Chad refugees head home after failed rebel coup
Tens of thousands of Chadians fled when rebels stormed the capital earlier this month. They're returning cautiously.
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In the aftermath, looting has been a major problem, including robberies of homes, businesses, and the stores of humanitarian organizations. Traders at the main market in N'Djamena either lost their wares to the fire that started when a government helicopter dropped a bomb meant for rebels, or saw what remained carted off by looters.Skip to next paragraph
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"Our town is broken, our market is broken. We have lost our brothers, our sisters, and our parents here, in these events," says office worker Ahmat Ahidjo, close to the market where smoke still rises from the burned-down stalls.
For now, a heavy presence of government forces wearing turbans and sunglasses against the harsh desert sun patrols the streets of N'Djamena providing a semblance of order that will take time to fully be restored.
Top UN officials have repeatedly voiced concern that the recent and ongoing instability in N'Djamena could jeopardize operations in the east of the country. There, some 250,000 refugees from the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, and more than 100,000 Chadians displaced by the same conflict as well as some 50,000 refugees from the Central African Republic are reliant on international aid.
The European Union resumed deployment Tuesday of a much-awaited peacekeeping force to eastern Chad. The deployment had stalled because of the coup attempt, but Chad is blaming the refugees they are sheltering for the instability, further complicating the situation.
"We are being attacked by Sudan because of these refugees," Chad's Prime Minister Nouradin Koumakoye told reporters in N'Djamena on Monday.
"We demand that the international community transfer the population [of Sudanese refugees] from Chad to Sudan to free us," said Mr. Koumakoye. "We want the international community to look for another country so that the Sudanese can leave. If they cannot do it, we are going to do it."
This is not the first time that President Idriss Déby's government has said the Sudanese refugees are not welcome in Chad. Following a previous rebel attack in 2006, that Chad said had Sudanese backing, only intense international pressure forced Chad to back down and allow the refugees to stay.
Sudan has repeatedly denied that it backs Chadian rebels seeking to oust Mr. Déby.
But many Chadian refugees in Cameroon put their country's troubles firmly at the feet of their president for not entering into dialogue with the rebels, many of whom are related to the president or former members of his government.
Young men like Julian Ndoubanom, a student, say that Déby – who seized power in a 1990 coup – is so desperate to hold onto power that young men were being forced to fight against the rebels.
"Some of my friends were out playing football when we heard of the rebel approach," says Mr. Ndoubanom. "They were taken away, and I haven't seen them since."
Boris Behoudim also says he is frightened of being forced to fight for the government if he goes back to Chad. He says he's not going back until there's peace.
"For us to get peace in our country, maybe our president must leave or maybe he needs to get another solution to what the rebel groups are asking for. If not, we are not ready to get peace in our country," says Mr. Behoudim. "And I am not ready to go back to N'Djamena."
• For more on how Chad's refugees are surviving the turmoil, go to csmonitor.com.