your life is devoted to a great cause. If you can help to save Darfur, perhaps, you can help to save Sudan, and who knows, maybe save Africa.” He nodded, seemingly, glad for the encouragement.

He said there are 23 tribes. They have divided the structure into 19 sectaries and a 15 member revolutionary council. The challenge is how to get representation from the 23 tribes into positions that are satisfactorily to everybody.

He did have good news. President Silva Kirr will see us tomorrow at 11:00am at the Cathedral. He said, he, the President, is under a lot of pressure. Even the newspapers are criticizing him for the interest he is showing Darfur. It is infuriating Khartoum. Also, Yahya said, sadly shaking his head, fighting is going on in Abeche. The rebels are in Chad, probably with the support of Khartoum. They are trying to overthrow President Debby. [Several weeks ago, the rebels succeeded in reaching the capital of Chad, N’djamena, creating more tension and suffering in the region. At this writing, it seems that President Debby has regained control.] Yahya went on to say, what we do in Darfur will send a message across Africa, Arab expansionism is over.

We arose, shook hands. We agreed to meet at 9:30am tomorrow. In my room, I continued to think about the importance of the activities here in this shamefully underdeveloped land. I wondered, in these long intense deliberations, what is the driving force? Is it a personal agenda, or are the people’s agenda put first? Also, images of the days travel stayed on my mind. The primitive stage of the people’s development caused me to bounce between sadness and anger. In this land, so rich with resources and so underdeveloped, first I was angry. My anger was directed toward Europeans, Arabs and all who have exploited Africa’s resources to build their own countries. How heartless and cruel to take so much and give back so little, almost nothing. Then, my wrath was turned toward the African leaders. How could they allow this to happen – to let their countries be exploited and get back so little? How could a leader agree to such a thing? Earlier I discussed how some of the oil fields are split up. China gets 40%, Malaysia 30%, India 25% and Sudan 5%. How could a leader agree to such a thing? All that wealth being taken out of the country, building up other people’s countries, while their own people live in the most deplorable conditions.

But, then that line of thinking was cut short when I remembered who got the mightiest army. Leaders are sometimes forced to do the bidding of powerful nations, even against their will. For they know, if the army isn’t let loose upon them, the market places of the world will be closed to them. So, my anger towards African leaders subsided and gave way to sadness.

It was now 11:30pm and I turned my attention toward the meeting tomorrow with President Kirr. What do I want from this meeting other than photos? What should be my approach? What questions should I ask? I began making notes. I finished at 1:30am.

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.

Join Operation Life Line if you need assistance or know someone who needs assistance with their mortgages as it relates to foreclosures, predatory lending and/or sub prime lending.

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
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