In Darfur: A Travel Diary (Day 6)

In Darfur: A Travel Diary (Day 6)

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.

From One Flat Tire to the Next

An Iraqi Drivers License

Sheikh Adam is the chief of the small village next to which we set up our camp. He rides up from the wadi on horseback. He is wearing dark glasses and a bright white turban and he is carrying a book in his hand. The names of all the visitors to his village are entered in it. There are not many: a delegate from the Red Cross, as well as local Sudanese employees of the World Food Program and other aid organizations. Sheikh Adam welcomes the help from the aid agencies, but it is not enough.

"Why don't more aid workers come here and provide aid to the refugees who live in the mountains?" the Sheikh asks. The reason is the growing insecurity, as one says in the jargon of the foreign aid workers. What is meant by that is, above all, attacks by "armed elements," during which the aid agency vehicles are frequently stolen. The rebels are certainly responsible for some of these attacks. But just a glance at the map shows that most such incidents occur in the areas controlled by the Janjaweed and the government troops. A Swiss woman who works for an international aid organization recently told me: "We know that many of the incidents are the work of the security forces. But we cannot say it openly, since if we did, we would be threatened with reprisals. For instance, our organization could be expelled from Sudan. Many of the authorities on the government side do not want us to help the refugees at all."

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