SUDAN WATCH: In Tine, along Sudan-Chad border, residents attribute violence to Darfur rebel group JEM

Friday, June 16, 2006

In Tine, along Sudan-Chad border, residents attribute violence to Darfur rebel group JEM

Somewhere in my blog archives are reports of oil to be found along the Chad-Sudan border. Copied here below is a report from Deutsche Presse Agentur by Noel King in Tine, Chad-Sudan, 15 June 2006. It reminds us of JEM's attack on Tine in July 2003 and JEM's occupation of the Sudanese Embassy in April, around the time of the failed attempts to kill and/or overthrow Chadian President Deby.

Up until recently, JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim used Chad, President Deby is a tribal ally, as a base. A few months ago, Deby told Ibrahim if he did not sign the Darfur Peace Agreement by May 31, he must leave Chad as the AU and UN are sanctioning non-signatories.

Ibrahim has political asylum in France and, it seems, went to Libya after his forced departure from Chad in April - Chad expelled him after his occupation of the Sudanese embassy (see further reading below). Recently, Ibrahim returned from Slovenia. Some news reports on the eastern Sudan peace talks indicate he is now in Asmara. Here is the DPA report:
Tine, near Sudan's border with Chad is a ghost town. Houses are overgrown with weeds, their brick walls crumbling, their thatched roofs torn open.

The silent streets wind past a graveyard where the dead, who were killed by a Sudanese government airstrike, were hastily honoured with crude stone markers before the residents of the Darfuri town fled.

His wife and children gone, Zubeir Ismail tries to retain some sense of normalcy, offering visitors stale peanuts and dates.

Ismail has painful memories of the violence that trimmed the population of Tine from more than 3,000 people to fewer than 300.

"On July 9, 2003 the rebels attacked Tine and people started fleeing," Ismail told Deutsche Presse Agentur dpa.

"Then the government started an airstrike and everyone left. My wife and children went to the refugee camps in Chad."

Ismail is a relative of the village leader and has stayed to look after the man's house.

In most Darfuri villages, residents tell horror stories of attacks by militias known as Janjaweed.

But in Tine, which straddles the Sudan/Chad border, residents attribute the violence to the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), which attacked government positions three years ago.

After an aerial bombardment by the government, the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) then occupied the town for four tumultuous months.

Today, Tine, Sudan is relatively secure, patrolled regularly by Sudan government soldiers who appear to have a friendly relationship with the people here.

But in Tine, Chad, less than one kilometre away, an attack on June 4 left some twenty rebels and Chadian soldiers dead, thousands of residents on edge, and observers saying they expect more violence from Chadian rebels based in Sudan.

In April, rebels swept across Chad from Darfur, attacking the capital of Ndjamena in an attempt to unseat President Idris Deby. The rebellion was put down, but Deby immediately cut ties with Sudan, claiming his neighbour had helped to arm and harbour the rebel United Front for Change (FUC).

Since then, there have been sporadic attacks along the common border that is blithely ignored by the people who have family on both sides of the border.

"When the gunfire started I ran across the border to get my children," says Hawa Hamid of the recent attack.

"They live with their grandmother in Tine, Chad, because the school in Tine, Sudan, closed down."

Hamid managed to run with her three children to safety but says she will send them back to Chad to continue their schooling.

The mother of three is in a very difficult position in this family-oriented region and says that she still makes her children their school lunches and sends them across the border whenever she can.

African Union troops based in Tine were equally unnerved by the recent attack. They could see and hear heavy arms fire across the valley which marks the border, but the AU mandate forbids them to cross over to Chadian soil.

"The rebels came in from Sudan. I am sure of that. They attacked the Chadian armed forces and then retreated back into Sudan," says Siddiq Sherif, a Chadian mediator working with the AU in Darfur.

Unlike most AU troops, Sherif is allowed to cross into Chad because of his position as a mediator in the region.

"These are the same rebels that launched the April 13th attack," Sherif told dpa. Sherif says he believes the Chadian rebels have the support of the Sudan government.

While the AU would not comment on reports that the government of Sudan is arming the rebels, the continental body said intelligence reports suggest the rebels who attacked Tine, Chad, were members of the United Front for Change (FUC).

The few men and women left in Tine, Sudan, say they will not leave anytime soon, though there are no aid agencies present due to the town's tiny population.

Many residents say they do not have enough food and water.

Halima Abdel Omer sums up the position of those who have their choices limited to one war zone or another.

"I am Sudanese," she says. "I'll stay in my own country and wait for the others to return."
- - -

The President of Sudan has denied supporting rebels who are trying to topple the President in neighbouring Chad:

Mar 15 2006 IRIN - Chad" Coup attempt foiled, government says: A 15 March government statement named seven military officers who allegedly "aimed to shoot down" Deby's plane as he returned from a summit of central African leaders in Equatorial Guinea. Since October 2005 waves of Chadian soldiers and military officers have deserted their posts and joined rebels in the eastern part of Chad bordering Darfur. Several rebel groups in December formed an alliance, including the Platform for Change, National Unity and Democracy (known by its French acronym SCUD) formed by Chadian army deserters and led by Yaya Dillo Djerou, and the Rally for Democracy and Liberty led by Mahamat Nour.

Apr 17 2006 Aegis Trust - Chad coup failure: Implications for Darfur: On 13 April, rebels widely believed to have been backed by Sudan launched an assault in Ndjamena in an attempt to topple the Government of Idris Deby. They were swiftly crushed by Government forces. In the wake of the failed coup attempt, Chad has severed diplomatic relations with Sudan and withdrawn from its role as mediator at talks in Abuja between the Government of Sudan and Darfur's African rebels.

Apr 21 2006 Sudan Tribune - Chad expels JEM rebel leader Khalil Ibrahim after occupation of Sudanese embassy: Khalil Ibrahim has political asylum in France and, it seems, went to Libya after his forced departure from Chad.

May 18 2006 JEM leader will have to leave Chad if he does not sign Darfur peace deal by May 31: Deby told Ibrahim if he does not sign by May 31, he must leave Chad as the AU and UN are sanctioning non-signatories.

May 29 2006 JEM's Ibrahim and SLM/A faction travel to Slovenia in an attempt to get their demands met

May 31 2006 Slovenia says JEM needs to stay in the Darfur peace process - JEM leadership will have to make a decision in Slovenia

Jun 2 2006 Darfur's JEM rebel leader says "We're going to have our own country"

Jun 4 2006 Chadian army, rebels battle near Sudan border - Is RDL/FUC leader Mahamat Nour dead or alive?

Jun 5 2006 Drnovsek and Prince Albert II agree on resolving Darfur crisis - JEM leader in Slovenia

Jun 9 2006 AU says four Darfur faction leaders back peace agreement: Ustaz Abdel Raheem Adam Abdel Raheem Abu Risha (general secretary for JEM, Southern Darfur)

Jun 8 2006 AFP report via Middle East Times - Darfur Islamists emerge as key to east Sudan peace: While the Eastern Front has similar aims to its counterparts in Darfur - autonomy and greater control over their region's resources - their newfound allies in the JEM demand a seat on the presidency, key to eventual national power.

Jun 13 2006 Reuters and Sudan Tribune - Darfur's JEM rebels threaten to topple eastern Sudan peace talks - SPLA hands over Hamesh Koreb to Kassala State

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