Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ghost rebels

I have to confess that I wasn’t really sure that the Chadian rebels exist. Of course I knew they’d been responsible for high profile attacks on Chad many times before, and I’d even seen footage of them riding through the streets of N’Djamena in February 2008. But legend holds that the turbaned warriors just melt like a mirage into the desert from where they came.

The rebels look like ghosts. Each face carries a hunted look as they sit under the gun butts of their Chadian army captors. Few had washed, even to rinse the sand from their faces, wild, dread-locked hair and ear-holes. Layer upon layer of bleached yellow dust on each trembling body makes them appear blurred and indistinct, faded like in an old sepia photograph. Neglected droplets of blood trickle down some faces, mixing with the dirt into a coagulated tarry mess, yet hardly a murmur escapes from the crowd.

The dead rebels, face-down in the sand where they fell, have gone back to the spirit world which so badly let them down. Each wears a traditional gri gri protection amulet. The bodies are just asleep, surrounded by oily, bubbled pools of dark blood. Even the cars are shapes I’ve never seen before – the angel of death passed over the fighting, leaving his mark on their sinister black camouflage.
Deep in the dark night of N’Djamena, where flickering street lamps weakly cut through the settling debris of the day, the rebel convoy is on the move again. The camouflage disguises their slow, shuddering progress. Their headlights are hanging off, doors dented, windscreens smashed. They will be left in the street like giant metal gravestones. Testament to the defeat of the rebels who have once again vanished into the dunes.

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