Under the blistering sun tens of thousands of villagers, tribal leaders from Northern Darfur came in droves for a glimpse of their President Omar Al Bashir. These thousands of people were waiting in incredible heat for hours.
The President was greeted in a large open field complied with a raised and covered dais flanked by two tented large segregated seating areas, one for women, one for men.
Initially a sandy patch separated the President from the crowd that allowed his entry atop a Pick-Up Truck decorated with rose flowers and a red carpet.
They crowd shout „Long Live Al Bashir!“ and “Salam, Salam, Darfur”.
People were waving banners saying “The Higher Committee of the Organisation of the Visit of the President welcomes Al Bashir to Darfur”.
Bashir stood atop the Pick-Up Truck with a traditional stick greeting those who came from miles around to see him.
Buoyed by the exuberant crowd, he encouraged the security to lift the barriers between him and the people. He urged the people “Come closer to me” and thousands ran forward hoping to get close to the leader of their country. The sand of the desert ground is kicked up into the air. It looks like a short sand storm.
President Al Bashir was on his first trip to Darfur in a over a year. President Al Bashir came to Darfur to encourage peace, unity and stability in the war zone region.
Darfur, as the world knows, is an area plagued by desertification. The struggle for water has pitted the subsistance farmers against pastoral headers. As global warming continues to encroach upon once fertile lands now enlarging vast African desserts.
What little the world knows about Darfur consists of indiscriminate killing, accused genocide and brutal mass rape. The contrast between what I believed and what I saw shook me. I experienced the opposite to what the media and public reception is.
What I saw was thousands of people passionately cheering, women ululating, tribes’ men on horses and camels and fighters dressed in black masks for war. The Rezeigat tribe brought multi coloured tents, perched atop camels with women hidden somewhere underneath the ornate caravan of fabrics boarded in gold French complete with red flags and yellow desert flowers woven into the carpets that hid the female riders from the view.
To the right of the President came an additional two camels, one encapsulated in green, the other in blue. With the camels wearing counts of gold and their Sultan owners atop.
For a man who is accused of killing around two hundred thousands Darfurians, this rally and welcome for the President seemed unbelievable.
There were three speakers before the President Al Bashir who all spoke in formal Arabic but when President Al Bashir took the podium and spoke without notes in colloquial local language of the people he was addressing and the crowd responded accordingly whereas they politely listened to the previous three speakers, but when President Al Bashir took the podium it was as if the Rolling Stones had just let loose.