Chad: Tensions mounting as rebels move across country
Tanks are stationed on street corners and close to the presidency and national broadcaster as news reports warn of two rebel columns each of 1,000 fighters between 200 and 400 km from the capital, according to IRIN correspondents in Chad.
In eastern Chad, 1,000 km east of N'djamena, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said in a statement on 31 January that it has withdrawn most of its staff from the town Guereda where it was serving refugee camps for Sudanese from Darfur.
"The local authorities don't have the necessary means to protect us anymore. In this area we have a state of complete impunity, Guereda is getting very vulnerable," said Jorge Holly, head of the UNHCR field office in Guereda.
In this sparsely populated country the capital is the key to control of the organs of power, the media, and the country's lucrative oil industry.
N'djamena has been well protected by the government and those soldiers who have not yet defected to join one of the numerous rebel groups that sprung up after President Idriss Deby changed the constitution in 2005 to allow himself to run for a third term in office.
The capital has not seen any fighting since April 2006 when a convoy of rebels sped across the unguarded border with Sudan and made straight for the capital. After heavy fighting with the Chadian army the rebels were captured and repelled.
While rebel attacks on the capital pose the biggest political threat, it is the often unreported incursions into eastern Chad from Sudan and violent inter-communal fighting there that have caused the worst humanitarian fallout.
At least 180,000 Chadians have left their homes in the last three years, many of them fleeing attacks by armed men on horseback who set entire villages aflame.
The national army that was once present in border areas has been relocated to guard strategically significant towns, creating a "security vacuum in vast parts of eastern Chad," a 2007 UN report said.
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