The security situation in eastern Chad continues to worsen – and UN officials say conditions are becoming similar to those in neighboring Darfur. Violence is on the rise and many are trying to find a safe haven.
Matthew Conway is a spokesperson for the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR. From Abeche in eastern Chad, he told VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua that Sudanese refugees are fleeing Darfur and Chadians are fleeing their villages.
“Southeastern Chad has been a particularly troublesome area for displacement of Chadians. There’s been a lot of inter-communal violence over the past month. We still don’t have a firm grip on how many we may be talking about, but it’s certainly in the thousands.“
Meanwhile, today (Friday) we’ve begun the transfer of recently arrived Sudanese refugees from the small village of Birak to Kounoungou camp, which is run by our field office in Guerada,” says Conway.
Conway says the violence occurs along most, if not all, of the Chad/Sudan border. In recent days, he visited a number of the villages that had been attacked by armed men on camel and horseback.
“I was quite shocked by what I saw and to the degree to which the situation had deteriorated. It was already difficult to begin with. But the extent of the burning and pillaging of villages and the amount of people who have been killed, wounded and displaced is really quite dramatic,” he says.
Conway visited a hospital in Goz Beda when he met a man whose eyes had been gouged out. He says gunmen became angry when they tried to kill the man and their weapons jammed, so they gouged out his eyes with a bayonet.
He says, “The need for some kind of international presences here in eastern Chad is absolutely imperative. These people are so vulnerable to attack and there is really no mechanism in place to protect these people.”