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Pole to Pole

Day 74: Khartoum to Gedaref

Michael Palin - Pole to Pole12.30 p.m. We are on our way again.

Just outside Gedaref is a huge refugee or 'displaced persons' camp, housing 22,000 Ethiopians. It has been here for sixteen years. The Sudanese pursued a benevolent but not altogether altruistic policy of support for those fighting the government of Colonel Mengistu and these camps, filled largely with political refugees, were recruiting and training centres for the Tigrayan resistance. This one is as big as a small town, well laid out with long lines of circular huts capped with conical thatched roofs, and surrounded by high fences. A big crowd gathers around us. I have the feeling that visits such as ours are a spot of welcome entertainment in an otherwise confined and routine existence. The presence of the camera is also an opportunity to air grievances and appeal to the world. Refugees, some wearing 'Desert Storm' and 'Rambo' T-shirts, tell us that there is not enough food, that they have to do the most menial jobs for the Sudanese in order to make money to live, and that now the war is over they want international pressure to be used to get them back home again.

'What can you do for us? What can you do for us?' they keep repeating.

The worst part is leaving. Being able to leave.

In Gedaref we are quartered at another government rest-house. Our shared rooms are set off a verandah which is screened with netting to keep out mosquitoes. The floors are covered in badly-fitting vinyl, the walls are bare plaster. There is a fan that doesn't work and basins with no running water. It is a cheerless place. We sit, before supper, with glasses of lemonade, feeling like occupants of an old folks' home.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 74
  • Country/sea: Sudan
  • Place: Gedaref
  • Book page no: 157

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