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Chad President Breaks Diplomatic Ties With Sudan

  • Raymond Thibodeaux

Chadian President Idriss Deby announced Friday that his country was cutting diplomatic ties with Sudan, which he claims is backing a rebel group seeking to overthrow him.

The streets of N'Djamena were relatively quiet on Friday, in stark contrast to the violence and mayhem that took place a day earlier, when the government says its troops squashed an uprising by rebels who had stormed the capital's northern edge.

The attempted coup, the second in Chad in about a month, has had severe political fallout, ratcheting up tension between Chad and its eastern neighbor, Sudan.

Chadian President Idriss Deby announced Friday that his country is cutting ties with Sudan and kicking out Sudanese diplomats. He also threatened to expel the 200,000 refugees from Sudan's Darfur crisis, who are huddled in squalid camps in Chad's eastern deserts.

Earlier in the day, about 150 people the government says were captured rebels from the United Front for Change rebel group, and many of their confiscated weapons, were put on display in the city's Independence Square, as hundreds of ordinary Chadians looked on.

For Sebastien Bes, a French national living in N'Djamena, the violence was too close for comfort. He is a manager at the Libya Hotel, which is located directly across the street from the country's National Assembly, where some of the fiercest fighting in the capital took place Thursday.

"Of course, we were scared," he said. "We were scared about the rebels coming in. We were scared, [that] the regular army was shooting the rebels. So, we had a few bullets coming through here. We had a few windows broken, but that's it."

A hotel work crew was busy repairing window panels and marble tiles that were pocked by bullets from Thursday's clashes. Soon after the fighting began, Bes led the hotel's guests and staff - about 60 in all, to the hotel basement for safety.

Some here in the capital believe the relative calm will not last long. There have been reports of unrest outside the capital.

Others, like Bes, say the rebel movement was dealt a serious blow Thursday. Still, no one is sure what will happen next.

"We don't know what can happen, if it's going to happen again or not. But for this one, it's over," he said.

President Deby has accused the Khartoum government of backing rebels seeking to oust him. Sudan denies the allegation and accuses Chad of backing rebels in Darfur, who have been fighting Sudan's government and its allied Arab militias since 2003.