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State of Emergency Takes Effect in North, Eastern Chad

Chad's government says recent violence that spurred it to call a state of emergency on Tuesday will not derail on-going peace talks. But as Naomi Schwarz reports from Dakar, analysts say peace is a long way off.

Houmadji Moussa Doumgor, spokesman for Chad's government, says the government will use the state of emergency to prevent further fighting.

The government imposed the 12-day state of emergency in Chad's north and east after at least 20 people died in violence between ethnic-Tama and Zaghawa communities. Rebel leader turned defense minister, Mahamat Nour, belongs to the Tama ethnic group. Chad's president, Idriss Deby, belongs to the Zaghawa community.

Government spokesman Doumgor says military and civil authorities will intervene directly and survey all comings and goings to prevent continued attacks.

The troubled border area between Chad and Sudan has long been a conflict zone. There is fighting among different ethnic communities as well as fighting between the Chad government and various rebel factions. Sudan's Darfur conflict also spills over the border.

The government has been in months-long peace talks with rebel leaders from the four major rebel groups. Doumgor says they are close to a deal.

He says an accord has been reached and all now a conference must be organized to sign the agreement. He adds that the recent violence and the state of emergency will not slow the peace process.

But experts says the multiple conflicts are all connected. They say some rebel factions have not agreed to the peace talks.

Annette Rehrl, based in the city of Abeche for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, says the flare-up was predictable.

"I think the violence has been interrupted only by celebrating Ramadan for the past month. So we were expecting it, it is not completely news to us, because we are still in a very volatile and very dangerous political situation here," said Rehrl.

The Muslim month of dawn to dusk fasting ended late last week.

Rehrl says she does not believe peace is around the corner.

"We still have a long, long way to go. Which on the other hand does not mean we should ever give up hope. But yeah, we still have a long way to go on both sides," she said.

Rebel leader Mahamat Nour joined the government earlier this year and has agreed to sign the pending peace agreement. Nevertheless, he has been quoted in Chadian media as saying it will be a "partial peace" and rebel fighting will continue.

European foreign ministers have approved sending 3,000 peacekeepers into Chad and neighboring Central African Republic. The troops are to arrive in mid-November.