General Felix Malloum, the President of Chad, spent the last week of June touring the area of recent heavy fighting in the civil war.
General Felix Malloum, the President of Chad, spent the last week of June touring the area of recent heavy fighting in the civil war. President Malloum visited towns and garrisons lying to the south of the cease-fire line which divides the country north-south along the 14th parallel. Guerrillas of the predominantly Moslem Chad Liberation Front (FROLINAT) in the north of the country have been fighting the Chad government based in the south for over 12 years. The Frolinat forces are backed by the Libyan Jamahiriya and claim the north is being denied its true Arab identity. In April, General Malloum requested military aid from France and over 1,500 French troops were sent to repel the rebels. It was the aftermath of these fierce battles that President Malloum toured.
SYNOPSIS: General Malloum's first stop was at Biltine. This garrison town lies in the east of central Chad, just south of the cease-fire line. The partitioning of the country came after a short-lived peace treaty signed by General Malloum and the Frolinat rebels in March. But in April the guerrillas began to push south towards the capital, N'Djamena. They later claimed that the presence of French troops in the country contravened the terms of the agreement.
The President's tour then moved westwards to Abeche. As well as raising support for his campaign against the rebels, General Malloum has been attempting to re-open peace negotiations with Frolinat forces. The neighbouring states of Sudan, Niger and Libya were co-signatories of the last treaty. The Libyan government of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi claims it is only providing the rebels with moral support and not with arms or troops. A delegation of Chad government officials arrived in the Libyan capital, Tripoli on Sunday (2 July) for further talks with Frolinat leaders. The Abeche visit was an important feature of the tour as it lies in a sensitive area of Frolinat influence.
While visiting Ati, General Malloum reviewed the latest developments with French commanders as well as Chad army officers. The capture of Ati from the rebels in June was of great strategic importance, as it lies only 180 miles (300 kilometres) from the capital N'Djamena. The President was accompanied by his Interior Minister, Colonel Kotiga and Lieutenant Mahamoud, the Chad Justice Minister. France has so far supplied its former colony with ten supersonic Jaguar fighter bombers. During the three-day battle for Ati, one legionnaire was killed and one Jaguar aircraft shot down. Several hundred Frolinat rebels reportedly died in the fighting.
The town of Bol, on the edge of Lake Chad, lies within the sector of the country where the Frolinat third army is based. This division of the rebels was responsible for holding French and Swiss hostages for over a year before their recent release.
During his visit to Bol, President Malloum delivered an important policy speech outlining his hopes for a peaceful settlement with Frolinat guerrillas. Western diplomats in Chad have said they fear the effect of the civil war could bring about the collapse of the country within months if the fighting is not stopped. General Malloum told over 5,000 assembled tribesmen that he was prepared to meet the rebel leaders at any time to re-open negotiations. He said that only through talks could peace be achieved and that the settlement should reflect the desires of all Chad people, enabling them to build a strong, united nation.