Home | News    Friday 4 November 2005

Chad deserters say have means to oust president

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DAKAR, Nov 3 (Reuters) - The self-proclaimed head of a group of Chadian army deserters said on Thursday he had the military and political means to topple President Idriss Deby and said his men were ready to fight until the leader left power.

Scores of soldiers fled their barracks in late September, before regrouping in Chad’s remote east near the border with Sudan’s Darfur region under the name Platform for Change, National Unity and Democracy, whose French acronym is "SCUD".

Yaya Dillo Djerou, who describes himself as the group’s leader, said around 800 men had defected from the national army, more than a dozen of them senior officers.

"Our plan is to fight the dictatorship in Chad. We have the military means, we have the political means. We have all the means we need to fight this regime," Djerou told Reuters by telephone, speaking in English.

"We are demanding the departure of Deby ... We are not going to stop the fight against this regime until he gives up power."

Chad’s government, which says the deserters number just 86, has ordered the men to lay down their weapons or face justice.

It says loyalist forces laid siege to their hideout in the eastern Chadian town of Hadjer Hadid before chasing them over the border into Darfur last month and has asked Khartoum for help in disarming them.

Sudan said on Thursday it had arrested around 20 of the deserters, though Chad said it had not been informed of the detentions and Djerou dismissed the claim as "propaganda".

"We are close to the border but we are on Chadian territory," he said, adding that he had been in telephone contact with other Chadian rebel groups living in Sudan.

OIL MONEY

Deby, a former army chief who seized power in 1990, has been credited with bringing a measure of stability to Africa’s newest oil producer, although he has long had a tense relationship with the military.

He dissolved his Republican Guard last week and has created a new force charged with ensuring his safety in a move analysts and diplomats say is aimed at instilling order in the military and ensuring the survival of his administration.

Djerou, who said he had studied telecommunications in Canada before joining the Chadian army, said one of the deserters’ main objections was a change to the cstitution letting Deby stand for a third term in elections next year.

He said the move had been illegal and accused Deby’s administration of widespread corruption in a country where most people survive on an average $240 a year.

"Take the example of the exploitation of oil. The international community has given the money to Chad and the money has been stolen," Djerou said.

The landlocked state began pumping oil in 2003 through a pipeline to neighbouring Cameroon from where it is exported.

The World Bank-backed project has been touted as a test case in Africa to show that oil revenues can benefit the poor, with 10 percent of the profit from crude production meant to be stored in a special "future generations" overseas fund.

But the government said last month it wanted to change the terms of the agreement so it could access the money more quickly. Analysts say the need to bolster security is partly behind the government’s hunger for cash.

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