Title: Day 11: Guereda-Kounoungo-Guereda-Mile-Guereda-Iriba
That was our day today. We had not planned to go to camp Kounoungo, but I then heard that the African Union, the force that is in charge of monitoring the “peace” in Darfur, was going to land by helicopter to check out conditions in the camp, so we headed out there today, Wednesday, in the morning. There was excitement in the air. For the refugees, the AU visiting is a huge break from the monotony at the camps. The big helicopter first did a flyby of the camp, and all of the children ran out of their classrooms and later adults started to appear also. Camp gendarmes kept people from getting anywhere to where the helicopter landed. Some eight soldiers in uniform walked out and were welcomed by the head of the UNHCR in Abeche, Emmanuel. Emmanuel immediately told them about StopGenocideNow being present, and the general that seemed to be the head of the group introduced himself and asked if we had been made to feel welcomed at the camp. He said that we could film their visit. The AU personnel at under a canvas roof, and Emmanuel gave them a rundown of the state of camp Kounoungo. Basically, he said that conditions were stable, with the refugees getting enough water and food. Two representatives for the refugees talked, expressing their frustration at the lack of security around the camp and the insufficient amount of resources they are receiving. The AU then flew out, but the general told us to come visit them in Abeche, where we could interview them; he did not want to take questions at that time.
From Kounoungo, we had to travel back to Guereda to get to the road to Mile. We went to Mile to give out the rest of the Peace Tiles. CCF set it up for us, gathering children that would receive the tiles. The problem was that we had given out ten in Kounoungo yesterday, so we only had eight left. I remembered that I had a small notebook and some crayons in my bag, so I gave those out to the youngest boy, who seemed more than happy to receive them.
From Mile, we had to go back to Guereda to get to the road to Iriba. Iriba is to the north of Guereda, and everyone had warned us that it would be very cold. It’s actually very pleasant right now. The road to Iriba was bumpy and sandy, and we got out of the car as if we had crawled through the sand to get there. We arrived just as it was getting dark. As we come further north and a bit further east, security issues become more serious. The good thing is that the two camps we will be visiting from here are closer to Iriba than Kounoungo and Mile were to Guereda.
We’re not sure how long we’ll stay here, but it will probably be around three days. We want to go further north, to the camp that is right on the border. They tell us that it is REALLY cold up there. It better be, since we bought some blankets that were so expensive!
I’m pretty tired, so I’m going to cut short this summary of the day. I’ll rest a little and then come back to look at your comments and comment back.
Title: Commenting back
Hey again Alison B,
Thanks for that editorial from the New York Times. It’s good that Darfur is getting some attention, but it is bad that it is because of the horrors that continue. The editorial compares Clinton and Bush inaction. The genocide happening today definitely follows the pattern of past genocides, including Rwanda. Clinton, wherever he has an appearance, has to apologize for being an important bystander in 1994. Bush can still take responsibility and act now. It will not erase past horrors, but it could save hundreds of thousands of lives.
About health issues, I touched on some facts on a post last night, but we will focus on health issues a lot more on the days to come. There are agencies that focus on health in the camps, including Doctors Without Borders and the International Medical Corps. Other agencies work on health issues from the behavior modification angle. At Kounoungo yesterday, we saw the presentation of a play about HIV/AIDS, prepared by CCF and acted out by young people from the camp. Old and young alike came out to see the play, which was about how it is common to blame the wife of a man that tests positive for HIV. In this play it is the man that contracts the disease from visiting a prostitute and then takes it home to his wife. Everyone had a great time, while learning about such an important issue.
You ask if children understand what is happening in Darfur. In Day 11, you will meet a young man that seems to have a pretty good understanding of the situation. It is clear that the children that are old enough understand that forces within their country want them out, and that they’ll use violence to achieve this. The adults, as you saw on a previous video, talk about it being because of the color of their skin, and the children feel this also.
Yes, the family from Day 7 was pretty serious, and the nephew was even angry. How do they feel about the US? I think that they want to feel hope at us coming and hearing their stories and then sharing them with the rest of you. I’m not sure if they really believe change can come anytime soon. They seem to be resigned to try to hang in there day to day, so they tell us about their immediate problems, such as the firewood, lack of school materials, no meat, no milk, and so many other things in hope that we can at least help them with that. They want to return home; they say it over and over, everyone from all ages, but I’m not sure they believe it to be coming soon.
Well, they’re going to cut out the electricity soon, and we still need to shoot up the video, so I have to conserve the battery on this laptop. I’ll write some more tomorrow!