Friday, August 21, 2015

From my Journal for the end of March 2004: Trying to Set up Talks with Darfur Rebels

March 23: Had junior officers over for dinner tonight, part of charm offensive and my new approach to trying to have and encourage fun. Went well I think but I had two martinis. At ten, USAID Roger arrived and we chatted and did some business till just late. We get on fine but I had two martinis. Rest of USAID probably still hates me. Can't please everyone and still do good. Busy day.

March 24: It was a crazy day but worked out ok. Chasing Salah [Gosh]. Looks like the Darfur talks may get off the ground sometime early next week. We launch our group from here early tomorrow. I have to get up at six to say goodbye to Roger [Winter]. Janice, our poloff, is going too. I played a big role in arranging this possibility but few will ever know. But it'll be good if it works to bring peace.

March 26: Had a nice dinner last night with my IGAD colleagues -- Kenya, Uganda, Eritrea and Ethiopia. Kenyan host invited Somalia rep and South African. I really like the Africans. Stayed later than I expected cause Elijah, the Kenyan, wanted to talk more about Somalia. The IGAD countries want US help. Maybe I'll volunteer to do Somalia after Sudan.

March 27: Combined work with napping today. Tried to chase down a rebel leader not yet committed to talks. Also attended a UN reception for the departing UN chief. Standing for two hours was a killer. Last night was the excellent Rec Site dance. Sore knees but good time.

March 29: It seems like the work we did has managed to avoid being derailed by [USAID and French]. Darfur talks look to start tomorrow in Chad. Last minute efforts made here seem to have gotten chief rebel holdout to go. Now if the USAID/French crew don't fuck up the actual talks, there may be hope. But I feel good that the last month of effort has gotten to this point. Sure too bad that god isn't keeping score because that'd be all the credit I ever get. I made this happen in my typical way, mostly invisible but enough showed to get me more enmity than anything else from the USAID shits.

Met with leaders of chief opposition parties today including useful lunch with Sadiq El Mahdi in his pavilion in his back garden. Janice called from N’djamena to say that the arrival of the rebels was a scene out of Lawrence of Arabia. Ah what times we live in here along the margins of the Sahara.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

From my Journal for March 20, 2004

Got up early for tennis today and then to work. But this afternoon, I visited the new and first-ever shopping mall in Sudan. Walked through the metal detectors into a space not yet full of shops. But there was a Payless Shoe Store and a hypermarket. Bought some lentils, spices and olives. But what I really came for was to try the bowling alley. It's run -- as I think everything is -- by the Turks. There are maybe 10 lanes and they have electronic scoring and appear regulation. I bowled three games -- one for free from the manager -- and on the last reached my high score for the day, 102. The lane had a wicked curve and desperately needs polishing. It was impossible to hook left and anything from the right really hooked right. But I was bowling in Sudan!

Note:  I should add that the spectacle of the American Charge at such an typically American activity grew a bit of a crowd.  A local bowling hustler -- just learning his tricks -- bowled with me for a game.  As I remember it, it was competition that helped me reach the heights of 102. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

From my Journal for March 17 & 19: Dealing with Government treatment of darfur IDPs in Mayo Camp, Khartoum

March 17: Shit is getting pretty near hitting the fan here. Spent the evening hearing reports of police violence against Darfur displaced persons at a camp near Khartoum. We made plans to be part of a dip convoy to the camp first thing tomorrow morning. Then we hear that eight have been killed and the violence is continuing. Tried to reach someone in GOS to ask them to intercede. Nothing accomplished. Tomorrow, at nine, off we go. The thugs are out of the closet and daring us not to dance with them.

March 19: Been an interesting 24 hours. Began yesterday with meeting a group of Western diplomatic colleagues at the Dutch embassy. We rendezvoused and set off for Mayo Camp to see if there was anything we could do to help the Darfur refugees there. We heard that some were being taken elsewhere and that the violence had continued through the night. The government now admitted to three killed, two women and a man. But we had reports that 15 had been killed and more wounded. The government was clearly trying to get rid of the camp before it attracted any more attention to the war in Darfur. We – US, French, British, Dutch and others – wanted to get there before they could do any more harm or erase the evidence. We failed. A couple of miles or so from the camp, near a market on a road full of traffic, we ran into a police roadblock, laid just for us. Not waiting for the usual bullshit explanations, I jumped from the car and started walking down the road. The police caught up to me. They tried to tell me that I could not go on, that I did not have permission. As the others caught up to me – I also had my bodyguards – I explained that we did not need permission. I said I would continue walking down the road. They said they could not allow that. I said they would have to detain me to stop me and continued walking. The police began to threaten and I paused to allow my security to explain to them that they could not impede or touch a diplomat. Things got heated. I made some calls to government people who eventually told me that I had permission. I also took a picture of the police block. This led to the police seeking to take my camera away from me. I eventually agreed to erase the picture and before being physically assaulted by a plainclothes policeman who was threatening me – he was a thug – I gave the police a memory chip that I had switched for the real one. A police general arrived with a pickup full of plainclothes thugs. He explained that the police were carrying out an “operation” at the camp and needed more time to “clean up.” They could not allow us to go any further for our own security. He assured me everything would be okay in a few hours and we could return then. We then agreed to turn back. As we were doing this, a UN team got a bit closer to the camp via another route and smelled tear gas and saw people fleeing. Later, a team did reach the camp but found it by that time deserted. Also latter, the foreign minister passed a message saying he was angry with me for trying to force the police to let us through. I rejected his position and instead said that we were protesting our treatment by the police.