Thursday, March 22, 2007

To Torit we go….

Right after arriving in my new home of Kapoeta I’m told that I’ll be leaving in a day to help out with a conference in Torit- the current capital of Eastern Equatoria. I head off with my new Sudanese colleague for a four hour drive on dusty, bumpy roads. On the way we pass through the Kidepo Valley, an area where much fighting has taken place over access to this prime grazing land. We see houses built right on top of the mountains for protection. I have no idea how they leave their homes or have contact with the outside world, but I suppose that all that mattered during the war was safety and seeing your enemy coming.

On the way we pass another car which is broken down. The driver was traveling alone and has been stuck in the bush for five days trying to get someone to help him!! We try to help him but the car is not going anywhere. After trying for a while the commissioner shows up (wearing a leopard print cowboy hat (wish I had a photo of that)), and tries to help. We leave the driver behind knowing that he’s in good hands. We must get to Torit...

When we arrive in Torit it seems like a booming town compared to Kapoeta. It’s also level four security because of the LRA, although there was nothing going on while I was there. The town is full of UN peacekeepers patrolling the peace in the white UN landcruisers. Lots of driving in circles observing... A car full of peacekeepers offered me a ride as I was walking two blocks. I thought you weren’t supposed to give rides to civilians guys??? Or maybe that doesn’t count for females…. Regardless, thanks for keeping the peace- we need you!

As we are sitting outside of the SPLM office waiting for our truck to arrive from Nairobi a huge convoy passes in front of us. It’s the Russians. They are carrying out at least ten tankers full of oil. They won't let any Sudanese drive because of safety, so every car is driven by a Russian with a bunch of angry looking Sudanese men sitting in the vehicle and hanging off the back. It’s quite a sight to watch and everyone seems to be tense watching it go by in case anyone tries to attack them.

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