CHAD: Foreign minister pleads for international intervention

Friday, February 15, 2008

In an exclusive IRIN interview, Chad's foreign minister Ahmat Allam-mi warns of a “catastrophic situation” in Central Africa unless the international community intervenes to help Chad stop the rebels who are currently surrounding the country’s capital N’djamena.

"We are going to have a dramatic and catastrophic situation in the whole sub-region," Allam-mi told IRIN in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, where he was attending an African Union meeting.

"If Chad is destabilised, the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur is going to overflow to the entire Central African region."

"Chad needs the support of the international community to ensure its sovereignty, territorial integrity and to protect its population," he said.

On the current situation in the capital N’djamena, Chad’s top diplomat said the fighting was heavy, but the government has reasserted control.

"The rebellion managed to enter N’djamena with 2,500 to 3,000 soldiers. The government and the security forces are currently controlling the situation."

"We need humanitarian assistance to help the wounded in N'djamena. I think France is currently doing that," Ahmat told IRIN.

"We wish the international community would intervene rapidly because the population is currently living in extremely difficult conditions."

Ahmat flew to Paris on 4 February where he said he will be appealing to the French government for support.

Since the anti-government rebels advanced on N’djamena on 1 February, France has deployed extra troops to evacuate foreign nationals, but has stopped short of its previously overt support to the country’s government.

France’s recently installed president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has pledged to break with his country's historically opaque relationship with African countries and to operate through multilateral mechanisms.

France was one of the main backers of a UN-mandated European Union peacekeeping force set to be deployed in Chad in mid-February to protect civilians and refugees in the east from attacks. The deployment of the force was delayed on 4 February because of the recent violence.

The Chadian government has already appealed to the Peace and Security Council of the African Union and the United Nation's Security Council. Both have condemned the attack.

After France and the Security Council’s three African members called an emergency session on 3 February, the Security Council issued a non-binding presidential statement condemning the attack, expressing its support for the Chad government, and urging other countries to assist the Chadian government against the rebels.

The Chadian government has accused the Sudanese government in Khartoum of providing the rebels with direct support. Khartoum has frequently denied the accusation, and accused the Chad government of being sympathetic to rebel groups fighting against it.

Ahmat claimed that Sudanese Antonov bombers and helicopter gunships strafed Chadian government positions around Adré in the east last week as rebels advanced over the border, showing what he called the "obvious Sudanese support" to the rebels.

"We have been attacked in the town of Adré by the Janjaweed militia, by Sudanese militia which were supported by Sudanese aviation," Ahmat said.

His allegations have been corroborated by news reports including in the Washington Post. Sudanese officials have strenuously denied the claims and reports.

Source: IRIN