Thursday, December 11, 2014

Journal Entry for December 2, 2003

Sitting here at 8am on December 2 with a nice breeze waifing in Khartoum air. The scent is a bit musky but not unpleasant and it is cool. Opened the windows in the middle of the night and turned the AC off. Yahoo says the temp will range from 65 to 89 today and it'll get into the high 50's for lows this week. Beats Belize by miles. Woke up to birds singing and the occasional cry of a distant hawk.

Went to Nyala, capital of Southern Darfur yesterday. Took 3 1/2 hours of flying each way. Went with UK and EU Ambassadors to highlight our concern over the conflict there. The Wali (governor), a tough military man (and possible war criminal) had stopped the UK ambassador and me from making previous tries to get there. He was absent yesterday.

We met with state government officials, NGOs and then with a group of tribal leaders. The Wali had tried to stop us from meeting them but we insisted. The leaders of the two main Darfur opponents -- Arab nomad tribes and the Fur tribe (African farmers) -- both gave us their sides. We encouraged them to make peace. (The Arab nomads have been trying to drive the African farmers from their land. Both are Moslem.)

Some of our group went to a camp of people displaced by the war. They are in bad shape. Darfur from the air looks absolutely barren and it we'd call it desert.* But Greater Darfur has 6 million people and as the Sahara spreads south, they have less good space and thus fight for it. I find it hard when I am in such a place to grasp how the people who live there and the people who live in the First World, North America or Europe, could possibly be on the same planet. The distance between realities is so great.

*2014 Note:  Darfur does look very arid to an outsider.  But it gets just enough rain when the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone moves north.  The Jebel Marra region sticks up into the clouds and can get enough rain for agriculture and pasture.  It's thus worth having.