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."

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