More on security
Yesterday, Chris and I briefed UNHCR about our trip, focusing mostly on security issues refugees and others shared with us. They told us that security is a complex issue, with politics (refugee leadership politics, local politics, and cross-border politics) having a great impact on it. My point was, and is, that 99% of the refugees and local civilians are not involved in the politics, and it is them, especially the women and children, who are bearing the brunt of it.
I visited the African Union’s local compound today. They are in charge of monitoring security related to refugees on the border area; it’s the group we met out at camp Kounoungo. The AU Major will gather his men tomorrow afternoon, so that we can present some of the material we recorded. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Oh, we have two more days of i-ACT, but we stay in Abeche for at least two more days and then two days in N’Djamena, so we’ll be able to continue working on making connections with local NGO’s and building bridges between the outside world and Darfur.
9:35pm Commenting back and more
Thanks for the kind words and thanks for helping to make i-ACT happen. I’m also looking forward to seeing you and all the family back in California. It’s been a long one!
There is still no security in Darfur, but I have to stay hopeful that the people will be able to return home. For some of the refugees, as you saw in Day 17, it is getting so desperate in the camps that they might choose to go home, even if there is no security. In Day 19 you’ll get to meet Emmanuel who is a survivor of the Rwanda Genocide and now works for UNHCR. He is hopeful, so I’m with him. He has seen firsthand the horrors of two genocides in less than a decade, and he remains positive. It is not passive hope; it is about acting and making hope become tangible.
Well my friends, familia, it is getting down to the last two days of i-ACT. Let’s make them count. As my friend Cynthia said in a comment yesterday, we are only getting started. With what we have gained through i-ACT, we will be able to get the word out, do presentations, make it available to teachers and students, and power it up as a tool for activism. We have many times over the material you saw on the i-ACT calendar.
I’m excited about going to camp Gaga tomorrow morning, bright and early. Bechara, our (racecar) driver, and Akaye, the multilingual, are ready. They’re also a lot more rested and relaxed. Bechara is home with wife and kids; Akaye is staying with a cousin who lives here in Abeche. I feel for Akaye. He’s far from his wife and children, who are back in N’Djamena, so he can earn a living.
Thank you to all that have stuck with us during all these days. Please don’t stop acting.
We are leaving Bahai and camp Oure Cassoni. I can’t believe that it is already Day 18 for i-ACT. I get these strange feelings of sadness mixed with guilt at leaving a camp. The refugees stay, and they start another day of insecurity, harshness, and longing for their homes. I get on a plane for Abeche.
We tell the people that, more than anything, we are just messengers and that the power comes from their stories. They still seem to put so much faith in us, wanting to believe that we might be the ones that turn hope into results, and maybe they get to go home. They want to believe, but they probably do not truly believe. I am sure they see a lot of us come through and then leave, and they stay…with their dwindling hope.
Well, we leave Bahai, so that we can go to camp Gaga, which is close to Abeche and is the newest of the camps in Chad. It should be interesting because it is also the smallest, and the dynamics should be very different than in Oure Cassoni, the largest.
My eyes are burning from the wind mixed with sand that never stops blowing in the Bahai area. I can feel the sand on the inside of my eyelids. Eye infection is one of the major health problems for the refugees, as is respiratory infection.
Now on the plane, I can see a massive collection of tents and mud structures. It is one of the refugee camps, but I do not know which one. To see it from up here and then think about the individuals down there, the kids we have been seeing every day, the women working and smiling, the collective dream of home, it is overwhelming. I know that I am not doing justice to their stories and that it will probably not be enough, but…
I do promise to keep going.
Ps. Please see Farha’s story on today’s video.