Reports from N'djamena

Night in N’D—waiting.

It is past 1am in the capital of Chad. There has only been sporadic fighting, since the sun went down. I assume and hope that fighters need the rest and will take it easy for the night. Another better hope is that the fighting is over, and the people of Chad will begin a peaceful rebuilding of their city.

We were not evacuated, as we had hoped for. More than half of the people here were evacuated, including UN personnel and others (I’m not exactly sure of criteria, but they did not want Americans at that time). The people here are all huddled in to the dining area, where they brought in some of the cushions from the outside chairs for people to sleep on. Most are sleeping, after an exhausting day.

Right now, mosquitoes are one immediate, annoying problem. Snoring could be one, with some lions in the snoring department in the room, but it sounds even comforting to hear people resting and not talking about what happened or what might happen next.

I just cannot help but reflect on the days before coming back to N’D, the ones we spent in the camps with Darfuri refugees. The little children that we met went through horrors many times worse than we are going through here. As I sit here on the floor of the hotel restaurant after a day of craziness, I cannot imagine what it does to a child to endure living through extreme violence and then be sitting for years for help to come.


13 replies on “Night in N’D—waiting.”

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family who await your return. I am holding you all in the light. I am praying too for all of those, who as you mention in your latest journal, live in terror, without food and homes, day after day, year after year. You have touched the lives and hearts of many of us in Redding, Calif. and we are with you all in spirit. I hope you will get some rest- even in the midst of lions.

Gabriel, It’s good to get these updates from you. There are so many pulling together to help. I don;t want to downplay the danger you are facing, but it’s been amazing to see the Darfur movement transform into the Darfur community! We are all praying for you. I have heard from clergy across the country who will lift you up in prayers at worship services tomorrow, along with the people of Darfur. Hopefully, you’ll be at the airport and boarding the plane soon. blessings, Tim


We are hoping the best for you guys and wishing you safety. How is Ashis? Where is Ashis? Did you every meet my friend Ibrahim Musa? Have any of the civilians been hurt in the violence in the streets. After watching your videos, I felt sick to my stomach to see how heavy the fighting is, and then to think of all our dear friends in Ndjamena who could get hurt in the cross fire. Thanks for being so brave as to keep up informed. Keep safe and hope you return home soon.

Best Wishes,


Gabriel and I-act team,

I wish every one there a safe return home soon. I’ve been sitting on the edge of my seat reading your updates. Makes my stomach turn and chest hurt to know that the Refugee’s of Darfur and such young children have to go thru this all of their lives. It was hard for me to come up with a message. I wish every one to be safe and safe journey home as well.

Best wishes,

Rebel Forces Roll Into Chad’s Capital, Battle For Control
Government Accuses Sudan Of Arming the Attackers
By Stephanie McCrummen and Robin Wright
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, February 3, 2008; A17
NAIROBI, Feb. 2 — After a three-day advance across the desert, hundreds of rebels fought their way into the capital of the oil-rich nation of Chad on Saturday, and as night fell, it remained unclear whether the government or the rebels were in control.
Rebel trucks rolled through the streets of the capital, N’Djamena, and residents shut themselves indoors as gunfire echoed through the city, witnesses said.
A spokesman for the rebels, Abderamane Koullamalah, told Radio France International that they had offered to coordinate the departure of President Idriss D¿by with the African Union to “avoid a pointless bloodbath.”
But the Chadian ambassador to Ethiopia, Cherif Mahamat Zene, insisted that the government remained in control. He said D¿by and his cabinet were “fine” and repeated a long-standing accusation that neighboring Sudan was supplying the rebels with weapons.
The rebels had advanced from the direction of the Sudanese border.
“Sudan is the one behind this attack,” Zene said from the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack condemned the coup attempt and said the rebels had entered “from outside the country,” a clear reference to Sudan. “We call for calm in the capital and support the African Union’s call for an immediate end to armed attacks and to refrain from violence that might harm innocent civilians,” he said.
U.S. officials said that the city had not fallen to the rebels but that the fighting was intense.
“The situation remains too unsettled to project the outcome,” said Greg Garland, the State Department’s spokesman for Africa. “We continue to monitor conditions closely.”
The government of Chad, a former French colony with a population of almost 10 million and a newly booming oil industry, has in recent years battled a variety of rebel groups along its volatile eastern border with Sudan, forcing an estimated 170,000 Chadians to flee their homes for sprawling camps in the scrubby desert.
The rebel groups, one of which is led by D¿by’s nephew, accuse the president of corruption but appear to be driven more by opportunism than ideology, according to analysts. They have shifted alliances and fought one other from time to time, often losing favor with the local populations they have displaced.
But D¿by, who came to power in a 1990 coup and owns several lavish palaces in the capital, is also highly unpopular among Chadians, who believe he has stolen the country’s oil wealth, estimated at more than $200 million annually. Instead of using the money to fund desperately needed schools, health clinics and roads, D¿by has bought guns, attack helicopters and armored cars for his own protection.
The rebels rolled toward the capital in a convoy of about 300 trucks, battling government forces on the eastern and northern outskirts of the capital and later near the presidential palace, European officials said.
An American aid worker who was unable to leave a hotel near the palace because of the fighting, wrote on the Web site of his organization, Stop Genocide Now, that he and his colleagues were sneaking back and forth to the hotel’s third-floor windows to “get a glimpse of anything, something, usually just black smoke coming from the Presidential palace.”
“Nobody really knows what is happening,” Gabriel Stauring, 41, wrote. “We go through some quiet minutes, and it feels close to normal, but then, consistently, we get big bangs and non-stop gunfire. . . . As I write this, a shell hit way too close to us, the kind of bang you feel on your skin.”
By Saturday night, he wrote, bullets were flying and walls and objects were falling on top of him and about 50 other people huddled in the hotel’s dining room. Outside, a few French soldiers fought off gunmen who were also trying to take over the state-controlled radio station and a nearby hotel.
“We can only guess as to the extent of destruction around the city; there was almost nonstop heavy shooting, artillery, helicopter fire,” he wrote later in an e-mail to The Washington Post.
Libya’s official news agency, JANA, reported that rebel leader Mahamat Nouri agreed to a cease-fire Saturday night after speaking to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, who was appointed by the African Union to mediate, according to the Associated Press. The report could not be confirmed.
The State Department urged all American citizens to leave Chad and authorized the departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees because of the rebel advance, said Karl Duckworth, a department spokesman. About 500 Americans are estimated to be living in or visiting Chad.
France, which has 1,400 troops stationed in Chad and is widely seen as D¿by’s most powerful backer, condemned the rebel attack and called for reconciliation. French troops were not engaged in fighting the rebels, however, and remained focused on efforts to evacuate French and other European citizens.
The attack on N’Djamena delayed the deployment of 3,700 European Union troops to eastern Chad, where they were to help protect displaced Chadians and an estimated 230,000 Sudanese refugees who have fled the conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan.
According to analysts, the rebels believed the presence of the E.U. troops would curtail their own military plans, and European officials said Saturday that the rebel attack had been deliberately timed to thwart the troop deployment.
“This is no coincidence,” a French official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the crisis.
Wright reported from Washington. Special correspondent Kassahun Addis in Addis Ababa contributed to this report.

Hi Gabriel and Katie-Jay,

Our thoughts are with you while you stay in N’djamena. We hope the violence ends and that you all are able to come home safely soon. Thank you for making this journey; the videos and journals inspire us here in the U.S. to keep working and to do more. Our phone conversation from a week and a half ago in our STF at Crossroads further shaped all of our ideas about the crisis in Chad. Every student who has seen this site has come away with new energy, ready to try and tackle this atrocity. You are connecting our fragmented world with information, support, and love. Thank you so much and our hearts are with you. Be safe and well.

Best wishes,
Crossroads School and STF

Thank you for keeping us posted. I got the news from the Massachusetts Save Darfur Coalition. I posted your last 3 videos on my blog. This news so seldom gets out.

I will watch closely your postings. Please, know that we are thinking of you.

Sandra Hammel
Rhode Island

Hola Amigo! Keep your head down and stay safe. I can’t wait to hear about your safe return to your family and of the Camp Darfur we are planning in Atlanta. Is it good to hear that the national news in the US is covering the turmoil in Chad? People are listening. Why, they’re even talking about Darfur on Entertainment Tonight (I’v been told). Thank you for your courageous efforts to let the world know about your friends in Chad and Darfur.

Mimi y Gabo, yo se que tu padre será casero pronto. Zahara, tu debes permanecer fuerte, amiga. I don’t know how to say, “Hang in there!” in Spanish.

Stay safe. Keep posting as often as you can. We’re watching and awaiting your safe return.

Hugs, Cynthia

Katie-Jay and Gabriel —
Scott was on the phone with the state department, they are working hard to get you out, and they asked that you try to keep in contact with the embassy website. ??? Just got the word here that the rebels have agreed to a cease-fire…???

Diane Koosed
Scott Lake

Dear KTJ and Gabriel,

Just spoke with the State Dept., Chad Task Force, was told that you are doing what is best for you to do until the morning when the embassy there will get word to you once they have assessed the situation. French planes are there to take you out! The U.S. is working with the French to get you out.

I hope you are getting some rest now.

In my thoughts and prayers, Nell

Gabriel, you have an amazing presence. Your calm is palpable from here.
To you and KTJ and everyone, we’re holding your safe passage.

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