N’DJAMENA (Reuters) – Chad’s Council of Ministers on Monday declared a state of emergency in three provinces amid fighting between rival ethnic groups, a government spokesman said in a statement.
The state of emergency is in place in the western Tibesti region bordering Niger and the eastern Sila and Ouaddai regions bordering Sudan. It will run from Tuesday until Sept. 10, the statement said.
Clashes between semi-nomadic cattle herders of President Idriss Deby’s Zaghawa ethnic group and settled farmers mostly from the Ouaddian community have left at least 50 people dead in the past two weeks.
“This state of emergency will help maintain and restore public order and security, as well as permanent and effective control of our borders,” the statement said.
Chad, a vast country spanning a chunk of the Sahara desert and the grassy Sahel beneath it, is awash with weapons from conflict zones that surround it such as Libya, Central African Republic and Sudan.
The statement did not say whether the announcement would involve the deployment of troops.
But the armed forces already face security threats on multiple fronts, including a Boko Haram Islamist insurgency in its southwest, near Lake Chad, and a northern rebellion based in neighbouring Libya that French war planes in February intervened to halt.
Deby’s fight against Islamist militants – he has deployed troops to counter groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in the Sahel and Lake Chad region – has strained the military, leaving it ill-equipped to tackle a new source of insecurity.
As with much of the region, Chad’s dry and difficult climate is a tinderbox for tensions between farmers and herders, each in need of rapidly shrinking amounts of land and water relative to an exploding population.
(Reporting By Madjiasra Nako; Writing by Tim Cocks and Edward McAllister; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Ed Osmond)