Chad + 1 more

Chad: Rapprochement with Sudan unlikely to ease humanitarian suffering

News and Press Release
Originally published
DAKAR, 7 May 2007 (IRIN) - The presidents of Chad and Sudan last week agreed to stop conflict spilling across their borders but critics say the agreement is unlikely to reduce the level of violence and will have little impact on the humanitarian crisis that has displaced an estimated 140,000 Chadians.

"It is a temporary clearing of storm clouds but it is temporary," according to a high level international official in N'djemena who spoke to IRIN on the condition that his name be withheld.

"In the end it won't make a bloody bit of difference," he said, pointing out that Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and Chad's President Idriss Deby signed other peace deals in recent months, brokered by northern neighbour Libya, and the conflict in the vast area that straddles the border between eastern Chad and western Sudan's Darfur region has continued.

The latest meeting, which ended on Thursday, was brokered by Saudi Arabia. "The two sides will adhere to working with the African Union and the United Nations to end the conflict in Darfur and east Chad to realise stability and peace for all," the Reuters news agency reported as saying.

The agreement follows a period of heightened tension between the two countries after Chadian army reportedly crossing into Sudan in pursuit of Chadian rebels and clashed with Sudanese troops. Sudan said the Chadians killed 17 of its soldiers on 9 April.

"Neither side wants to see their armies engaging each other directly," the international official said. "So that may indeed end," he said, "but that was never really the problem anyway."

Rather, he said, the two governments are fighting wars by proxy with Chadian rebels groups based on the Sudanese side of the border and Sudanese rebel groups on the Chadian side becoming "more conspicuous than ever."

Human Rights Watch issued a report in February saying, "The governments of Sudan and Chad are both supporting armed groups in opposition to each other."

According to the director of the N'djamena newspaper L'Observateure, Sy Koumbo Singa Gali, "Both countries have an interest in supporting forces trying to overthrow the neighbouring government."

Chadians lobbying President Deby to support Sudanese rebels are so powerful that it would be dangerous for Deby to go against them, the international source said. "He would become extremely unpopular if he stops the support. It's just not going to end any time soon."

As for Sudan, its long term mission is to oust Deby, he said. "Not that they are in a rush. They are acting more strategically than tactically to encourage regime change," he said

While the Chadian army are busy repelling rebels it is unable to patrol its eastern border, the analysts say. That has allowed militiamen from Sudan known as Janjaweed, who have long attacked civilians in Sudan's Darfur region, to cross into Chad and raid villages there. They are also creating alliances with various groups inside Chad.

Another layer of conflict is the violence between various local communities, often between those identifying themselves as Arab and those that do not.

"All the levels of conflict are linked but these inter-communal conflicts are what have so far had the worst humanitarian impact," the official said, adding that government policies may not be able to stop them. "At this stage whatever the leaders of the two countries decide is unlikely to impact on what is happening on the ground."

Besides the estimated 140,000 Chadians displaced in eastern Chad, more than 225,000 Sudanese refugees have fled there from Darfur.