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Neighbours turn on each other at Janjawid's command

[Chad] Chadian head of a village displaced by Janjawid attacks, talking to IRIN in Dogdore camp for displaced people. [Date picture taken: 06/01/2006]
Thousands of Chadians have fled their homes and fear more attacks (Nicholas Reader/IRIN)

Polygamy and complex inter-ethnic ties mean complicated answers frequently meet simple questions asked of the thousands of people who have fled militia attacks in eastern Chad. But Ibrahim, like many Chadians IRIN met in eastern Chad, states his ethnicity and religion with simple answers.

"Dadjo" is the first reply, proudly, describing the largest ethnic group in the region, which crosses the invisible line in the sand where Chad ends and the western Darfur region of Sudan begins.

And religion?

A quizzical look, because pretty much everyone in eastern Chad, from whichever of the more than 35 ethnic groups found there, worships the same God.


Ibrahim's nomadic life ranged throughout his tribe's interpretation of its territory, before he settled in Agogo village, 15 kilometres west of the border, over 40 years ago.

But since April, Ibrahim, his three wives and 16 children have been squatting in a roughly constructed shelter, perched on the exposed, furnace-hot plains of eastern Chad.

They arrived there in April with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, after twice fleeing attacks by armed horsemen.


"The village was attacked in February, early in the morning, when everyone was still sleeping," Ibrahim recalled, scratching in the sand with a pointed stick, and averting his eyes.

Men armed with kalashnikov guns rushed the village, he said, riding through the straw fences on horses and camels, shooting and slashing randomly at the scattering villagers.

[Chad] Nomadic horseman, eastern Chad. [Date picture taken: 06/01/2006]

Nomadic horseman, eastern Chad. Aid workers were not sure if he is Arab or black
Nicholas Reader/IRIN
[Chad] Nomadic horseman, eastern Chad. [Date picture taken: 06/01/2006]
Friday, June 9, 2006
Protection is the issue, but from whom?
[Chad] Nomadic horseman, eastern Chad. [Date picture taken: 06/01/2006]
A horseman in eastern Chad

By the time the killers had ridden off, six Agogo villagers were dead.

And before the others had had a chance to gather themselves, a bigger group of 60 armed men swept out of trees to the west of the village, flooding it in three waves of attacks.

"It was like a military strategy," Ibrahim said.

In the second attack, the armed horsemen ransacked the huts, fed precious stores of grain and vegetables to their horses, and rounded up the village's goats, sheep and cows, before heading off back into the trees.

"We had never seen anything like that day before. Over the last three years there had been a few cases of cattle theft, some banditry, petty things, but never anything like this" he said.

After the attacks, most of the villagers gathered together and fled to another nearby Dadjo village, Alturo. "Why would we stay in Agogo after that, for what?" asked Ibrahim.

Ibrahim's family stayed with friends in Alturo until April, when a violent militia attack brought the fear to that village too. Then, they joined 17,000 others who had fled to Dogdore, a Dadjo stronghold further south.


Despite the chaos of the morning Agogo was attacked, Ibrahim has no doubt about who is responsible.

"The Janjawid, from Sudan," he said, shaking his head.

[Chad] Djawara village deserted after attacks. [Date picture taken: 06/01/2006]

Nicholas Reader/IRIN
[Chad] Djawara village deserted after attacks. [Date picture taken: 06/01/2006]
Friday, June 9, 2006
[Chad] Djawara village deserted after attacks. [Date picture taken: 06/01/2006]
A village deserted after Janjawid attacks

Janjawid is an Arabic word which translates literally as "devils on horseback".

The Janjawid has become notorious in the Darfur region of Sudan as an Arab militia group that has driven more than 2 million black African villagers from their homes.

Pushed to explain how he knows the identity of the men, many of whom Ibrahim said had their faces covered with white scarves, he said simply:

"There is no Janjawid in Chad, so it must have been from Sudan."

Ibrahim said the attackers were mostly dressed in khaki green clothes.

Among them were also Chadian men Ibrahim said he recognised from around his village and the surrounding areas, and even from the mosque in Agogo.

"There were men from the Ouaddai, the Tama, the Mimi [ethnic groups]. I stopped one, a man I knew, and said to him, why are you doing this to us? He said, 'if I do not help them, the Arabs said they will take my wife and children.'"


Ibrahim still considers himself a member of Agogo village, many of whose 400 people have built their rough straw shelters next door to each other at Dogdore.

The "villagers" can still be found sitting listlessly under the same trees, in an attempt at hanging-on to their once close-knit community ties despite the presence of thousands of other people.

[Chad] Displaced Chadians squat in the desert. [Date picture taken: 06/01/2006]

Tchadiens vivant dans le désert après avoir échappé aux attaques des rebelles du Darfour
Nicholas Reader/IRIN
[Chad] Displaced Chadians squat in the desert. [Date picture taken: 06/01/2006]
Friday, June 9, 2006
La violence au Darfour s’étend au Tchad
[Chad] Displaced Chadians squat in the desert. [Date picture taken: 06/01/2006]
Displaced Chadians at a camp in Goroukoum, eastern Chad

However, the straw huts and fences of their real village, to the north, will be quickly disintegrating in the gale-force winds and rain storms that ravage the region at this time of year.

Rebuilding them would mean arduous treks, perhaps for days at a time, across the searing desert heat to gather wood and straw.

But Ibrahim and his family would happily take on that burden if it meant they were home again.

"Today there is no peace. If there was, we would go back to our village straight away," he said.

Ibrahim's greatest sorrow is not for lost possessions or property, but for the land, which he said is a birthright and millennia-old possession of the Dadjo people and, more practically, the source of life-giving water and food for the cultivators and cattle breeders.

Although no-one has been back to check, Ibrahim said he thinks the land is now occupied by the Janjawid.

As the investigators take their questions away to unravel the complex set of events behind another homeless, disoriented Chadian, Ibrahim gives a simple plea for help.

"Please, send people who can give us some security."

To read an IRIN Special Report about the attacks on Chadian villages CLICK HERE


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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