Chad threatens to kick out Darfur refugees for bringing 'insecurity'

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The Independent Online

Chad has threatened to expel any more refugees from Sudan's Darfur region, saying their presence is triggering insecurity, and called on the international community to take them away.

The Prime Minister, Nouradine Delwa Kassire Coumakoye, said the influx of refugees into eastern Chad risked becoming a "bone of contention" between the two countries and said that if the international community did not relocate them, it would do so.

Tensions are already high between N'Djamena and Khartoum after an assault on the Chadian capital a week ago by Chadian rebels based in Darfur. Chad accuses Sudan of backing the rebels, a charge it denies.

"Chad can no longer support something so harmful to it," Mr Coumakoye said. "Refugees bring insecurity. Today, Chad is under attack from Sudan because of these refugees. We ask quite simply that they be moved. If not, we will do so. Their presence is causing us problems. We have had enough. We will move them in the superior interest of our country. We can no longer continue to sacrifice our people."

Thousands more refugees fled into Chad over the weekend to escape Sudanese army and militia attacks in west Darfur, underlining the urgency of a planned deployment by European Union peacekeepers (Eufor) to eastern Chad. Eufor has a UN mandate to protect the 500,000 refugees from Darfur. But EU commanders suspended deployment during intense fighting in and around N'Djamena during the rebel assault.

"We're determined it's going to happen and we expect that it will happen this week," said Dan Harvey, a spokesman for Eufor in Paris. But an alliance of Chad's rebel groups urged EU member states not to send troops, saying the force would not be neutral because it was dominated by the former colonial power, France, which is contributing more than half of the 3,700 Eufor soldiers.

The rebels accuse France of using tanks and helicopters, part of a French contingent based in Chad, to help President Idriss Déby beat off their assault on N'Djamena. France denies that its forces were directly involved in combat. John Holmes, UN emergency relief co-ordinator, said the security situation was worrying because so many aid workers were evacuated from N'Djamena and the east, where hundreds of thousands of refugees rely on aid. "We will need to have a lot of aid material, particularly food, in place before the raints in April," he said.

Eufor has insisted that its forces will remain neutral, but the rebels said France's "unconditional support" for President Déby, whose opponents denounce him as corrupt and dictatorial, meant Eufor could not be neutral.

After battles in the capital a week ago that killed at least 165 people and injured more than 800, the rebels have moved back towards the Sudanese border.

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