CHAD: Rebels warn of ‘total war’ if EU force is not neutral

Monday, September 17, 2007

A leader of one of the rebel groups in eastern Chad warned a proposed European Union (EU) force that it will be a target if it takes sides in the country's civil war.

“If they come simply to protect the Darfur refugees in eastern Chad then we have no problem with that,” Albissaty Saleh Allazan, the leader of a Chadian rebel group Conseil d’Action Révolutionnaire told IRIN on September 14 after a press conference in Dakar, Senegal.

“But if they end up interposing themselves between us and N’djemena [Chad’s capital] then we will fight them.”

On 10 August UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a report calling for a “multidimensional UN presence in eastern Chad and northeastern Central African Republic” that would be under the EU flag for a preliminary 12 months after which a possible “UN successor operation” would take its place. The EU has approved the force and deployment could begin in October.

But rebel groups associate the EU force with France, the former colonial power. French troops based in the Chadian capital, N’djamena, were perceived as having been instrumental in halting an attempt to invade N’djamena by one rebel group in April 2006 (although the leader of that group has since formed an alliance with the government).

“I personally question the EU’s intentions,” said Albissaty, who’s group is part of a coalition with the rebel Rassemblement des Forces du Changement headed by Timan Erdimi. Albissaty suggested that the EU was more interested in exploiting the country’s oil resources than bringing lasting peace to the country.

“If the EU and the UN don’t take the conflict in Chad seriously it risks becoming a total war, something like we are seeing now in Iraq,” he said.

The EU and UN recently completed a preparatory mission to Chad but its representatives never sought contact with rebel leaders, Albissaty said. “We talk to the International Red Cross all the time but we have not had any dialogue with anyone from the EU or UN,” he said

“We would be willing to work with them,” he added
Albissaty said that rebel groups do want to find a peaceful end to the armed conflict and their leaders have attended peace talks organised by Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi in Tripoli. “But in the course of the talks it became clear that the delegation from the government was not negotiating in good faith”.

“The government’s aim is to divide us,” he said. “They have tried to meet us individually making promises and claiming that we were betraying each other but hasn’t worked,” he said.

Rebel forces are in a strong military position to challenge the army, he added.

Source: IRIN