/ 10 March 2008

Central Africa summit focuses on Chad

Leaders from 10 Central African nations began summit talks in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Monday regarding developments in Chad in the wake of a failed rebel offensive.

President Joseph Kabila of the DRC welcomed six other heads of state, including Chad’s President Idriss Déby Itno, and senior officials from three other countries to his palace in the morning.

The aim of the meeting, which began behind closed doors, was to enable Déby to brief leaders from other nations in the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC) on events in Chad, according to the agenda.

The summit was sought by Déby and Kabila, who both strongly condemned “any attempt to seize power by force” after a fierce weekend battle for Chad’s capital, Ndjamena, on February 2 and 3.

A tripartite rebel alliance ran out of ammunition and was driven back by Déby’s army with French logistical and reconnaissance support.

Regional diplomats said Déby was out to win clear support from other CEEAC member states, particularly since he accuses Sudan of backing the rebels.

Khartoum in turn accuses Chad of supporting insurgents.

Last week, Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade expressed strong hopes of getting Chad’s Déby together with President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan to sign an agreement for a “definitive solution” to their proxy war through rebel groups.

Wade said the two leaders would meet on March 12 in Dakar on the sidelines of a summit of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.

One diplomatic source in DRC said on Monday that this possibility “has removed any interest in the Kinshasa summit”, which is due to issue a statement once it closes at the end of the day.

CEEAC was founded in 1983 by former French and Portuguese colonies to promote regional economic cooperation and trade, dialogue among member states, and conflict prevention. However, several conflicts have since pitted one CEEAC nation against others. — AFP