Monday, February 18, 2008

Chad News Bulletin: US Supports Neo-Colonial Control; Union of African Workers Statement; Aid Groups

PARIS 15 February 2008 Sapa-dpa

BUSH THANKS FRANCE FOR "RESPONSIBLE WORK" REGARDING DARFUR AND CHAD

US President George W Bush told a French radio station on Friday that he was appreciative of the work by the French government in helping to deploy European troops to protect refugees from the crisis region of Darfur.

"I thank the government of (President) Nicolas Sarkozy for its
responsible work, in rallying EU forces to provide some help" to refugees near the Sudan-Chad border, Bush said during an interview with foreign journalists broadcast on RFI radio.

Bush was scheduled to leave later Friday on a five-country visit to Africa. However, the trip might be postponed because of a domestic political crisis over Congressional renewal of a terrorism surveillance measure.

Paris was instrumental in establishing the EUFOR force that is to patrol the border region between Chad and Sudan. France will provide about half of the 3,700 EUFOR soldiers, whose deployment was delayed by the recent fighting in Chad between rebel groups and forces loyal to President Idriss Deby.

Bush said that he believed "there is a link between the fighting in Chad and Darfur."

French media reported that rebels continued to be massed in a region where EUFOR soldiers are scheduled to be deployed in the coming months.

On Thursday, France confirmed an earlier media report that it had transported Libyan munitions to Chadian government forces during the fighting earlier this month, when the Chadian Army drove rebels out of the capital N'Djamena.

A Defence Ministry spokesman said France had "helped Chad acquire munitions from other countries," including Libya.

The daily La Croix first reported that France had helped deliver ammunition for Chad's Russian-made T-55 tanks. La Croix also said that French special forces had taken an active part in the fighting to drive rebels out of the capital on February 1 and 2, a report the French government has denied.

In a related matter, France continues to demand that the Chadian government shed light on the fate of three prominent opposition figures, who were reportedly arrested by soldiers during the fighting.

Witnesses said that former Chadian president Lol Mahamat Choua, former minister and spokesman for the opposition coalition Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh, and opposition lawmaker Ngarlejy Yorongar were roughed up and taken into custody by government soldiers.

France had demanded "immediate clarification" of their whereabouts.

On Thursday, the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement that its ambassador to Chad had received authorization to meet Choua and "was able to verify that (he) was detained in a military prison."

The statement said that Red Cross representatives would be able to visit him on Friday. However, it made no mention of the other two missing opposition politicians.


Rebel coalition fights neocolonial regime in Chad

By G. Dunkel
Published Feb 14, 2008 8:27 PM

Chad, in central Africa, was brutally conquered by France over a century ago and made part of its colonial empire. Today, while nominally independent, it is the fifth poorest country in the world, according to the U.N. However, it has become a significant, though not major, exporter of oil in the past three years.

ExxonMobil, a major U.S. corporation, is currently exploiting this oil, which has also brought billions of dollars to Chad. Most of that money, however, has stayed in the pockets of President Idriss Deby Itno—a former helicopter pilot trained by the French, who seized power in 1990—and his clique, through one stratagem or another. Redistributing this wealth is one of the issues pushing forward a rebellion against Deby’s rule.

This struggle broke out into heavy fighting early in February when a rebel coalition fought for control of Ndjamena, Chad’s capital. An estimated 1,000 people died.

The Deby government claimed that most of the casualties were rebels—it called them mercenaries paid by Sudan—who didn’t know their way around the city, which has no street signs.

That’s not how the insurgents explain why they pulled back. Coalition spokesperson Abderaman Koulamallah said in an interview with Agence France Presse that direct attacks carried out by the French military had caused “enormous civilian casualties.”

Mahamat Nouri, the main military commander of the opposition, charged the French Air Force had “bombarded” its positions for over 13 hours to protect the Deby government.

During the battle for Ndjamena, which began Feb. 2-3, many of Deby’s soldiers reportedly deserted or didn’t follow orders because of ties they have with the rebels. Many of the rebels themselves were formerly in the government army. For example, Nouri himself used to be Deby’s defense minister and took a number of troops with him when he went over to the opposition.

While the French were willing to provide Deby with logistical, intelligence and air support and to defend the Ndjamena airport, they were not willing to put the bodies of French soldiers on the ground in harm’s way.

So Deby issued a call for reinforcements to the Justice and Equality Movement, a rebel group in Sudan fighting the government in the region of Darfur. It is drawn mainly from Deby’s ethnic group, the Zaghawas. However, Zaghawas also play a leading role among the rebel forces. (Le Figaro, Feb. 2)

The JEM troops quickly arrived on the battlefield in Chad. (New York Times, Feb. 8) The only practical way for JEM troops to have gotten from Darfur to Ndjamena, a distance of more than 600 miles, was for the French Air Force to fly them from its base in Abeche, a major city in eastern Chad not far from the border with Sudan.

The Sudanese government has announced that it will allow U.N.-African Union “peacekeepers” to move about freely in Darfur, but the JEM has just announced that it will attack them whenever they enter JEM-controlled areas.

The French press on Feb. 10 reported that the opposition had seized two major towns in the eastern part of the country. It also reported that EUFOR—with some 4,700 soldiers drawn from the armies of the 27 countries in the European Union—had begun setting up an advance base in Ndjamena, called Camp Europa. Full deployment of EUFOR is set to begin Feb. 12.

EUFOR, which stands for European Union Forces, has been used before in Bosnia and the Congo. While its commander and a large proportion of its troops are French, it does have a U.N. mandate to protect Sudanese refugees in Chad and the Central African Republic, distribute humanitarian aid and train Chadian police.

Its real aim is to project and protect Europe’s imperialist interests in the strategic center of Africa, bordering on the hotspot of Darfur.

Dr. Ley-Ngardigal Djimadoum, the leader of Chad’s Action for Unity and Socialism (ACTUS), at the beginning of February released a statement in French on a number of African and European anti-imperialist web sites.

Djimadoum said that, “Almost all the Chadian opposition is very hostile to EUFOR in Chad. The presence of French military bases, under the pretext of defending the territorial integrity of an ‘independent’ state, from independence [1960] to now, leaves a bitter taste. In reality, these occupation troops only defend the economic interests of the multinationals and the geostrategic interests of the imperialists on the African continent.

“A number of mass revolts and rebellions against the dictators imposed on our people by French imperialism have been drowned in blood by the support and the direct participation of French troops besides the army of their puppet government.

“The humanitarian aid proposed by EUFOR is a tree which hides the forest. More competent civilian organizations have been in place for years.”

The budget for EUFOR’s operation is nearly $450 million, close to twice the yearly income of Chad’s 9.3 million people.

The coalition that attacked Ndjamena independently issued a statement condemning France’s role, while avoiding the sharp language Djimadoum used.

Chad is an extremely poor but highly strategic country that has been waging an unrelenting struggle, with many twists and turns, against French neocolonialism for over 40 years. The intervention of European imperialism through EUFOR is going to raise the stakes, but is unlikely to end the drive of the people of Chad for their liberation.
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Union of African Workers on Chad events

Published Feb 14, 2008 8:23 PM

Part of a longer statement issued Feb. 10 by the Union of African Workers-Senegal (RTA-S) from Dakar, concerning the French intervention in Chad. Workers World reproduces the part below, translated from French.

As in 2006, the Idriss Deby regime once again this year has been saved by the French Army. Everyone knows that the occupation of the Ndjam√©na, Chad’s capital, by the rebellious troops meant the end of the dictator’s regime and the defeat of his loyal troops.

This military support for the dictator throws a new light on the type of bonds existing between the regime of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and that of Deby. One has to expect in the days to come that the French citizens accused in the “Zoe’s Ark” affair are pardoned by Deby [French citizens charged with kidnapping Chadian children—trans.]. It’s a way of giving a payback to Sarkozy. In other words, French Africa still lives.

The Union of African Workers-Senegal denounces this interference of the French Army in the internal affairs of Chad and invites all democratic and anti-imperialist forces to raise their voices against these intrigues by French imperialism.
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Articles copyright 1995-2007 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Email: ww@workers.org
Page printed from:
http://www.workers.org/2008/world/chad_box_0221/


Aid Work Continues Despite State of Emergency

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
Posted to the web 18 February 2008
Ndjamena

While aid officials say they do not expect the government's announcement of a state of emergency last week to impact on their operations they are concerned about rising security threats.

"In the last few years, we have been working more or less in [a state of emergency,]" said Nicolas Palanque of the non-governmental organization CARE. "There are peaks in insecurity but up to now we have not been targeted because we are a humanitarian organisation."

Yet he also said there are signs that that may be changing with the hijacking of aid agency's vehicles and attacks of aid compound. "Now we see a slightly different trend," Palanque said.

UN officials concurred and said the areas of Chad where aid workers face threats have multiplied. "There are quite a lot of hot spots now," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs bureau chief in N'djamena, Eliane Duthoit, told IRIN. "At one point, N'djamena was thought to be a safe haven. Now that has shifted. Over the past two weeks we have seen threats from both sides."

The UN Refugee Agency issued a statement on 15 February saying that an unknown armed group blocked its attempt to move 179 refugee families, recently arrived from West Darfur, away from volatile border camps in eastern Chad.

The country's President Idriss Deby announced the state of emergency on the evening of 14 February on the heels of a rebel assault on the capital N'djamena which left at least 160 people dead and many wounded.

The latest state of emergency differs from others imposed in recent years in that it pertains to the whole country

It gives the government the ability to clamp down on the press, maintain a midnight to 6am curfew and conduct house-to-house searches without a warrant.

The central government can also take power over from local authorities, according to diplomatic sources who asked not to be quoted. They expressed concern that citizens could be subject to arbitrary searches and detention.

N'djamena's streets have been calm in recent days. Most shops have reopened and traffic flows as usual, though the number of soldiers in the streets has increased.

But signs of February's street fighting are everywhere with blackened monuments and buildings scarred by bullet holes.

The coming months will be critical for aid groups as they attempt to pre-position relief supplies in the war-torn east of Chad in advance of the rainy season, which begins in early June.

This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the Pan-African News Wire

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