Thursday, May 23, 2013

UN Secretary General in Eastern DRC

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo this week reminds me of the death of the second UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold.  Both traveled to the region to seek peace between UN, government, and breakaway groups in eastern Congo.

It was 52 years ago, on 18 September 1961, that the plane carrying UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold crashed while traveling in eastern Congo.  Hammarskjold had come to the region to facilitate peace talks between UN peacekeepers and Congolese fighting for the independence of the breakaway Katanga province.  Some reports suggested the Secretary’s plane was shot down by mercenaries paid by Katangan separatists.

Now Secretary Ban Ki-Moon is traveling to the Kivus to try arrange a peace deal with M23, an rebel group reinforced with deserters from the Congolese military.  The UN has agreed to send in more UN troops as an “Intervention Brigade” to try to force a peace in the region.  On this trip the Secretary General was welcomed with rocket attacks and intensified fighting between the military and M23. Hopefully he will make it out of the country alive.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cholera Water

The biggest challenge I have had so far in Chad has been dealing with water.  Granted most of Chad is located in the Sahara and Sahel deserts, but I live in N'Djamena, a city on the banks of the Chari River. Right now the river is very low- this weekend I saw people wading across the river- but my problem is with how water is delivered to my house.

I am not hooked up to the city water infrastructure so my organization that provided and takes care of my residence put a 1400 liter water tank next to my house and is supposed to fill it up every other day.  I figure the pipes to my house from the tank must be broken since the tank needs to be refilled with at least a 1000 liters each time.

So far I have run completely out of water six times in the three months I have lived in N'Djamena.  I suppose running out of water every other week isn't too bad since many of my neighbors have to carry water from the local pump to their house in buckets and other containers.  Thankfully there is a shower at my office so I can clean up if there if needed.

The new twist to my water problem is that the water tank has turned green and black.  Clumps of algae float on the surface and hang from the ceiling of the container.  When I run the shower in the house the water comes out a light green color.  The guards refuse to drink the water saying they will catch cholera or some other parasite that will make them sick.  Hopefully we can clean the tank before somebody dies.

Here is a link to the facts about Cholera from the World Health Organization.  I think we'll be ok since nobody is using my water tank as a toilet (at least I hope not).  Maintenance should empty and bleach it in the morning.  Inch'Allah.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Chadian Nomads

This morning I was invited by some friends to go visit some nomads in the countryside and to ride their camels! I had previously ridden camels in Qatar (bareback) and Senegal (hard wooden saddle) and this was the best camel riding experience so far.  The simple wooden saddle that was padded with blankets was comfortable and gave a reasonable feeling of control, kinda like riding a horse with an American saddle.

Some people in the group brought bags of candy to give to the kids in the photos and we were invited to visit their huts.  Inside the huts there were raised beds made of blankets spread across a woven mat of sticks and the roof was supported by another interlaced series of branches covered with tarps and blankets.  It wasn't too hot inside, definitely better than living inside a concrete box that turns into an oven during the heat of the day.

The people were nice and it was cool to talk to the few kids that could speak French.  Highly recommended day trip if you can arrange it when you visit Chad.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Nigeria State of Emergency

Since I last wrote on 6 March 2013 about Boko Haram things have only gotten worse in Northern Nigeria.  I said it met all the qualifications to be counted as a civil war but some said no, it wasn’t that bad.  Today the President of Nigeria declared a state of emergency due to Boko Haram.

Yesterday, Boko Haram released a video where their leader claimed responsibility for attacks that left 240 dead and claimed they will continue abducting women and children.  Another report stated that Boko Haram has destroyed 50 of the 175 schools on Borno state.  Boko has also mounted increasingly sophisticated attacks, including one in Bama on 8 May 2013 where 200 fighters arrived in buses wearing army uniforms and freed 105 prisoners and burned the police station, army barracks, and other government buildings.

Boko Haram also hit a major payday in april 2013 when they received $3 million for releasing the French family taken hostage in Cameron.  All the extra cash will go a long way in financing future attacks and undoubtably contributed to Boko Harams declared affinity for kidnapping.  The more ransoms are paid the more Boko Haram can expand their operations.