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Thousands Along Chad-Sudan Border Still Await Safe Return


The African Union and United Nations are still trying to send peacekeepers to the troubled border area between Chad and Sudan. Fighting among different rebel groups and government troops from both countries has pushed hundreds of thousands of people into temporary camps. Victims from both sides are impatient to find a way out. Phuong Tran visited camps in eastern Chad and has this report for VOA.

Tens of thousands of Chadians who fled violence looked for safety in humanitarian camps like one near the town of Abeche in Chad.

They left everything behind, expecting to return home as soon as the fighting ended.

Upon arrival, they each received a prayer mat, blanket, and kettle to hold water that became harder to get as more people squeezed into the camps. And for most, those are their only belongings, after months of living in a place they do not want to call home.

Thirty-seven year old Diouma Abou fled violence earlier this year from the Chad village of Marena. Hundreds died in his village while trying to escape the fighting.

One witness, Diouma Abou, said, "I saw men who had to leave their families, children who were left behind. I lost 20 people in my own family. I still do not know what happened to my father. My wife saw so much violence that she lost her mind and is now in the hospital. I am here with my children, waiting."

A nearby health tent is filled with Sudanese women. They are among hundreds of thousands of Sudanese who escaped an ethnic war that broke out in 2003.

A 25-year-old mother says she has been at the camp for almost a year. "I was living at the border until Arab military attacked. I came here. My husband goes back and forth to Sudan because he has sick family there."

Her baby was born that morning. The girl did not yet have a name because the mother said only the father can name her when he comes back.

Elsewhere in the camp, a boy attends Koranic school. He and about 50 other boys meet under a tent every day. Nineteen-year-old Wani Kiir started the classes a few months ago. "I used to go to Koranic school in Sudan until I had to come here with my uncle and father because of all the fighting."

Kiir misses his school in Sudan. But for now, he says the new students keep him busy.

Further south is a camp in Goz Beida. Hundreds from the Chad village Bandala came here after it was burned down by fighters. Fatouma Soumayne came here with her five children. "I will not go back to Bandala because I am still scared of the Janjaweed fighters. When they came, they took everything, even the trees we had planted. My favorite memories are those trees. l planted millet, peppers, mangos. It is all gone."

Village chief Djibril Abarka Kamis had never lived outside of Bandala. But now, he does not want to go back. "The attackers pointed their weapons at us and shot. We could not defend ourselves with only our bare hands. They burned down my village, moving from left to right. It is all gone."

As rebels and their governments try to agree on how to make peace, the mother and daughter, teacher and his students, father and children, chief and his villagers, simply wait.

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