Chad rejects peace talk with neighboring Sudan

Published on Tuesday 1st July 2008

N'Djamena: Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno on Wednesday ruled out any possibility of meeting his Sudanese counterpart Omar Hassan al-Bashir to discuss peace.

The president, who was speaking during an interview with Radio France International (RFI) on the sidelines of an African Union summit in Egypt, appeared to dim prospects for a negotiated settlement to end a long-running dispute with neighboring Sudan.

The two countries, which share a common border running along the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur, have been accusing one another over the presence of two near identical rebel movements in their respective territories.

"I don't need to meet Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir... I'm for peace in this region, but I have no need to meet someone who has never kept his commitments," President Deby, who is currently attending the AU summit at Sharm el-Sheikh, told the Paris-base RFI.

For a long time now, Chad and Sudan, both budding oil-producers, have been at loggerheads over the presence of the insurgent groups and have signed a series of peace agreements with the aim of pacifying their relations but with little success.

During the interview with the state-run RFI, the Chadian head of state was quick to accuse the Sudanese side of failing to honor a non-aggression pact that was signed by the two leaders during an Islamic in Senegal in mid-March.

Since the signing of the agreement, which was described by its main architect, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, as the final solution, "a lot of water has passed under the bridge," in the words of an AU diplomat.

Darfur-based Sudanese rebels opposed to Bashir successfully launched a daring raid against the Sudanese capital of Khartoum for the first time in May. On the other hand, Chadian rebels attacked and seized several towns in eastern Chad before the government troops managed to beat them back in June. Both countries have been trading mutual accusations over the attacks.

Speaking to RFI, President Deby further played down Chadian rebel National Alliance calls for an all-inclusive political dialogue, saying that its members were "not rebels but mercenaries."

The rebels, who in early February almost managed to topple the Chadian regime during a raid on N'Djamena, have consistently accused Deby, since he seized power in 1990, as being corrupt and dictatorial.

"If they were reasonable people and came out of the shadows of the Sudanese, if they decided to become Chadians once again, then, of course, we would be ready to talk with them, but not under the current conditions," said the Chadian president.

President Deby told the RFI that arms and prisoners captured from the rebels during the so-called Battle of Am Zoer had shown that they were clearly backed by the Sudanese armed forces. Both Khartoum and the Chadian rebels, through their spokesmen, have dismissed this allegation "as lacking in substance."

In his comments, President Deby also took a swipe and leveled criticism on the performance of EUFOR, a UN-mandated European Union peacekeeping force, that is being deployed in eastern Chad to protect internally displaced persons, refugees, civilians and aid workers.

Speaking after a rebel column attacked and briefly occupied an eastern Chadian town surrounded by refugee camps under the protection of an Irish battalion on June 14, Deby had accused the EUFOR of "closing its eyes" to rebel raids.

EUFOR military commanders in Chad have defended their troops' actions during last month's rebel offensive, saying they protected the refugees and maintained their neutrality by staying out of the internal war between Deby and the rebels.