SUDAN WATCH: Chad: Are Deby's days numbered?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Chad: Are Deby's days numbered?

IRIN report 10 Feb 2006 - excerpts:

The UN and other aid agencies in Guereda and Iriba pulled about a fifth of their humanitarian staff out of the two towns following the January abduction of government officials. They have yet to return.

Farther south around Adre, humanitarian agents' movement is restricted.

Convoys are required to travel certain routes and border areas are out of bounds for UNHCR officials, making it difficult for the agency to see if there are people needing assistance along the frontier.

Chadian soldiers

Photo: Chadian soldiers patrol dirt roads near the Sudan border (Claire Soares/IRIN)

Medical groups like MSF-France are hunkered down in Adre hospital, having had to suspend their mobile clinic that travelled south along the border, treating people in hard-to-reach villages.

Another logistical headache brought on by a deterioration in security is in the far north, where two camps - Am Nabak and Oure Cassoni - are less than 50 kilometres from the frontier with Sudan, the minimum distance recommended for security reasons.

"We anticipate having to move those that are close to the border and which therefore may become more of a target," said Kingsley Amaning, the UN Resident Representative in Chad. "Rains come in July and we believe we have to do it before then."

This means finding a new shelter for some 46,000 refugees and the UN is talking to the Chadian government about building a new camp north of the town of Biltine.

Chadian soldier

Photo: A Chadian soldier on the streets of the border town of Adre (Courtesy IRIN) Adre is one of the few places where there is a tangible sense of how Deby perceives the threat to his reign. Eighteen months ago it was a sleepy, dusty outpost; now it is definitely a military town.

Armed soldiers idle by water points, pick-up trucks with roof-mounted machine guns pick their way among the donkeys and horse-drawn carts, and military patrols can be seen meandering down every other street.

Sudanese refugee in Chad

Photo: A Sudanese boy in Chad refugee camp shows off his homemade kite. (IRIN)

Some diplomats saw Chad's hosting of a press conference late last year where the two main Darfur rebel groups pledged a united front as a warning shot fired by Deby with two audiences in mind.

Firstly to his own clan, as proof that he is sticking up for his Zaghawa kinsmen on the other side of the border who are allegedly being massacred by Arab militias. And secondly to Sudan and the wider international community that he can pollute the Darfur peace talks if he wants to.

"With mutual accusations and the increased concentration of troops on both sides of the border, the potential for an open confrontation between the two countries cannot be minimised," UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said in his latest report on Darfur.

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