Home | News    Saturday 15 September 2007

Chad rebels warn EU force against blocking them


September 14, 2007 (DAKAR) — Chadian rebels warned on Friday they would fight a European Union peacekeeping force destined for the eastern border region with Darfur if it tried to obstruct their struggle to topple President Idriss Deby.

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Chadian rebels, former soldiers who have deserted, stand in a small camp on the Sudan-Chad border on Feb 10, 2006.

The EU plans to start deploying a protection force of up to 4,000 troops in Chad and Central African Republic next month to help protect refugees from Sudan’s Darfur region and Chadian civilians displaced by violence.

Political and ethnic fighting in Darfur, which has killed tens of thousands of people since 2003 and displaced more than two million, has often spilled into eastern Chad, where several rebel groups are fighting a separate battle to oust Deby.

"If they come on the pretext of Darfur and block our advance on the capital we will not allow them to do so," said Albissaty Saleh Allazan, a leader of the Assembly of the Forces of Change (RFC), one of Chad’s rebel groups.

"They will receive a very, very bad welcome. If they don’t touch us, ok. But we will be advancing on N’Djamena. If they get in the way, they will see what we are made of," he told reporters in Senegal’s capital Dakar.

The insurgents launched a series of raids on government forces along a more than 400 km (250 mile) stretch of border earlier this year, a desolate expanse of parched earth and dusty scrub already destabilised by the conflict in Darfur.

Their boldest strike was in April 2006, when they sped across the country from the eastern border and attacked N’Djamena, the western capital, three weeks before an election which returned Deby for a third term in office.


Local civilians and refugees from Darfur have been exposed to random attacks in the cat-and-mouse war in which the rebel strategy has often been lightning surprise assaults and equally rapid retreats aimed at throwing the Chadian army off guard.

"If (the EU force) deploys to secure Darfur we won’t get in the way. But if they get in the way of our strikes on government positions, there will be clashes," said Makaila Nguebla, a rebel spokesman living in exile in Dakar.

Deby, a former French-trained helicopter pilot, has ruled Chad since seizing power in a 1990 revolt from the east.

He amended the constitution in 2005 to remove a two-term limit for heads of state and an age limit of 70 for presidential candidates, clearing the way for his re-election last year in polls boycotted as unfair by opponents.

The rebels said they doubted the motives of the EU mission to Chad, noting the international community had long been silent about what the rebels say are widespread rights abuses by Deby’s clan-based and autocratic administration.

A French military jet fired warning shots to check a rebel column advancing on N’Djamena in April 2006, seen as evidence by the insurgents that Paris wants to keep Deby in power.

"If the real intention of the West is to come and provide security for the population of Darfur, we agree ... But I don’t in the least believe in the good intentions of this army," said Allazan, a university professor in N’Djamena before he fled.


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