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Cablegate: Chad: Fighting Continues, Defense Minister Fired

VZCZCXRO1339
RR RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHNJ #0920/01 3361251
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 021251Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY NDJAMENA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5928
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUEHGI/AMEMBASSY BANGUI 1446
RUEHYD/AMEMBASSY YAOUNDE 1628

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NDJAMENA 000920

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

LONDON AND PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREF PREL CD SU
SUBJECT: CHAD: FIGHTING CONTINUES, DEFENSE MINISTER FIRED

REF: NDJAMENA 916

NDJAMENA 00000920 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: Heaving fighting continues between the
government and rebel factions in eastern Chad, with
significant casualties among the President's clan. President
Deby returned to N'Djamena on December 1 to commemorate 17
years in power and to fire the Defense Minister (former FUC
rebel Mahamat Nour) before returning to the front. It remains
to be seen whether the long-anticipated rupture with Nour
will result in the migration of FUC troops back to the
rebellion. End summary.

2. (SBU) Fighting between the Chadian national army (french
acronym ANT) and the rebel groups UFDD and RFC continues in
the east, with the current locus around the town of Biltine.
The ANT continues to mobilize and move additional troops to
the east. (One of two U.S.-trained Pan-Sahel Initiative (PSI)
battalions has been at the front since the commencement of
hostilities.) French planes are ferrying in wounded soldiers
to N'Djamena. The military hospitals are overflowing, and
throngs of family members are camped outside awaiting word on
the wounded. The most serious cases have been flown on to
Dakar, Tripoli and Cairo. Cameroon has also offered to take
wounded soldiers for treatment.

3. (SBU) The annual commemoration of President Deby's
accession to power was celebrated as usual with a military
parade on December 1. The President returned from the east
to attend the parade, and then flew back to Abeche.
President Deby walked and stood at attention, but he did not
deliver an address (the Al-Wihda website had reported that he
was injured on November 29, but this has not been confirmed).


4. (SBU) Later that day the Foreign Minister convoked the
diplomatic corps and the press to deliver a statement on the
situation. Foreign Minister Allam-mi said that the rebels
were solely responsible for violating the peace agreement.
The GOC had sent a military commission to Khartoum to discuss
the cantonment/disarmament of the rebels. This was
consistent with the terms of the peace agreement signed
October 25 in Sirte, Libya. However, the rebels claimed that
a political level delegation should have been sent instead,
and used this as a pretext to re-launch the rebellion.
Foreign Minister Allam-mi noted that the terms of the peace
agreement originally called for cantonment and disarmament
over three months; it was RFC leader Timan Erdimi who had
unilaterally changed the three months to one month.

5. (SBU) Foreign Minister Allam-mi informed the group that
he had called in "his brother" the Sudanese Ambassador to
state that Chad would not tolerate the fact that Chadian
rebels continued to use Sudanese territory and receive
Sudanese support. However, he softened his comments by
adding that this was not the first crisis between Sudan and
Chad, and it was hoped that friendship and "good neighborly"
relations would resume. He also called on the international
community to vigorously condemn - or at least deplore - the
acts of the rebels who had clearly broken the cease-fire.
(Comment: Interestingly, the Sudanese Ambassador was present
at the Foreign Minister's convocation and greeted colleagues
with no trace of coldness. During previous periods of
tension between the two countries he has always been absent
from such meetings. End comment)

6. (SBU) In response to a question from a BBC reporter,
Allam-mi confirmed that Minister of Defense Mahamat Nour had
been fired and was currently at the Libyan embassy. Allam-mi
explained that some FUC elements had joined up with the
rebels to fight the ANT in Guereda; they had been ordered to
return to Abeche and had refused. He expressed confidence
that the peace agreement with the FUC would still hold
despite the recent events, and explained that most FUC
elements were already integrated into the government. (Note:
a new Defense Minister has not been named. End note)

7. (SBU) International and humanitarian organizations in
eastern Chad are continuing to work without serious
disruption. As in previous episodes of ANT/rebel
confrontation, the humanitarian community does not feel
directly targeted. (At the same time they recognize the
dangers of being caught in the crossfire.) The
Exxon-Mobil-run oil consortium has not significantly changed
its security posture. Over the weekend it imposed a 10 p.m.
curfew for travel in personal vehicles and warned about
police and military checkpoints. The Embassy has also
alerted Americans in Chad to the presence of police and
military checkpoints and encouraged Americans to avoid

NDJAMENA 00000920 002.2 OF 002


traveling at night.

COMMENT:

8. (SBU) For the third November in a row, Chad is battling
rebellion in the east, with this outbreak appearing to be the
deadliest for both sides. New factors add to the tension:
the high number of casualties (especially among the
President's clan); the President's decision to depart
N'Djamena and remain at the front, leaving a certain power
vacuum in the capital, and concerns as to whether the
long-anticipated rupture with FUC leader Mahamat Nour will
result in the migration of FUC troops from the ANT back to
the rebellion.

9. (U) Tripoli minimize considered.
TAMLYN

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