In Africa it’s already 12/10
Day 20, Gaga and AU
It felt so good to just lose myself in between the tents of Gaga, with no guide or translator. Gaga is a small newer Camp, about an hour and a half east of Abeche. It was an interesting place for us because they are still receiving new refugees from Darfur. It is also sad that they are STILL receiving new refugees from Darfur. It is “home” to about 5,300 refugees belonging mostly to the Massaleit tribe, not to the Zaghawa, the majority in the other camps we have visited. The camp is ready to receive a total of 30,000 refugees. They will bring some from the other camps, but they are leaving space for the “spontaneous” arrivals.
The people are as amazing and beautiful as the others we have met up to now. While Chris was interviewing a refugee leader, I wandered around the camp, attempting to strike up conversations along the way. Children have no problem communicating with me. They do not know what I say, and I do not know what they say, but we communicate. I stumbled upon a family that barely escaped their village, which was completely destroyed. The mother gave me a tour of her home and introduced me to her children. She was very animated and not shy. She told me that she and her husband had considerable wealth in Darfur and lost it all overnight. Her children are beautiful. I think you get to meet the family in Day 20.
After coming back from the camp, we had an appointment with the African Union. They were interested in hearing our findings about security in the different camps, and they wanted to see some of the interviews we recorder. Major Malick gathered his men and allowed us to do a small presentation for them. They were very receptive of the information, and they promised look into security concerns, especially around camp Oure Cassoni.
The AU has a tremendously huge challenge in monitoring peace in Sudan and along the border with Chad. They stated that mobility is their biggest challenge. They cannot respond rapidly to security concerns, if they do not have helicopters to fly them across the large area they are assigned to cover.
We asked Major Malick about the more than strange arrangement of having Sudan, a participant in the aggression against the people of Darfur, being a part of the force that is mandated to monitor peace and security. The Major stated that the AU is not a political entity, so he could not comment about issues that involved politics. He said that they will monitor and report any injustices, no matter where they came from.
It is Day 20! For Day 21 we go back to camp Gaga. I’ll visit the same family and a neighbor, who came over and said he wanted to speak to me about his loss. He does not know the fate of his two wives, since the attack on his village.
Dear Friends, Familia:
I look so much forward to doing our e-mail downloads every day. I get to see your comments! To do the downloads, we set up a bench in the middle of the front yard, here at the CCF compound, and take out an extension cord, which will power the satellite modem and the pc. I must look pretty strange to the guard, sitting out in the middle of the night, in the middle of the yard, with some contraption connected to a laptop computer. The upload for the video takes a long time, so I come out and check every now and then, a lot more often than I need to, since I know it will not happen quickly; but this is part of my excitement for the day!
I agree. You say: “It is the responsibility of all of us to make a change. If we don’t raise our voices, then we are also guilty…” We know what is happening, so we cannot plead ignorance.
There insecurity inside of Darfur is even more alarming. We are meeting families that were in IDP camps (camps for the “internally displaced people”), and they are reporting atrocities going on in and around the camps, forcing them to flee. As we are talking about insecurity, I’m hearing gunshots here in Abeche, but that does not necessarily mean that anything bad is happening; it could be a celebration.
Thank you for spreading the word and for getting others to act. That’s so great, about Vanguard University holding a benefit concert. I look forward to talking with you when I get back.
I completely second this, from anonymous,
”Farha is such a beautiful soul. Her story is so touching and so sad. Man, what is the world (WE) waiting for???”
I am so proud of what Pali High and Mount Saint Mary’s College are doing:
“Lots of “action” by the students you met and inspired at Mount St Mary’s College and Pali HS. Petitions, call-ins to advocate for $50 million for the African Union, plans to send student delegations to meet with elected reps during holiday recess, etc”
Thanks to all of the students. YOU inspire me to do so much more. Pam, you are incredible! So many young people are becoming human rights advocates because of your enthusiasm and resolve. Thank you for coming over and introducing yourself at that gathering not too long ago, and thanks to Jav for bringing me.
Yes, when Farha and her friend talked about getting together with other friends in the afternoons, telling stories about life in their villages…until they weep, it does make you wonder if they’ll ever be able to “go back” to those days, even if peace comes in the future. They might not be able to go back, but, spending a little time with Farha, you can see that she is a strong and resilient Zaghawan. I so much wish her the best. I will try to stay informed of how she’s doing. It worries me so much that her mother has not been heard from in more than forty one days. It is a long way from Oure Cassoni to Touloum, and there are so many dangers on the way. What is even sadder is that their story is not unique at all. The camp is full of Farhas.
Well, it is now one day left for me, from the 21 days, that is. We still get to hang out in Abeche for a couple of more days, when we catch a UNHCR flight to N’Djamena; then two days in N’D before flying out through Paris to the US. I’m still very much looking forward to going to Gaga tomorrow and sharing time with the people there. I do miss my family, though. My wife tells me that Gabito (lil Gabriel) thinks I’m at the beach with children, since he sees me on the videos, with all of the sand. My daughter has been playing soccer and her team winning. Yeah…I miss them.
You are right. It is about HUMANITY and our shared experience. Being with the family I met today, the one you’ll see on Day 20, was such a full experience. Most of the time I did not even have a translator, and they made me feel so welcomed at their home. Listen to the children laughing! I have so many more minutes of video than what you’ll see posted, so we have to find an opportunity for you to see it.
It’s almost 1am out here, and the video it’s still uploading. The mosquitoes are trying to get to me, so I’ll go add another layer of repellent. The last time I was spraying some on me, I’m pretty sure that I heard one of the mosquitoes laughing; they’re not too repelled by it :)
A quote I keep going back to, as many of those that know me have heard. From Joseph Campbell:
“Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.”