Wherever you go in Sudan, especially as a journalist, you have to have the right paperwork and credentials. Even if you leave the capital, Khartoum, you have to have a stamped piece of paper that says you can carry out your work in whichever town you end up in.
We were aware of this, and aware the authorities would be looking for any excuse to make doing our work as difficult as possible.
We took a helicopter flight to the dusty town of Kebkabiya, deep in northern Darfur, accompanied by the World Food Program representative. This is janjaweed terrority, the Arab militia that roams the countryside burning village after village and raping, looting, and terrorizing entire communities. Tens of thousands have been killed, millions more forced to flee as the janjaweed patrol the area on horse or camel.
Our interpreter warned us not to use the word "janjaweed" openly here because the locals don't like its negative connotations. "What does it mean?" I ask. "It means, 'Devil on a horse with a gun,'" explains Mohammed, our fixer.
Just as we'd loaded our vehicles and were getting ready to drive around, two plainclothes individuals approached us.
"Paperwork," they demanded.
We handed over the necessary accreditation. One of them looks at it, whispers something to the other and barks at us, "Not Good."
"What do you mean, 'Not good'?" I enquire.
"Paperwork not good," he yells. "You come with us."
We follow them for the 20-minute drive to what was supposed to be the national security office. The building is from a bygone era, badly in need of a touch up, security guard lounging around, AK-47 assault rifles propped up against the wall. We're brought to an old dilapidated office and told to wait.
A short while later, a stocky official stomps in, hardly acknowledges us, scans the paperwork, growls something to his inferiors who cower down like they're about to be flogged, then turns to us and without a greeting barks through a translator, "This doesn't say Kebkabiya. It's no good."
"But isn't Kebkabiya in Darfur State?" I ask. "Of course, but it only applies to El Fasher," he replies.
This is absurd since both towns are in the same state and barely 45 minutes by helicopter apart. "But El Fasher isn't written on the accreditation either," I go on. But at this point, I realize we're fighting a losing battle here.
We head back to the airport, escorted by three security officials. I've been deported from some African countries, but I never imagined I'd be deported from a state within a state.
One hand doesn't seem to know what the other hand is doing around here. Maybe that's why peace is so fleeting in Sudan.VideoWatch: Ill-equipped peacekeepers on the job -- 3:31Watch: The fight for survival in North Darfur -- 3:08