Home | News    Saturday 24 December 2005

AU seeks to defuse Chad-Sudan tensions

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Dec 24, 2005 (ADDIS ABABA) — The African Union said it had sent a delegation to Chad and Sudan in a bid to defuse rapidly escalating tensions between the neighbors marked by Ndjamena’s accusation that Khartoum was trying to destabilise its government.

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A soldier from the National Army of Chad patrols the wadi Tine, the empty bed of seasonal river that runs between Chad and Sudan in Tine, in 2004. (AFP).

The team travelled to Ndjamena on Friday — as Chad declared it was in a "state of belligerance" with Sudan — and was expected in Khartoum later Saturday, said Assane Ba, a spokesman for the pan-African body’s Peace and Security Council on Saturday.

"We have sent a delegation to Chad and Sudan," he told AFP at AU headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

"They went to talk to officials on both sides in order to try to normalize relations between the two countries. They were in Chad and they are now flying to Sudan."

He said the delegation was led by Baba Gana Kingibe, the AU special representative in Sudan, but could not provide further details as the team had not yet reported back.

Ba declined to comment on any message that Kingibe was bringing to the two countries but allowed that the AU, which has thousands of peacekeepers in Sudan’s troubled western Darfur region along the Chadian-Sudanese border, had a vested interest in preventing a war that would put its mission at risk.

The team was sent as already strained ties between the two nations plummeted on Friday with Chad’s "state of belligerance" announcement after recent volleys of increasingly bitter accusations being lobbed back and forth by the two capitals.

Ndjamena charges that Khartoum is trying to destabilise Chad by hosting rebels and a growing number of Chadian army deserters in western Sudan, from where an attack was launched on Chad’s eastern frontier town of Adre last Sunday.

Several new rebel groups have sprung up recently in eastern Chad, a region inundated by some 200,000 refugees from the civil war in Darfur and Khartoum had accused Ndamena of deploying planes and troops on its territory before the latest incident.

After that assault, in which Chad claims some 100 insurgents were killed, Ndjamena said its forces had pursued the rebels five kilometers (three miles) into Sudanese territory before withdrawing.

At a Thursday ceremony in Adre to decorate Chadian troops who turned back the rebels, Deby accused Sudanese President Omar el-Beshir of plotting to "destabilize our country, to drive our people into misery, to create disorder and export the war from Darfur to Chad."

Deby, an ex-rebel leader who seized power in 1990 and was later elected in multi-party polls, also issued an ultimatum to a group of dissident army officers who said earlier this month they were forming an army to topple him, saying they had one week to return to Chad or they would be treated as mercenaries.

On Friday, when Chad announced it was in a "state of belligerance" with Sudan, it also accused el-Beshir of being "the enemy" and called on Chadians to mobilise themselves against Sudanese aggression.

In addition, Chad’s foreign ministry said it had summoned the Sudanese ambassador to Chad to demand that Sudan "cease all agression against Chad."

Sudan, meanwhile, has denied any support for the Chadian rebels and on Friday sought to downplay the situation.

"We are not for any escalation with Chad," Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman Jamal Mohammed Ibrahim told AFP in Khartoum.

(AFP/ST)

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