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Chad - Ex-Defence Minister joins rebels, opposition says vote illegitimate

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May 6, 2006 (N’DJAMENA) — Chadian crisis has seen a new development Saturday with the defection of one of the former barons in President Deby’s regime, while the political opposition said the presidential election illegitimate.

Former Defence Minister Mahamat Nouri, has re-joined the rebellion saying Chad is today undergoing the most gravest crisis of its history. He also accuses the president of being behind this crisis.

Mahamat Nouri stresses that he is not joining any particular rebel movement but will henceforth back the rebels’ efforts, Radio France Internationale reported today.

On the other hand, the opposition alliance that boycotted Chad’s presidential election said Saturday the vote was illegitimate and it will not negotiate with President Idriss Deby about the future of the central African country.

Three of Deby’s allies and a minor opposition leader provided a token challenge in Wednesday’s election. Official preliminary results are expected by May 14, but Deby appears set to win a new term. Critics say the elections he won in 1996 and 2001 were not free or fair.

"We will not take part in this game," said Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh, spokesman for the 19-member Coordination of Political Parties for the Defense of the Constitution.

Deby had rejected opposition demands to postpone the election, arguing it would create a constitutional vacuum because his second term had come to an end.

Power has never changed hands at the ballot box in Chad, a country of 10 million. Deby’s 1990 takeover brought a semblance of peace after three decades of civil war and an invasion by Libya, but he has become increasingly isolated in recent years.

Chad is struggling with discontent over its poor economy, and unhappiness has intensified over the failure of a boost from the country’s oil field, which went into operation in 2003.

Unrest also has spilled over from Darfur, where Sudan’s Arab-dominated government is accused of encouraging a campaign of destruction aimed at civilians in African farming villages that are the base for a three-year-old rebellion. Sudan charges that Chad supports the Darfur rebels. Chad, in turn, accuses Sudan of backing rebels in eastern Chad.

Some 200,000 people who have fled the fighting in western Sudan have taken shelter in Chad.

(ST/AP)

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