Latest from Gabriel

It was a close one. Bullets flew over our heads and parts of the walls and objects around us came raining down on us. We were already lying on the ground because the attack on the hotel had started just a few minutes before, when we came running down from the third floor. We made it to the bar area and went belly down behind a low partition wall.

The shots broke through the lobby glass and in to the bar, with heavy shooting in return from the French soldiers positioned around the hotel. KTJ and I crawled towards the low wall to feel more protected, but it just did not feel safe, to tell you the truth. As I crawled, I touched a small metal object that was burning hot, a bullet that had just ricocheted around the room. I have a little souvenir to remind me of the excitement. The shooting continued, and we were yelled at to make it across the bar area, right through the line of sight from the outside. “Low and fast, KTJ,” and we made a low run for it to the kitchen area, where everyone was congregating. French soldiers, very intense French soldiers, were running from one side of a long corridor that went from hotel front gate area to the yard in the back. We moved out of the way to one side, then to the other.

There are approximately fifty people in the hotel, maybe a few more. It has been calm for the last two hours, and the soldiers have escorted us, one by one, to our rooms to get essentials. We are leaving many bags and carrying only three backpacks.

If things remain calm, there might be an evacuation tonight, but it is all in a wait and see mode. We hear conflicting reports about what is happening outside, but the most consistent one is that the President is being taken out of the country by the French, but I decide not to really believe anything until it is completely confirmed and reconfirmed.

Now it’s a waiting game. I am hoping that the airport is controlled by the French and that the evacuation will take us there. I struggle to write all of this, knowing that my family will read it, but I will repeat what I have said in other posts: as crazy as this all is, we are relatively safe and following the instructions of the people that know more of what is going on. I know that I will soon be posting from a safe area.

Thanks for all the love, and we’re sending it back from N’D.

Paz,
Gabriel

Gabriel co-founded Stop Genocide Now in 2005, which gave birth to i-ACT in 2009.

He became involved in the situation in Darfur out of a sense of personal responsibility. He believes the power of community and compassion, combined with personal empowerment, can bring about meaningful change.

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Category: Reports from N'djamena · Tags:

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28 Responses to “Latest from Gabriel”
  1. Meron says:

    Gabriel & i-ACT Team,

    I know one of the purposes of i-ACT is to evoke empathy for the Darfuri people. To feel what it’s like to have your loved ones in the middle of brutal chaos; not knowing if they are well and safe, when we will see them again. To really know that and be inspired to do whatever one can to make it STOP! … but this is going WAY too far.

    Keeping you in my heart and thoughts; praying for peace and your safe return.

    Meron

    • Judy champagne says:

      I called the state department and spoke with the Chad task force. They said the person I needed to speak with was on the line with the Chad embassy. I told them to please pass on the message that Gabriel and the others do want to leave and that it wasn’t true that they did not – whatever the embassy said- that they weren’t able to leave because bullets were flying over their heads. in case anyone needs a little ironic humor at a time like this, I had to speak to three people to get the phone number because they haven’t heard of the Dept of State ( the department of what? who is Condoleesa Rice????)and that includes the director- to get the phone number from information. I hope I did the right thing. I am just trying to think what I can do to help.

  2. javi says:

    It is calming to see you in good spirit and as cool as usual! I realize that the footage was taken before bullets started to fly, nevertheless, its good to see you all together and keeeping each other together. Your writing discription of the events sounds crazy! Can’t wait for you guys to come home!

    Many folks from out here are rallying behind you. I am sure that the Embassy has gotten the message loud and clear that we expect them to get you out of there sooner than later. We will continue to look for ways to keep the pressure on.

    In reference to your last comment on the video……ain’t no one sleeping over here little brother!

    Much Love,
    javi

    • Mimi Schiff says:

      Javi,
      Please let me know who to call or what to do to continue the pressure on the US Embassy to get them out of the city. I just read that the French have closed the city to any incoming or outgoing activity.
      Mimi Schiff

  3. Mimi Schiff says:

    Gabriel it is as if I am watching a rerun of Hotel Rwanda, only there is no sound just the vivideness of the pictures your words paint.
    My friend I can only again wish you and KTJ a safe journey out of the region with God and all the angels at your back. My heart is definately with you. I guess that now I truly know what the feeling of helplessness is like, wanting information, not getting any real news, wanting you safe knowing it may take some time. It is like the Darfuri people, waiting for the next word on safety. I sit mezmerized, hoping to hear good news soon. They sit mezmerized hoping to hear good news soon for the past five years.
    Mimi Schiff

  4. JC says:

    Hola Gabe, como si fuera pelicula no cres! bueno es como una aventura de nosotros en Monterrey, pero sin tanta divercion! Take care guys, be as usual cool and think of each next step and whats best. Waiting on that soccer match here in HB soon…

    jc

  5. Waltraud Jost says:

    Gabe,
    oh boy I am so happy that you 2 are ok.
    What a nerve racking day.
    Thinking about what you guys are doing and how you are doing!
    Hoping that everything is ok.
    Wondering about you and your whole family (which I call my family as well) what a lot a fear they must have for you.
    Please keep posting what is going on and how you are doing.
    Amazed how you are talking about this.
    I would be scared to death and you seem so calm.
    Keeping an eye on you.
    Love
    Waltraud

  6. Rev. Ann Lougee says:

    Please know that we at Pilgrim Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Redding, California, are praying for you. Blessings, Ann Lougee

  7. Greg Lawson and Vicki Ono says:

    Gabriel,
    You are not alone. The world is watching, and Redding is praying. In my head are songs I want to play for you as soon as you are home safe. Your commitment and courage are nourishing to those of us just trying to make a difference at home. You make a difference. You’re changing the world, my brother, and you’re inspiring us to change our own lives. See you soon.
    Love,
    Greg and Vicki

  8. Amanda Goldner says:

    Well, I guess you never counted on ever using some of the descriptive sequences you’ve been sharing the past couple of days. Your account is terrifying, but you are doing a good job of portraying a sense of calmness throughout . . . well, KTJ did get creative in journaling a few expletives! : D We hope the phone calls are helping to secure the prompt safest departure we all wish for you. Remember we are with you in prayer even if the technology falters and communications are disrupted. Let safety dictate the best course for all of you on your return.

    GKJJ – you’re in our hearts,

    Lisa

  9. Ashley Straley says:

    Gabriel and KTJ,

    After I read your posts today, action was the only word running through my head. I wanted you to know that I am contacting Alaska at the state level, every representative and senator also Congressman Don Young and US Senators Murkowski and Stevens. Pushing for help from the US Embassy to get you safey out of there. The state of Alaska knows about you now and they are well aware of the genocide going on in Darfur. My thoughts and prayers are with you every moment now. Be safe and hold tight! Thank you for all your doing!

    Continually Inspired,
    Ashley Straley

  10. Tim Nonn says:

    Hi Gabriel,

    Jerry Fowler and his staff at Save Darfur have been working hard to help out. They are contacting key Congresspersons, like Rep. Robert Menendez and Rep. Donald Payne, who have been active on Sudan. They are doing this in the middle of a major activist conference they are holding in Washington DC. They stopped the conference and prayed for you and all the people of Darfur. It looks like the media is picking up your story. I heard that Lydia Polgreen at the New York Times will run a story tomorrow. Try to get some rest if possible. We hope to see you soon. God bless you, Tim

  11. Tim Nonn says:

    From front page of the New York Times website:

    February 3, 2008
    Fighting in Chad’s Capital as Rebel Forces Storm In
    By LYDIA POLGREEN
    DAKAR, Senegal — A rebel army swarmed the capital of Chad on Saturday, and gun battles erupted around the presidential palace, according to Chadian and Western officials, in an attack that raised the specter of deeper chaos in one the most war-scarred and fragile regions of the world.

    A coalition of three rebel groups that have taken shelter in Sudan for the past few years entered the capital early Saturday, after days of battle dozens of miles outside the city, Chadian officials said. The suddenness and stealth of their arrival appeared to take the military by surprise.

    A spokesman for the three rebel groups, Abderamane Koullamalah, said in a statement posted on a rebel Web site that they were in the capital and were “ready to facilitate, with the guarantee of the African Union, the negotiated departure of President Idriss Déby and avoid a pointless blood bath.”

    But Chad’s ambassador in Washington, Mahamoud Adam Bechir, said in a telephone interview that the rebels who reached the capital were a small group that had split from the main column of rebels headed toward the city. The group had circumvented counterattacks by the Chadian military and stolen into the capital, Mr. Bechir said, but was being chased by Presidential Guard forces.

    “They were able to infiltrate the capital, panic the population, fire at the presidency and give the impression there is fighting going on at the presidency,” Mr. Bechir said. “But everything is under control. President Idriss Deby is in the palace. The Chadian military forces are chasing the insurgents.”

    He said that the airport had been closed to civilian flights and that cellphone networks had been shut down to hamper rebel communication lines. As a result, his account of the fighting could not be verified.

    The timing of the attack appeared to be linked to the planned arrival of a European Union force that was to begin deploying on the border in an effort to protect refugees from Darfur and eastern Chad and to prevent Chad from sliding into bloodshed, said Reed Brody, a lawyer at Human Rights Watch who has studying Chad for many years.

    A vast, arid, landlocked nation in the heart of Africa, Chad has suffered through years of civil war, military coups and tyrannical rule. But with the crisis on its eastern border with Darfur and conflict over a booming oil business in the south, the country has become increasingly unstable.

    Ndjamena was plunged into confusion Saturday, with gunfire echoing through the streets while residents hunkered down in their homes, waiting for news. The United States, France and the United Nations made preparations to evacuate expatriates.

    Gabriel Stauring, an American antigenocide activist, was among about 50 people pinned down in a luxury hotel in the capital that came under heavy fire. In an e-mail message, Mr. Stauring said that French military personnel had exchanged heavy fire with rebels outside the hotel.

    “Bullets flew over our heads and parts of the walls and objects around us came raining down on us,” he wrote.

    The fighting in Ndjamena will surely further destabilize what is already one of the most volatile regions of Africa. Chad and Sudan are locked in a tangle of conflict and have traded accusations and bombs in the past four years as the conflagration in the Sudanese region of Darfur has increasingly consumed Chad as well.

    Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees from Darfur are living in Chad, and militia attacks from across the Sudanese border in 2006 forced tens of thousands of Chadians to flee their homes as well. Ethnic violence in Chad between Arab and non-Arab ethnic groups, echoes of the conflagration in Darfur, has forced still more to flee.

    Chad’s president, Mr. Déby, shares clan links to some of the leaders of the Darfur rebellion, and the rebels operate from bases in Chad with near-total impunity, which has angered the Sudanese government and raised tensions between the countries.

    Chad meanwhile accuses Sudan of sponsoring rebellions against Mr. Déby. The three groups that are currently attacking the capital all had bases in Sudan, according to analysts and diplomats, something that would be impossible without the tacit approval of the Sudanese government.

    Many advocates and analysts have worried that if the Chadian rebels take power, they would take a pro-Sudan stance and block a planned European Union peacekeeping force for Chad and Central African Republic.

    Mr. Brody said that many Chadians feared a violent takeover by a shadowy group of rebels, many of whom have ties to repressive past regimes. “Nobody is going to miss Déby, but these guys aren’t exactly fighting for freedom and democracy,” Mr. Brody said.

    In the past, France, the former colonial power in Chad, has used its military forces in Chad to bolster Mr. Déby.But on Saturday, French troops were focused on protecting expatriates, said Capt. Christophe Prazuck, a spokesman for the French military.

    “At the present time, the French military forces are not involved in the fighting,” he said.

    France maintains more than 1,200 troops in Chad, and in the past two days added 350 more to help protect its citizens, according to French officials. The United States State Department posted a message on its Web site urging Americans to seek safety at the embassy if they wished to be evacuated.

    The current fighting has forced the European Union to delay its deployment of a 3,700-troop peacekeeping force to protect refugees living on borders of Chad and Central African Republic.

    The delay of that force is a blow to France’s ambitions to use European military power more forcefully, and senior French officials worked to keep other contributors on board.

    “Politically it could be a little blow for our European operation in the eastern part of Chad,” a senior French official said. “The others are totally terrified.”

    Elaine Sciolino contributed reporting from Paris.

  12. Tim Nonn says:

    If anyone has a SGN contact other than Tiffany, please call me asap. Thanks,

    Tim Nonn
    707-799-1056

  13. Maureen says:

    Prayers, prayers and more prayers for your safety and thanks for your selflessness.

    Maureen (T’s mom)

  14. Peggy Rebol says:

    Gabriel and KTJ and i-ACT team,

    Just wanted you to know that you are being held up in many many prayers. Following your journals has been an amazing experience for me and my youth. You are doing what we all need to be doing and it has been inspiring. Please keep your heads down! I have just finished making phone calls to representatives etc. about the situation. We won’t let up until you guys are back in safe territory.

    Peggy Rebol
    First United Methodist Church, Redding

  15. John De Mott says:

    Gabriel, Wishing you a safe return! Thanks for your selfless work ending genocide.

    Best,

    John De Mott
    LifeNets.net

  16. Suzanna says:

    Best wishes for your safety and God bless!!!

  17. Julia M. says:

    Gabriel and KT-J;

    Praying for your safety and swift return home.
    You ARE doing enough and you are an inspiration
    to all of us here at home.

    Blessings,
    Julia
    UCLA Darfur Action Committee Alum

  18. Pam B says:

    Gabriel and KTJ,
    Scouring the news and NYT site for anything more recent than Tim’s posting, but it is still basically the same on NYT web page, with a longer quote from Gabriel. This is a heck of a way to get press!
    Like Javier, nobody sleeping over here until we know you are safely on your way home. And of course you point about what all our friends have lived through in the camps now seems even more real, now that we have someone we know so well and love in harm’s way.
    I am sending around urgent alerts to STF — so many are your young friends here in LA.
    Love and prayers for you,
    Pam

  19. Christina Perez says:

    We are praying for your safe return and for the people of Chad and Sudan. God be with you!

  20. Krish says:

    God speed. Hoping and praying for your same return.

  21. Brian says:

    Our prayers are with you guys to return home safely and soon. Thank you for being so courageous and brave. We are praying for you and the people of Chad.

  22. Robyn says:

    It just seems to get worse every day! Stay safe and thanks for sharing your experiences.

    Peace,

    Robyn Stone
    LifeNets.net

  23. Wyatt says:

    Gabriel….

    Today I read your blog, we don’t know each other but, I was touched by your words….

    not knowing what else to do, by faith, I pray.

    For sharing your story and tirelessly showing that one person truly can make a difference, I thank you…..

    Wyatt

  24. Sara says:

    Thank you! May blessings be upon you.

  25. Jessica D says:

    God be with you ! You are fullfilling a purpose and putting yourself on the line to fight for what you believe in. You are in my prayers- Jess

  26. Gerardo Gomez says:

    courage or stupidity? a bit (or a lot?) of both! but that’s the stuff for martyrs.
    Martir de pura cepa!! echale ganas Gabi!!

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