Chad President Idriss Deby Itno led a diverse crowd of about 10,000 anti-Sudan demonstrators through the capital Ndjamena on Wednesday in protest against what he said was Khartoum's support for a recent rebel offensive.
AFP - Chad President Idriss Deby Itno led around 10,000 anti-Sudanese demonstrators through the capital Ndjamena on Wednesday, to protest what he said was Khartoum's support for a recent rebel offensive.
Deby, who joined the march for a few hundred metres (yards) as it passed by the presidential palace, accused Sudan of bankrolling the rebel assault in an address later at the city's Independence Square.
"On May 4 last, columns of mercenaries paid by the Khartoum regime crossed the border to attack Chadian army positions, on board more than 800 heavily armed vehicles," he told the crowd.
Around 10,000 people from a broad cross-section of Chadian society, shopkeepers and students as well as soldiers, turned out for the protest, AFP correspondents said.
The government had declared Wednesday a paid national holiday to celebrate victory over the rebels.
Some brandished banners declaring "Down with the traitor al-Beshir" referring to the Sudanese president, and others lauding the army and security forces which pushed back the rebels in desert battles last week.
Many waved Chad's blue, yellow and red tricolour.
"We are here to demonstrate that we are fed up with repeated attacks," said former prime minister Delwa Kassire Coumakoye, adding that the protest was a demonstration "of national solidarity against Sudanese aggression".
"It's a memorable day. Sudan has been trying to get its hands of Chad for the last 40 years. The solidarity we are demonstrating is against Sudan," said Justice Minister Jean Bawoyeu Alingue.
One protester, Mboudou Issa, said: "I run a shop. If the country is at war, I cannot carry out my activities, That's why I came to support President Deby, so that the rebels stop disturbing our country."
The insurgents were routed after two days of fierce fighting in which Ndjamena says 247 people were killed, all but 22 of them rebels.
"The adventurers bit the dust once again," Deby told the crowd in his address. A previous rebel assault penetrated the capital and briefly trapped the president in his palace before being repulsed in February last year.
"I want to reassure the Chadian people," said Deby, "Our defence and security forces have total mastery and control of the situation."
"I will never allow adventurers of all kinds to come and trouble the peace of the Chadian people," he said, .
Deby, who on Monday donned combat gear to fly to the eastern border region where most of the fighting took place, was warmly applauded by the crowd. Visibly moved, he promised the crowd that as "supreme head of the army, and above all a soldier, to jealously guard our territorial integrity."
Earlier, several political parties called on the governnment to break off recently restored diplomatic relations with Sudan.
Sudan has denied backing the Union of Forces for the Resistance (UFR), a coalition of the main rebel factions, which launched the surprise attack on May 4.
Khartoum has long insisted Chad end its support for rebels, mainly the Justice and Equality Movement, in its western province of Darfur.
A UN Security Council meeting in New York unanimously condemned the UFR offensive, which came shortly after Ndjamena and Khartoum signed the latest in a series of peace accords, none of which has had any lasting effect.
Date created : 2009-05-13