It’s a quiet early morning in N’Djamena. It’s not the eerie, bad, thick quiet that we could almost feel in February. There are fishermen out in the river, moving oh so slowly. The moon, looking full, is hanging low over on the Cameroon side. We made it to the capital, leaving the east and all humanitarian efforts in worse conditions than when we arrived in the country.
Our departure from Abeche came about in just about the same manner as everything else that has been happening in Chad during this trip, unexpected and not at all as planned. We had just confirmed that we were on the manifest for the 2pm flight, so we had many hours to kill at our safe home-gym, a walk away from the major UNHCR compound. We talked with Youssouf and left note Bouba. We packed. We still had hours to kill. Then, Suzanne runs in: “Let’s go! Let’s go!! Your on the plane that is leaving right now!!!”
We laughed with Suzanne, as we got all of our stuff, took down our tech equipment that allows us to stay connected to the world, and ran to the car. We were out in less than five minutes. We had a few team meetings where we talked about having to be ready to run in a hurry and without leaving essentials. If fighting came to the city, how well you react on the run, in the hear-of-the-moment can be the difference between—and I don’t want to sound overly dramatic but—life and death. I had gone through the scenario a few times in my head. To get to our flight, we got out in less time than I thought it would take us to get away from bullets.
We are all now in N’Djamena. What we hear is that the country is relatively quiet. The worse might be over, for now. The rainy season will hit in full, so the rebels go back to Sudan, so that they do not get stuck without possibility of a quick exit (we know how that feels). What is clear from all this mess is that that, again, the regular people that were already in bad shape will be the ones to suffer even more.
Humanitarian aid was disrupted during crucial times. This is when they prepare for rainy season, stockpiling food and material that will not be able to get in to the displaced, when the river run full. It is activity that is—and here I want to be very appropriately dramatic—about life and death. Refugees and internally displaced Chadian experienced the booms and the bangs that must fit in to the scars of the booms and the bangs that destroyed their own villages and killed family and friends.
This is my fifth trip to the region. This one was different. I did not make it to the camps. I did gain a greater understanding of the challenges and on the edge, precarious conditions that exist out here. I also gained energy, if that makes sense. We, the activists in this movement, have to be able to tough it out. We have to get focused and really come together. We are not in it for ourselves, our groups, our organizations or even our abstract concepts of peace and justice. We are in it for real people that are awaking today to a new day for not knowing what it will bring. They must be wondering if anyone is going to come and help. For now, they do know the rainy season is beginning, and now they must worry about how to keep their children alive.