Reporters on the Job
• From Rainy to Raid Season? For poor subsistence farmers, weather plays a key role in their survival. But in eastern Chad, the folks are warily watching the clearing skies for reasons that go beyond agriculture. With the end of the rainy season, water levels in the typically dry riverbeds, known as wadis, are dropping. But as the waters recede, says staff writer Matt Clark, tensions are rising (see story).
He visited the market town of Kerfi, which has been isolated by flash flooding of the wadis since the rainy season, began in July. With the exception of Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), no international aid groups have been able to access the thousands of refugees gathered there after fleeing black-Arab clashes last fall. But villagers also felt safe from raiders.
"We had to cross two wadis to get to Kerfi. We crossed one in an inflatable boat paddled by MSF staff. We waded across the other one, squishing through mud as small children played in the chocolate colored water and fishermen cast their nets. Thankfully it was only knee-deep. A week before, I'm told, I would have been wading through chest-deep water holding my bag over my head," says Matt.
But when he left Kerfi only 48 hours later, he didn't even have to take off his boots to cross the first wadi. "Even though I had been walking for miles in near 100 degree F. heat under a scorching Sahel sun, I was still surprised how quickly these wadis dry out. It was good news for me, and good news in terms of bringing in more refugee aid in the near future. But everyone told me that the dry wadis also bring fresh concerns about interethnic raids. In the rainy season, there are few raids, because no one can move around. But now it's a different story .
– David Clark Scott