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Camp 44

I woke up with a start as my nightmares began to unfold. An earth shattering sound broke the silence of the morning. Death suddenly sounded so near and quite certain.

Machine gun and rifle shots followed the booms and bangs of bombs. Flying pieces of shrapnel ripped the flaps of my tent open.

I looked outside (through a tear in my tent) and I saw a terrified young mother and her four little children huddled close, behind a badly torn tent. Dazed and with tears flowing freely from her eyes; Her arms, her legs, her lips all trembled uncontrollably with fear.

We were at the United Nations Refugee camp at Lubumbo, in the third day of the third month of the year 1995. A day I could never forget. The day the Kangan Popular Liberation Front launched its assault on our camp. I was thirty-four years of age at the time.

A week ago Francis had been in high spirits, and he spoke with confidence as he stood beside Beatrice, while I sat on the sand. Our dresses were of our African milieu – though modified in certain points – with a touch of the western world. Francis and I wore dirt colored jumpers (which had been previously white) and grey cotton trousers. Beatrice had on a grey head scarf knotted tight in front. She wore cheap blue hollandaise blouse and wrapper, with the scarf.

“The UN force will keep them out, he said, "they have a mandate to keep the peace”.

Beatrice was annoyed, I could tell, for her jaw dropped. Held back by anger her lips and tongue moved slightly, but made no sound. She suddenly found her voice.

“Francis! How could you say such a thing!

“They would help us”, he continued unfazed, “they are 1,500 strong!

“They cannot hold them back”, Beatrice hissed. “Every able bodied Kangan dog, will come through the valleys…through the mountains…the rivers… and from everywhere else BEYOND THOSE GATES!!!

“The UN force will keep them out”, Francis repeated through clenched teeth. Beatrice’s hot words had sparked a wave of anger. I pitied my friend, he was simply being optimistic.

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