SUDAN WATCH: UFR threatens war to overthow Chad's government - UN mission in Chad needs boosting

Friday, April 24, 2009

UFR threatens war to overthow Chad's government - UN mission in Chad needs boosting

RFC/UFR's Chadian leader Timan Erdimi sits in Darfur, W. Sudan plotting war against his Uncle, Chadian President Idriss Deby.

Chadian rebels are using El Geneina in Darfur as their back-base, as they await an opportune moment to launch another strike on Ndjamena, about 1,000 kilometres away.

"Almost 95%" of Chadian rebels are in Sudan, says General Balla Keita who heads the joint UN-African peacekeeping force Unamid in West Darfur.

Chadian rebel chief of Rally of Forces for Change (RFC), Timan Erdim, was elected in January to head the Union of Forces of the Resistance (UFR) - an alliance of Chad's main eight rebel groups who merged into one movement with a single political and military command. Timan Erdimi is a nephew of Chadian President Idriss Deby and his former chief of staff until 1996.

"When everything is ready we will launch the war," Erdimi says, near El Geneina in Darfur, W. Sudan.

Erdimi's plans, once he topples Deby's regime, "is not democracy," he says. His priority is to develop government institutions.

Erdimi insists that his men have no links to the Sudanese army and do not need Khartoum's blessings to attack Ndjamena.

"We are not back-up troops for the Sudanese army," he says.

On Tuesday Chadian rebels claimed they had killed about 15 soldiers in a battle near Birak in east Chad over the weekend, but a government official denied there had been any such clash.

The UN mission in Chad and the Central African Republic needs urgent reinforcement because it lacks staff and equipment as it seeks to protect civilians, a senior UN official said today (Friday, 24 April 2009).

Source: see the following reports.

Timan Erdimi

Photo: Timan Erdimi leader de l’UFR: lire son interview accordée en arabe (Source: www.tribunecoum.com février 19, 2009 and Slide Show)

AFP report April 24, 2009 via news24.com (SA):
Rebels ready to overthrow Deby
Sudan - Chadian rebel chief Timan Erdimi sits in the shade of a mango tree near a dried-up wadi in western Sudan, charting out a strategy to topple the government in neighbouring Chad.

"When everything is ready we will launch the war," Erdimi says, near El Geneina, a wild and lawless territory in Darfur close to the border with Chad populated by UN peacekeepers, Sudanese army troops and local militias.

Sitting cross-legged, coiffed in a turban and sporting a salt-and-pepper goatee, Erdimi would look like a Chinese wise man were it not for the military fatigues he dons and the armed fighters who surround him.

He was elected in January to head the Union of Forces of the Resistance (UFR) - an alliance of Chad's main eight rebel groups who merged into one movement with a single political and military command.

The alliance came into being months after rebel groups launched an offensive on the Chadian capital Ndjamena in February 2008 that almost toppled the regime of President Idriss Deby.

But the rebellion was repulsed as it neared the gates of the presidential palace with the help of France, as cracks appeared in the ranks of the rebels.

"There never has been a spirit of unity like today," says Erdimi, a nephew of Deby and his former chief of staff until 1996.

Reached an agreement

"Things are ready on the political and military fronts," he adds, dismissing rumours that divisions are already threatening the very existence of his movement.

Around 100 fighters, machine guns slung across their shoulders, surround Erdimi, who is in his mid-50s. Some are slouched in four-wheel-drive vehicles which bristle with weapons, including rockets.

The Chadian rebels are using El Geneina in the strife-riddled border region of Darfur as their back-base, as they await an opportune moment to launch another strike on Ndjamena, about 1 000 kilometres away.

"Almost 95%" of Chadian rebels are in Sudan, says General Balla Keita who heads the joint UN-African peacekeeping force Unamid in West Darfur.

Erdimi acknowledges that political divisions among the rebellion last year forced his fighters to leave Ndjamena although they had "won the war" but he stresses that the tide has now turned and the time for attack is nearing.

The fighters, he says, were "very unhappy to have left Ndjamena last year. They had won the war but the politicians (within the rebellion) were divided.

"Now the politicians have reached an agreement and they are in a hurry," to launch an offensive, he said.

But the rainy season that spreads from mid-May to the end of September means military operations could be slowed as the dried-up wadis turn into rivers.

Develop government institutions

Western observers believe that the Chadian army has mobilised on the other side of the border and is ready to confront the rebels.

"The Chadian army has been reinforced over the past year," one said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But Erdimi is confident in the strength of his men.

The rebellion "has more (fighters) than Deby and they are much more motivated that Deby's men," he says.

Erdimi's plans, once he topples Deby's regime, "is not democracy," he says. His priority is to develop government institutions.

On Tuesday Chadian rebels claimed they had killed about 15 soldiers in a battle near Birak in east Chad over the weekend, but a government official denied there had been any such clash.

UFR spokesperson Abderaman Koulamallah said in Ndjamena that they had killed about 15 government soldiers in the clashes and destroyed two vehicles with rocket-propelled grenades.

Troubled neighbours Chad and Sudan restored full diplomatic relations in November after a six month hiatus caused by mutual accusations of supporting armed rebels groups operating in and around Sudan's border region of Darfur.

But Erdimi insists that his men have no links to the Sudanese army and do not need Khartoum's blessings to attack Ndjamena.

"We are not back-up troops for the Sudanese army," he says.
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BBC News report 06 February, 2008:
France watches Chad-Sudan border
French military aircraft have been patrolling the Chad-Sudan border to ensure there has been no interference in the fighting around N'Djamena.

France's defence minister said it wanted to monitor "any self-styled foreign intervention" in the fighting between Chad's government and rebels.

The government has accused Sudan of giving the rebel groups rear bases in Darfur, a charge which Khartoum denies.

Thousands have fled N'Djamena since the rebels launched an assault on Saturday.

Up to 20,000 people have crossed the river border with Cameroon in the past four days and arrived in the town of Kousseri, placing heavy strain on essential supplies and accommodation, the UN refugee agency has said.

More than 3,000 other refugees have fled to Nigeria.

Earlier, the leader of the main UFDD rebel group said it was prepared to have a ceasefire in return for the promise of negotiations with the government, but the government dismissed the offer, saying it had already beaten the rebels.

A mediation mission from Libya and Congo-Brazzaville, appointed by the African Union with a brief to meet both sides, is due to arrive soon in the Chadian capital.

Reconnaissance

Speaking about the role of his country's 1,400 troops based in Chad, French Defence Minister Herve Morin stressed that the UN declaration on Monday calling on all countries to support the government had not changed the terms of engagement.

"What it does do is give international community support to the actions of France," he told Radio France Internationale. "It is also support for [President] Idriss Deby."

French diplomatic tight-rope

"It is international community support for the integrity of Chad and support for the actions of France, actions that we've been carrying out for several days."

Mr Morin said that France did have a military agreement with Chad which provides for logistical, medical and training support, but "in no way is it a defence agreement... that would oblige France to intervene to protect the sovereignty of the country involved".

The French military could intervene if it was authorised to do so by a UN resolution, he added.

However, Mr Morin admitted that French fighter jets and reconnaissance planes had been flying over the border with Sudan over the past 36 hours in line with a request from President Nicolas Sarkozy to ensure there are no foreign incursions.

"It enables us to monitor and verify any self-styled foreign interventions and to date we've seen nothing," he said.

"What is certain is that these rebel forces were over by the Sudanese border," he added. "What we might well find out in the days ahead is just what the involvement of the Sudanese actually is."

The violence in the western Sudanese region of Darfur and the cross-border fighting between Chad and Sudan has in recent years sent at least 400,000 people fleeing to refugee camps in eastern Chad.

A French-dominated European Union peacekeeping force had been due to start deploying to eastern Chad last week to give the refugees and aid workers there a measure of protection, but the latest rebel offensive began at the same time.

BBC world affairs correspondent Mark Doyle says one theory is that Sudan encouraged the rebels to attack in order to stop the EU opening a window on Khartoum's activities in Darfur, where it has been accused of genocide.

Ceasefire 'offer'

Mr Morin's comments came as the leader of the largest rebel group, the United Force for Democracy and Development, told the BBC that it was prepared to agree to a ceasefire in return for the promise of talks with the government.

Mahamat Nouri said the ceasefire offer had been made by the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, and the government of Burkina Faso.

But the Chadian Prime Minister, Nouradine Delwa Kassire Coumakoye, was dismissive of the offer.

"Why a ceasefire?" he told French TV station France 24.

"They don't exist any more. With whom would we sign a ceasefire?... We've got them under control."

The lull in the fighting around N'Djamena following the tripartite rebel alliance's recent withdrawal has prompted tens of thousands of Chadians to flee the country.

THE REBEL COALITION
Unified Military Command includes:
Union of Forces for Democracy (UFDD) led by Mahamat Nouri
Rally of Forces for Change (RFC) led by Timane Erdimi
UFDD-Fundamental led by Abdelwahid Aboud Mackaye


On Tuesday, "frightened people were still crossing in a continuous flow" from Chad into neighbouring Cameroon, said the UN's refugee agency in a news release.

Thousands have deluged Kousseri in Cameroon, the UNHCR said. While some have found refuge with relatives, in schools or hotels, it said, between 6,000 and 7,000 were staying out in the open at a transit centre near the bridge.

The UNHCR said it planned to move these people to an old campsite some 30km away which could hold up to 100,000 people and was equipped with wells.
- - -

BBC News report 02 December 2007:
RFC rebels 'in new Chad clash'
UFR's Chadian leader Timan Erdimi

Photo: The Rally of Forces for Change (RFC) is led by Timan Erdimi (AFP/BBC)

Government troops in Chad have clashed with rebels from the Rally of Forces for Change (RFC), reports say.

The RFC said its positions had been bombed by Chadian helicopters on Saturday, raising fears that a major ground battle could soon take place.

The RFC signed a peace deal with the government in October, as had another rebel group, the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development (UFDD).

The UFDD has already clashed with government troops further south.

Speaking to foreign diplomats on Saturday, Chadian Foreign Minister Ahmat Allami said RFC rebel forces led by Timan Erdimi had clashed with government forces around Kalait, some 210km (130 miles) north of Abeche.

A spokesman for the RFC, Id Moura Maide, told the AFP news agency that the fighting had begun when Chadian military helicopters attacked one of the group's bases in the area.

President Idriss Deby, who the rebels are trying to overthrow, is on the ground in eastern Chad commanding his troops.

The clashes follow days of fierce fighting east of Abeche between Chad's army and the UFDD, during which the government said several hundred rebels had died.

The UFDD said it had broken the ceasefire because the government failed to honour the peace agreement brokered by Libya in March.

Under the deal, the government and four Chadian rebel groups agreed to an immediate ceasefire, an amnesty for civil and military personnel and the release of all prisoners. The rebels were also granted the right to form political parties and to join the military and security forces.

But the BBC's Stephanie Hancock in Ndjamena says that after some of the heaviest fighting seen in the country in several years, the ceasefire is now effectively dead in the water.

On Friday, the UFDD also said it had declared war against the French-led 3,500-strong European Union peacekeeping force which is due to be deployed in Chad in January to protect refugees from Sudan's Darfur region.

The rebels accused French military planes of flying over their positions and passing intelligence to the government during last week's fighting. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has insisted the declaration would not jeopardise the EU mission.

The latest fighting began as President Deby sacked his defence minister, Mahamat Nour.

A former leader of the United Front for Change (Fuc) rebel coalition, Mr Nour was appointed defence minister in March after agreeing to disarm his fighters and arrange for them to be assimilated into the Chadian army.

However, correspondents say this never really happened and last week the authorities said they suspected the fighters had instead taken up arms against the government again.

Officials say Mr Nour has taken refuge in the Libyan embassy in the Chad's capital, Ndjamena.
- - -

AFP report 24 April 2009:
UN mission in Chad needs boosting
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — The UN mission in Chad and the Central African Republic needs urgent reinforcement because it lacks staff and equipment as it seeks to protect civilians, a senior UN official said Friday.

The mission, known as MINURCAT, took over from a European force in mid-March amid regional tensions marked by deteriorating ties between neighboring Sudan and the international community.

So far some 2,425 soldiers have arrived out of a total force of 5,200, assistant head for UN peacekeeping operations Edmond Mulet told the UN Security Council.

"There is now an urgent need to strengthen MINURCAT up to its authorized strength and to equip it so that it is in a position to meet the challenges facing it," said Mulet.

"We will only reach the ceiling of 5,200 troops if member states provide the mission with military helicopters and their logistic support."

Mulet said that moves to reinforce the mission were being hampered by a delay in the arrivals of contingents promised by Ghana and Nepal.

And he voiced concerns that by the start of the rainy season in June probably only about 3,000 troops would be in place, and some 4,700 by the end of the year.

Total strength would probably only be reached if member states supplied helicopters to support the deployments, Mulet added.

"I cannot sufficiently stress the risk posed by the lack of military helicopters as far as the operational effectiveness of the force is concerned," he said.

MINURCAT's main mission is to protect and aid some 450,000 refugees from the conflict in Darfur, western Sudan, who have flowed over the border into Chad and the Central African Republic.

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