In Darfur: A Travel Diary (Day 7)

In Darfur: A Travel Diary (Day 7)

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.

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Just after sunrise, the first of Atrun's men get up to repair the pickup. The cheap Chinese hand pump with which they are inflating the tubes is in pitiful shape. The rebels constantly have to reattach the handle with wire and rubber bands. Without the light blue pump we would be definitively stuck. But if the guerrilla fighters have any talent, it is the art of improvising. While the tubes are inspected and patched, a transistor radio is blaring in the background. The rebels are listening to the BBC Arabic Service: their favorite radio station.

Later, when the pickup is up and running again, we come to a heavily inhabited area. The millet fields are more frequent and larger. Watermelons are growing in the midst of the millet stalks. We pass a road block with a sign on which the letters "SLA" are written, standing for the Sudan Liberation Army. Again today, it is not long before our "supply" of spare wheels is used up and we have to make a stop. If we were still riding on camels, like in commander Abdallah's area, we would probably not advance any more slowly than we do with the windshieldless pickup.

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