SUDAN-CHAD: Hopes for peace fade with fresh round of accusations

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Just two weeks after Chad and Sudan signed a landmark peace accord their two governments have accused each other of supporting fresh attacks into their respective territories by proxy armed groups. Both governments appear to be bristling for a fight.

“[Chad has] carried out major operations and logistic arrangements and facilitated the entry of rebels from inside Chadian territory to carry out sabotage acts and destabilise security in [Sudan’s] Darfur region,” Sudan's Permanent Envoy to the UN, Ambassador Abd-al-Mahmud Abd-al-Halimthe told his government’s news agency.

The agency, in an article published on 24 March, said the Sudanese Ambassador had informed the UN Security Council of Chad’s violations. According to another pro-Sudanese website, the Sudanese Media Centre, Chad is planning “a large-scale attack” which would include “using government forces.”

Chad’s foreign minister Ahmad Allam-Mi formally denied all such accusations at a meeting he recently convened with diplomats based in the capital N’djamena, a government source who did not want to be named told IRIN.

The source said Allam-Mi presented the diplomats with “irrefutable proof of the intentions of Sudan to attack”.

One western diplomat in N’djamena told IRIN that he did not believe that Chad’s army was preparing to invade Sudan. “It has been weakened [by recent rebel attacks] and to invade Sudan now would not just be stupid, it would be suicidal,” he said on the condition of anonymity.

He said he was not so sure of Sudan’s intentions vis-a-vis Chad.

Chadian President Idriss Deby and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir signed a peace agreement on 13 March in the presence of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and select African leaders and Arab and western diplomats attending the Organisation of the Islamic Conference summit in Dakar, Senegal

The stated aim of the accord is "to put an end, once and for all, to disputes between the two countries and re-establish peace in the sub-region."

N’djamena is quiet at the moment, he said, yet it has remained tense since February when rebels entered the city for two days. “Everyone you talk with in the international community says they wouldn’t be surprised if [Sudanese supported] rebels try another attack on N’djamena before the beginning of the rainy season [at the end of June]”

A Sudanese opposition leader, Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, is reportedly set to travel to Chad in April to meet President Deby and mobilise support for a regional security conference for countries in the area.

Estimates of the number of people killed as a direct and indirect consequence of fighting in Darfur and eastern Chad run as high as 400,000 with some 2.7 million people displaced.