N'DJAMENA, Chad – Chad declared a 12-day state of emergency in three northern and eastern regions following ethnic clashes last week during which about 20 people have been killed, the government spokesman said Tuesday.
It was the second time this year that Chad has imposed a state of emergency in northern and eastern Chad because of ethnic clashes in an area where the army fight has been fighting rebels since 2005. The region also has been affected by the spillover of violence from Sudan's Darfur. The last state of emergency lasted seven months and ended in May.
The new state of emergency was declared a day after European Union foreign ministers gave their final approval for a 3,000-strong peacekeeping force in Chad and the Central African Republic. French and Irish forces were in eastern Chad and the Central African Republic conducting reconnaissance for the force, French and Irish officials said Tuesday.
The clashes last week in Chad were between two tribes, the Tama, to which former rebel leader and Defense Minister Mahamed Nour belongs, and the Zaghawa, President Idriss Deby's group. The clashes took place over three days in the eastern district of Dar Tama.
Interior Minister Ahmad Mahamat Bashir told Radio Chad the clashes were sparked by claims members of one tribe stole cattle and other livestock from members of the other tribe.
An emergency Cabinet meeting, "decided to impose a state of emergency of 12 days in the regions of Ouaddai, of Wadi Fira and of Borkou Ennedi Tibesti," said Hourmadji Moussa Doumgor, the government spokesman and communications minister.
The governors of the three regions should do everything means necessary to restore public order, Prime Minister Nouradine Delwa Kassire Coumakoye said in a statement read on state-owned Radio Chad.
The fighting in Sudan's Darfur has sent tens of thousands of refugees into Chad and neighboring Central African Republic. In addition, raiders from Sudan have attacked refugees and Chadian villagers in Chad, and Chadian rebels have taken advantage of the instability to use the Chad region bordering Darfur as a staging ground for their own war on Deby's government.
U.N. officials estimate that around 3 million people have been uprooted by conflicts in the region, including the fighting in Darfur and unrelated rebellions in Chad and Central African Republic. The majority — some 2.25 million — are Darfuris displaced within Darfur.
The U.N. estimates over 400,000 refugees and internally displaced people are living in camps in Chad, most of them coming from Darfur.
Around half of the EU force planned for Darfur's neighbors would be from France, which already has troops in the region supporting the governments of Chad and Central African Republic.
The EU mission will be in addition to a planned 26,000-member joint African Union-UN peacekeeping force which is to deploy in Darfur itself.
More than 200,000 people have died since rebels from Darfur's ethnic African majority took arms against the Arab-dominated central government in 2003, accusing it of neglect and discrimination. The Sudanese government is accused of responding to the uprising by unleashing militias blamed for atrocities against ethnic African villagers, an allegation Khartoum denies.