The Chadian government has accused neighbouring Sudan of backing an incursion into eastern Chad, just weeks after leaders of the two countries agreed to calm longstanding hostilities.
“The janjawid [Arab militia in Sudan] led a raid on 6 March 2006 in the zone of Amdjereme, stealing 700 camels, 1,000 cows and 1,500 sheep and other goods belonging to these peaceful citizens,” Chad communications minister Hourmadji Moussa Doumgor said in a statement on Wednesday.
Chadian soldiers pursued the militia forces and traded fire with them, before the intruders fled toward Sudan, the statement said, adding that Chadian forces recouped the livestock and returned it to Amdjereme.
Chad and Sudan, both facing rebellions, have long accused one another of supporting dissidents. Chad president Idriss Deby and Sudan’s Umar al-Bashir met in Libya in early February, agreeing to a series of measures to restore peace, including a vow not to back rebel activities within their territories.
The Chad government says the latest attack is a clear breach of that agreement. “This new janjawid attack constitutes a flagrant violation of the Tripoli Accord and the Sudanese government should be held responsible,” Chad says in its statement. The government adds, “This latest incursion by Sudanese government militia undermines efforts backed by the African Union and Libya to seek a lasting solution to the conflict between the two countries.”
A three-year-old war in Sudan’s western Darfur region, which has forced two million people from their homes, has burdened Chad’s impoverished and volatile east. And the region is home to a swelling group of defecting Chadian soldiers.
Incursions and other armed attacks in Chad – where about 200,000 Sudanese are living in refugee camps – are increasingly common, in recent weeks even sending some Chadians fleeing into Darfur. An aid worker told IRIN that a 10-year-old girl was recently struck by a bullet to the chest in the eastern Chadian town of Adre and evacuated to the capital, N’djamena.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan last month said tensions in the region must be brought under control. “It is vitally important that the situation in the border areas of Chad and the conflicts in the Sudan do not combine to propel the two countries and the whole region towards confrontation and conflict.”