N’DJAMENA, Chad–Sen. Barack Obama departed this capital city Sunday morning, en route on an Army military aircraft to Frankfort, Germany to catch a commercial flight back to the United States.
He leaves wtih a “great urgency” to pressure the U.S. and other players to force Sudan to accept a United Nations peackeeping force in the Darfur region. Obama’s last stop was at a refugee camp near the Chad-Sudan border where some 15,333 people who fled Janjaweed violence live. Of those he talked to, they told him almost to a person they want to return-but cannot unless there are UN troops there to guarantee their safety.
After this major Africa swing–he left Washington on Aug. 18–the Illinois Democrat revs up a heavy political schedule in advance of the November elections, stumping in Iowa on Sept. 17, a stop in the early presidential caucus state that fuels speculation about whether the White House is in his future.
Obama launches his national book tour for his second book Oct. 17 in Chicago.
He reflected on his trip at the back of a plane on Saturday, talking above the roar of the engines to the three print reporters who have been covering his trip.
Obama’s next big international journey will be in 2007r–he’s looking at China, India and Indonesia, “where ironicall I actually have more of a childhood than I do in Kenya.”
Click for excerpts.
OBAMA INTERVIEW EXCERPTS
ON THE SITUATION IN SUDAN
The instability in Sudan is greater than I realized. I think that the lack of a clear mandate for the African Union is more debilitating than I realized and that effectively they are not able to provide any type of security function in these areas.
NEED FOR URGENT ACTION
It appears that there is a possible significant offensive by the Sudan forces against rebel forces once the rainy season (is) over and that is obviously a concern….My overarching sense is the great urgency to get a United Nations protective force on the ground. We can’t wait.
…If we wait much longer, i think it is fair to say the people we have seen today and the people in Darfur will be in an even worse situation than they are right now.
U.S. EFFORT IN DARFUR
Better, but better is not good enough. (A protetctive force) is not going to happen without special effort on our part.
HIGHLIGHTS and INSIGHTS FROM AFRICA TRIP
The visit to Kisumu (which included a stop at his fathers’ homestead) and actually the response when we took that AIDS test was fairly remarkable. (Obama and wife Michelle took it publically to reduce the stigma of testing)…a small gesture that could actually save some lives.
Coming here and seeing how isolated people are and really getting a sense I think in this region how ungoverned entire segments of the continent are.
…Trying to figure out how we can create structures that provide people with basic security, basic protection…a hugh problem and one that we are going to have to continue to grapple with I think for many years because it has a direct impact on our own security back home.
ON MEETING WITH TWO NOBEL PEACE PRIZE WINNERS
The fact that both appeared so cheerful, and hopeful indicates there is something about when people serve, somehow it enrichs them in all sorts of ways. They just seemed like happy, fulfilled people, even though they are not particularly wealthy.
Obama met former Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai.
ON YOUR DEVELOPMENT AS A SENATOR
(noted that on last big international swing, was under the wing of Sen. Richard Lugar, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee)
(On the Africa trip, tis time)
I was responsible, I think, for carrying the message to the countries we visited. But it was a good growth experience for me.