Feb 3, 2008

Chad: rebels storm the capital

The latest news from Chad confirms the rebels are in control of most of the capital and are surrounding the presidential palace. President, Idris Deby, is reported to be inside the palace, the rebels said earlier they will allow him to fly out of the country. Gunfire can be heard around the city, and so far there are no reports of civilian causalities.

There are about 1200 French troops in the city as well, so far not engaged in the fighting, they are protecting expats in different parts of the city including the Meridian hotel. Government officials, however, dispute these accounts and insist that their troops are in control. The airport, TV and radio have all been closed.

The rebels took off just five days ago from the East of the country, near the Sudanese borders. Chad and Sudan have been exchanging accusations that each is supporting the others' rebels. Chad supported and armed rebels in Darfur and so did Sudan with Chadian rebels. In 2006, the rebels reached the outskirts of the capital N'Djamena but they were pushed back with the help of the French troops. There is no doubt that Sudan will be delighted with a change of leadership in Chad.

It also seems that the EU, and particularly France, sees president Idris Deby as a liability; he has presided over fraudulent elections and changed the constitution so he can have a third term. His ongoing rivalry with the Sudanese government is also making the deployment of UN troops in Eastern Chad and Darfur much more difficult.

The African Union, already overloaded with the crisis in Kenya, Darfur and Somalia, has said that Chad will be suspended from the organization if president Deby is deposed and "until normalcy and democratic rule is restored in that country".

Aljazeera's Haru Mutasa is one of the few reporters in N'Djamena. Check out her latest report and Aljazeera exclusive pictures below:

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