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Africa united in fight against polio outbreak

An extensive vaccination campaign across 19 West and Central African countries is to begin today in an attempt to stem a year-long polio epidemic in the region.

A child receives oral polio vaccine

The United Nations and international aid agencies plan to immunize 85 million children under five. More than 400, 000 volunteers and health workers will take part in the campaign, visiting children in their homes.

The current polio epidemic has been going on for a year and there have been outbreaks in the last six months in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

These countries will be the focus of the campaign, along with Benin, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Nigeria and Togo. Read More…

Chad ex-leader sentenced, along with 11 others, to death

Hissen Habre, the former President of Chad, has received a death sentence for plotting to overthrow the Chadian government. He is currently in exile and is living in Senegal.

In addition, the head of Rally of Forces for Change, Timane Erdimi, was sentenced to death in absentia as well as 10 other individuals. Erdimi is related to the current President of Chad, Idriss Déby. 32 other people were penalized with hard labor.

The inquiry said that Habre’s government was responsible for 40,000 politically motivated murders and 200,000 torture cases. Read More…

On this day August 11, 1960

French colonial expansion led to the creation of the Territoire Militaire des Pays et Protectorats du Tchad in 1900. By defeating and killing Rabih az-Zubayr on April 22, 1900, at the Battle of Kousséri, France removed a major obstacle to its colonisation of Chad. French rule in Chad was characterised by an absence of policies to unify the territory and sluggish modernisation.

By 1920, France had secured full control of the colony and incorporated it as part of French Equatorial Africa. The French primarily viewed the colony as an unimportant source of untrained labour and raw cotton; France introduced large-scale cotton production in 1929.

The colonial administration in Chad was critically understaffed and had to rely on the dregs of the French civil service. Only the south was governed effectively; French presence in the north and east was nominal. The educational system suffered from this neglect.

After World War II, France granted Chad the status of overseas territory and its inhabitants the right to elect representatives to the French National Assembly and a Chadian assembly. The largest political party was the Chadian Progressive Party (PPT), based in the southern half of the colony. Chad was granted independence on August 11, 1960 with the PPT’s leader, François Tombalbaye, as its first president.

Chad troops killed 66

Chad said on Wednesday its security forces had killed 66 people, over 50 members of the group were also injured, in clashes in the town of Kouno, around 300km south east of the capital Ndjamena.

The government security minister, Mahamat Bachir, said that the death toll is “a regrettable toll, but we think we now control the situation caused by the actions carried out by these terrorists, these extremists.”

Ahmat Ismael Bichara, who led the sect and claimed to follow the religion of Islam, ordered his followers to attack villagers as part of the start of a holy war. As a result of this, he was arrested.

“I’m sorry to say that there were 66 dead and 51 seriously wounded [among Ahmat Ismael Bichara’s followers],” Chad’s security minister, said.

Members of the security forces were also wounded in the attack. There were ten injuries, four of which resulted in fatalities.

Government officials also claimed that the sect wanted the war to spread as far as Europe. “Since June 3, he [the leader of the group] has been calling on all Muslims to prepare to engage in a holy war against Christians and atheists, saying that the war would be launched from Chad to as far as Denmark,” said the offical.

Possible deployment of UN or EU troops to Chad

After meeting Sunday with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Chadian President Idriss Déby opened the door to the possible deployment of United Nation (UN) or European Union (EU) troops to Chad’s volatile eastern region. Yesterday, Kouchner met with Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir.

Until Sunday, Chad had rejected the idea of allowing military troops in to assist with security at its border with Sudan. In Chad’s eastern region, the government has been fighting an insurgency, which it claims has been supported by Sudan. While dealing with the insurgency, Chad had been amenable to an international police presence, but not a military force.

An estimated 234,000 Sudanese refugees have fled the violence in the Darfur region of Sudan and crossed the border into Chad. In addition, Chad is coping with an estimated 150,000 internally displaced persons. The conditions in the camps set up to deal with the refugees have been criticised as inadequate by the aid group, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

France’s newly appointed foreign minister, and co-founder of MSF, Bernard Kouchner, and Chad’s President Déby were able to work out some concessions on the use of foreign troops. Following the meeting, Déby was asked by reporters whether he would allow UN or EU military troops to take a role in security and stabilization measures for a humanitarian mission. “Why not,” Déby replied. Read More…