Sunday, November 20, 2005

The papers are buzzing with the news of the Chadian deserters who have apparently slipped into Darfur over the past few weeks. Everyone is on the lookout for the sleek fighter jets that locals and aid workers recently spotted over West Darfur ("How on earth they think they'd be able to spot any deserters while they zoom past at mach speeds is beyond me," one of my more intelligent friends in El Geneina remarks in her security report.)

My local staff are a lot less interested in the Chadian rebels or the French jets that the Chadian government has sent in to hunt them. Their main focus, as usual, is on the Sudanese government's sinister motives and the rumours of helicopter gunships and Sudanese troop build-ups aroud the Chad border area.

"It's a perfect excuse for the government to attack some of the rebel areas," I'm told. "They don't give a shit about Chad or helping President Deby find those guys - all they want is a cover-up for attacking the border villages they suspect of having links to JEM (the Justice and Equality Movement, one of Darfur's main rebel groups)."

As an outsider who still doesn't really get 90% of what's really happening in Darfur, I just nod and make a mental note to scan my security reports for attacks on villages in these areas. We never run out of gruesome rumours over here in Darfur, but sometimes they do turn out to be chillingly accurate and I have learned to listen even to the craziest off-hand remarks.

In the meantime, I can't help but marvel (and very nearly despair) at my local collegues' instinctive reaction to any piece of news. I can't say I like or trust some parts of my home government, but I suppose I should count myself lucky that they have not yet given me any reason to suspect they will kill me and my family as soon as they're given an opportunity. I can't imagine it's a comfortable feeling to be living with.

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