Chad Creates Inquiry into Rebel Attack



Chad's government has created an official inquiry to look into the events surrounding a rebel attack on Chad's capital, N'Djamena, a month ago. But human rights activists say the inquiry will not be independent. For VOA, Naomi Schwarz has more from Dakar.

More than 250 civilians are reported to have died and at least three prominent members of Chad's opposition disappeared during the rebel attack on the capital.

Now Chad's authorities have created a commission to investigate what really happened during the attack that nearly toppled the government.

But Reed Brody, of New York-based Human Rights Watch says to be effective, an inquiry would have to look critically at the government's role in the events.

"It is going to be led by the President of the Chadian National Assembly a former prime minister who is a close ally of President Idriss Deby," said Brody. "So it does not look like it is going to be an independent commission."

According to Chadian national radio, the commission will also include representatives from France, the European Union, and the African Union. The Red Cross refused to participate, saying it would compromise their neutrality.

Brody says he would welcome a commission run by an outside body, such as the United Nations, but that this commission is unlikely to clear up questions surrounding the disappearances of opposition leaders.

"[What] the government needs to do is to explain where it is holding Ibni [Oumar Saleh Mohamet] and why it arrested Yorongar and then apparently set him loose on the 21st of February," said Brody.

Ibni Oumar Saleh Mohamet and Ngorlejy Yorongar, along with former president Lol Mahamet Choua, are prominent members of the political opposition. They disappeared during the rebel attacks, and many accused Chad's government of profiting from the chaos to stifle its opponents.

There is still no sign of Saleh Mohamet.

The government initially denied involvement in the disappearances, but later acknowledged that Choua had been detained as a prisoner of war, and put under house arrest. He was later freed.

Yorongar eventually surfaced in Cameroon, where he said he said he had fled after being detained by government forces for more than two weeks.

Brody says Human Rights Watch investigations have concluded the government also detained Saleh Mohamet. And he says, based on testimony by fellow prisoner, Yorongar, some fear Saleh Mohamet died in custody.

"Yorongar has said that he was held for over two weeks in very difficult conditions, that he saw the others, that he is afraid at a certain point, he stopped seeing Ibni Oumar [Saleh Mohamet] and he is worried that perhaps he died in prison," said Brody. "And we are very worried that Ibni Oumar Mohamet Saleh may have died and that is why the government has not produced him."

The European Union is sending a peacekeeping force of nearly 4,000 soldiers to eastern Chad to protect refugees and displaced people. But some say the international community should intervene more directly to restore peace in Chad.


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