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New wave of inter-ethnic violence swamps eastern Chad, UN refugee agency reports

New wave of inter-ethnic violence swamps eastern Chad, UN refugee agency reports

Displaced Chadian women near Goz Amir refugee camp
With the end of the rainy season, a feared new wave of inter-ethnic violence has hit remote eastern Chad along its increasingly tense border with Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

“In scenes of devastation similar to the carnage just across the border, at least 10 Chadian villages have been attacked, looted, burned and emptied by alleged Arab-led groups since early October,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a report from the Chadian town of Koukou.

“Dozens of people have been reported killed and many more wounded. At least 2,000 Chadians were forced to flee several villages after they came under attack, or out of fear that they would eventually be targeted.”

UNHCR operates a dozen camps in eastern Chad for 218,000 Sudanese who have fled from three years of fighting between Sudan’s Government, allied militia and rebels in Darfur. Now it must also contend with growing numbers of internally displaced Chadians as the Darfur crisis threatens to further destabilize the region. The agency has urged an international peace-keeping presence in eastern Chad.

Many of the attacked Chadian villages were hosting displaced people who had fled earlier this year before a rainy season lull in the violence. Some 50,000 Chadians were displaced prior to the latest violence.

The current hostilities, which erupted in early October and swiftly escalated, reportedly involved a dispute between ethnic Arabs and black African Dadjos. “War broke out in our village. People were killed. We don’t even know yet who was killed,” said a displaced Dadjo man, sitting under a tree with his family.

“Some of the attackers were on horseback. Others were on foot. Some were wearing military uniforms. They had no vehicles,” he added. “They told us: ‘If you stay, we’ll kill you. If you flee, we’ll kill you.’”

UNHCR and its partners are providing displaced Chadians with basic relief items such as plastic sheeting for shelter, mosquito nets, buckets, jerry cans and soap.

Even though the displaced are anxious to return home before this month’s harvest, UNHCR and its partners are preparing them for other possibilities. If insecurity prevents them from going home immediately, the Chadians will have to move to one of two sites that have been made accessible to humanitarian agencies.