Government Responses to Militia Attacks

The government of Chad has often responded to escalating communal violence and recurrent cross-border militia attacks in Dar Sila by accusing the Sudanese government of orchestrating the attacks.175 The state, however, has a responsibility to take reasonable measures to provide security and protection to it citizens. Only in some instances has this been discharged, with Chadian officials ordering combat troops to protect civilians in conflict areas.

Given Chad’s poverty, immense size176 and the constant threat presented by Chadian rebel groups, it is no small task for the Chadian government to guarantee the safety of its citizens in the rural southeast. However, ANT forces were able to maintain some order along the border before they were redeployed outside the area to Adré and Abécehé in late 2005. In August 2005 the incidence of banditry and cattle theft diminished to a significant extent along the Adré-Adé-Tissi axis after the ANT deployed “anti-terror” brigades to search for and seize weapons.177 In September 2005, ANT forces pursued an Arab militia after a bloody cross-border raid on Modoyna, east of Adé, and engaged the militia in a running gun battle, killing and capturing some of its members.178

With the late 2005 border redeployments, however, ANT forces have had much less capacity to respond to civilian protection needs. After the October 4 Arab militia raid on Djimeze, it took five days for the ANT to dispatch a force to the area from the garrison at Daguessa, only 15 kilometers away. In the interim, militias attacked nearly a dozen villages.179 When violence exploded in Kerfi and Bandikao in early November 2006, the Chadian government responded by immediately dispatching a high-level ministerial delegation to Goz Beida, but the elite anti-terrorist ANT force that accompanied the delegation180 was not so quick to take action to protect civilians. Dozens of villages were under militia attack and local hospitals were overflowing with wounded civilians, but the ANT did not venture far into the countryside for nearly a week. On November 13, under intense pressure from local authorities, six car-loads of heavily-armed ANT soldiers reached Bandikao, 40 kilometers south of Kerfi, where 41 people who had been wounded in a militia attack on November 4 were still awaiting medical care due to insecurity on the roads. Other, more effective, deployments by ANT took place following the attacks on Tiero in October and on Habile in December.

However, such action by Chadian security forces to provide protection is far from the norm.181 On November 13, 2006 the government declared a state of emergency in Dar Sila and elsewhere, but this was not accompanied by any measures that would specifically safeguard the well-being of civilians.

“The government of Chad does not fight the Janjaweed; they fight to stay in power, but not for the people,” said a Dajo leader in the area. “The ANT is numerous, but they don’t want to hear about the Janjaweed. They say it’s a problem between agriculturalists and pastoralists.”182

Community leaders in eastern Chad report having solicited security assistance from Chadian military units and gendarmes, but rarely, if ever, receiving any.

“The ANT is afraid to go more than a few kilometers outside their bases,” said a community leader in Koukou-Angarana. “Adé is full of soldiers, but for what? We ask for soldiers to be sent to our area, but we get nothing. The Janjaweed have us surrounded, but what can we do? The state is not coming.”183

The inadequacy of government engagement, however, is locally perceived to be deeper than just failure to provide protection. Chadian Arabs concerned about Tora Boro attacks against their communities believe that state intervention is biased.

“The Tora Boro attack the fariks, but the government of Chad says, ‘No, they didn’t attack a farik, they were only defending themselves against the Janjaweed,’” said one Salamat Arab community leader in Kerfi.184

The role of Darfur rebel movements

Faced with security challenges it has been either unwilling or unable to meet, Chadian officials have effectively subcontracted some aspects of civilian protection in Dar Sila to Sudanese rebel movements, which have helped arm and organize self-defense groups in the area. Testimony from Sudanese rebel leaders and other sources indicates that Chadian officials have requested some degree of security assistance from at least some of the Sudanese rebel groups active in this area,185 but it is apparent that Sudanese rebels operate in the area with a high degree of autonomy, and likely that not all Sudanese rebel activities are carried out under Chadian government direction. JEM political leaders claim that the effort to organize self-defense forces in Dar Sila was born out of a sense of loyalty to the Dajo, some of whom fight with the Darfur rebels in Darfur, and a desire to protect Chadian civilians from attack by Arab militias.186 According to an SLA militant who has also been in contact with the self-defense forces in Dar Sila, JEM’s interest in the Dajo is not quite so altruistic.

“The JEM has lots of weapons, but it doesn’t have so many soldiers in the field, so they just need to get some soldiers from the Dajo,” he said. 187

Regardless of the motivation, the increasing role played by both JEM and the SLA in the region appears to be exacerbating, rather than easing tensions and attacks. It has led to the militarization of civilian communities, and allegations have also been made that self defense groups have been responsible for attacks on civilians. In creating and arming such self-defense groups the responsibility of the JEM and SLA is engaged should the self defense groups commit violations of human rights or humanitarian law such as attacks on civilians.

According to one self-defense force chief, the first Sudanese rebel to make contact with Dajo communities was a G-19 commander, Bechir Djabir,188 who convened meetings in villages in the Dogdoré area in April and May 2006.

“Bechir would call together the people of the village, and tell them that he needed men, and that they would help defend against the Janjaweed,” he said. “He came to Djimeze, to Tiero, and talked to the people.”

Djabir also helped impose taxes. Each member of the community was obliged to contribute toward the purchase of small-arms, ammunition and other supplies for the local self-defense forces, which would come to be characterized locally as Tora Boro. In Tiero, the tax amounted to a one-time fee of 1,000 CFA (about $2) per family. In Dogdoré it was higher: 500 CFA per woman and 1,000 CFA per man. In case of financial hardship, a family could pay the tax in an equivalent amount of grain. Any member of the community that had a regular income, such as, for example, from working for an international humanitarian aid agency, would very likely be obliged to forfeit a portion of his or her salary for the war effort.189 One humanitarian aid worker familiar with the situation expressed concern that this fact might be regarded as evidence of collaboration, or of affiliation with a Tora Boro militia, and might put a Chadian worker for a humanitarian organization at risk of violent attack.

“They’re getting paid, but that money could be dangerous,” he said.190

By the time Bechir Djabir arrived in Tiero, the village self-defense force there was already regarded as one of the strongest in the area, if only for the fact that it was led by Hassan Yunis Isaak, a Dajo militant locally famous both for his skill on the battlefield and his ability to escape injury, often attributed to powerful gri-gri.191 Born in Djimeze, Yunis was the head of the self-defense force that defended Djawara, a village along the Dogdoré-Koukou axis that was brutally attacked by Arab militias in April 2006.192 In Tiero, Yunis commands a Tora Boro unit comprised of approximately ten men, all armed with automatic weapons that he says he purchased with tax money he collected locally. Yunis has a satellite phone he says he was given by Nourene Minawi, a Darfur rebel leader who claims to be in charge of JEM operations in Dar Sila department.193

JEM rebels were operating in Dar Sila department by the beginning of the rainy season in June 2006, opening training camps in Koloy, Adé, Tiero, Kerfi, Djorlo and Am Kharouba (15 kilometers east of Koukou-Angarana, near the UN-supervised Goz Amir refugee camp).194 Significantly, many of these localities host large populations of displaced persons, which are sought-after recruits for Tora Boro groups and Sudanese rebels. Sources closely linked with Sudanese rebel groups in Goz Beida reported that a Dajo Tora Boro group maintains a presence in Gouroukoum to recruit displaced persons. Dogdoré, home to nearly 10,000 displaced persons, is a major area of Sudanese rebel activity, with significant armed forces appearing there periodically to recruit displaced persons and collect taxes.195 Sudanese rebels reportedly stoked recruitment in Dogdoré by promising to supply local leaders with weapons in return for recruits.196

Human Rights Watch has not been able to establish the degree to which the government of Chad is providing direct support to self-defense forces in Dar Sila. The government of Chad is known to be directly supporting a militia locally characterized as Tora Boro that is under the command of Hisseine Bechir Hisseine, a member of the Garde Nationale et Nomade du Tchad (Nomad and National Guard of Chad, GNNT). According to one of Hisseine’s associates, the Chadian military provided Hisseine with material support including small arms, ammunition and ten Toyota pickup trucks, four of them mounted with heavy weapons, including a 106mm recoilless rifle, a DShK heavy machine gun, a 107mm Multi-Barrel Rocket Launcher (MBRL), all of which were inspected by Human Rights Watch in Dogdoré.197 Hisseine’s mission was to engage Arab militias responsible for attacks along the Ade-Koloy-Modoyna axis. Sources close to Hisseine say that he has shared ammunition with self-defense forces, and Hassan Yunis confirms this, saying that Bechir gave some ammunition to him from supplies received from the Chadian government, though a paltry amount, wholly inadequate to his needs.

Yunis is alleged to have been responsible for unprovoked attacks against Arab villages in the area.198 Though these attacks could not be confirmed by Human Rights Watch researchers, UNHCR reported mounting tension in the Dogdoré area in early September, with Tora Boro and Dajo militias threatening people of Arab descent outside of Dogdoré, prompting some civilians to displace to Koukou-Angarana on August 14.199 While Human Rights Watch is not aware of any source of external sponsorship for the self-defense force from Djorlo that was responsible for the attack on the Arab village of Amchamgari, JEM forces have acknowledged running a training camp there.200

175 See, for instance, “Chad says Darfur-linked violence kills over 100,” Reuters, November 7, 2006, (accessed December 20, 2006).

176 Chad’s area is 1,284,000 square kilometers. CIA World Fact Book, (accessed December 22, 2006).

177 UNHCR, “Sudan/Chad Situation Update 29,” September 8, 2005, (accessed December 26, 2006).

178 Local sources place the death toll at anywhere from fifty-three to seventy-two civilians killed in the violence; most media reports count thirty-six dead—see for example “Chad: Government says Sudanese insurgents killed 36 herders in east,” IRIN, September 27, 2005 (accessed December 21, 2006). An unknown number of the dead were killed as a result of the action of Chadian security forces. Local authorities in Modoyna said the fighting between the ANT and the Janajweed ranged over a large area, including some civilian areas. Human Rights Watch interview, Modoyna, Chad, January 28, 2006.

179 Human Rights Watch interview, international humanitarian aid worker based in Dogdoré during the October attacks, Goz Beida, Chad, November 15, 2006.

180 Soldiers from the First Battalion of the ANT, trained by U.S. Special Forces under the Pan-Sahel Initiative, were among the delegation’s security detail. The Pan-Sahel Initiative was a program started in 2002 that was funded by the US State Department to train soldiers in Sahelian countries to combat arms smuggling, drug trafficking, and the movement of trans-national terrorists. It has since been expanded and renamed the Trans Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative.

181 See “Chad: Government declares state of emergency after clashes,” Reuters, November 13, 2006, (accessed December 20, 2006).

182 Human Rights Watch interview, confidential location in Dar Sila department, May 16, 2006.

183 Human Rights Watch interview, Koukou-Angarana, Chad, November 13, 2006.

184 Human Rights Watch interview, Goz Bisher, Chad, November 21, 2006.

185 Human Rights Watch interviews, Sudanese rebels and confidential sources, April through November, 2006.

186 Human Rights Watch interview, JEM political leader, N’djamena, Chad, October 23, 2006.

187 Human Rights Watch telephone interview, SLA political leader, N’Djamena, Chad, December 21, 2006.

188 In March 2006, Djebir, a Chadian Zaghawa, was instrumental in organizing a forced recruitment campaign in the UN-supervised Sudanese refugee camps of Treguine and Bredjing, under the direction of SLA chief Khamis Abdulah. As of November 2006, Djabir was working under the leadership of G-19 leader Adam Shogar in N’djamena. Human Rights Watch interviews, Sudanese rebels and Chadian self-defense force leaders, various locations, Chad, April 2006 and November, 2006.

189 Human Rights Watch interview, international humanitarian aid worker, confidential location, Dar Sila department, Chad, November 2006.

190 Human Rights Watch interview, international humanitarian aid worker, confidential location, Dar Sila department, Chad, November 2006.

191 Small leather amulets containing quotes from the Koran believed to protect the wearer from harm.

192 Yunis took Human Rights Watch researchers to the site of the massacre on May 8, 2006. The Djawara massacre may have been retribution for an earlier incident in which the village self-defense group tried to retrieve stolen cattle. See Human Rights Watch, “Violence Across Borders.”

193 Human Rights Watch interview, Nourene Minawi, Ndjamena, Chad, October 23, 2006. According to Roland Marchal, Minawi is a Chadian, a former member of the Mouvement Patriotique de Salut (Patriotic Salvation Movement, MPS), President Déby’s political party, and is Secretary of the NMRD, a JEM splinter group. See Marchal, “Chad/Darfur: How Two Crises Merge.”

194 Although Human Rights Watch researchers did not visit any of these training camps, it is not likely that they are formal establishments, or that they even involve any infrastructure, based on conversations with Sudanese rebels in Chad. Human Rights Watch interview, JEM rebel field commanders and political leaders, Chad, October to November 2006.

195 Human Rights Watch interview, Chadian self-defense force leader, Tiero, Chad, November 21, 2006.

196 Human Rights Watch, confidential communication, October 2006.

197 Human Rights Watch interview, Dogdoré, Chad, November 22, 2006.

198 Human Rights Watch interviews, Arab civilians in the Dogdoré area, November 22-23, 2006.

199 UNHCR “Sudan/Chad Operations Update 62.”

200 Human Rights Watch interview, JEM rebel field commanders and political leaders, Chad, October to November 2006.