Monday, February 04, 2008

The crisis in Chad

The crisis in Chad is apparently caused by a confluence of internal opposition to President Idris Deby and subversion by neighboring Sudan.  The Human Rights Watch noted in 2006 that "Janjaweed militias and Chadian rebel groups with support from the Sudanese government are launching deadly cross-border raids on villages in eastern Chad".  However, the rebels now besieging the presidential palace in the capital N'Djamena, which is a long distance from Sudan, are likely to be from the rebel groups which nearly topped the government in 2006. These include former members of the army and members of Deby's own ethnic group, though these may have Sudanese support.

The rebels appear to be more successful than they were in 2006. The latest reports say that rebels control half the city and have destroyed 30 government armored vehicles. Refugees are fleeting West over the bridge to Cameroon. The situation appears to have reached a temporary stalemate.

The web site of the French weekly Le Point quoted a rebel spokesman, Abderaman Koulamallah, as saying that rebel groups camped just outside N'Djamena were awaiting the arrival of additional forces. 'We are waiting for a column of reinforcements, who should arrive shortly. As soon as they arrive, we will move towards the (city) centre,' he said.

France is the ultimate guarantor of Chadian security, with several thousand troops in country. Recently France has distanced itself from the country after Chad awarded a contract to Exxon. Chad has recently become an oil exporter, a development which makes an otherwise economically worthless country a prize worth having.

Chad's greatest foreign influence is France ...  Déby relies on the French to help repel the rebels, and France gives the Chadian army logistical and intelligence support for fear of a complete collapse of regional stability. Nevertheless, Franco-Chadian relations were soured by the granting of oil drilling rights to the American Exxon company in 1999.

However, news reports say that President Sarkozy has threatened to intervene if the Chadian government should threaten to fall. French airpower was instrumental in defeating the rebel challenge in 2006. But the support for Chad's government may not extend to propping up Deby personally. The Christian Science Monitor reports:

If Chad's government falls, it will largely be due to France's new policy of neutrality. France has provided its former colony with logistical and intelligence support since the country's independence in 1960. A previous coup attempt by the same coalition of rebel groups in 2006 was turned back, after French Mirage jets fired warning shots at an approaching rebel column. In a sign that times have changed, France has offered to help Chadian President Idriss Déby flee the country, an offer Mr. Déby pointedly refused.

France's major turnabout reflects both the hands-off philosophy of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and France's desire to lead a new European Union humanitarian peacekeeping force of troops of 3,700 men (2,100 of them French soldiers) to protect aid convoys to Darfur refugees living in Chad. The EUFOR mission would be the largest common defense mission in European Union history.

This change in French policy would appear to simultaneously de-couple French policy from a narrow support of Deby while widening its conception of the problem to include Darfur and Sudan as part of the theater. It would appear that under this strategic definition Deby is regarded as part of the problem as is the regime in Khartoum. Sudan has upped the ante. And the French it would appear, are matching the chips -- and using a non-NATO alliance to do it.

While France argues that its neutrality is necessary to preserving the integrity of the humanitarian EUFOR mission – designed to protect aid workers and supply convoys to the volatile Chadian border with Darfur – John Prendergast, an expert on Darfur and co-chair of the Enough Project in Washington, argues that France misjudged Chad's ability to defend itself. "I think the French were overconfident, and they underestimated the capacity of the Chadian rebels because of their past experience.

"The Chadian rebels learned a lesson from last time, they needed communications and force requirements in order to take the capital," says Prendergast. "Sudan wouldn't let them repeat the mistakes. They gave them equipment, training, and bases inside Sudan to prepare."


France gets the UN go-signal to intervene in Chad.


Blogger NahnCee said...

France, Africa and Muslims killing each other ... Whatever.

I do NOT want America involved in this, or to spend a single penny on it as an issue, either by ourselves or through the United Nations.

What the LAPD call a "self-cleaning oven".

2/04/2008 09:50:00 PM  
Blogger Pangloss said...

Walid Phares added to this story at the Counterterrorism Blog.

Amazingly, as the "opposition" forces have reached N'Djamena the official minister of what could become the future Taliban regime in Chad, Jibrin Issa was comfortably seated in al Jazeera's studios in Qatar. Obviously he wasn't flown from Africa to the Gulf on the request of the booking Department of the Qatari funded network to "react" to the offensive. He was already at the station -or at least in Qatar-when the offensive began. Very interestingly, the man was wearing a classical Western business outfit and clean shaved. The PR strategy was to show the world, including France and the US, that the forces thrusting into their ally wasn't a sister of the Islamic Courts of Somalia or a Taliban "looking" militia. The game was to project this coup as "domestic" against "corruption" and the rest of the litany, thus boring for average Western public.

Issa played the script very well until a point where reality surfaced abruptly. At first, as I was listening to his impeccable Arabic, I was wondering why did he have this Arabian Peninsula accent and utter those mechanical sentences. It was strange to hear an African "minister" of a future regime in Chad speaking excellent Arabic, but I gave it a pass. Until, at the end of his interview he made a troubling mistake. Out of the blue he started to thank the "brave commander of the Islamic Republic of Sudan" General Omar al Bashir (the head of the regime responsible for the Genocide in Darfur) for his help to the "movement" and started to praise his "highness the servant of the two shrines," (that is the Saudi Monarch) for his support (obviously to the movement). Suddenly, and despite the frustration of the al jazeera anchor that the game may have been exposed, I connected the dots. It was indeed a Sudanese-backed operation to change the regime in Chad, and backed by Wahabi circles, as a preemptive move to crumble the forthcoming humanitarian operation in Darfur.

The so-called rebellion in Chad is not a rebellion, but rather an invasion by Saudi-funded and Sudan-trained forces with the intention of overthrowing the government of Chad and replacing it with a "native" African Taliban.

This may be one place the US has to take a hand in, much as the US has with Ethiopian help in Somalia.

2/05/2008 05:37:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

France may be ready to step up:
LA ROCHELLE, France (AP) — France is ready to begin a military operation in Chad against rebels if necessary, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said yesterday.

But the government stressed that France had no immediate plans to step up its military involvement, saying the fighting appeared to be abating.

France has about 1,900 troops already based in Chad, a former French colony in Central Africa, where rebels and government troops have been clashing in and near the capital for three days.

"If France must do its duty, it will do so," Mr. Sarkozy said in response to a question on a possible French military operation in Chad. "Let no one doubt it."

On Monday, the U.N. Security Council paved the way for countries allied with Chad to help repel a rebel offensive.

Mr. Sarkozy said French troops have not been involved in the fighting except last Friday night, when they opened fire to protect French civilians being evacuated. He said that was a case of self-defense.

2/06/2008 04:45:00 AM  

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