I am nine years old. My name is Ajani. In our language, that means "she who fights for what is hers." I do not think that I should be called that anymore. I do not fight, I run when the bad people come. I do not fight, I am too afraid.
Let me start from the beginning. In Darfur, my home, there are four different groups of people: the Masalit and the Fur, who grow crops, the Zaghawa, who herd camels and grow millet, and the arab herders. I live in Taziriba, a city in the Masalit tribe. We grow food and raise animals here.
My family consists of me, my two brothers, my three sisters, and my parents. This is a normal sized family. We live in a small, circular home. We are not rich, but we are not poor either. We own two donkeys and four goats.
The richest family in our village is very wealthy. They have four donkeys, eleven goats, and even sheep. My best friend only owns one donkey. Her family is very large, and very poor.
I spend most of the time in a day doing housework, such as washing clothes and cooking. Sometimes, I go and fetch water from the well two miles away. It is a long journey, and I have no shoes to protect my feet from the burning sands.
I never go to school. I do not think there is a school in our village. I do not have toys either, except for the ones my father makes me out of clay.
One day, two boys went to fetch water from the well. They saw a lone man walking, starving, and invited him into our village. We took care of him and brought him back to health. He told our parents many things, but I was not allowed to hear. All I knew was that the things were bad. That made me scared.
Then came that one fateful night. We were all asleep in our houses when a great explosion ripped the world. My house blew apart. I went flying through the air and fell asleep when I hit the ground.
I woke up a little later. The entire village was burnt and smoking. My ribs and arm hurt. I think I had broken them. Next to me lie one of my sisters. Her neck was broken. She was dead.
I lay on the ground in pain, not knowing what to do. Suddenly, I heard a noise in the air. Something big appeared in the sky above us. At first, I thought it was an angel to take my sister away. But then it began to fire bullets at the village.
I was lucky. None hit me. But I heard screams come from others. I was wrong; it was not an angel, it was a demon out to kill us all.
I did not know what was happening. I was afraid. But there was one thing I was sure of. More was coming. I would have to hide. I waited until the demon left, and then stood up. I could not move without horrible pain, but I forced myself to walk.
As I walked through the village, I did not seem anyone except for bodies on the ground. Maybe they were hiding, like me. Or maybe no one else had survived. I did not know.
I came to a house with a donkey. I knew what I had to do. I was an honest person, and did not like to steal. But I did not think the family was alive to be mad, so I got on the donkey and began to ride away. I was thirsty, so I began to ride towards the well.
When we got there, I got off and began to take a drink. But then, out in the sandy desert, I saw people on camels begin to appear, coming towards me. I did not know if they were good or bad, but I was not going to take any chances. I climbed into the well bucket and lowered myself to the bottom.
By now, I could not feel my ribs or arm. I did not think they were better, I think they were numb from the pain.
An hour passed, and I was ready to leave. I climbed back out, when I saw a horrible sight. A village woman was being raped by a herder a few yards away from the well. I quickly shut my eyes and climbed back down to wait.
Five minutes later, the woman's dead body was thrown on top of me. And then another came, and more. I couldn't help it, but I cried out, sickened by what was happening. No one heard as my cry was suffocated in the mass of dead people. I now almost wished I could die.
Eventually, I climbed out. I did not care if people were outside of the well, but they were all gone anyways. My donkey was dead. I was too exhausted to cry, I just stumbled away in the direction of the nearest village.
I walked for over a day. Finally, I saw a huge camp. I did not know what it was, for it was much closer than the village I knew. But I saw black people like myself, and no arab devils, so I went into the place.
A woman saw me enter. She was strange. She was pale, even paler than the Arabs from northern Sudan. From what I knew, the whiter someone is the more they hate you. But this woman looked kind. She gestured for me to follow her, and I did.
She brought me to a strange tent. It was large. In it, a kind man, also pale, wrapped my arm and ribs. It made them feel better. He also gave me food and water. I did not know what the food was, but I ate it, and it was good.
After this, I did not know where to go. I did not have a tent to stay in, because I had no parents. So I began to walk around the camp. Right before nightfall, I saw someone I knew, a young woman from my village. I asked if I could stay with her. She said yes.
I asked her her story. She said that she had been going back to her hut after going to the latrine, when she saw the bomber coming in. She did not have time to warn anyone because she was still outside of the village, so she ran away and made it here. She then asked me mine, and I told her. She asked her if her children were alive. I said I did not know.
A few days later, I started school. The school here was a large clearing where we wrote with sticks and hundreds of children like me learned from one teacher. I loved school. We got to learn, which was a luxury I did not have in my old village. The only bad thing about this place was water. There was not much. I bathed once a month.
Much time past. I began to learn about what was happening. Darfur had started a rebellion because the North and South both had schools, and many other things that we did not. The rebels wanted us to have these things too. But the North, who already hate us because of our darker color, did not.
Because of these reasons, the North had gotten help from China. China lent them weapons because they want them to win. They buy oil from the North. The North is important. We are not. And with these weapons, they attack the civilians of Darfur. They call us 'rebel sympathizers'.
I asked our teacher what this meant. She said it meant that we supported the rebels. I thought about this. Did I support the rebels? It was because of this rebellion that I did not know if my family was alive, and that I had experienced all of this pain. But then I thought of how I loved school. Yes, I supported the rebels.
I began to become curious for more details. I asked about the Arabs on camels. Who were they, and why were they killing us? They lived in Darfur too, and apart from their skin color, they were our people. I was told that Khartoum, Sudan's capitol, had hired them to kill us after our cities had been bombed. They were called 'jangaweed': devils on horseback.
I also learned that over 400,000 people have been killed in Darfur, and 2.5 million people are in refugee camps like myself. How many people is 2 million? I could not imagine the size of that many people.
One day, the woman from my village, whose name was Murua, and I went out to chop firewood. While we were there, a group of jangaweed came. They started to rape Murua. I tried to stop them, but they re-broke my bad arm. I had to then stand and watch Murua be raped. I could not do anything. I hated being helpless. I hated the jangaweed.
Now Murua was shunned by everyone. It was disgraceful to be raped. I was no better off than her, though, for I was told by the white man, who was a doctor, that my arm would never work properly again. I came up with a plan. Murua agreed to it. We told the white people what we were doing. They warned us against it, but eventually said that we could.
The next day, the announced to everyone what we were doing. Some people joined us- a man with two children, two sisters with no parents, and a few others. All in all, we had about two dozen people. The white people gave us some supplies, and at night, when it was coolest, we began our journey.
The day after that, we got to where we were heading. It was our old village. We set to work, but it was hard. The jangaweed had burned every home, killed every animal, smashed every pot, and thrown bodies into the well, making the water tainted. This did not stop us, though. Over the weeks, the land began to look like a village once again.
Finally, one day, my house was done. I would live with Murua. I knew that the jangaweed may come back and destroy my home again, but I did not care. I would come back and rebuild it again and again. This was my home. I would be strong. Maybe I was deserving of my name after all.
That morning, I watched the sunrise. The sun that rose wasn't quite normal, though- the fiery ball was a shining bloodred. I was stunned by its beauty, but also the horror that lied within its message.
The light cast a pinkish color bleeding into the sky, signifying all of the blood that had been spilled over this long, hard time. And yet, the sun rose with a new beauty- a new sun rising, showing the light of a new day.