Home | News    Monday 18 December 2006

Chad’s Deby, rebel chief hold reconciliation talks

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Dec 17, 2006 (N’DJAMENA) — A Chadian rebel leader whose forces attacked the capital N’Djamena in April held a reconciliation meeting with President Idriss Deby on Sunday after breaking with other insurgents, the presidency said.

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Mohamat Nour

A presidency official said Mahamat Nour Abdelkerim, who had led the now badly split rebel United Front for Democratic Change (FUC), was received by Deby at Guereda, a town near the eastern border with Sudan which saw recent fierce fighting between the army and rebels.

The one-hour meeting took place "in the framework of the government’s open arms policy", the official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.

"President Idriss Deby and Mahamat Nour exchanged views on the possibilities of Captain Mahamat Nour returning to the fold (of the government side)," he added, without giving details.

The reconciliation move by Nour, a former army captain whose FUC rebel forces carried out a daring raid on N’Djamena eight months ago, was a propaganda boon for Deby’s government, which has faced a spate of rebel attacks from the east this year.

There was no immediate reaction from the other rebel groups to Nour’s meeting with Deby.

Chad accuses neighbouring Sudan of backing and arming insurgents fighting to topple him, a charge denied by Khartoum.

Security experts said Nour’s return to the government fold might not lead to any lessening of rebel activity, because he had already broken with other anti-Deby rebel groups which briefly occupied several towns in eastern Chad in recent weeks.

These other groups, the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development (UFDD), the Rally of Democratic Forces (RAFD), and the Platform for Change, National Unity and Democracy (SCUD), were continuing their rebellion against Deby’s rule under a loose military alliance, presidency sources said.

Nour’s April attack on N’Djamena was repulsed by the Chadian army just weeks before a presidential election which returned Deby for a fresh term in office. He has ruled the landlocked central African oil producer since seizing power in 1990.

But since the April attack, the FUC splintered into factions and other rebel leaders criticised Nour as a poor commander.

At the end of November, Nour made a statement calling for a national political dialogue in Chad.

In contrast, the other groups, UFDD, RAFD and SCUD have intensified their military campaign against Deby in recent weeks, triggering heavy fighting in the east.

Chad’s army said on Friday it had driven the rebels back into Sudan, inflicting heavy casualties.

"The FUC rebel chief (Nour) has distanced himself from the unified command (of the other rebel groups), which is today defeated and whose power to strike is completely reduced," the presidency official said on Sunday.

A spokesman for other rebel groups has rejected the government’s claim of victory, saying their fighters are still on Chadian soil and will strike again.

(Reuters)

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