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CHAD: Aid work continues despite state of emergency

NDJAMENA, 18 February 2008 (IRIN) - While aid officials say they do not expect the government’s announcement of a state of emergency last week to impact on their operations they are concerned about rising security threats.

“In the last few years, we have been working more or less in [a state of emergency,]” said Nicolas Palanque of the non-governmental organization CARE. “There are peaks in insecurity but up to now we have not been targeted because we are a humanitarian organisation.”

Yet he also said there are signs that that may be changing with the hijacking of aid agency’s vehicles and attacks of aid compound. “Now we see a slightly different trend,” Palanque said.

UN officials concurred and said the areas of Chad where aid workers face threats have multiplied. “There are quite a lot of hot spots now,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs bureau chief in N’djamena, Eliane Duthoit, told IRIN. “At one point, N’djamena was thought to be a safe haven. Now that has shifted. Over the past two weeks we have seen threats from both sides.”

The UN Refugee Agency issued a statement on 15 February saying that an unknown armed group blocked its attempt to move 179 refugee families, recently arrived from West Darfur, away from volatile border camps in eastern Chad.

The country’s President Idriss Deby announced the state of emergency on the evening of 14 February on the heels of a rebel assault on the capital N’djamena which left at least 160 people dead and many wounded.

The latest state of emergency differs from others imposed in recent years in that it pertains to the whole country

It gives the government the ability to clamp down on the press, maintain a midnight to 6am curfew and conduct house-to-house searches without a warrant.

The central government can also take power over from local authorities, according to diplomatic sources who asked not to be quoted. They expressed concern that citizens could be subject to arbitrary searches and detention.

N’djamena’s streets have been calm in recent days. Most shops have reopened and traffic flows as usual, though the number of soldiers in the streets has increased.

But signs of February’s street fighting are everywhere with blackened monuments and buildings scarred by bullet holes.

The coming months will be critical for aid groups as they attempt to pre-position relief supplies in the war-torn east of Chad in advance of the rainy season, which begins in early June.


Theme(s): (IRIN) Aid Policy, (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Governance, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs



Copyright © IRIN 2008
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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