Paris - Chadian rebels said on Thursday they would take up
arms again against President Idriss Deby after he failed to negotiate with them
since they agreed to stop fighting more than two years ago.
The Union of Forces of Resistance (UFR), a rebel coalition,
put down their weapons after Chad and Sudan agreed to end their proxy wars in
2010 by ceasing their support for insurgents in each other's country.
The two nations agreed to work together to rebuild their
border areas, a move seen aimed at bolstering security and credibility before
impending elections in both nations.
However, speaking by telephone from the Qatari capital Doha,
Chadian rebel leader Timane Erdimi said that after two years of waiting for
talks they had no other options left.
"We're tired of waiting. Our supporters on the ground
are tired and are pushing us to fight given Deby's obstinate refusal. We must
The former French colony, one of the poorest nations in the
world, has been rocked by humanitarian crises over the last decade including
conflicts in the east and south, drought in the arid Sahel region, and
Deby seized power in a 1990 military coup and has since won
a series of elections whose fairness has been questioned by international
observers. He has dismissed those allegations and defended his record.
Erdimi was the leader of one of several rebel groups in a
2008 rebel coalition which attacked the Chadian capital N'Djamena in February
that year, besieging Deby in his palace.
The rebels eventually withdrew, accusing former colonial
power France, which has troops and planes based in Chad, of backing Deby. Paris
said its forces gave intelligence, medical and logistics support to the Chadian
army, but did not participate directly in combat.
Deby's foes say three polls since the coup were unfair and
call him corrupt and dictatorial.
"The problems cannot be resolved unless there are
negotiations between the two sides," Erdimi, who has been exiled in Doha
since Sudan normalised ties with Chad, said.
"There was a deal between Chad and Sudan, but not us.
We were asked to put down our weapons and begin negotiations with Deby. As soon
as he saw we had sincerely put down our weapons he refused to begin
Erdimi, a nephew and former aide of Deby, said that not all
the rebels had disarmed and were now massing between the Sudanese-Chad border
town of Tissi in the southeast to the Libyan border in the north.
"The UFR had about 6 000 men in July 2010 and 300 vehicles.
Even if we have only 50% of that now, it's a good number," he said.
While it remains unclear how much support the new rebellion
has, the rebels may have chosen to renew fighting at a time when Deby's and
France's army is stretched and preoccupied elsewhere.
Weapons are also readily available in the Sahara region
since the fall of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Chad's army has 2 400 of its best troops fighting Islamist
rebels alongside French forces in northern Mali and a further 600 troops
stationed in the Central African Republic (CAR).
The decision has won him international plaudits in recent
months - particularly from Paris, raising his profile, as have his efforts to
push for peace talks between the government and rebels in neighbouring CAR.
"Deby is not a democrat. If he were we wouldn't have to
pick up arms," Erdimi said. "He wants to restore his reputation
through the Mali intervention.
"We aren't against the intervention and we oppose
terrorism, but we fear the Mali intervention will make people forget the
dictatorship and misery that Chadians are living under Deby's regime."