/ 9 April 2008

Rebel attack from Sudan ‘imminent’, says Chad

Thousands of rebels massed in Sudan are about to attack neighbouring Chad in an attempt to destabilise it, Chad’s defence minister said on Wednesday.

”Once again the regime of [Sudanese President] Omar al-Bashir, as part of its determination to destabilise Chad, is massing, training and heavily arming thousands of its mercenaries on Chad’s eastern frontier to launch attacks in the next few days,” said Defence Minister Mahamat Ali Abdallah.

His statement was issued on the eve of a first session by a contact group tasked to implement a March 13 Dakar agreement to end the five-year conflict between the two African neighbours.

The members — Libya, the Congo Republic, Senegal, Gabon, Eritrea — as well as Sudan and Chad themselves, were set to convene on Thursday in Gabon’s capital, Libreville.

United States, French, United Nations, European Union and African Union representatives were also expected to attend.

The March 13 accord signed by Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno and his Sudanese counterpart, Bashir, aimed to cease hostilities and stop the backing of rebel groups active either side of the border.

The defence minister’s statement appealed to the international community and mediators, saying preparations for ”imminent attack” were under way ”in flagrant violation of all peace and non-aggression accords signed between the two countries”.

”Bashir’s aim is not only to destabilise Chad, but in time the entire Central African region in line with an Islamic expansionism that does not speak its name,” the minister’s statement said.

The latest accusations come a week after fighting between the Chadian army and Chadian rebels in the east of the country.

The Dakar pact on the sidelines of a summit of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference was the outcome of strong international pressure on both leaders to end the five-year intermittent conflict.

An alliance of three rebel groups attacked Ndjamena over the weekend of February 2 and 3 after sweeping across the desert from bases in Sudan. They were driven out by Déby’s troops with indirect military support from former colonial master France.

All rebel groups that participated in the offensive had signed a peace deal with the government last October. — AFP