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Chad: Reports of harassment of refugees by soldiers

Briefing notes

Chad: Reports of harassment of refugees by soldiers

14 March 2003

Amid new concerns for their safety, the number of Central African refugees and Chadian returnees arriving in southern Chad over the past week totalled more than 4,000, bringing to some 30,000 the overall number of arrivals since mid-February.

In and around the Chadian border town of Goré, we have received very worrying reports of harassment of refugees, particularly of refugee women, by Chadian soldiers. They are alleged to have repeatedly tried to abduct refugee women from a transit centre managed by MSF-Belgium in Goré. On Tuesday, Chadian soldiers reportedly sneaked into the transit centre and tried to kidnap refugee women. Their efforts were thwarted and a complaint was later made to local authorities in Goré.

On Wednesday, some 50 soldiers travelling in five pick-up trucks reportedly went on a rampage in Goré, shooting in the air and creating panic in the border town. The streets emptied quickly and schools were closed. The soldiers then allegedly stole motorcycles, bicycles and radios from refugees and Chadian returnees. The soldiers also reportedly seized two vehicles belonging to MSF-Belgium. The vehicles were later returned upon the intervention of local authorities. The belongings of refugees and returnees were only returned after we complained to central authorities in the Chadian capital, N'Djamena. Refugees complained that those who had gone to the local customs office to reclaim their possession soon after the raid were beaten by soldiers. The military have now been ordered to stay out of Goré town.

Meanwhile, we have re-opened our office in the Chadian capital, N'Djamena, and are establishing a field office in Goré. Refugees have continued to flee to southern Chad amid ongoing fighting between the CAR army and rebels allied to the former army chief of staff, François Bozizé. Some 200 refugees who arrived on Tuesday in the town of Yamodo, south of Goré, say they fled fresh fighting for the besieged town of Bossangoa in western CAR.

As Central Africans flee northwards to Chad to escape weeks of offensives and counter-offensives between the army and rebel forces, hundreds of Central Africans in the south-west of the country are also fleeing southwards to the Republic of Congo. This group, from the border town of Mongoumba, are escaping marauding Congolese MLC rebels from the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to the new arrivals, there is a complete breakdown of law and order in the small border town. Local authorities have also fled, say the refugees.