(New York)- Janjaweed militias and Chadian rebel groups with support from the Sudanese government are launching deadly cross-border raids on villages in eastern Chad, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today. Human Rights Watch called on the African Union Mission in Sudan to proactively patrol strategic points along the Chadian border to deter further attacks against the civilian population, and on the United Nations Security Council to urgently authorize a transition of the African Union force in Darfur to a U.N. mission.
The 15-page report, Darfur Bleeds: Recent Cross-Border Violence in Chad, based on a Human Rights Watch investigation in eastern Chad in January and February, documents an alarming rise in attacks against civilians in Chad by Sudanese government-backed Janjaweed militias and Chadian rebel groups. The Janjaweed and Chadian rebel forces operate from bases in Sudanese government-controlled areas of Darfur. Sudanese government troops and helicopter gunships have at times supported these cross-border attacks in eastern Chad. The Sudanese government provides support for several Chadian rebel groups, including harboring them on Sudanese territory.
“The government of Sudan is actively exporting the Darfur crisis to its neighbor by providing material support to Janjaweed militias and by failing to disarm or control them,” said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The Janjaweed are doing in Chad what they have done in Darfur since 2003: killing civilians, burning villages and looting cattle in attacks that show signs of ethnic bias.”
Sudanese forces have had a direct hand in the recent violence in Chad, according to witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch in eastern Chad. For example, Sudanese troops and helicopter gunships reportedly supported a Janjaweed attack across the border in the region of Goungor, Chad, on two occasions in early December.
Tens of thousands of Chadian civilians have been internally displaced by the violence, most of them from the Dajo and Masalit, non-Arab ethnic groups that have also been systematically targeted by the Janjaweed in Darfur. Chadian Arabs living along the border appear to enjoy immunity from attack by the Chadian rebels and the Janjaweed, although some have left their homes and taken refuge in Sudan, apparently in fear of local reprisals in this ethnically tense area.
Human Rights Watch also documented a new influx into Chad of Darfurians who could no longer survive in displaced persons camps in Mornei and Mistere in West Darfur. These refugees, uprooted from their homes by the Sudanese government and Janjaweed “ethnic cleansing” campaign that started in 2003, continue to be victims of violence even after fleeing to displaced persons camps. Janjaweed attacks on the camps and on anyone venturing outside the camps forced them to flee again, this time to Chad.
The most immediate consequence of the continuing insecurity in eastern Chad has been the displacement of civilians: 30,000 Chadians fled their homes along the Chad/Sudan border due to recent violence. Human Rights Watch visited a village, Koloy, that had a pre-conflict population of 1,904, but now hosts 10,000 to 12,000 internally displaced persons, many of whom have sought refuge since December. Human Rights Watch learned of civilians coming under attack when they returned to their villages to recover food from their fields and gardens. Food shortages will become critical if the internally displaced continue to be denied access to their villages. Water is already a problem: when Human Rights Watch visited, the only well in Koloy was almost dry.
The number of attacks has increased dramatically since December, resulting in dozens of civilian deaths and the displacement of tens of thousands more people. Human Rights Watch again called for the U.N. Security Council to urgently transfer the African Union force to a U.N. mission. That mission should have a strong and clear mandate to protect civilians, by force if necessary. Human Rights Watch also called on the U.N. Security Council to place Janjaweed leaders Hamid Dawai and Abdullah Shineibat, as well as other individuals publicly named as responsible for attacks on civilians in Chad, on the list of persons to be subject to travel bans and other sanctions by the U.N. sanctions committee.
“The governments of Sudan and Chad, the African Union Mission in Sudan, and the international community must do more to ensure the security of the population in the border region and prevent the expansion of ‘ethnic cleansing’ into Chad,” said Takirambudde. “Civilians must be protected from attacks at the hands of the Sudanese government, Chadian rebels and Janjaweed militias.”