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Last Updated: Monday, 25 February 2008, 17:51 GMT
Chad's ancient trees get the chop
By Arnaud Zajtman
BBC News, N'Djamena

Felled ancient trees in N'Djamena
N'Djamena's Avenue Charles de Gaulle has lost its shade
Chad's tree surgeons are cutting down the majestic trees that once lined the Avenue General de Gaulle, the main drag of the capital, N'Djamena.

The centuries-old trees look down on three-storey buildings, and cast a refreshing shadow during the hot season.

But during the recent rebel offensive on the capital, they also provided cover for the attackers.

"The president ordered this," one of the workmen told the BBC.

When I was a child, soldiers used to stop us touching the trees - now they are being destroyed
Dutom Aselo
N'Djamena resident
"He says that to confront the rebels we must absolutely cut down those trees, so that the presidency can be adequately protected."

The workman says he is unhappy about removing the trees, but adds: "Sooner or later they will be replanted."

Destruction

The felled trees are being chopped into pieces and carried away in pickup trucks.

Old women and children rush to collect the remaining small wood, which will come in handy in the kitchen.

Map
Sitting on his bicycle, wearing a white traditional gown, old Dutom Aselo surveys the scene wistfully.

"When I was a child, soldiers used to stop us touching the trees," he recalls. "Now they are being destroyed."

More destruction could be in the cards.

According the European Union's ambassador in Chad, the rebels are rearming in neighbouring Sudan.

Evidently, the N'Djamena authorities are braced for another attack.

They even mistrust the trees and their shadows.

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