28 August 2002

Central African Republic: Premier Says Chadian Troops in 17-Km Cross-Border Incursion

Central African Republic (CAR) Prime Minister Martin Ziguele said on Monday that Chadian troops penetrated 17 km into his country on 6 August and attacked government troops, state-owned Radio Centrafrique reported.

Briefing the diplomatic corps in the CAR capital, Bangui, on the tension between the two countries, he said the Chadians had entered the CAR with ground-to-ground missiles, tanks and heavy artillery on 6 August.

A skirmish between the two sides ensued on that day, prompting an emergency summit of Central African countries, chaired by Gabonese President Omar Bongo. On 14 August, the summit set up a commission to visit the area and to ascertain what had happened. The commission, headed by Gabonese Foreign Minister Jean Ping, is still to submit its findings.

"We could have waged war against them [the Chadians], but we avoided it to let the commission do its work," Gen Ernest Betibangui, the CAR army chief of staff, told IRIN on Sunday.

At the heart of the problem between the neighbouring countries is the presence and perceived activities of two men, each wanted by either Chad or the CAR. Bangui wants the fugitive general and former armed forces chief of staff, Francois Bozize, who is exiled in Chad, for questioning about a failed coup. Bangui says Bozize's supporters had attacked the CAR town of Kabo, 65 km south of the Chad border. Chad wants Abdoulaye Miskine, a Chadian who has been living in CAR since 1998, handed back or removed from the border area from which, Chad says, he has been mounting cross-border raids.

Despite the tension between the two countries, Ping said these might not necessarily escalate into a full-scale war. He told African No 1 radio on Tuesday that although the CAR feared an escalation of the crisis, senior Chadian officials had assured him that "nothing will come from Chad".

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