On my last night in Nyala, in southern Darfur, convoys of combat-ready security forces circled the streets of the city, which has become part fortress, part camp for the displaced, and part home for dozens of international humanitarian groups. In the Darfur region, at least 1.5 million persons are, as one aid official says, “stuck between a past they don’t want to remember and a future they cannot see or even glimpse.” They have fled what they describe as a government-led campaign by Janjaweed militias to drive them from their homes—an allegation the Sudanese government has heatedly and steadfastly denied.
Now they are stuck in camps where most fear for their lives. The women also face the threat of rape. “We are just like hens in cages,” said one resident of the Hassa Hissa Camp on the edge of the city of Zalengei.
Chris Herlinger, former senior writer for Church World Service, is a contributing writer for National Catholic Reporter’s Global Sisters Report. He is the coauthor, with Paul Jeffrey, of books on Haiti and Darfur, published by Seabury. A third book, Food Fight: Struggling for Justice in a Hungry World, has just been released.