Chad + 1 more

Chad-Sudan pact will not halt war-Chadian rebels

By Pascal Fletcher

DAKAR, May 4 (Reuters) - A Saudi-brokered reconciliation deal signed by Chad with its neighbour Sudan will not halt a guerrilla war by Chadian rebels aimed at toppling President Idriss Deby, a rebel spokesman said on Friday.

Deby and Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who have been at loggerheads over military clashes and rebel activity on their countries' volatile border, signed the pact in Saudi Arabia on Thursday under the auspices of Saudi King Abdullah.

It was the latest in several bilateral peace accords made by the two leaders over the last 18 months, all of which have failed to prevent fresh violence spilling out of Sudan's conflict-torn Darfur region into neighbouring Chad.

Chad and Sudan have long accused each other of backing rebels hostile to their respective governments.

Past peace deals brokered by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi have failed to halt rebel movements and raids across the long, porous border of Darfur, where at least 200,000 people have been killed by political and ethnic conflict since 2003.

The Chadian rebel Union of Forces for Democracy and Development (UFDD) has fought a hit-and-run war against Deby's forces in east Chad since last year, and a UFDD spokesman said the Saudi-backed peace deal would not stop the rebel campaign.

"It's a fools' agreement. It changes nothing ... We are going to continue to confront the Deby regime," Makaila Nguebla, an UFDD spokesman based in Dakar, said.

The UFDD's leader, Gen. Mahamat Nouri, is a former Chadian defence minister who was his country's ambassador to Saudi Arabia until he turned against Deby and defected to the rebel ranks a year ago.


Deby's fears that Nouri's UFDD may have been receiving Saudi as well as Sudanese support could have pushed him to sign the Saudi-mediated pact with Bashir on Thursday, analysts said. But doubts remained about just how solid the latest Chad-Sudan accord was and how long it would last.

"I seriously doubt this new deal will lead to any genuine thaw in relations or improvement in the security situation," said Colin Thomas-Jensen, an expert on Chad and Darfur who has done research for the International Crisis Group think-tank.

"We see a pattern of smiles and handshakes by political leaders of Chad and Sudan but the situation continues to deteriorate on the ground," added Thomas-Jensen, who is currently working on the U.S.-based ENOUGH project, which aims to prevent atrocities and genocide in Darfur and elsewhere.

In their latest accord, Deby and Bashir echoed previous agreements signed in Tripoli by promising their countries would not be used to harbour, train or fund armed movements opposed to the government of the other.

Thomas-Jensen said the promise would have little concrete impact unless it was accompanied by concrete peace-building initiatives on the ground in Darfur and eastern Chad.

Sudan has been resisting the deployment of a large United Nations peacekeeping force to support hard-pressed African Union peacekeepers in Darfur and Chad says it wants civilian U.N. police, not a robust military force, in its violent east.

"The simmering conflict, with civilians in the middle, looks set to continue for some time," Thomas-Jensen said.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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