Chad

Chad: Government declares state of emergency after clashes

By Betel Miarom

N'DJAMENA, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Chad declared a state of emergency on Monday in the capital N'Djamena and some eastern areas, where raiders on horseback have killed hundreds of villagers in ethnic attacks in recent weeks.

The measure included the appointment of special ministers with far-reaching powers for the affected regions and a tightening of media censorship.

President Idriss Deby's government already faces armed insurgency from the east, which has been caught up in spillover violence from neighbouring Sudan's conflict-torn Darfur region.

The government has accused Sudanese Arab militia of provoking clashes between Arab and non-Arab Chadians through frequent raids over Chad's eastern border with Darfur.

"This state of emergency aims to halt the serious attacks on public order due to the rampant insecurity in these regions," Communications Minister Hourmadji Moussa Doumgor said after a special cabinet meeting.

The United States said it was concerned about the violence in Chad and Sudan and said it underscored the need for an international peacekeeping force in Darfur.

"We are talking to friends and allies about that, talking to a number of Arab states about how to make that happen," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in Washington.

As well as areas affected by the latest violence, Doumgor said the state of emergency was being imposed as a preventive measure in large swathes of northern and southern Chad and in the capital N'Djamena, in western Chad.

The capital has escaped much of the violence since the conflict in neighbouring Darfur broke out in 2003 between rebels from non-Arab tribes and Sudanese government troops allied to roving mounted Arab militia known as Janjaweed.

But Chadian rebels bent on toppling Deby launched a lightning attack on N'Djamena in April, in which several hundred people were killed before the army regained control. Deby accuses Sudan of backing the rebels. Khartoum denies this.

SPECIAL POWERS, CENSORSHIP

"To improve coordination of political and security action in the regions under state of emergency, the cabinet has decided to appoint resident ministers invested with all resources and powers of action," Doumgor said.

He accused unnamed media of destabilising Chad through disinformation, apologising for the armed rebellion and passing intelligence to the enemy.

"The cabinet decided to restore advance censorship for private newspapers and prohibit radio stations from discussing matters which could threaten public order, national unity, territorial integrity or respect for the institutions of the republic," he said.

The state of emergency was imposed along much of Chad's southern border with Central African Republic, where insurgents, believed to include some Chadian fighters, have seized towns in recent weeks.

Both Chad and Central African Republic have called for the deployment of international peacekeepers to secure their borders. But Sudan's government refuses to permit a robust United Nations peacekeeping force to relieve an over-stretched African Union contingent in Darfur.

Chad, a former French colony, stretches from forest in the south to Saharan mountains in the north.

Long one of the world's poorest and most corrupt countries, it has begun pumping oil in the past few years from oil fields in the south via an export pipeline built through neighbouring Cameroon with backing from the World Bank.

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Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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