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13 Nov 2006 18:06
Chad’s government declared a state of emergency on Monday in the capital, Ndjamena, and some eastern areas, where raiders on horseback have killed hundreds of villagers in ethnic attacks in recent weeks.
The measure included the appointment of special ministers with far-reaching powers for the affected regions and a tightening of media censorship.
President Idriss Déby Itno’s government already faces armed insurgency from the east, which has been caught up in spillover violence from neighbouring Sudan’s conflict-torn Darfur region.
The government has accused Sudanese Arab militia of provoking clashes between Arab and non-Arab Chadians through frequent raids over Chad’s eastern border with Darfur.
“This state of emergency aims to halt the serious attacks on public order due to the rampant insecurity in these regions,” Communications Minister Hourmadji Moussa Doumgor said after a special Cabinet meeting.
As well as areas affected by the latest violence, Doumgor said the state of emergency was also being imposed as a preventive measure in large swathes of northern and southern Chad and in Ndjamena, in western Chad, hundreds of kilometres from the eastern ethnic clashes.
The capital has escaped much of the violence since the conflict in neighbouring Darfur broke out in 2003 between rebels from non-Arab tribes and Sudanese government troops allied to roving mounted Arab militia known as Janjaweed.
But Chadian rebels bent on toppling Déby Itno launched a lightning attack on Ndjamena in April, in which several hundred people were killed before the army regained control. Déby Itno accuses Sudan of backing the rebels.
Khartoum denies this.
“To improve coordination of political and security action in the regions under state of emergency, the Cabinet has decided to appoint resident ministers invested with all resources and powers of action,” Doumgor said.
He accused unnamed media of destabilising Chad through disinformation, apologising for the armed rebellion and passing intelligence to the enemy.
“The Cabinet decided to restore advance censorship for private newspapers and prohibit radio stations from discussing matters which could threaten public order, national unity, territorial integrity or respect for the institutions of the republic,” he said.
The state of emergency was imposed along much of Chad’s southern border with the Central African Republic, where insurgents, believed to include some Chadian fighters, have seized towns in recent weeks.
Both Chad and the Central African Republic have called for the deployment of international peacekeepers to secure their borders.
Chad, a former French colony, stretches from forest in the south to Saharan mountains in the north.
Long one of the world’s poorest and most corrupt countries, it has begun pumping oil in the past few years from oil fields in the south via an export pipeline built through neighbouring Cameroon with backing from the World Bank.—Reuters
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