I spent the better part of August in various parts of Darfur on work related trip. I spent roughly about a week in each Darfur state beginning with El Fashir, ND then El Genina, WD and finally rounding off the trip in Nyala, SD.
Most family and friends were not comfortable with my trip to the region although commercial flights leave to and from Khartoum on a daily basis. Roads are less accessible due to armed robberies along the way and this time of the year the unpaved road are made impassable by heavy rains.
El Fashir, dry, desert climate is akin to that of Khartoum and Northern State. Sadly although it was the rainy season it was evident that rains have not graced the region. As a result the parched landscape echoed in the form of cracked soil and achingly dry trees. The perennial rivers known as wadis lay dry. Considerable measures have been taken over the past few month to increase security. As a result, nights are much calmer. In the past it was common place to hear gunshots being exchanged in the night. People were uneasy leaving their homes in the evenings. Slowly there seems to be calm over this region. El Fashir town is slowly regaining some stability, but right on its periphery a series of internally displaced persons (IDP) camps continue to grow. Some of these camps have become established towns, with houses built from bricks and layout of the neighbourhoods. Markets are thriving in these camps.
The presence of United Nations agencies and joint forces patrol the streets. These organizations cars at times outnumber regular vehicles on the road. In El Fashir alone there are roughly 15,000 United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) troops. Honestly I am conflicted about their presence in the area. At times I feel that they primarily drain the natural resources of the region and do very little to protect the residents of this region. This is the case in West and South Darfur as well but their troop sizes are considerably smaller in those states.