Inter-communal violence spiralling out of control in south-east Chad, UN warns
“The violence, which has left more than 220 dead, appears to mirror that of the neighbouring Darfur region of Sudan,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva. “We fear the inter-communal hostilities are spiralling out of control and could threaten the entire south-eastern region of Chad.”
He said accounts from displaced Chadians bear a striking similarity – the assailants are almost always identified as being of Arab ethnicity, often known personally by victims as neighbours with whom they had lived for generations. They are often well-armed, particularly with Kalashnikovs; on horseback, camelback or in trucks; sometimes in military attire, sometimes in civilian attire.
In just the past week some 5,000 newly displaced Chadians have converged on a site for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Habile, 45 kilometres southeast of Goz Beida.
“In all, there are now some 68,000 Chadians who have been displaced within eastern Chad in a series of attacks over the past year,” Mr. Redmond added.
UN officials have repeatedly warned of a spill-over to neighbouring countries of the deadly violence in Sudan’s Darfur region where over three years of fighting between the Government, allied militias, and rebels seeking more autonomy and development have killed scores of thousands of people and uprooted more than 2 million others.
“With new attacks reported daily in south-eastern Chad, UNHCR is extremely worried that an already volatile situation is continuing to deteriorate,” Mr. Redmond said, noting that the Chadian Government yesterday declared a state of emergency. “UNHCR remains concerned by the difficult humanitarian situation and the difficulties we’re facing in properly assisting local residents, internally displaced people and refugees.”
Since 4 November, at least 20 villages have been attacked south of Goz Beida. A UNHCR-led interagency mission to assess the recently-attacked village of Louboutigue yesterday had to flee when gunfire, believed to be warning shots, were fired from nearby millet fields by unseen gunmen. “No one was injured, but it was just a small sampling of the terror that tens of thousands of Chadians are now experiencing daily in the southeast,” Mr. Redmond added.
In the village of Bandicao, residents have warned relief agencies that it is not safe to send ambulances to evacuate the wounded because of gunmen lying in wait. Government forces were sent yesterday to Kerfi to evacuate the wounded to the hospital in Goz Beida where capacity has been stretched in recent days with the arrival of 70 wounded.
There are not enough beds and many patients are recuperating from serious wounds on mats under trees outside. To help ease the strain on the hospital, UNHCR has provided 10 large tents to house patients along with sleeping mats. Other agencies also provided assistance, including bandages and medicine.