News that the United Nations is pulling all non-essential staff out of West Darfur sends my mother into hysterics again today. It takes me a while to understand what the faraway voice on the other side of the satellite phone is going on about, but finally I remember that I heard about this in one of the aid agency coordination meetings.
"Mother, I spoke to some friends in Geneina (the capital of West Darfur) yesterday. NO ONE has left - they've still got the same 15 or so people there that they always do. Yes, I'm fine, well, at least nothing has changed in the place where I'm working."
I don't add 'not yet', and of course I don't mention that the gunshots at nights have become alarmingly regular over the past few days.
While I still doubt that the UN agencies (most of whom are safely tucked away in the state capitals of Darfur, nowhere near the actual fighting) are in any danger of either being attacked or having to evacuate, I can't say that things are calming down either.
I have little time to catch up with the news these days, but I gather the Darfur peace talks in Abuja are grinding along more slowly than ever. And more and more groups seem to be shouting about not getting their seat at the negotiating table - including the two rebel splinter groups involved in last week's abductions of African Union troops in Tine.
And while the story of the kidnap itself still manages to amuse me with its sheer absurdity, the thought that these random rebel groups are now roaming through Darfur in their looted fleet of shiny new AU vehicles with oodles of ammunition, rocket launchers and other military kit is not exactly comforting - for either my mother or for me.
Tags: Sudan, Darfur, aid worker, insecurity, African Union