- With rebels from Darfur increasingly operating on the Chadian side of the border and an upcoming controversial referendum, military tension is increasing all over Chad. In the capital, N'djamena, armed forces this weekend carried out an operation against suspected coup plotters.
The security situation in eastern Chad is reported to remain "volatile" by humanitarian workers in the region close to the Sudanese border. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), which distributes food among 180,000 Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad, the situation here was marked by an "incursion of armed men and pursuit of rebels."
Both the feared Janjaweed militia - accused of trying to commit genocide in Darfur - and the Darfuri rebel groups SLA and JEM are reported to increasingly operate in Chad, where all of them have local support and are supplied with arms. The Zaghawa are the majority people of eastern Chad, and also a major people targeted by the Janjaweed militias. The Janjaweed, on the other hand, are composed of people termed "Arabs" in the region, who also live on both side of the border.
Chadian authorities have observed an increased influx of armed groups from both sides of the Darfuri conflict during the last weeks. A curfew has recently been set in Guéréda, eastern Chad, where potential clashes are predicted between Chadian regular forces and Sudanese rebels. Chadian troops, as humanitarian workers, are however still hindered in their movements by the rainy season.
While the potential of ethnic clashes is increasing in the volatile east, political tension in N'djamena is causing the government and foreigners to be on high alert. An increasing violence in N'djamena has already been registered, and is attributed to an upcoming controversial referendum.
The Chadian population is to vote over a constitutional amendment, approved by Parliament in May this year, which would allow President Idriss Deby to seek more than the two presidential terms currently approved. Opposition politicians and other foes of the President - who came to power in a 1990 military coup - fear that the authoritarian leader is preparing for a lifetime presidency.
Ever since a mutiny in May this year, Chadian troops have been on alert regarding a possible coup plot against President Deby. This weekend, security forces again launched a major operation in N'djamena, reportedly against soldiers of questionable loyalties. According to the government, military weapons had been secured during the operation in the capital.
Not only democrats are mobilising against President Deby and his plans to seek more presidential terms. The Chadian military and civilian leadership is mostly of the Zaghawa people, as is the President, and many blame Mr Deby for not doing enough to aid the many Zaghawas targeted by the Janjaweed in Darfur.
Also the sudden start of Chad's oil production and oil exports - started in June this year through the World Bank-financed Cameroon-Chad pipeline - is said to have fuelled the power struggle in N'djamena. Revenues from Chad's Doba oil fields, according to deals struck with the World Bank, primarily are to be channelled towards fighting poverty.
The armed forces, traditionally powerful in Chad, are awarded little extra revenues from the new export commodity. As oil revenues are starting to reach the country's fiscal authorities, soldiers and officers are increasingly discontent with poor conditions in army barracks.
The international community meanwhile is highly concerned over potential instabilities in Chad, as the country forms the lifeline for humanitarian aid to the estimated 1.2 million Darfuris displaced by the conflict in Western Sudan. Most humanitarian operations into Darfur are commenced in eastern Chad.
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