|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE BY Chad’s foreign Minister
Briefing correspondents at Headquarters today, Chad’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ahmad Allam-Mi, said he had explained to the Security Council during an informal meeting the situation in his country, including the latest aggression against its capital, security issues, the disappearance of opposition leaders, the opening of a political dialogue and the normalization of relations with the Sudan.
Mr. Allam-Mi said he had come to New York not only to shed light on those matters, but also to thank the international community for condemning the aggression coming from the Sudan, which had tried to overturn the legitimate institutions of his country. He was also asking the international community to support a small, poor country that was facing a large, rich Sudan, which was allowing the Darfur conflict to spill over to Chad and the whole region.
He had assured the international community of his country’s wish to normalize relations with the Sudanese, he said, but the Sudan had to play its part, as well. His Government was prepared to implement the 13 August Agreement, as well as the Sirte Agreements.
Asked by a correspondent whether France had been neutral in the conflict, Mr. Allam-Mi answered that France had not been involved directly in fighting. Honouring its agreement with Chad to protect the legitimate Government, it had supplied intelligence, as well as logistical and medical support. The Sudanese had created a Chadian rebellion in 2003, thereby exporting the Darfur crisis. That was followed by fighting between rebels in Chad and the Sudan. Some political people had taken up arms against the President and had gone to the Sudan, trying to settle their personal scores. Chad had signed an agreement with them in Sirte, and Chad was prepared to honour that agreement, because peace in Chad would be impossible unless there was national cohesion.
Addressing correspondents’ questions about disappearances and human rights, he said that, in a situation of complete chaos and anarchy in N’Djamena, which had been completely destroyed by the fighting, people had fled and there had a long list of “disappearances”. Some of the politicians on that list had reappeared, some were abroad. Currently, only two people remained on the list. Only one person had been arrested and had been put in a military prison during an investigation, namely Lol Mahamat Choua, former President and Chairman of the follow-up committee for the 13 August agreement. Another person purportedly missing had been seen in the capital and, according to reports, would give a statement tomorrow. Chad had established a national Human Rights Commission that would investigate all cases of human rights violations and disappearances. That Commission was open to the international community. “ Chad has nothing to hide,” he said.
As for the case of Dobian Assinger, a journalist who claimed he had received death threats and whose radio station FM Liberté had been shut down, he said that the Government of Chad wanted the situation to become normalized. There was no reason to fear the national authorities. Some people had fled because of insecurity and claim to have been threatened by security forces. There was, however, the political will to pursue human rights. The radio station had, indeed, been shut down, but that was before the events in the capital. It had been shut down because it had broadcast misinformation and incitement to hatred.
Answering a question about the Government’s negotiations with rebel groups, negotiations which had been denied by the leader of the Forces for Democracy, he said his Government was indeed negotiating with rebel groups that were challenging their leaders. That was necessary, because without national cohesion, it had to deal effectively with outside aggression. The Government always offered a hand to those coming in within the framework of reconciliation.
Asked about the status of deployment of the European Union force, he said the international community had established the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINUCRAT) and the European Union-led force (EUFOR) to protect refugees in Chad. EUFOR, after delays because of the recent events, had been launched and hoped to be operational by the beginning of March. The Sudan had been bombing civilian populations in Darfur for over a week now and, as a result, 10,000 to 15,000 refugees had arrived at the border with Chad. “Frankly, the Government does not want to deal with more refugees,” he said, as there were already 250,000 refugees on its territory. They lived in open camps that were used by insurgents. He hoped the international community would put more pressure on the Sudan to stop the bombardments. It was clear that the Sudan was ethnically cleansing the province and did not want the refugees back.
China was a friendly country to both the Sudan and Chad, he said, expressing the hope that China would bring to bear more pressure on the Sudan to stop the process of destabilization in Chad. After all, the Sudan was trying to overthrow the legitimate Government of Chad, in order to settle the conflict in Darfur. It was, therefore, in the interest of China to pressure the Sudanese. He hoped also that other countries, such as the Russian Federation and some Arab countries, would exert pressure on the Sudan.
There had indeed been child soldiers in Chad, used by rebel groups that had come from the Sudan, he answered to another question. Although child soldiers had been used in the past, the national army did not have any child soldiers at present.
Asked about allegations that it had used a Swiss Pilatus plane for military purposes, he said there were several Pilatus planes in the country. They had been built for commercial purposes and could not be used militarily. They were used for transport of wounded, for reconnaissance and for delivering aid to refugees, not to bomb rebels. That information had been conveyed to the Government of Switzerland. Switzerland was welcome to send a committee of inquiry.
In response to another question, he said the file on Zoe’s Ark had been closed. The people involved had been brought to court and had been sentenced to eight years “hard labour”. Consequently, they had been extradited to France in line with existing agreements. France had changed the sentences into eight years of prison. There had been questions about a pardon as a “quid pro quo” for France’s assistance during the events. However, a pardon had to be asked for by the families. There was a request for pardon, which would be studied by the Minister of Justice.
* *** *For information media • not an official record