I went for a run today, laps on a dirt track. Each lap is about 20 seconds, and the track is surrounded by tall walls with barbed wire. The UNHCR compound feels secure, but I’m not sure how safe these walls actually are, if armed men really wanted to get in. There is no armed security force on this side of the walls.
I asked our friend, a teacher named Suleiman, how refugees felt about the the UN protection force pulling out completely from Eastern Chad, and he said, “Very bad.” Suleiman says that refugees feel safe inside of the camp. Outside is a different story. They fear banditry and the movement of rebels, which has been a regular thing since the camps opened about seven years ago.
The task of patrolling the border area has been taken over by Chadian and Sudanese forces, and refugees don’t exactly feel a sense of security in knowing that.
It feels strange to spend a day in a refugee camp–sharing stories, visiting families, and seeing daily life unfold, while remaining in a state of suspended animation–to then return to a compound with tall walls and barbed wire.
My run was short, maybe about 25 minutes. There was a white-of-the-fingernail moon in the darkening sky, and the mountain that’s not too far from one of the walls looked beautiful, painted orange in the after-sunset light.