afrol News, 18 June - There is growing evidence that the Darfur conflict is spilling across the Sudanese border into eastern Chad. The government supported Sudanese Janjaweed militia is reported to recruit inside Chad and fighting is increasingly noted on the Chadian side of the border. 69 Janjaweed militiamen were recently killed by Chadian troops.
Authorities in Chad's capital N'djamena are reported to be increasingly concerned that the disastrous Darfur conflict may spread into its territory. Also the UN and humanitarian organisations are worried as they concentrate their Darfur relief work in bases in eastern Chad, which houses over 110,000 Sudanese refugees.
Eastern Chad indeed has the potential of becoming the expansion of the Darfurian killing fields. Ethnic divisions follow the same lines as on the Sudanese side of the border. An "Arab" minority of nomadic herdsmen is opposed to the "black African" majority population of sedentary farmers. The ancient Darfur Kingdom - one of pre-colonial Africa's most long-lasting empires - often included what now is eastern Chad.
The most concerning reports from eastern Chad hold that the "Arab" Janjaweed militia - which is accused of ethnic cleansing in Darfur - is now recruiting "Arabs" in eastern Chad to join their files. Ahmad Allami, a personal advisor of Chadian President Idriss Deby, today told this to the UN media Irin.
- The Janjaweed are recruiting elements in Chad, he said in an interview in N'djamena. "These are exclusively Arabs. This situation risks degenerating into an inter-ethnic war between a coalition of Arabs and other ethnic groups in the region," Mr Allami added.
So far, fighting on Chadian soil has resulted from Janjaweed border-crossings when following Darfurian anti-government militias and civilians escaping into Chad. Several heavy artillery cross-border attacks have also been attributed to the regular armed forces of Sudan, but have been excused as errors.
Chadian authorities today however informed about an escalation of Janjaweed operations in Chad. According to Communications Minister Mouckhtar Wawa Dahab, 69 Janjaweed militia members recently were killed by Chadian troops near the village of Birak, six kilometres inside Chad. Two more militiamen were captured, according to the Minister.
This is the largest Janjaweed operation within Chad registered so far. N'djamena authorities are convinced that the Sudanese militiamen were not confused about where the Chadian-Sudanese border is located, but indeed had businesses in Chad. "There is a hidden force trying to export the conflict between the Sudanese into Chad," Mr Allami told the press today.
While the Janjaweed seems to be trying to recruit Chadian "Arabs" to spread the conflict into the neighbour country, conditions in Chad are different from Sudan. In Darfur, the Janjaweed has been able to count on the ample support from the Arab-dominated Khartoum government, which is reported to have armed the militia and is observed to operate at their side.
In Chad, on the other hand, central authorities and the population majority are not affiliated to the Arabic speaking nomad population, which forms a rather significant minority. President Deby and many high government officials are indeed closer related to those peoples suffering from Janjaweed campaigns within Sudanese Darfur.
A rebellion among Chad's "Arab" minority could however create great instability in the Central African country, in particular if rebels were to be armed and supported from the Sudanese side of the border. The significant cultural differences between the "Arab" and "black African" population groups hold a great potential for ethnic conflict in eastern Chad.
So far, Chadian authorities have addressed the crisis by playing a major part in the peace negotiations between the warring parties in Darfur. Further, Chad has welcomed large numbers of Darfurian refugees and cooperates thoroughly with the UN and humanitarian agencies trying to meet the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and in the refugee camps.
As the conflict is threatening to spread into Chad, however, N'djamena authorities are becoming sceptical towards the Sudanese government. The Chadian government today went far in threatening to stop hosting the Darfur peace talks if there were not made efforts on the Sudanese side to contain the infiltration of Janjaweed militias in Chad.
Chad is slipping into becoming a party to the conflict as armed action on its territory increases. Pressure is also high on President Deby to speak up against the slaughtering of his kinsmen in Darfur by militias armed by the Sudanese government. A recent army uprising in N'djamena is commonly understood to have been a protest against Chad's failure to condemn the Khartoum government, and a tougher line from President Deby is now expected.
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