Aid workers in El Geneina, West Darfur, are yawning and complaining this morning following a night of particularly loud and violent shoot-outs. As usual, there is little clarity about who is shooting at whom (though the Janjaweed feature as the most popular character in any tale), or even why - but anyone with a pair of ears can confirm that the shelling did not let up until the early hours of the morning. Today Geneina, as so often over these past few weeks, once again seems like a lawless outpost in a wild, wild west scene.
A dusty little town only 30kms from the Chadian border, Geneina does actually look like it belongs in some kind of country and western movie: horses and donkeys meander through the streets, men with big guns saunter through the market, and there isn't a single paved road in sight (and this includes the airport runway, where aid workers regularly sit inside little HAS planes after a heavy rain, waiting for the gravel air strip to dry enough for the planes to take off).
While people somehow still manage to joke about the night's events, there is no denying that everyone is tense. There are rumours that the bandit networks that have been terrorising cars and trucks on the roads of West Darfur (the UN has recently declared all roads leading outside of Geneina off limits for travel) have started moving inside the state capital itself to continue their looting sprees. Aid agencies are struggling to decide what this means for their operations and whether or not it's safe to stay put and continue operating.
But for the moment - and, as usual - the only thing that people seem to be agreeing on is that Darfur's still a mess, and that anything could happen next - and that the only way of not dwelling on it too much (at least for those of us not making any of the big political and security decisions) is simply to get back to work.
Tags: Sudan, Darfur, aid worker, insecurity, Geneina