Friday, June 02, 2006

Chad under siege?

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (UPI) -- The government of Chad is under
political siege, juggling mounting hostilities with the Sudanese
government as the lives of 200,000 Darfur refugees stashed away in its
countryside hang in the balance.

Without aid from the international community, the government contends
it is likely to face an emerging war with neighbor Sudan, who has been
seeking to destabilize the country over the last three years.

'Sudan`s ultimate goal is to change the regime of Chad before settling
the issue of Darfur,' said Mohammad Adam Bechir, Chad`s ambassador to
the United States, in a recent interview with United Press
International. 'They want to settle the issue of Darfur in their own
way. They want to put in Chad a government that is pro-Sudan and puts
both the refugees and the rebel groups in a sandwich, so they don`t
have much choice but to accept whatever the terms of settlement the
Sudan government is ready to give.'

Until now, the Sudan government has been vehemently opposed to
allowing international forces to enter its borders, including the
war-torn region of Darfur. In a statement from the Sudanese Foreign
Ministry last week, the government said 'any forces, if that is agreed
upon, would be a force for supervision and not a force for peace

But on Tuesday, the government said it would allow a joint African
Union-United Nations assessment team to enter Darfur next week to
evaluate any additional needs of the African Union Mission in Sudan
(AMIS) and the requirements for a U.N. peacekeeping force.

The 15-nation U.N. Security Council will begin their 10-day trip on
Monday, visiting Khartoum, southern Sudan, refugee camps in Darfur and
Chad and African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

'You have to have the assessment team on the ground in order, as a
precondition really, to have an expanded force there and eventually a
U.N. peacekeeping force,' said Sean McCormack, spokesman for the U.S.
State Department. 'They do need to try to get a handle on the
violence. All the parties need to meet their obligations under the
Darfur Peace Agreement. But the only way that you are going to really
address the security situation in the immediate term is to have that
expanded mission, to have that U.N. mission. And the decision by
Khartoum to let in the assessment team is a step along that pathway.'

U.N. spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Stephane Dujarric,
confirmed plans Wednesday amid mixed reports that the peacekeeping
mission would arrive in Khartoum for consultations next week before
heading to Darfur to 'see for themselves and plan for an eventual
takeover to a U.N. team,' and 'assess what the AU force needs now.'

It is expected that it will take roughly four months to deploy
peacekeeping troops after the joint mission has had time to assess the

'The speed with which we deploy will depend on how quickly the
governments give us these troops. So we will be looking at a couple of
months. By a couple of months, I mean four months or so,' Annan told
reporters at the United Nations Wednesday.

The United Nations has previously warned that a catastrophic situation
could still worsen in Darfur unless the international community
bolsters the U.N.-backed African Union peacekeeping mission there. The
roughly 7,300 member African Union force in the region has been
largely unable to halt violence, despite a peace deal signed on May 5.
The agreement was designed to stop the fighting that has killed nearly
200,000 and displaced roughly 2.5 million since 2003.

Bechir explained that Sudan`s tactics to isolate member states and
play rebel groups against each other has contributed to the lack of
efficiency by the African Union.

'The African Union has been mediating this issue, and the African
Union, I`m afraid, doesn`t want to be blamed or point fingers to any
of its member states,' said Bechir. 'And that`s why this limits the
efficiency of the African Union as a mediator or serious judge of the

Fighting broke out in Darfur in 2003, after rebels complained that the
region had been marginalized by the central government. Rebels
affiliated with the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and
Equality Movement attacked Sudanese government facilities. Janjaweed
militia, with support from the Sudanese government, responded by
launching attacks on Sudanese civilians.

Chad, which has already cut off diplomatic relations with Sudan, has
repeatedly called on the international community to send peacekeeping
forces to the region.

'We were the first mediators,' said Bechir. 'We mediated between the
rebel groups and the government. It has taken more than three years of
mediation to reach a signed agreement.'

But with limited means and Sudan`s eagerness to destabilize the
country, Chadian authorities argue that the situation facing refugees
and the ongoing genocide in Darfur also falls to the responsibility of
the international community.

'Under these circumstances, Chad can no longer play as the mediator.
This is now the role of the international community. Our president
kept asking continuously; this is not the responsibility of Chad
alone. Our position is very sensitive. You can only go so far. We have
very limited means in Chad. We ourselves are in danger,' said Bechir.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Monday, May 29, 2006

UN Threatens to Cut Off Refugee Camps in Chad

May 27, 2006: The UN is threatening to cut off supplies to some refugee camps unless Sudanese rebels stop using the camps as bases. The Sudanese rebels often have family in the camps, and usually come into the camps wearing military uniforms (the favorite attire of both the Sudanese paramilitaries and the rebels on both sides of the border.) Chad is responsible for security at the refugee camps, but because of the expanding civil war in Chad, the army is too busy trying to keep president Deby in power, to worry about refugee camps. Chad's security forces were never very efficient in the first place, but now the border with Sudan is apparently wide open for any truckload of guys with guns.