It looks like there’s no longer a chance that we can make it out to refugee camps this time. After spending so much time getting permits, talking to officials, and waiting for flights that never left, it’s frustrating to see it slip from our fingers when we came close so many times. I’m trying not to get too disappointed though, because as we keep telling ourselves, this is Chad. I know (knock on wood) that G and KTJ will have better luck next time, and I’m sure I’ll be out here again sometime.
We’ve been writing a lot about what goes on in Chad this trip, and many of our readers are primarily focused on resolving the situation in Darfur. I hope this hasn’t disappointed anybody, but one thing this trip has emphasized for me is how much of a regional conflict this is. When I first started as an activist, I tended to isolate the conflict to just Darfur. As I learned more, I started to think of it in terms of an “all-Sudan solution.” Being in Chad and learning about refugee camps, funding, rebels and the Central African Republic has drove home how important it is to think of this as a regional conflict.
The relationship between Sudan and Chad has gone from precarious to officially severed in recent months, and this is a dangerous situation for the thousands that are still fleeing from violence in Darfur. What happens if Chad suddenly refuses to accept any more refugees? I’m not sure that the government has the capacity to enforce this, but it would certainly make the work of UNHCR harder because they have play by the Chadian government’s rules while here.
Refugees from the Central African Republic are flowing into southern Chad, stretching UNHCR resources and creating a belt of camps that circles nearly half of the country. UNHCR efforts in the south are poorly funded, in part because the side of the conflict receives less attention. I should note that this is no criticism, but should be taken as a reflection on what it really takes to get adequate funding for these efforts. Because the camps cover such a large area in Chad now, it is harder for EUFOR to protect all the refugees at once.
Rebels in Chad and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in Darfur are constantly clashing with their respective governments, but their relationship is not easy to understand. Irish forces were taking gunfire from rebels in refugee camps outside of Goz Beida recently, and it’s difficult to make sense of why the camps would be a target. What may be even more dangerous for the refugees is the reality that aid workers are often evacuated if there is danger to their life. Without flights to the camps and aid workers operating on the ground, refugees can’t get food, water or medical supplies.
It still isn’t easy for me to wrap my mind around the entirety of this conflict. There are so many different players, and it seems like their relationships are always in flux. However, I feel like my understanding is deepening the more I try to understand what’s going on in Darfur in the context of the entire region. A true solution to this problem will undoubtedly encompass more than just this relatively small region. Now we just have to hope that instability throughout the region doesn’t hurt Darfur any more than it already it is.