Sunday, June 11, 2006

The latest lowdown

CHAD: As army pursues rebels, militia massacres fill the vacuum[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]DJAWARA, 9 June (IRIN) - When the light breeze lulls in the trees around Djawara, a village in the far east of Chad, the thick stench of rotting corpses becomes unbearable. Locals say 75 of their brothers, fathers and sons are buried in 50 centimetre deep graves in this glade on the village's outskirts, killed they say by men on horses, and by their own neighbours.The bodies were hastily buried in mid-May, days after a rag-tag group of men armed with guns, spears, and machetes overran the village in a dawn attack.Arrows still lying on the ground around the trees are evidence of the futile fight the villagers said they tried to put up with primitive weapons. Six of the attackers were killed, and two taken prisoner. But the villagers clearly were no match for the better armed attackers.Witnesses interviewed by IRIN said around half of the 74 Djawara men and one woman, were shot and hacked to death while they were gathered together praying among the trees.Testimony gathered by human rights investigators has confirmed that a further 37 people were killed elsewhere in the village."Some of them were just killed where they stood. But the ones who ran were killed in the trees," recalled one Djawara villager, who IRIN met at a camp for displaced people in Dogdore, a nearby town.Two stray donkeys are now the only inhabitants of Djawara, which according to meticulous records kept by village elders in tattered notebooks they carefully took with them when they fled, was home to 1334 people before the attacks on 13 April.Smashed clay cooking pots, dozens of single sandals strewn in the sand, and trampled straw fences give some indication of the violence of the struggle that must have taken place before the people fled.And for the villagers who did get away, the threat is far from passed.Standing over the grave where he buried his cousins, showing investigators the shoes left behind as part of the local funeral tradition, Ahmed, 35, who lived in Djawara with his wife and three children before the attacks, said he would certainly be killed for daring to return if the foreigners were not there."If I had not come here with you, I would be dead," he told IRIN.Djawara is one among dozens of pillaged villages which do not appear on most maps, but whose names can be reeled off by people in the shantytowns being thrown up by fleeing villagers all over eastern Chad.Aid agencies estimate more than 50,000 Chadians have fled their homes and villages throughout eastern Chad since a rapid escalation of cross-border attacks in December 2005.According to the UN, the largest number of displaced, over 30,000, are concentrated in the area south of Adre, a major border town with Sudan, 750 kilometres east of the capital N'djamena.The displaced Chadians say repeated waves of attacks mean some of them have had to flee across some of the most inhospitable land in the world, three or four times over.And they repeat the same mantra: "we want security, and we will move as many times as we need to find it."CHRONOLOGY OF A CRISISWidespread attacks on villages in eastern Chad first started in January, after an attack on Adre by rebels opposed to President Idriss Deby in late December.The rebel attacks prompted the Chadian army to pull back to reinforce key border towns, military intelligence sources told IRIN, leaving vast swathes of the 1000 kilometre border that runs through the open desert between Chad and Sudan completely unprotected.By March, when a UN mission drove south from Ade, a town 100 kilometres south of Adre, to Degeda, it found almost every Chadian village it visited was abandoned.Then in late March, the Chadian army engaged the anti-Deby rebels again, sparking fierce fighting around Ade and Moudeina in which the army chief of staff was killed.As battalions of soldiers rushed to Ade from around the region, attacks on villages further south again surged, with up to 150 militiamen each time heading inland, stealing cattle and ransacking houses.The attacks even reached Koloy, a larger Chadian town 30 kilometres from the border, which had given shelter to perhaps more than 20,000 people from the first wave of attacks, according to UNHCR figures.Chadians started pouring out of Koloy and other villages by the truckload. Sometimes the new arrivals quadrupled the population of small villages overnight.Indicative of the overwhelming numbers, at a refugee camp near the town Goz Beida, 90 kilometres from the border, where officials expected to see around 500 new arrivals in April, more than 12,000 people arrived in just a few weeks.JANJAWID TO BLAMEYocoub, 48, originally from Amdegi village, fled his home four months ago, since when he has moved another three times, he said because of Janjawid attacks.He left his home village after armed men on horses arrived around 1am, firing into the air, before riding off with all 850 of the village's cattle.With most of his neighbours, Yocoub moved to another village believed to be less vulnerable to attack, even though it happened to be across the border in Sudan.But soon after, he said the Janjawid came there too."They destroyed everything, burned the houses, there was nothing left. So we had to move again, that time to Koloy. We got there on a Wednesday. On Thursday, the Janjawid came there, and took all the cattle again. We heard there was security here in Goz Beida, so we came."Even in Goz Beida, where Yocoub said he is glad not to have "seen or heard a gun since arriving," the succession of moves are not over. Aid agencies are relocating people to relieve pressure on overstretched water sources.Yocoub's tragic story is a common one. And none of the other victims IRIN met suggested a culprit except the Janjawid.But experts say detailed questions about the accent, appearance, clothing and weaponry of their assailants, prove the Chadians are not necessarily describing exactly the same Janjawid as has brought terror to villagers in Sudan."We use the term Janjaweed to describe the militiamen trained, equipped and armed by the Sudanese government who have been used by Khartoum as ground forces in attacks on civilians in Darfur" said Olivier Bercault, a senior researcher with the American NGO Human Rights Watch, who has investigated the massacres in eastern Chad."Now we have people definitely crossing the border with the same equipment as was used in Sudan. It is clear that some of these same Sudanese "Janjaweed" militiamen are also involved in the Chad attacks but we don't yet have sufficient evidence to say that the Chadian attacks are backed by the Sudanese government. We could clearly link the evidence with Khartoum in Darfur, but not in Chad, I mean, not yet," he said.The assailants have even included some men wearing blue Sudanese army uniforms, witnesses said. And identity papers and badges seized from two militiamen killed inside Chad, and seen by IRIN, clearly identified the attackers as members of the Sudanese national army.Adding another more confusing dimension to the mix, Chadians also said their attackers included members of other Chad-based black African ethnic groups, especially the Mimi, Tama, and Ouaddai, as well as various Arab groups.The villagers said they recognised their attackers from around their villages. Some had even prayed together at the same mosque, and were neighbours before the attacks started.MURKY MOTIVESThe motivations behind the attacks seem to be even more muddied than the identity of the perpetrators.The handful of investigators from the UN and human rights NGOs say they have barely begun the laborious process of gathering testimonials from survivors to try to piece together exactly what happened, and how it fits into the complex ethnic mosaic of the region.The head of the UNHCR office in Goz Beida, Lindell Findlay, said she thinks many of the attacks are part of a "Sudanese land grab".She said Janjawid rebels are using their newly occupied areas of Chadian territory, to regroup before ducking back into Darfur to continue attacks on Sudanese villages.Key in this analysis is whether villages are being occupied, or whether they are just being pillaged. The situation is too insecure for visits of longer than a couple of hours, making a definitive answer difficult.Most of the Chadians IRIN met nonetheless said they believed their villages were occupied, and if not, they would anyway be attacked again as soon as anyone tried to go back.Findlay also said ethnicity is determining which areas are purged and which left in peace."The Janjawid is forming alliances with ethnicities sympathetic to them, forming alliances and protective allegiances with those groups," she said, adding that the situation is becoming more confusing because some of the persecuted groups have started forming self defence forces. "It was never a problem before, but now the ethnic issue is starting to poison the mix."This analysis is certainly shared by the displaced villagers themselves, many of who come from the same ethnic group - the Dadjo."All the other groups have formed an alliance with the Janjawid," said Souleymane, a village elder from Djawara, the scene of massacres in April, and a Dadjo. There are more than 36 ethnicities in the region, he added."We Dadjo have refused the alliance. Sudan is another country, it is not Chad, so why would we have an alliance with them? And it is an association of Arabs, and the Dadjo are not Arabs either."Several of the other Chadian groups that have agreed to join the Janjawid are not Arab either. But "they are scared of having their cattle stolen if they refuse to join," Souleymane said.However, aid workers in Goz Beida who asked not to be named, told IRIN they believe the Dadjo might be being targeted by the Janjawid for having close ties to the Masalit people of Darfur, who have been the target of attacks there.The Dadjo reportedly provided most of the shelter and protection to the 200,000 Sudanese refugees that poured out of Sudan until the 12 formal refugee camps were built.In another analysis, provided by an independent human rights investigator who asked not to be named, the attacks are motivated by the same racist ideology which underpins much of the violence the Janjawid has unleashed on black Africans in Sudan."There are still many unanswered questions about these attacks, but the conclusion is clear: Chadian civilians are in dire need of protection," Peter Takirambudde, Africa director of Human Rights Watch, said in a written statement.RAINY SEASON FEARSBut protection is likely to be in short supply during the near future for eastern Chad's terrified people, most of whom have already lost everything except their lives. Few believe the Djawara massacre will be the last. And what little outside scrutiny there has been will be absent for the next three months.Aid agencies say that by the end of June, torrential rains, which have already started flooding the dry river beds called wadis which snake all over eastern Chad, will make most of the region inaccessible to themselves and to the Chadian army, as both move only by jeep, until at least the end of September.But the Janjawid, which uses horses and camels that can easily cross the network of muddy islands, will be in its element, locals say.Fearing an onslaught of attacks even more intense than they have already seen, some Chadians are pre-emptively fleeing their land.Picking their way on donkeys and by foot through a forest of gum trees around 50 kilometres east of the border, one family said it was heading for Goz Beida, before the rainy season made passage impossible.Nervously agreeing to stop their trek for only a few minutes, and glancing over their shoulders as they spoke, the family said they had not yet been attacked.But "there's no point starting the planting, because we would probably have to leave before the crops came up," said one of the men, loaded down with spears and seeds.MILITARY WANTEDOnce the rains have passed, diplomats and aid workers say the fate of people in eastern Chad depends on Chad's government redeploying its soldiers along the border and in villages in the region.Although the government made promises to aid agencies and diplomats that more soldiers would be put on the frontier after presidential elections on 3 May, aid agency officials told IRIN that there has been no evidence of a shift in policy.And when armed horsemen - locals said Janjawid - occupied and looted the village Kou Kou in mid-May, it was left to four jeep loads of Sudanese rebels from the anti-Janjawid SLA group, which shelters in Chad, to try to keep the peace and chase down the 1000 head of cattle the attackers made off with.The Chadian national army was nowhere to be seen, despite having a major garrison less than 50 kilometres away.Military analysts in N'djamena estimate the military has less than 25,000 troops to cover a territory twice the size of France, of which just 10,000 are stationed in the east. With a rumbling rebellion in the north, as well as the Janjawid attacks along the 1,000-kilometre border with Sudan, instability in Central African Republic to the south, and an armed rebellion based in Darfur that has vowed to overthrow the president, the army has its work cut out.It may also be facing a problem with resources. Military salaries in the cash strapped country are said not to have been paid for months, and in early June many public sector staff went on strike.Opaque relations between the Zaghawa ethnic group dominated military and the Zaghawa-Bidayat president Deby could also be creating a disloyal streak in the armed forces.As one villager from Djawara noted, "the government is nowhere here. They did not even help us bury our dead."UNFLATTERING COMPARISONSNo surprise then that most observers are sanguine about Chad's future.A highly placed diplomat in N'djamena described the spiralling process of infighting between clans and ethnic groups that is rending the social fabric in eastern Chad as "a process of Somali-isation".The diplomat compared Chad to the surge in clan fighting and ethnic warfare in the east African country Somalia in the 1990s that led to the collapse of state authority there.A glimmer of hope might come from a peace accord for Darfur signed in the Nigerian capital Abuja last month, which could see peacekeepers deployed in Darfur before the end of the year, and if Chadian President Deby has his way, eastern Chad too.A mission to Darfur and Chad by the 15 members of the UN Security Council this week is likely to play a key part in deciding whether that will happen.However, the Sudanese government is already dragging its feet in negotiations over the details of a UN-led force for Darfur, which the Security Council mission was supposed to get back on track.Diplomats in N'djamena told IRIN they believe Sudan might hold off on deployment at least until September, and possibly as long as January 2007. They said Sudan is trying to give its militias time to finish their deadly work, in Darfur and Chad.In the meantime, Chad's persecuted villagers, far from information about the tentative diplomatic process that could hold the only hope for their survival, say their demand is simple: to go home."All we want is to work our land," pleaded a villager from Djawara, now squatting in Dogdore. "We just want to live peacefully, to cultivate. But now we cannot, because the Janjawid is there."To read the story of one displaced Chadian family's experience, CLICK HERENR/CCR[ENDS]

Sunday, April 30, 2006

I was thinking the same!

Please link to my the following website and check out the post from April 13th.

My sentiments exactly!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Threatening those most vulnerable - the Chadian Way

CHAD: President threatens to expel Darfur refugees as attacks surge in lawless east
NDJAMENA, 14 April (IRIN) -
Chad President Idriss Deby on Friday threatened to expel 200,000 Sudanese refugees sheltering in the east of the country after repeating accusations that Sudan supports rebels who launched a new offensive to oust him this week.Deby said that the international community has until June to resolve the ongoing Darfur conflict in Sudan, which lies over Chad's eastern border, which he said would help restore stability in his own country. If not, the refugees will have to leave."If after June we can't guarantee the security of our citizens and the refugees, then it is up to the international community to find another country to shelter those refugees," he said at a pro-government rally in N'djamena on Friday morning.There are some 200,000 refugees from Sudan's troubled Darfur region in eastern Chad according to the UN, making it one of the world's humanitarian hot-spots. The UN's refugee agency UNHCR told IRIN on Friday afternoon that they had not been formally notified of Deby's deadline. Chad has repeatedly accused Sudan of sponsoring Chadian rebels, who this week attacked government forces in towns across the country, and on Thursday morning attacked the capital N'djamena. Sudan's foreign ministry has denied any link with the groups."We cannot accept that a neighbour employs mercenaries to destabilise us. We are waiting for France and the international community to condemn as strongly as possible this aggression," said Deby.The Darfur conflict erupted in early 2003 when the rebels took up arms against the Sudanese government in Khartoum to end what they call the neglect and oppression of the inhabitants of Darfur, western Sudan. The Sudanese government responded by backing Arab militias known as the Janjawid and a series of peace negotiation have failed to bear fruit.In eastern Chad at the Goz Beida camp, a major refugee camp some 120 km south of Abeche, the number of displaced Chadians seeking assistance is confirmed by UNHCR to have more than doubled from 3,500 to more than 7,000 over the last week alone. The new arrivals said they were fleeing bandit attacks, and many of the arrivals presumed the Janjawid were responsible, said aid workers."These bandits are taking advantage of the general state of lawlessness in the east. As government forces are mobilised to combat the rebel incursion, they have stepped into the vacuum and been pillaging villages," said UNHCR spokesman Matthew Conway.Deby issued his June deadline at a pro-government rally in the central Independence Square in N'djamena, where more than 100 of some 270 captured rebel forces were paraded before journalists. Some 300 to 400 people turned out to watch.One western diplomat who witnessed the event described it as a "show trial" as captured rebels pointed out serving soldiers they accused of being conspirators, who were publicly beaten and later detained. A representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed on Friday that at least 150 military casualties are in the army hospital following this weeks fighting, and more than 80 casualties are being treated at the general city hospital.Although conditions had returned to normal in N'djamena on Friday, with restaurants crowded and traffic circulating, there was a heavy military presence on the streets, and foreign security experts told IRIN that they were not ruling out more attacks in coming days. Rebel spokespeople have told the media that they are massing in the south for more attacks on the capital, however it has been impossible to independently verify their claims."The situation is very volatile", said a western diplomat who asked not to be named. "It's hard to imagine that anyone rational would exclude the possibility of more attacks."

Friday, April 07, 2006

Back to the heart, back to Rwanda

Hello everybody,

Thank you for those you continue to click on this site from time to time. My Chadian odyssey started when I left Northern Uganda last fall (, though I have been in London most recently. I will continue to keep up this site as I can, though I am returning to my very first blog,, as I will again be returning to my first African love next month.

Best to everybody,

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A flailing President

Yes, I have to say I am pleased to see Chad getting some sort of press coverage. I feel like I am a zillion miles away from the anxiety and the madness these days, but after reading today's news, I can feel it all over again - the smell in the air, the uncertainty, the anxiety of the notion that the facade will crumble...

Chad's vulnerable president

Analyst Andrew Manley explains why President Idriss Deby has appeared increasingly vulnerable in a piece written for the BBC Focus On Africa magazine shortly before Chad's government announced it had foiled a coup plot.
The phrase "power comes from the east'' has become virtually a national motto in Chad following Idriss Deby's Sudan-backed overthrow of previous Chadian head of state Hissene Habre in December 1990.
Deby, who has been slowly hemmed in by the complex ethno-political conflict that started three years ago in Sudan's Darfur region - which borders Chad to the east - does not need reminding.
Recent months have seen a spate of defections of former allies from his ruling Zagawa clan to Darfur-based Chadian rebels. With the Zagawa itself only 1.5 per cent of the country's 10 million-plus population, this was especially ominous for a president with little genuine domestic support.
Moreover, he has lost trust in the wider region due to the split with his original sponsors in Khartoum, and also in Paris.
With Libya, France has long been the major outside influence in N'Djamena, but has never recovered from what it saw as the double game Deby played over the allocation of drilling rights for the Doba Basin oil project in the far south-east during the 1990s.
French oil giant Elf walked out of the project in 1999 for various reasons, and Exxon's subsequent arrival as lead player was felt in Paris as a stinging defeat in the geopolitical game with the United States for influence in African oil territories.
Greater Zagawaland
Despite the continuing presence in Chad of France's 1,000-strong Operation Epervier force, relations remain poor.
For a man whose arrival in power was helped greatly by the French secret services, this was a wrong move.
Meanwhile, regional neighbours have never been comfortable. Gabon has long been an unofficial bolthole for some of Deby's veteran opponents from the Habre era.

Linking all these factors is what now seems to be the simple recognition by virtually all major players in Chad that the Deby era is coming to an end
And Cameroon fears N'Djamena's potential to destabilise its three northern provinces, and has long complained that the heavily-armed zaraguina - highway robber - bands that terrorise key roads in Extrême-Nord Province have been effectively exported from among unpaid elements of the Chadian armed forces.
Others remain unhappy about Chad's involvement in the chaos that has periodically engulfed the Central African Republic since the mid-1990s, much of it the work of Zagawa irregulars - including Deby clan members, who aided current head of state François Bozize to power in 2002.
Then there is the Zagawa question itself.
Even before the age of the internet, rumours have circulated about the Chadian head of state's ambitions for a pan-regional zone of influence, often pejoratively known as Greater Zagawaland.
Assuming that at least some of Sudan's leadership suspect this of their former protégé, it is little surprise that they regard Darfur insurgent groups as a direct threat.
Oil issue
Chad's eastern border now presents not only a military threat, but a financial one too.
Here, Deby's recent dispute with the World Bank is critical. As the key international brokers for Doba, bank staff were horrified in 2005 by Chad's decision to shift millions of dollars from a fund set up to tackle long-term poverty to deal with more pressing financial difficulties.
The bank decided to hold back funds. N'Djamena is now near insolvent, making access to the global arms market difficult. But it is this kind of spending that the bank is determined to forestall.
Finally, rumours deepen about the 56- year-old leader's health. This is important, given his apparent wish to appoint his widely disliked son Brahim as successor.
Many other major Zagawa figures are against that, fearing marginalisation for their own relatives.
Presidential elections are due in May and many people doubt they will be free and fair. If Nour or anyone else feels prepared to take Deby on before the next rainy season, this is their practical deadline to move.
Linking all these factors is what now seems to be the simple recognition by virtually all major players in Chad that the Deby era is coming to an end as the country's post-colonial political vacuum once again opens up.
This time round, even more than when Deby supplanted Habre, the oil issue underlies the thinking of virtually all of them.
Beyond Doba itself, there are promising oil fields elsewhere in southern Chad. Just as important is the potential of major exploration backing from China, which would reduce any future leader's need to depend on the World Bank's say-so.
This leads back to what may prove to be the most interesting current questions about Nour: just whose direct numbers does he have on his satellite phone? And how often is he calling them?

Again and Again

Chad's troops 'foil coup attempt'
Chadian troops have foiled an attempt to oust President Idriss Deby, Chad's communications minister has said.
Hourmadji Moussa Doumgor said a plan to shoot down Mr Deby's plane on his return from abroad had been discovered.
Two senior army officers have been arrested and the coup bid blamed on the president's twin nephews and a general who defected to rebels in the east.
But a key rebel leader denies it was a coup attempt saying rebels had planned a "mass desertion" of soldiers.
A large number of army officers have deserted to join a coalition of rebel groups called the United Front for Democratic Change (FUCD), led by Mahamat Nour from bases in Darfur on Sudan's border with Chad.
Analyst Andrew Manley has told the BBC that in recent months President Deby has been looking increasingly vulnerable, faced with the growing rebellion in the east and a loss of support among neighbouring countries and traditional allies like France.
Mr Doumgor said forces marching towards the capital, N'Djamena, were intercepted in the early hours of Wednesday morning, after the plan was discovered.
He said they fled on seven vehicles, two of which were "neutralised" and Col Eggrey Mahamat and Commander Ali Anour were arrested.
The masterminds of the plot - General Sedi Aguid and the Erdimi twins, all of whom have joined the eastern rebellion - were not amongst those arrested.
However, Yaya Dillo, part of the FUCD coalition, told the BBC's French service that it had been an operation to allow army officers to desert to rebel ranks.
Before the desertion of the president's nephew's last year, Tom Erdimi was in charge of the national oil project and Timane Erdimi headed the cotton industry.
Phones down
The BBC's Stephanie Hancock says there is a heavy presence of troops in the capital, which is calm.
Our correspondent says people have been at work as usual, but had been wondering about what was going on as the mobile phones have been down for more than 12 hours.
Landlines are still operational, she says.
President Deby was attending a two-day summit of the Central African Economic and Monetary Union (Cemac) in Equatorial Guinea, when he left hurriedly on Tuesday night after the first day's session.
The capital is calmer than it was in December after Chad declared a state of war with Sudan following a deadly attack launched from Darfur by Chadian rebels, our reporter says.
Sudan repeatedly denied allegations made by Chad that it was backing the rebels and sending Arab militias in support.
In February, Chad and Sudan signed an accord to resolve their differences over fighting along the border. Mr Deby seized power in 1990 after launching a rebellion from bases in Darfur.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

One Hot Border

February 28, 2006
Refugee Crisis Grows as Darfur War Crosses a Border
ADRÉ, Chad — The chaos in Darfur, the war-ravaged region in Sudan where more than 200,000 civilians have been killed, has spread across the border into Chad, deepening one of the world's worst refugee crises.
Arab gunmen from Darfur have pushed across the desert and entered Chad, stealing cattle, burning crops and killing anyone who resists. The lawlessness has driven at least 20,000 Chadians from their homes, making them refugees in their own country.
Hundreds of thousands more people in this area, along with 200,000 Sudanese who fled here for safety, find themselves caught up in a growing conflict between Chad and Sudan, which have a long history of violence and meddling in each other's affairs.
"You may have thought the terrible situation in Darfur couldn't get worse, but it has," Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, said in a recent statement. "Sudan's policy of arming militias and letting them loose is spilling over the border, and civilians have no protection from their attacks, in Darfur or in Chad."
Indeed, the accounts of civilians in eastern Chad are agonizingly familiar to those in western Sudan. One woman, Zahara Isaac Mahamat, described how Arab men on camels and horses had raided her village in Chad, stealing everything they could find and slaughtering all who resisted.
The dead included her husband, Ismail Ibrahim, who tried to prevent the raiders from burning his sorghum and millet fields. Like so many others in this desolate expanse of dust-choked earth, she fled west with her three children, much as people in Darfur have been forced to do in recent years.
"I have lost everything but my children," she said, her face looking much older than her 20 years. She is now a refugee, with thousands of other displaced Chadians, in Kolloye, a village south of here.
"We have three bowls of grain left," she said. "When that is gone, only God can help us."
The spreading chaos is a result of two closely connected conflicts in the neighboring countries.
In Darfur, rebels have been battling government forces and the janjaweed, Arab militias aligned with the government, in a campaign of terror that the Bush administration has called genocide.
The United Nations Security Council has agreed to send troops to protect civilians, but they will take months to arrive. In the meantime, President Bush has said, NATO should help shore up a failing African Union peacekeeping mission there, but a surge of violence has chased tens of thousands of people from their homes in recent weeks.
In Chad, the government is fighting its own war against rebels based in Sudan and bent on ousting Chad's ailing president, Idriss Déby.
The rebels include disgruntled soldiers who defected and tribes tired of being ruled by members of the president's tribe, the Zaghawa, who represent just a small percentage of the population but have long dominated politics and the military.
In a sign of how inseparable the two conflicts have become, President Déby has accused Sudan of supporting the rebellion against his government, and Sudan has long suspected members of Mr. Déby's family of supporting Zaghawa-led rebels in Darfur.
Both sides agreed at a summit meeting in Libya in early February to stop supporting rebels on each other's territory and to tone down the belligerent talk. But Chadian rebels have remained on the Sudanese side of the border, and it is not clear whether Mr. Déby has the capacity to stop members of his clan from supporting Darfur rebels.
If unchecked by international intervention, this complex and volatile mix of government forces, allied militias and at least a half-dozen rebel groups in a remote region awash with weapons will almost inevitably lead to disaster, said John Prendergast, a senior adviser at the International Crisis Group, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization, and an expert on the Darfur conflict.
"The principle strategy of all these actors, both state actors and proxy militias, is to displace people in order to destabilize and undermine the support base of your opponent," he said. "We are going to see an increasing spiral of displacement on both sides of the border and an increasingly dangerous environment for humanitarian workers."
In Chad, the trouble began in December when rebel groups attacked Adré and two other strategic border towns. The Chadian Army repelled the rebels, but it withdrew its troops from garrisons along the border to fortify Adré.
The withdrawal has left a security vacuum into which the janjaweed have rushed. The once well-traveled road between Adré, a bustling border town, and Kolloye has become a terrifying gantlet roamed by bandits and Arab militias. Dozens of villages have emptied; some have been burned. The few aid agencies working in this lawless region avoid the road, using a circuitous route farther west to reach Abéché, the regional capital.
In six days of traveling along the frontier, a reporter and photographer for The New York Times saw just four policemen to keep the peace, equipped only with horses and armed with battered AK-47's. Outside of Adré, only one military patrol was visible.
What appeared to be another military patrol just south of Adré, four soldiers commanded by an aging officer with thick glasses and rheumy eyes, was in fact a search party for the missing cattle of the commanding officer, Adoum Allatchi Gaga. His cows had been stolen by raiders across the border. Asked about the security situation in the region, Mr. Gaga said: "I don't have any idea. I am just looking for my cows."
At the hospital in Adré, the number of gunshot victims in December and January almost doubled, to about 100 a month, relief officials said, a grim sign of the growing lawlessness.
In one ward lay Fatime Youma, a 13-year-old girl with a tube draining the gunshot wound that had punctured her lung.
She was shot, her father explained, by janjaweed who happened upon her and her 16-year-old sister, Zenab, who lay in the next room with a gunshot wound to her arm.
"I was just looking for firewood with my sister," Zenab said softly. "When the raiders saw us we ran away but they shot at us."
Adré's police chief, Mahamat Lony, said he was short of both officers and weapons.
"We have a very catastrophic situation," he said. "We have a very long frontier with Sudan, and many heavily armed raiders on the other side. There have been many incursions, and they attack the population. We have many displaced, and no one is helping them."
The man charged with defending Chad's border and protecting refugees and civilians is Gen. Abakar Youssouf Mahamat Itno, 38, a nephew of President Déby who was dispatched here the day of the rebel attack.
"Sudan wants to export the war in Darfur to us here," General Itno said at his camp in the hills above Adré. "They want to use the janjaweed they armed to terrorize Darfur, to terrorize our population. We will not allow it."
Even so, he acknowledged his inability to patrol the border areas. "It is a long border," he said. "We cannot be everywhere at once."
That Chadian rebels have found sanctuary in Sudan is beyond doubt. Geneina, the capital of Western Darfur, resembles a garrison town; armed men from at least six forces are visible on the streets, as are Arabs in street clothes carrying AK-47's. Local residents identify them as janjaweed.
In the market in the evening, Chadian Army deserters wearing their distinctive turbans sit drinking tea, submachine guns beside them. Freshly dug machine-gun pits surround the police and army stations, and aid agencies are putting sandbags around their offices. The Chadian rebels have new weapons, uniforms and vehicles, aid officials in Geneina said, leading many to conclude that they are getting support from the Sudanese government.
With so much firepower on the Sudanese side of the border, residents in villages like Adé, south of Adré, have borne almost daily attacks.
"There is no security here," said Hisseine Kassar Mostapha, secretary general of the local government in Adé. "We are out here completely on our own, with no one to protect us."
The lack of security means little assistance from international aid groups. In Kolloye, 10,000 Chadians, refugees like Ms. Mahamat, live in roofless grass shelters that give little protection from the frigid night air and no shelter from the punishing desert sun. Water is scarce and food supplies are low, villagers said. The only assistance is a mobile clinic run by Doctors Without Borders that operates three times a week.
One refugee, Kaltam Abdullah, cradled her year-old son in her lap; his head lolled on his neck, his eyes were glazed and his limbs slender.
"He has had running stomach for 10 days," Ms. Abdullah said. "He is coughing. But there is no doctor."
Meanwhile, Sudanese refugees continue to arrive in Chad. Last month there were 1,500 arrivals, up from 1,000 over the previous three months, said Claire Bourgeois, the deputy representative for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Abéché. She said all the camps were full except one, and that it was filling up quickly.
Several camps holding tens of thousands of refugees will be moved further west, Ms. Bourgeois said, to protect the refugees from the violence. But safety remains a serious problem, she added, and "if there is no security, the humanitarian actors will leave."
Sudanese refugees who have arrived in recent weeks recount grim tales of slaughter, rape and plunder.
Ibrahim Suleiman Mahamat, a herder from the Masalit tribe who lived along the border, said janjaweed had stolen his livestock: 40 cows, 20 goats and sheep, 2 camels and 2 horses. Penniless and terrified, he had little choice but to cross into Chad with his two wives and six children. Dozens of relatives left behind plan to join him, he said. Even in the relative safety of the Gaga Refugee Camp, far west of the border, he said, he does not feel safe.
"We are in a very dangerous situation," Mr. Mahamat said. "What happens if there is a war in the country you are from and the country you have fled to? We are nowhere. There is nowhere for us to go."
Michael Kamber contributed reporting from Geneina, Sudan, for this article.

Friday, February 17, 2006

How does one recover from that which we call CHAD?

I have recently been inspired by a fellow aid worker's approach to life after Chad and decided to provide you all with an update - that is if you any of you are actually still reading. Frankly, I was unable to be upfront when writing from Chad and I'm afraid many compelling stories never made it out.

I suppose I should begin with the ending. My final days in Iriba were more trying and anxiety filled than any I had ever known. From local authorities running off to join the rebels across the border in Sudan, to attacks in nearby towns, to local youth threatening our lives for the staff we chose to hire...the list goes on. My last night in Iriba was spent on the satellite phone, trying to explain to my mom exactly what was going on - that foolish need to connect from my isolation with somebody from the outside world. The next morning I was dramatically finding my way onto a UN flight and onto Abeche were I waited out the opportuntity to get on a flight to N'djamena and ultimately out of the country. All as we sat on our hands, wondering if we were about to be witness to yet another collapse.

I breathed a deep sigh of relief when I boarded that huge Air France plane from N'djamena to Paris where I was reunited with my mother. I enjoyed a week of Parisian distration before going on to Germany to visit some of my friends from the Uganda days.

I arrived back in the States in early January to find myself a bit lost. Chad pushed me to a limit I had never reached before. As politically incorrect or culturally insensitive as it may sound, I simply found Eastern Chad intolerable, unlike the Africa I had previously known and loved. I still think so many stories will come of this, so as I continue to unwind, who knows what will come out!

And now? I am in London, consumming mass quantities of milk and finding solace wandering the streets of such a dynamic city. After running around for the past few years, I am attempting some semblence of "normal" Western life. It has its appeal, but also rather scares me. I've already been scoping out work in other corners of the world, but constantly reminding myself to take a deep breath and let what happens happen.