Bahai beach

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Bahai Beach 59

Bahai Beach 59

Remembering Ethiopia

April 3, 2007.

At 04.45 this morning an emotional moment took place. I had to inform the chicken that I would be out of time for 1 month and that someone else will have to sing for them in the time being. Many people have warned me that in my absence the chicken will not be safe and might end up in the cooking pot. To lessen the threat I have bribed the guards and cooks to take extra care and there is a functional barbed wired gate with high movement sensor closed camera system in place. One cannot be lax with one’s family and investment.

The reason for the early rise and shine was a magnificent car trip from Bahai to Abeche, through Iriba (other refugee camps) and Biltine (proposed site, but also site of heavy combat between Chadian Government Troops and rebels several months ago. All in all it was a nine and a half journey. It was amazing to see how only about 30 minutes south of Bahai the landscape turned from austere Sahel to Savannah like heaven. It has to be said that in the entire journey we met only about 9 other vehicles (or I was sleeping). It reminded me of the contrast with the Netherlands were you go from bumper-to-bumper from and to work. Endless space, few people a camel here and there all with a background of red earth and thorny trees. Navigating through dry riverbeds called wadi’s. It took us about three hours to get to Iriba (the place we evacuated the triplets to remember).

From Iriba to Biltine was the most beautiful part of the route. Jagged peaks and a narrowing valley, winding paths through a low hill range, slithering snakes (1.5 meters this time) and we let him pass. Rocks stacked as if there was intervention of Titans to stack them up as building towers. An eagle soaring in the air, unexpected there were some huge trees in the middle of a wadi. Frisian Dutch (koetjeboe) cows as if lost in the landscape.

Ethiopia is on my mind. It is mainly the landscape but 7 charred Russian tanks strewn across the roadside help as well. David had overcome these Goliath Monstrous Machines. In Ethiopia I wondered often how many children you could give full vaccination for the price of one of these nonsensical War machines. There the tendency to decorate the muzzle of the canon with flowers I did not overcome. Sitting on top of the heavily steel clad Fools toys pondering on the use of these weapons. In Ethiopia as well the scarce water wells were heavily used by marauding bands of camels, cattle, sheep, goats and their herdsmen. Beautifully decorated while walking behind their living money bank.

This is what the young men living in Oure Cassoni used to do. Walk around with their herds to find those spots where grass and water was available in the dry season. Some say the fundament of the conflict on Darfur is the century old clash between nomads (pastoralist) and tribes with a more sedentary lifestyle (cultivators) With an increase of population and a decrease of available resources; water, wood, pasture/farming grounds have become hotly contested. It is sort of conflict of the sort you can find in different countries in Africa. Alas despite sparse positive environmental health from Africa (Notable exception Niger where because people have stopped chopped trees indiscriminately on their cultivation grounds amongst other reasons the percentage and density of forests has increased)

Combined with failing old reconciliation methods and increase in the level of sophistication of weapons. Rocket Propelled Grenades for example are a daily thing to see in Bahai. And there is a plethora of other reasons; projected oil revenues, uranium? , Quest for an arabization of Sudan and a de-Africanisation movement.

In Ethiopia it was called voluntary moves from the highlands to the sparsely populated low lands near the Sudani border. These regions were having so little inhabitants because of rampant kala azar (parasite disease), malaria and rampant malnutrition because of crop failures. Added to this deadly cocktail was; lack of health care services, HIV, Tuberculosis, lack of schooling, poor drinking water facilities.

The highlands in Ethiopia are indeed beautiful and highly populated. I am sure there is no easy solution but sending people ‘against their will’ to disease-infested areas without proper survival tools is not justified.

My stream of consciousness on Ethiopia came to screeching halt when we arrived in Abeche. Time to meet new colleagues and push for a ticket to India. The first hurdle (getting to Abeche) has been taken.




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