Saturday, February 02, 2008

Chad Update: AU Summit Ends With Concerns;

Africa summit wraps up amid concern over Kenya, Chad

Sunday, February 3

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) - - African Union leaders condemned the latest unrest in Chad and Kenya Saturday at the close of a summit overshadowed by new crises on the continent and which saw little headway achieved on older ones.

The pan-African body's summit wrapped up even as military sources in Ndjamena said that rebels had seized control of the Chadian capital, where looting reportedly broke out after hours of heavy fighting.

"The assembly strongly condemns the attacks perpetrated by armed groups against the Chadian government and demands that an immediate end be put to these attacks and resulting bloodshed," the summit's final declaration said.

The 53-state body also announced that it had tasked Congolese President Denis Sassou-Nguesso and Libyan Moamer Kadhafi with spearheading efforts "aimed at finding a negotiated and peaceful solution to the current crisis".

Chadian rebels launched a massive offensive earlier this week from Sudan and were believed to be closing in on the presidential palace Saturday, where officials said President Idriss Deby Itno was holed up.

The African Union stressed it would reject any "unconstitutional change" of regime in Chad.

However it welcomed Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki among the ranks of the continent's heads of state and government despite a bitter row over alleged mass fraud related to his December 30 re-election.

Kenya's opposition had warned that accepting Kibaki's presence in Addis Ababa would amount to endorsing election results it says were rigged.

The row has ignited violence across the usually peaceful east African nation that has killed nearly 1,000 in a month and sparked international fears that what was once a rare island of stability in the region could sink into chaos.

Kenyan police said Saturday that 44 people had been killed in the last 24 hours.

The AU's final declaration expressed "deep concern" over the situation in Kenya and its potential consequences for regional stability.

Gabonese Foreign Minister Jean Ping, who will succeed Alpha Oumar Konare at the helm of the AU commission in three months after winning a vote on Friday, had earlier insisted that the body would not simply stand by.

"We want to act, that's for sure. In Kenya, there is already Kofi Annan for a mediation chosen by (outgoing AU chairman John) Kufuor. This mediation is at work," he told reporters.

AU leaders had been due to explore ways of boosting the body's credibility on the international scene and more effective ways of solving the continent's own conflicts.

"Our continent's future is in our hands," Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said Thursday after being chosen as the AU's new chairman.

But the summit left the organisation grappling with two new crises and mounting challenges in its efforts to solve already existing problems.

The developments in Chad have delayed the deployment of a European peace mission tasked with protecting refugees from neighbouring Sudan's Darfur region.

The fighting also raises new challenges for a joint UN-AU peacekeeping force being deployed in Darfur, amid mutual accusations between Chad and Sudan of support for the other's rebels.

The final statement also called on member states to urgently contribute more troops to its peacekeeping mission in Somalia, which has not even reached half strength yet, a year after it was authorised.

Also on the agenda Saturday was the situation in the Comoros, where an AU mission has failed to rein in a rebel island and avert the growing risk of military action.

The Indian Ocean archipelago's president, Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, said Friday that the AU had accepted that military intervention against the island of Anjouan was an option and vowed to take decisive action very soon.

During the summit, African leaders also studied an audit ordered a year ago into the organisation's management, which had come under criticism during Konare's five-year tenure.

The next African Union summit will be held in July in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Battle for control of Chad palace

Rebels in Chad have seized control of large parts of the capital N'Djamena, and say they have surrounded the presidential palace.

But Chad's ambassador to Ethiopia said the city had not fallen and President Idriss Deby was "fine" in his palace.

There are unconfirmed reports from Libya that rebels have agreed to a ceasefire brokered by Colonel Gaddafi.

On Saturday evening, France, which has 1,500 troops in Chad, began evacuating some foreign nationals.

The French foreign ministry has condemned the rebel attack, blaming "armed forces from outside".

Both the Chadian and Sudanese governments support rebels in each others' territory.

Abderamane Khoulamala, a spokesman for the rebels, told the BBC the rebels had "virtually taken power" and government troops were "refusing to fight".

But a French military spokesman, Col Thierry Burkhard, told AP news agency it appeared that Mr Deby had succeeded in containing the rebels at his palace and was "even in the process of pushing them back".


There was heavy fighting throughout Saturday after thousands of rebels entered N'Djamena in the morning, after beginning their advance on the city from near Chad's eastern border with Sudan earlier this week .

Intense gunfire was heard in the city centre. A witness told the BBC that 30 army tanks were burning in the streets.

There were reports of outbreaks of looting, and of residents cheering on the rebel forces in some areas of the city.

A bomb hit the residence of Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Chad, killing the wife and daughter of an embassy employee, the Saudi foreign ministry said.

But witnesses report that as night fell the fighting subsided, with just sporadic gunfire now being heard.

Gabriel Stauring, a US aid worker trapped inside a hotel in the centre of N'Djamena, told the BBC news website that he and the other guests were spending the night together in the hotel's dining room.

He said that some people had already been evacuated, but that he had been advised by the US embassy to remain in the hotel until morning.

He said that there had been a heavy attack on the building earlier in the afternoon, but that it has been relatively quiet since.

Ceasefire claim

The Libyan news agency said that rebel leader Mahamat Nouri had agreed to a ceasefire brokered by the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

The African Union has charged Libya with overseeing the response to the rebellion in Chad, which was condemned at the end of the organisation's summit in Ethiopia.

June 2005 - Constitutional changes approved allowing president to stand for third term
April 2006 - Hundreds killed as rebels fight government troops on outskirts of N'Djamena
May 2006 - President Deby wins election boycotted by opposition
January 2008 - EU approves peacekeeping force to protect Darfur refugees from violence in Chad
The Union's new head, President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, warned that if the rebellion succeeded, the country would be suspended from the AU until normality was restored.

The BBC's Stephanie Hancock, recently based in Chad, says insecurity has been the hallmark of Mr Deby's 17-year rule.

In 2005, he changed the constitution so that he could run for a third term in office, which sparked mass desertions from the army.

The situation was made worse by the accumulation of oil wealth by Mr Deby and his entourage.

Friction with Sudan

There is also tension with Sudan. Chadian officials say Khartoum is nervous about the deployment of EU troops in Chad and a joint AU/UN force in Sudan's western region of Darfur - both with the mandate of protecting civilians affected by fighting in Darfur.

France dominates the EU force bound for Chad, whose deployment has been delayed because of the fighting.

Some 100 troops Austrian and Irish troops had been due to arrive last Thursday.
Unified Military Command includes:
Union of Forces for Democracy (UFDD) led by Mahamat Nouri
Rally of Forces for Change (RFC) led by Timane Erdimi
UFDD-Fundamental led by Abdelwahid Aboud Mackaye
Under a 30-year-old agreement, the French military gives logistical and intelligence support to Chad's government.

But late last year, one of the rebel groups, the UFDD, declared a "state of war" against French and other foreign forces because it said they were "bringing diplomatic, strategic and logistical aid" to the president.

Chad's Foreign Ministers Ahmat Allami has accused Sudan of instigating the rebel advance in order to stop the deployment of the EU force:

"Sudan does not want this force because it would shine a light on all the genocide that is taking place in Darfur orchestrated from Chadian territory," he told the BBC.

Are you in Chad? Have you been affected by the fighting? Tell us what is happening where you are by using the form below:

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/02/03 00:15:53 GMT

Chad rebel leader agrees to ceasefire -Libyan agency

Sat 2 Feb 2008, 22:43 GMT

LONDON, Feb 2 (Reuters) - A Chadian rebel leader has agreed to a ceasefire with government forces following mediation by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the official Libyan news agency JANA reported on Saturday.

"The leader and brother (Gaddafi) had a telephone call with Mahamat Nouri, one of the leaders of the insurgency in Chad, and it was agreed ... to cease fire and to hold negotiations to implement the Tripoli agreement for peace and reconciliation," the agency, monitored in London, said on its Web site.

No independent confirmation of the report was immediately available.

Chadian rebels surrounded the presidential palace in N'Djamena on Saturday after fighting their way into the capital, and France began evacuating French and foreign nationals.

Gaddafi is regarded as an influential player in the region.

In October, four Chadian rebel groups initialled a peace agreement with the government in a deal brokered by Libya.

In November, Nouri's UFDD rebel group abandoned a ceasefire and accused the government of not honouring parts of the Libyan-brokered peace accord. Nouri is a former defence minister.

(Reporting by Sami Aboudi; editing by Robert Woodward)

Eyewitness: 'Revolution's going on'

American aid worker Katie-Jay Scott, who is staying at a hotel in the centre of Chad's capital, N'Djamena, told BBC News of the fear that has gripped the city amid fierce gun battles between rebels and government troops.

The French military came at 0700 this morning and told us to stay inside the hotel.

From the third-floor we can see smoke coming from around the presidential palace about a kilometre-and-a-half away.

We hear gunfire and artillery and large explosions that shake the windows of the hotel.

It will be eerily quiet and then suddenly the gunfire starts up again.

We run to the back of the hotel, or the front, depending on where the shooting is coming from.

'A completely different city'

The French put snipers on the hotel roof, shut the main gates and make patrols of the hotel grounds.

I guess the main danger is from a stray bullet but I don't think the rebels are interested in this hotel.

They want to seize the main government buildings. It seems like there's a revolution going on.

The US embassy is instructing us to stay put and says we'll only evacuate if the French evacuate.

Some World Bank staff and people in World Food Programme vehicles were evacuated this morning.

When we got here a couple of days ago the streets were noisy and crowded with traffic and young people selling cell phone cards.

But since yesterday the streets have been completely empty, everyone was too scared to leave home as they knew the rebels were nearby. There's not a civilian on the street. It's a completely different city.

The mobile phone networks have all been shut down for a couple of days now.

Yesterday there were lots of helicopters and military planes in the skies above N'Djamena but there's none today.

We can just hear military vehicles, sounds like trucks and tanks rushing past.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/02/02 12:50:41 GMT

Profile: Idriss Deby

Idriss Deby came to power in 1990 after toppling Chadian President Hissene Habre - with the help of the French secret service.

A shrewd tactician, Mr Deby had been President Habre's chief-of-staff, leading a series of victories over rebel forces in the 1980s and earning a reputation for courage and military prowess.

After six years in office, Mr Deby set up Chad's first multi-party political system and won elections that year.

He was re-elected in 2001, and again in 2006 after amending the constitution, which had previously limited the president to two terms in office.

But Mr Deby, 55, appeared to have little genuine domestic support.

His presidency was dogged by accusations of corruption and political repression, and the 2006 poll was boycotted by opponents who claimed it was neither free nor fair.

He packed his government and armed forces with members of his Zagawa clan, which comprised only 1.5% of the country's 10 million-plus population.

Critics say his single biggest failure was putting his clan before his country.

President Deby became known as a stubborn man who often ignored his advisors. From mid-2006 he suffered a spate of defections of former allies from his own clan to Darfur-based Chadian rebels.

Regionally he has been increasingly viewed with mistrust, and he fell out of favour with Chad's former colonial master France over drilling rights in the 1990s.

President Deby is also thought to have health problems and has been known to fly to Paris for treatment to his liver.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/02/02 15:27:43 GMT

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