Chad President, Rebels to Sign Peace Accord in Libya

Naomi Schwarz

Rebel leaders and Chad's president Idriss Deby are in Libya to sign a peace deal in the conflict that has roiled the eastern part of Chad. But Naomi Schwarz reports from Dakar, a recent upsurge in fighting leaves some doubt the accord will bring peace to the region.

One of the signers of the peace deal, from the rebel group the Union of the Forces for Democracy and Fundamental Development, Amine Ben Barka, says this is an important step forward for Chad.

He says the rebels have made concessions and so has the government, and what is most important is for everyone to respect the terms of the agreement.

He says the problems that led the rebels to resort to violence still exist, but with peace both sides can work together to find solutions.

The rebels have accused the government of human rights abuses, economic neglect and oil-revenue corruption.

Government spokesmen have expressed optimism the new deal will help bring calm to the troubled area.

Chad's eastern region, along the border with Sudan, has been embroiled in violence for four years. Rebel groups fighting to topple the government combine with ethnic clashes and spill over from Sudan's Darfur conflict.

Peace accords have been signed with various rebel groups in the past. This is the most comprehensive in that it includes all four of the main rebel movements.

The text of the agreement has not been made public, but it calls for rebel troops to be integrated into the national army and for rebel leaders to be included in the government.

But many express skepticism the new accord will have real impact on the ground.

After months of relative calm during the rainy season and the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, rebel groups and Chad's government renewed fighting last week.

An analyst for the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies, Paul Simon Hendy, says these clashes underline the difficulty facing the peace process.

"The current skirmishes in the eastern part of the country are actually between government troops and the troops of a former rebel who is actually the defense minister now, Mahamat Nour. So actually these troops are supposed not to be rebel troops anymore, but integrated in the national army," he said.

Nour has participated in the Tripoli negotiations. But he has been quoted in Chadian media as saying the accord will only bring partial peace and rebels will continue fighting.

Ethnic violence earlier last week led the government to declare a state of emergency in three regions in the east and north of the country.

Hendy says he fears Mr. Deby is merely biding his time until international peacekeepers arrive. He says a peacekeeping force will probably serve to consolidate Mr. Deby's power.

Three-thousand EU peacekeepers are expected to arrive within a few weeks. The force leader, Patrick Nash has said they will be well-armed and mobile in order to fulfill their mission of safe-guarding refugees, civilians and aid workers in the region.

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