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The Jehoshua Novels


CHAD-SUDAN: Chad threatens to quit as Darfur mediator as border tension rises
Ndjamena | June 18

(IRIN) – Chad has threatened to abandon its role as mediator between the Sudanese government and rebels in the Darfur region amid growing indications that the Darfur conflict is spilling across the border into eastern Chad.

Ahmad Allami, a personal advisor of President Idriss Deby who is chief mediator in the Darfur peace talks, told IRIN that a former Chadian rebel movement was being revived on the Sudanese side of the border and that Sudanese Janjawid militia groups fighting alongside the Sudanese army in Darfur had begun to recruit Chadian Arabs into their ranks.

“The Janjawid are recruiting elements in Chad. These are exclusively Arabs. This situation risks degenerating into an inter-ethnic war between a coalition of Arabs and other ethnic groups in the region,” Allami told IRIN on Thursday.

“Chad may well reconsider its position as mediator in the Darfur conflict because we are wondering whether Khartoum is simply allowing the situation to become rotten,” he added.

Allami also accused the Janjawid, who mainly consist of Arab-speaking nomadic herdsmen, of helping to revive the Renewed National Front of Chad (FNTR) rebel movement, which stopped fighting the government in 2002.

“There is confusion between the Janjawid and Chadian rebels of the FNTR,” Allami said.

He was speaking shortly before news broke of another major clash between the Chadian army and a Janjawid militia group raiding across the border.

Agence France Presse quoted a Chadian military source as saying the Chadian army killed 69 Sudanese raiders on Thursday when it intercepted a column of Janjawid near Birak, a small town on the Sudanese frontier. Two of the intruders were captured, it added.

However, an official of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) Belgium which has a mobile clinic in Birak, said residents in the town had reported that only about 30 Janjawid were killed in the clash.

Achim Khaldi, a field officer with MSF Belgium in the nearby town of Guereda, told IRIN by satellite telephone that residents in Birak had reported that a large group of Janjawid raiders on horseback galloped into the nearby village of Figueira before dawn to steal cattle.

However, the Chadian army pursued them as they headed back across the border and engaged them in a battle on the Sudanese side.

“There were clashes at the border. Lots of people were injured on Sudanese soil – we do not know how many. The inhabitants told us there were around 30 deaths,” Khaldi said, adding that MSF personnel had not yet been to the scene to confirm the casualties.

Allami was careful not to accuse the Sudanese government directly of stoking trouble on the Chadian side of the border, but he said figures of considerable influence in Khartoum were behind the move.

“There must be an invisible hand guiding these troop movements and the recruitment of combatants that has been observed,” he told IRIN. “I am not accusing the Sudanese government, but I think that influential Sudanese people are behind what is happening,” he added.

The conflict in Darfur pits the Sudanese government and its Janjawid allies against two rebel movements which draw their support from sedentary farmers of the black African Zaghawah, Masalit and Fur tribes.

Diplomats say the conflict represents the continuation of a long-running feud between Arab-speaking nomadic herdsmen and black African farmers in the region. Since the ethnic groups involved live on both sides of the frontier, they say there is a serious danger that the Darfur conflict could destabilise Chad too.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR estimates that nearly 200,000 refugees from Darfur have already crossed into Chad after Janjawid and government forces attacked their villages and drove them from their homes.

The United Nations estimates that more than a million people have also been internally displaced within Darfur as a result of the 16-month-old conflict and that two million people affected by conflict in the semi-arid region urgently require humanitarian aid.

Military sources and eyewitnesses have reported a string of Janjawid raids across the border into eastern Chad during recent months and these show no sign of abating.

“Janjawid attacks on Chadian territory continue,” Colonel Hamat Bong Aware, a military commander in the eastern town of Abeche, told IRIN on Thursday. “Three days ago, a group attacked the Abdi region. They killed three people and stole 60 camels. Our forces ran after them but failed to catch them.”

The colonel said it was often difficult to tell whether the raiders entering Chad were Sudanese Janjawid or Chadian rebels linked to them. “You never know. You can’t really tell the difference between them,” he said.

Abdoulaye Adu, a Chadian farmer, lying with bullet wounds in Abeche hospital, meanwhile told an IRIN correspondent how he was injured in another Janjawid raid on the village of Agan in the Tindelti district on 4 June. “Close to 50 men on horseback attacked us around 4 am. The attack lasted 20 minutes or so. I received a bullet in the chest. Five of my brothers were also wounded and we were evacuated to hospital in Abeche.”

Allami named two former Chadian government officials as being closely involved with current efforts to launch attacks on eastern Chad from Sudanese territory. He said one was Acheick Ibn Oumar, who served as foreign minister under former president Hissene Habre during the 1980s. The other was Ahmat Hassabalah Soubiane, who served as Chad’s ambassador to the United States until the end of last year.

Several prominent Chadian Arabs associated with rebel groups opposing the Chadian government had travelled repeatedly to Sudan in recent months and a former senior figure in the FNTR was now a Janjawid commander, he said.

Relief workers involved in bringing aid to the Darfur refugees in eastern Chad confirmed that the situation along the border was tense. The region was full of armed men and it was not always clear who they were fighting for, they added.

“There is continuous movement of Chadian army soldiers along the border. Armed groups abound in the border area and it is difficult to tell whether they are from Sudan or Chad,” one relief worker told IRIN by phone from eastern Chad.

The hardening in the Chadian government’s attitude towards Khartoum follows an abortive army uprising in the Chadian capital N’djamena last month.

Diplomats and military sources said that one source of discontent which fuelled the revolt was dissatisfaction within President Deby’s influential Zaghawah ethnic group over the conciliatory line taken by the Chadian authorities so far towards the Sudanese government.

Many prominent Zagahwahs, including some members of Deby’s own family, felt that Chad should be doing more to support their kinsmen on the Sudanese side of the border who have taken up arms against the government in Khartoum, they added.

Deby’s government has hosted a series of talks between the Sudanese government and the two rebel movements in Darfur: Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, since December.

These led to the signing of a ceasefire agreement in April, but each side has accused the other of frequently violating the truce.

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