An Amnesty research team is visiting Chad for the fourth time since 2006. This time the focus of inquiry will be on violence against women, general issues of insecurity, and new work on the recruitment of child soldiers. Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, is reporting. You can follow his blog here.
The last think I ever would have expected in an isolated corner of eastern Chad is a reunion!
This afternoon we made our way out to Koudigou, a camp near Goz Beida that is home to about 11,000 displaced Chadians, most of who have been there for close to four years now. It was a bumpy, sandy track through rough terrain, making our way past sporadic groups of people coming and going with supplies of water and bundles of firewood and hay. Also sharing the road were camels, donkeys, goats and sheep with occasional herds of cattle in the distance. As has been the case throughout our time on the ground here in eastern Chad the sun was relentless and the heat suffocating.
Even before we had arrived a group of about 15 elders and leaders had gathered to meet with us. We made our way into a small building that offered welcome shelter from the sun while still allowing a breeze to blow through.
We made our introductions and explained who we were, a bit about Amnesty International and the focus of our mission. The first village chief to speak, Abakar Yusuf, then astonished me by saying he remembered me from when I was here in 2006 and had spent some time in and around the village of Adé, very near the Chad/Darfur border. He reminded me that he had spoken with me about the very tragic death of his wife, who was shot and then thrown into their burning home when their village had come under attack by Janjawid militia.
I immediately remembered and even recognized him. I certainly recalled the heart-wrenching story of his wife’s death, which had only happened about two weeks before our arrival. In fact I recall that the report we published in January 2007 following that mission, includes an account of Abakar’s wife’s death, alongside Abakar’s photo.