Home | News    Saturday 4 November 2006

FACTBOX-Chad-CAR-Sudan triangle is crucible of violence

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Nov 3, 2006 — Central African Republic’s government demanded on Friday that rebels who seized a northeast town near the Sudan border should withdraw, and declined to respond immediately to their call for political negotiations.

The capture of Birao on Monday has highlighted the inability of President Francois Bozize’s government to control the remote and lawless north of the former French colony, which borders with both Chad and Sudan.

Here are some key facts about the border triangle area.

WHO IS IN THE TRIANGLE?

* CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC:

— Central African Republic, a landlocked former French colony and one of the world’s poorest countries, despite its diamond wealth, is situated in the centre of Africa stretching from rainforest in the southwest to savannah in the north.

— The population of around 4 million has a life expectancy of 42 years and lives on an average income of $260 a year, according to World Bank statistics. The capital, Bangui, has been rated the second worst city to live in after Baghdad. Fifty percent of the country is Christian with traditional African religions 24 percent and Islam 15 percent.

* CHAD:

— Chad, another of the world’s poorest countries, became an oil producer in 2003 with the completion of a $3.7 billion pipeline linking oilfields to terminals on the Atlantic coast. In 2005, it was ranked the world’s most corrupt country in a Transparency International survey.

— Its population of nearly 10 million is made up of Muslims (mainly in the north) who number about 50 percent, Catholics 23 percent and traditional African religions 27 percent.

* SUDAN:

— At 2.5 million sq km (967,500 sq miles), Sudan is Sub-Sharan Africa’s largest country straddling the middle reaches of the Nile. Oil in Sudan was a crucial catalyst in its bitter north-south conflict and the Neem oil field is in an area which is still contested between the two sides despite a 2005 peace deal.

— With a population of over 36 million, Islam is the predominant religion among Arabs and Nubians, while traditional African religions are practised in the south. There are Christian communities in both the north and south.

* CONFLICT IN THE TRIANGLE:

DOMESTIC TURMOIL:

* CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC - The country has long been racked by instability, experiencing 11 attempted coups or mutinies in the past decade alone. President Francois Bozize, a former army general, seized power in a coup in March 2003 before legitimising his presidency through 2005 elections.

* CHAD - A lightning assault on N’Djamena in April 2006 weeks before a presidential election was launched from the east by rebels trying to overthrow President Idriss Deby, who went on to win the elections. Several hundred people were killed in the capital before the army took control. Warplanes serving with a French military contingent in Chad passed on reconnaissance information to the government.

* SUDAN - Rebels in the vast western region of Darfur took up arms against the government in February 2003, saying the government in Khartoum discriminated against mostly non-Arabs there. Some 2.5 million civilians, mostly subsistence farmers, fled their homes to camps in Darfur and some continued across the border into Chad to escape the fighting and raids by government-backed militias.

* CROSS-BORDER TENSIONS:

— The attack on Central African Republic’s Birao more than 800 km (500 miles) northeast of the capital Bangui marked a spillover south of the political and ethnic conflict which has raged in Sudan’s Darfur region since 2003. Bozize accused Sudan of sending in the rebels. Khartoum denied this.

— In the April 2006 attack on N’djamena, Chadian insurgents also used the lawless north of the CAR as a staging post from which to launch the attack.

— Fighting in Darfur has often spilled over into Chad, where several rebel groups are fighting to topple Deby. Chadian rebels have bases in Sudan’s Darfur region.

— Janjaweed militia fighters, who are assisting the Sudanese army in Darfur against Sudanese rebels, have also been responsible for cross-border raids into Chad and appear to be working in alliance with the Chadian rebels. Last month Janjaweed militia and Chadian rebels attacked at least 10 villages in south-east Chad killing over 100 people and displacing more than 3,000.

— Around 200,000 refugees from Sudan’s Darfur region have flooded into Chad — sometimes called the "dead heart of Africa" for its landlocked geography and searing desert climate — straining scarce resources there.

(Reuters)

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