Envoy cites ‘quiet war’ between Chad, Sudan

N’DJAMENA (AFP) — A “quiet war” is under way between Chad and Sudan fuelled by instability in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, a special US envoy said here Saturday.

Andrew Natsios, Washington’s special envoy to Darfur, said he had asked leaders of both sides to stop supporting rebel movements on each others’ territories.

“There’s in fact a quiet war going on between the two countries, which is related in my view to the instability in Darfur,” he said in the Chadian capital after days of talks with government and rebel leaders.

“I asked [Sudanese President Omar] Bashir to stop supporting Chadian rebels that are destabilising Chad and I asked the Chadian government to stop supporting rebels in Darfur,” he said.

“Unless both governments are cooperating, we are not going to have an end to the war.” Natsios held talks with Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno and other officials here on Thursday and met rebel leaders in the area bordering Darfur on Friday. He met Sudanese officials in Khartoum last month.

His visit is part of international efforts to convince the Sudanese government to allow the deployment of some 20,000 UN-led peacekeepers to Darfur.

More than 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million fled their homes in Darfur as a result of a four-year-old war pitting ethnic African rebels against government troops and group armed by the Arab-led Sudanese administration.

Khartoum has rejected allegations that it is backing cross-border attacks by Chadian and Central African Republic (CAR) insurgents and in turn accuses Chad and CAR of supporting rebels in Darfur.

The UN is also considering deploying a protection force in Chad and CAR that would shield displaced people and try to deter cross-border raids by insurgent forces.

Natsios said he had urged Sudanese rebel leaders to “consider moving back to the negotiating table in a unified way” and to drop their stated goals of overthrowing the Sudanese government, which were obstructing talks.

“You cannot negotiate with someone you try to overthrow, and I asked them to make a public statement renouncing the use of force to change the regime in Sudan,” he said.

The war in Darfur erupted in February 2003 when rebels from minority tribes in the vast western province took up arms to demand an equal share of national resources, prompting a heavy-handed crackdown from Sudanese government forces and the Janjaweed. The Khartoum government signed a peace agreement in May 2006 with the main faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army, led by Minni Minnawi, but others refused to put their names to the pact.

The United Nations in July called on the Sudanese government to accept the deployment of 20,000 UN peacekeepers to halt the violence in Darfur.

Bashir steadfastly rejected any large-scale UN troop deployment but later endorsed a three-phase plan for the deployment of a “hybrid” AU-UN peacekeeping force.

Sudan has said it is not opposed to the deployment of UN forces inside Chad, as long as they do not cross the border.

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