In Darfur: A Travel Diary (Day 4)

In Darfur: A Travel Diary (Day 4)

Editor's Note: In March, Kurt Pelda, Africa Bureau Chief of the Swiss daily the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), traveled to eastern Chad on the border with the Sudanese crisis region of Darfur: a trip that was documented in a diary published in English on World Politics Review and that would see him eventually turning back from the border due to inadequate security conditions. In late October, Pelda returned to the region and crossed the border into Darfur, where he accompanied a Darfur rebel group. The diary of his trip was published on the NZZ Online in German, and World Politics Review here presents it in English.

Day 4: 'Our Land Is More Important to Us than Our Lives'
The Mass Grave on the Hill

The rebels never sleep in villages, but always a bit outside of them in the sand of a wadi. Just after sunrise, a stamping sound can be heard coming from the nearest settlement, as the women grind millet or sorghum into meal in mortars. The meal is used to cook a sticky porridge known as assida. The lighter, grayish variant is made with millet; the brown version with sorghum.

The finished product is served in a large dish with a brown okra sauce on top of it, which, like the assida itself, has little prospect of being mentioned in a Michelin guide. Sometimes -- as a treat -- a small plastic pitcher of melted butter is poured into the viscous mix. That gives the dish a special touch. But this morning, there is no assida for breakfast. The peasants from the small village bring the rebels deep fried dough balls with sugar. The population has no fear of contact with the guerrilla fighters. Even women and small girls without accompaniment show no hesitation about passing within earshot of the rebel camp on foot or riding donkeys. This is a sure sign that the population is not afraid of the rebels.

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