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Chad Government: Ready to Send Troops Into Darfur


Chad has announced it is ready to cross into neighboring Sudan in the pursuit of renegade soldiers aiming to topple the president. Chad has accused authorities in Darfur of harboring the rebels.

Chad's Defense Minister Bichara Issa Djadallah accused local authorities in Sudan's troubled western Darfur province of being allied with a new armed group seeking to overthrow Chadian President Idriss Deby.

The armed group, the Platform for Change, National Unity and Democracy is believed to be composed largely of Chadian army deserters. The group, known as SCUD, claims a following of about 600 fighters.

A wave of mutinies has recently swept through the ranks of the army. The government in Ndjamena says only 80 soldiers have left their posts. Some, it says, later surrendered. Others, it says, slipped over Chad's porous border with neighboring Sudan.

Chadian opposition member of parliament Yorongar Ngarledgi says Mr. Deby's government is taking a huge risk in threatening to send troops into the sovereign territory of its neighbor.

The government need only send troops after the rebels, he says. The Sudanese government, he says, will not just stand by and watch Chad's soldiers create even more trouble in Darfur.

But an Africa analyst with the London-based research firm Global Insight, Chris Melville, says this latest move may simply be an effort to pressure Sudan, and its ruling National Islamic Front (NIF) to do more to pursue Chadian rebels on its territory.

"There is an ongoing alliance between the government in Khartoum and the government in Ndjamena," explained Mr. Melville. "President Deby is pursuing a broadly pro-Khartoum policy. While senior elements of the NIF regime are anxious that Deby remain in power in Chad, because the most likely alternative is a government much better disposed to the Darfuri rebel groups against which Khartoum has been fighting for the past two and a half years."

President Deby's tribal clan has ethnic links with Darfur rebels.

Analysts believe some of the disaffected soldiers who joined the Platform for Change, National Unity and Democracy are from the president's ethnic group and feel Chad should support the rebels in Darfur.

Mr. Deby dissolved the elite Republican Guard last week, replacing it with a new, smaller army corps charged with assuring his safety.

Mr. Melville says the decision risks backfiring by increasing SCUD's numbers. Any increase in rebel or military activity in the area, he say, could only lead to a deterioration of the situation in Darfur and eastern Chad.

"Any members of the Republican Guard who were wavering already and are now faced with integration into the regular armed forces or even demobilization may well be encouraged to desert to SCUD in the east of the country," he explained.

Relations between Ndjamena and Khartoum have soured recently. President Deby has accused janjaweed militia loyal to Sudan's government of raiding Chadian villages.

The same ethnic groups exist on both sides of the border between the two countries. Hundreds of thousands of refugees from fighting in Darfur have fled into eastern Chad during the past two years.

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