afrol News, 4 October - The UFR rebels, which came close to topple Chad's government in 2008, are negotiating the closure of their Darfur bases with Sudanese authorities. An intended transfer to the Central African Republic meanwhile is becoming complicated.
Early in 2008, the Chadian Union of Resistance Forces (UFR) rebel group was closing in on N'djamena, threatening to overthrow the government of President Idriss Deby. The UFR rebels had their bases in Sudan's Darfur and were widely believed to have been trained and financed by Sudan.
Chadian troops loyal to President Deby were able to drive the UFR rebels back to eastern Chad and across the border to Sudan. But during the last year, relations between Chad and Sudan have slowly normalised, and now the UFR bases are becoming a problem for Sudanese authorities.
Especially, the establishment of a joint Chad-Sudan border patrolling force last year has furthered trust between the neighbours. Sudan and Chad share one of Africa's longest common borders, which in addition is located in an instable region. The joint border patrol has made UFR operations in Chad more complicated.
Last week, the Sudanese government announced even tougher action on the rebels it earlier had promoted. UFR bases in Sudan were to be closed down, the Chadian rebels were to be disarmed and the rebel group dismantled. The UFR's fight against Chadian authorities was to be halted.
UFR spokesman Abderaman Koulamallah denies this sudden end of the group's armed struggle in a statement made to afrol News. The UFR was to continue to "fight for a more just society in Chad, where human rights are to be respected," Mr Koulamallah assured.
Regarding the Sudanese plan to disarm and dismantle the UFR, spokesman Koulamallah said media reports about this decision were exaggerated. "Discussions between the UFR and Sudanese authorities are underway to find an outcome acceptable to all parties," the spokesman insisted.
Mr Koulamallah however said he could understand the Sudanese position. "The question of our armed presence in the territory of Sudan is a matter of longstanding concern for Sudanese authorities since the warming of relations between Chad and Sudan," he admitted.
He added that the UFR would be willing to leave its Sudanese bases voluntarily "because of the friendly ties that bind us." The Chadian rebels had always "understood the will of Sudan to secure its borders and improve relations with its neighbours" and the UFR would "not oppose this policy," according to Mr Koulamallah.
Indeed, the Chadian rebels for some months have prepared for a relocation from their Sudanese bases to the chronically unstable Central African Republic - a country that border both Sudan and southern Chad. While not invited by the Central African government, the UFR holds it can make use of the power vacuum in the north of the country, taking control of areas close to the Chadian border.
But the transfer from western Sudan to northern Central African Republic has not been as smooth and quick as the UFR had hoped. The Sudan-CAR border has been better controlled than expected and Sudanese authorities had not been helpful in the relocation exercise.
Therefore, the UFR is now trying to negotiate their exodus with Sudanese authorities. The rebels are in a bad position, "weakened and divided," according to Chadian observers. If Sudanese authorities insist on disarming the UFR, the rebels would have little to put up against the demand.
Official reports from the Sudanese army last week indicate that the UFR can expect little assistance from Khartoum. Colonel Fatah al-Rahim Abdalla Suleiman, Sudan's deputy commander of the Chad-Sudan border patrolling force, announced that Sudan and the Central African Republic now also had agreed on a joint border patrol.
"This contingent is soon to be established," the Sudanese military official told the official news agency 'SUNA'. The Khartoum news agency in its report in particular pointed to the Sudan-CAR border crossing of Chadian UFR rebels as one of the reasons for an increased need for an intensified joint border control.
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