Home | News    Thursday 20 November 2008

Sudanese intelligence service implicated in war against Chad, aid groups – UN experts

By Daniel Van Oudenaren

November 19, 2008 (WASHINGTON) – Half of all humanitarian vehicles stolen or hijacked in eastern Chad whose whereabouts could thereafter be determined were found across the border in the Sudan in use by individuals associated with armed groups or Sudanese government officials, according to an investigation conducted by United Nations security.

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Chadian rebels patrol the border town of Guereda in 2007. (AFP)

This revelation was made in a report by a UN panel of experts published on Tuesday, in which the experts depict an “undeniable” ongoing proxy war between Chad and Sudan, decreased humanitarian access, increased displacement of civilian populations and severe violations of the arms embargo imposed by the UN Security Council.

The report includes more UN allegations against Sudanese security forces following the UN Secretary-General’s recent claim that Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) had detained and beaten two pilots operating World Food Programme helicopters, while holding the passengers on the aircraft at gunpoint in Golo, Northern Darfur on August 27.

“During the first six months of a wave of carjackings, United Nations security determined during its investigations the whereabouts of a number of vehicles. It established that 50 per cent of the stolen cars were to be found across the border in the Sudan in use with individuals associated with armed groups or Sudanese government officials,” said the panel of experts.

Over a roughly three year period up until the end of July, 129 UN or non-governmental vehicles were hijacked or stolen in eastern Chad, resulting in the death or injury of drivers or passengers in several cases. Fifty-seven of these vehicles have not been recovered to date, said the report.

Sudan and Chad normalized diplomatic relations in November, but Tuesday’s report to the Security Council revealed recent military activity aimed against Chad, coordinated by Sudan’s NISS intelligence branch.

The allegations implicate NISS, directly or indirectly, in some carjackings in Chad. The UN report gave the example of a Toyota Land Cruiser leased from a local merchant in Abeche in Chad by an international organization in May 2008. The vehicle was accosted by four men with automatic rifles, who stole the laptop computers and passports of four passengers. The Chadian owner later tracked the vehicle to El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, where it was being held by Gibril Abdullah, a militia leader and brother of the local police chief.

The merchant was extorted for $3,000 but still did not recover the vehicle, which was last seen in El Geneina freshly painted and inscribed in Arabic with the words “Border Guard,” which the UN panel called a proxy force supplied through military and security channels.

The UN experts presented evidence on coordination between Sudanese security forces and Chadian rebel groups: “Leaders of the Chadian armed opposition groups liaise directly with their NISS counterparts on attack strategy, and ground troops receive their allotted military supplies directly from NISS storehouses along with training in and around El Geneina. During its multiple visits to Western Darfur in 2008 the Panel has watched numerous technical vehicles and trucks clearly marked with the initials of different Chadian armed opposition groups circulating freely.

“In El Geneina itself, UFDD, UFDD-F, RFC and National Alliance vehicles and personnel openly move around town and interact closely with SAF. Resupply columns frequently visit El Geneina market and Sudan Armed Forces (SAF)-military warehouses in order to buy goods and receive supplies from the Government,” the experts told the UN Security Council, referring to the acronyms of Chadian opposition groups.

The panel, which arrived in the SAF-controlled area of Western Darfur in August, claimed to have frequently observed “clearly marked UFDD trucks moving in and out of Government compounds in El Geneina. The Panel has received reports of Chadian armed opposition groups receiving extensive military training on Darfur territory throughout this mandate period. Weapons training of all types has been reported across Western Darfur on different occasions.”

Reportedly, Sudan sends up to three daily flights of arms and other equipment to El Geneina.

The UN panel of experts noted that Chad is likewise engaged in supplying arms, ammunition, vehicles and training to groups opposed to the government of Sudan.

The UN panel of experts claimed that the government of Sudan had attempted to obstruct its investigations. The panel was established in 2005 pursuant to Security Council resolution 1591.

Sudanese-backed rebels and militias have launched attacks on Chad in each of the last three dry seasons, including two attempts that reached the Chadian capital.