Observers: Sudan supports Chad rebels

Chadian rebels who advanced on the capital in a fleet of brand-new Toyotas had clear support from Sudan, which wants to replace President Idriss Déby Itno with a pro-Sudanese leader, diplomats and human rights groups here said on Tuesday.

International observers alleged logistical and political support by Sudan for the rebels of the Chadian United Front for Change (FUC), a day after the United States branded such support “unacceptable”.

“The FUC rebels are Chadians, but they are clearly supported by Sudan,” said Olivier Bercault, regional specialist for the global rights group Human Rights Watch.

“An armed movement from the east of Chad cannot arrive in N’djamena in a few days without logistical support from Khartoum,” he said, referring to the FUC forces that travelled some 800km to fight forces loyal to Déby around the capital last week.

The rebels were equipped with “dozens of new Toyotas”, he added.

Chad’s government accused Sudan of backing the coup attempt, though the FUC has denied receiving support from Sudan. On Monday Chad further accused Sudan of forming a new rebel army to attack the country.

A French diplomatic source said Khartoum supports FUC leader Mahamat Nour Abdelkerim with a view to toppling Déby, who is accused of supporting a rebellion in Sudan’s Darfur region against the Khartoum government.

After repelling last week’s coup attempt, Chadian authorities displayed what they said were captured Sudanese mercenary fighters as well as arms and other materials it said were evidence of Sudanese involvement. International observers say Nour’s forces receive support from Darfur, which borders eastern Chad.
One such source said Chadian rebels had bases in El-Geneina, the capital of the Sudanese state of West Darfur.

“They benefit from the open support of auxiliary militias from Khartoum. Logistical support, [support] in arms and provisions,” the observer said.

Shortly after the founding of the FUC, one of the group’s chiefs, Abdelwahit About, told Radio France Internationale that the FUC had “close and friendly” ties with Khartoum.

Talks on founding the FUC were held in El-Geneina in December, according to sources close to the rebels.

But the allegations of Sudan’s involvement were supported on Tuesday, even by the opposition to the government in Chad.

“Sudan aids the FUC materially. It’s plain to see,” said Ngarleji Yorongar, a fierce opponent of Déby. The leadership of “Mahamat Nour is a creation of the Sudanese, and today he is sufficiently armed and supported to take power in N’djamena”.

Sources formerly close to Nour also say he fought alongside the Sudanese army against rebels in Darfur.

The US suggested on Monday that Sudan may have been involved in the failed rebel offensive in Chad, and said it warned Khartoum such action was “unacceptable”. Washington stopped short of officially endorsing Chad’s allegations that the Sudanese had armed the rebels.

But a senior state department official, who asked not to be named, told reporters: “I’m not going to wave you off that there was some involvement” by the regime of President Omar al-Beshir in Khartoum.

Chad said on Sunday its delegation had withdrawn from the African Union-brokered peace talks on Sudan’s troubled Darfur region because of “Sudanese aggression”.

Humanitarian groups have warned that the fate of 200 000 refugees from Darfur is hanging in the balance because of the escalating crisis between Chad and Sudan.

Despite the allegations against Sudan, Déby on Monday withdrew a threat to expel the refugees who are sheltering in eastern Chad.—Sapa-AFP

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