|On March 14, 2006, Chad President Idriss Déby left a summit
meeting in Equatorial Guinea a day earlier than scheduled, foiling
a coup by rebels who had intended to shoot down his plane. Déby
claims that the would-be attackers were backed by the Sudanese
government, the latest in an exchange of angry rhetoric highlighting
the tension between the unfriendly neighbors.
forces chased the would-be attackers into eastern Chad where they
captured a high ranking commander and colonel, and Déby
has since begun a military campaign to oust major rebel groups
from eastern Chad before the May 3 election when he will seek
Déby, who seized power in a coup, was originally prevented
from running for a third term, but he persuaded the parliament
to change the law to allow it. He faces only one challenger and
is almost certain to win.
His accusation that the Sudanese government was behind an attempt
on his life is a familiar one in recent years, as the violent
militias and gangs that plague the Darfur region of Sudan are
increasingly crossing the border into Chad.
The problems dogging two of Africa's most deeply troubled nations
are similar: both have ethnic and religious divisions, both have
militant governments led by dictators who seized power nearly
15 years ago, and both contain large swaths of desert with natural
resources located primarily in the north and south.
Tensions between the two countries spiked in 2003 when Sudan's
Arab-dominated government reportedly began using militias to carry
out a campaign of genocide against ethnic-African Sudanese, which
has killed hundreds of thousands to date, and according to the
U.N High Commission for Refugees, driven some 300,000 Sudanese
refugees from Darfur to claim asylum in Chad.
On Dec. 23, 2005, the Chad government declared an official state
of war with Sudan and the "common enemy" which it saw
as the Chadian rebel group Rally for Democracy and Liberty and
the Sudanese militias that carry out cross-border raids on Chadian
Déby accused Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir
of trying to "destabilize our country, to drive our people
into misery, to create disorder and export the war from Darfur
Sudanese militias have made nearly 20,000 Chadians refugees in
their own country -- their homes and crops burned, livestock stolen
On Feb. 8, 2006, Chad and Sudan signed the Tripoli Agreement
which prohibits either country from beginning media campaigns
against or otherwise participating in the domestic affairs of
one another. Officially this meant the end of the conflict, however
militia groups in both countries maintain that they are not part
of the official government and therefore not subject to the treaty.
"Sudan's policy of arming militias and letting them loose
is spilling over the border, and civilians have no protection
from their attacks, in Darfur or in Chad," said Peter Takirambudde,
director of the Africa mission of Human Rights Watch, in a February
2006 written statement.
A month after the agreement was signed, security still appeared
lacking at the border, with roving militias disrupting travel
between Sudan and Chad.
In many towns throughout eastern Chad and Darfur, aid agency
offices are surrounded by sandbags to block machinegun fire, and
regular schedules cannot be established for food and medical aid.
In the Chadian border town of Kolloye, some 10,000 Chadian refugees
living in roofless shelters wait for the three days a week when
Doctors Without Borders provides limited medical assistance.
The most common ailments are bacterial -- children often die
of dysentery and diarrhea -- but victims of violence are increasingly
more common, with a hospital in Adré, Chad reporting 100
gunshot victims a month in November and December 2005.
John Prendergast, a senior adviser at the International Crisis
Group, told the New York Times in February 2006 that aid may still
be a long time coming "We are going to see an increasing
spiral of displacement on both sides of the border and an increasingly
dangerous environment for humanitarian workers."
The African Union recently had its peacekeeping mandate extended
at the behest of the Sudanese government. Under the new mandate,
the 7,000 AU peacekeepers could be replaced by U.N. forces in
A powerful, well-funded U.N. peacekeeping mission is seen by
many as the only chance for stability in region.