Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Chadian Rebels

This is a post I wrote in Darfur, and then later removed from the blog, with a justifiable nod to paranoia. Caution was advisable as I wrote about the open secret of the Sudanese government's support to Chadian rebels in Darfur. Not only did the rebels roam the town like they owned the place, but they were happily recharging their batteries in the Sudanese government's office - HAC...

November 2006

Chadian rebels are moving through the area. Last night a ‘large number’ of them reportedly moved through the centre of town, though I heard nothing. But yesterday afternoon I came face to face with 3 pick-ups of Chadian rebels, at a government office. They were in the usual unmarked vehicles with no number plates, wearing green khaki uniforms. They had white cloth turbans wrapped around their heads and over their mouths, so only their blank eyes stared out. They come in regularly to go shopping, and do other business. Having just flown in myself from another town, I was going to register with the government office, as is required. Perhaps they were doing the same? The ritual of taking in a photocopy of your travel permit which you’ve dutifully had signed by numerous different officials, even though you’re only travelling 50 kms. They had set up an armed guard on the door, and the rebel soldiers in the courtyard were relaxing, drinking water, washing their feet, chatting to their friends and laughing. As I came out of the office they shook my hand. I looked briefly into their eyes, unsure what sort of look to give them. They seemed so young, though it’s hard to tell. I made eye contact, then respectfully looked away, and the usual series of ‘salam alaykum, Kef? Hamdullah’ was quietly uttered.

The Chadian rebels don’t pose a direct threat to the NGO workers. They seem to have their own vehicles and supplies (which government is paying for all this?) so they don’t particularly need ours. The danger for NGOs is that we are simply caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, or that the situation between Sudan and Chad escalates and Chad invades West Darfur. But that is an unlikely scenario at the moment.

One worrying rumour at the moment is that the Chadian rebels have started selling their guns in the market, as collectively they have plenty of arms, but individually they have little money. The price of a pistol has fallen to 10 000 dinars and a Kalashnikov is just 12 000 dinars, which is just over 50 US dollars. That’s not much at all. There seems to be a ready supply of guns to replace any lost/sold ones. Of course one of the other ways of making money probably includes the whisky and Pastis trade, smuggled in from Chad - something for which the NGO community can't claim a total lack of involvement.