Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!
More on politics & human rights |
economy & development |
peace & security |
Print this page
Chad: Civilians at Risk, Outside Roles at Issue
Feb 13, 2008 (080213)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"The Chadian civil war is often described as a "spillover" from
Darfur. That is a simplification. Darfur's war actually began as a
spillover from Chad more than twenty years ago and the two
conflicts have been entangled ever since." - Alex De Waal
In the aftermath of fighting in Chad's capital, launched by
Sudanese-backed rebel groups, relief agencies are warning of new
humanitarian risks both to Sudanese refugees and to Chadians
displaced within the country. Further deployment of a European
Union protection force mandated by the United Nations is uncertain,
and arrests of opposition leaders by the government of Idriss Deby
indicate that the Chadian leader is taking advantage of the crisis
to suppress even peaceful opposition.
On February 4, the United Nations Security Council condemned the
rebel attacks on Chad's capital, and applauded an effort by the
African Union to promote talks between the rebels and Chad's
government. But the prospects of a new political settlement seem
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains calls for international action
from a coalition of international human rights groups and from
Human Rights Watch, as well as a background article on the crisis
by Alex De Waal of Justice Africa.
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Chad and additional
background links, visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/chad.php
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
Joint Statement on the Crisis in Chad
February 11, 2008
The following is a joint statement on the crisis in Chad from the
ENOUGH Project, the Save Darfur Coalition, and the Genocide
The outcome of the crisis in Chad remains uncertain, but the peril
for civilians in Chad and Darfur is enormous. A low-intensity,
festering civil conflict between the Chadian government and a
disparate group of rebels exploded into violent confrontation in
the capital N'Djamena. Thousands of refugees fled the city, and the
threat of renewed violence continues. The Sudanese government,
which is responsible for genocide in Darfur, supports the rebels
trying to overthrow Chad's government because it wants to block the
deployment of European Union peacekeepers to Eastern Chad. Sudan's
ruling party not only threatens its own citizens, which it has
destroyed in great numbers, it is a menace to the entire region. It
will remain a menace until the rest of the world makes the cost of
doing so too steep.
Therefore, the Save Darfur Coalition, the ENOUGH Project, and the
Genocide Intervention Network make the following policy
- The U.S., France and UK should work with China and Russia to
introduce immediately a UN Security Council resolution authorizing
targeted sanctions on senior Sudanese officials responsible for
supporting the overthrow of a neighboring sovereign government, for
obstructing the deployment of international protection forces in
Chad and Darfur, and for continuing to promote violence in Darfur.
- The U.S., UK, France, and China, as leading members of the UN
Security Council, and in coordination with the UN, the AU, and the
broader international community, should work together to ensure
that the UNAMID peacekeeping mission in Darfur and the EUFOR and
MINURCAT peacekeeping missions in Chad/CAR are immediately and
- The U.S., France, UK and China should use this opportunity to
form an international "Quartet" to work with the UN and AU to
promote an end to the interconnected conflicts in Chad and Sudan.
EU Should Deploy Troops Now to Protect Civilians
Human Rights Watch (Washington, DC)
12 February 2008
The European Union should urgently move forward with its planned
deployment of troops to protect civilians in eastern Chad, Human
Rights Watch said today. Recent fighting between Chadian government
forces and insurgent groups has left tens of thousands of civilians
at grave risk and has paralyzed the delivery of humanitarian aid.
EUFOR, a European Union civilian-protection mission mandated by the
UN Security Council to protect civilians in Chad, has already
deployed 150 soldiers to Chad. Further deployments have been
delayed by the recent fighting, however. EUFOR is mandated to
provide protection for more than 400,000 Sudanese refugees and
Chadian internally displaced persons in eastern Chad.
Nowhere is the need for EUFOR more urgent than in the Gu‚r‚da area
of eastern Chad, where 12,000 Sudanese refugees have been living in
desperate conditions since February 10, when they fled West Darfur
after attacks by Sudanese government military aircraft and
"Janjaweed" militias. Recently arrived Sudanese refugees are
concentrated in the border village of Birak, a remote location
where the Chadian government presence is minimal and numerous armed
groups are active, including some that have attacked civilians in
"The refugees who recently fled from Darfur to Chad are in a
volatile and dangerous region with little food and no one to
protect them," said Georgette Gagnon, acting Africa director at
Human Rights Watch. "The European Union is mandated to protect
these refugees, but it needs to deploy its troops to Chad
In addition to those who have recently fled Darfur for Birak,
refugees are also at risk in two UN-supervised camps in the Gu‚r‚da
area, Kounoungo and Mile, with a combined population of 30,000.
Paramilitary groups operate in both camps and have actively
recruited refugees, reportedly including children. In April 2007,
refugees at Kounoungo camp told Human Rights Watch about violent
abuses by Chadian rebel groups operating in the area, including
attempted rapes. In December 2007, Human Rights Watch received
reports of violent abuses by armed groups against refugees at Mile
camp, including rape.
"At some camps, Chadian police responsible for protecting refugees
have been unable to carry out their duties because of intimidation
and death threats from armed groups," said Gagnon. "The continuing
risk to civilians is great, and there is an urgent need for EUFOR
to deploy immediately."
In addition to its civilian protection role, EUFOR is mandated by
the UN Security Council to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian
aid, which has been severely compromised by growing insecurity. In
late January 2008, the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR) began to evacuate national and international staff
in response to escalating violence in the country. Since that time,
Chadian rebel activity has paralyzed road travel to eastern Chad,
cutting off food supplies to 400,000 refugees and displaced persons
living in camps. In February, UNHCR issued an urgent plea for the
establishment of an air corridor to transport humanitarian aid
between eastern Chad, the capital N'Djam‚na, and the wider region.
Some EU member states have expressed concern that EUFOR will not be
a neutral force in the conflict because France, which provides
military assistance to the Chadian government, is contributing some
2,100 troops out of the 3,700-strong force. They have suggested
that the force would not be able to steer clear of internal Chadian
politics. EUFOR officials maintain, however, that they would remain
strictly neutral in the conflict between the Chadian government and
"EUFOR is a European force operating under a UN mandate, and it is
not supposed to take sides," said Gagnon. "Troop commitments from
a broader range of EU members would help provide EUFOR with the
support it needs to protect civilians."
Human Rights Watch expressed concern for the safety of recently
arrived Sudanese refugees in Birak and called on EUFOR to consider
establishing a field office in the embattled Gu‚r‚da area of
Human Rights Watch strongly condemned the arrest of three leaders
of Chad's political opposition in N'Djam‚na on February 2 during a
rebel attack, and expressed particular concern for the safety of
human rights activists. In addition, Human Rights Watch welcomed
the February 11 declaration by EU Commissioner Louis Michel calling
for the immediate release of the arrested opposition politicians.
In September 2007, the UN Security Council approved a
multidimensional EU-UN presence in Chad and the Central African
Republic comprised of three distinct elements:
MINURCAT (the United Nations Mission in the Central African
Republic and Chad), comprised of approximately 1,400 UN civilian
staff, 300 UN police and 50 UN military liaison officers; and
PTPH (Police Tchadienne pour la Protection Humanitaire), an
850-member Chadian police force trained by United Nations police.
EUFOR represents the first European Security and Defence Policy
(ESDP) mission under UN mandate in a country where the
International Criminal Court (ICC) has jurisdiction. The EU has a
cooperation agreement with the ICC, and EUFOR should provide the
ICC with any needed assistance.
In September 2008, the halfway point in EUFOR's one-year mandate,
the UN Security Council and the Chadian government will evaluate
every aspect of the mission and will make a decision on a potential
handover to UN peacekeeping troops by March 2009. UN Security
Council resolution 1778, which authorized the EU/UN force
deployment to Chad, envisioned EUFOR as a bridging force to a
longer-term UN mission.
Making Sense of Chad
Alex de Waal
Pambazuka News 342, Feb, 5, 2008
[Alex De Waal is the director of Justice Africa. This article was
posted at http://www.justiceafrica.org by Alex de Waal as part of
the Making Sense of Darfur Blog http://www.ssrc.org/blog/category/darfur ]
The war for Chad is not over. It is likely to become more bloody
and involve a wider humanitarian disaster before any solutions can
be grasped. The next week will be critical for the future of the
country - and for the wider region, including Darfur, as well.
Last weekend's battle in the Chadian capital N'djamena came as no
surprise. For the last two years, the Sudan government has been
trying to overthrow the Chadian president, Idriss Deby, using
Chadian rebels as proxy forces. The three armed groups involved in
the latest attack were all extensively armed by Sudanese Security,
which has the clear intent of cutting off the support that Deby is
giving to Darfurian rebels, especially the Justice and Equality
Movement (JEM), which has recently been on the offensive in Darfur.
The timing is no surprise either. In the next few weeks, a European
Union protection force (EUFOR) was due to deploy to eastern Chad
and north-eastern Central African Republic. While EUFOR's mandate
(given by the UN Security Council) is for impartial civilian
protection, it is a substantially French initiative, and seen by
all in the region as a military protection for Deby. Khartoum and
the rebels wanted to strike first.
The Chadian civil war is often described as a "spillover" from
Darfur. That is a simplification. Darfur's war actually began as a
spillover from Chad more than twenty years ago and the two
conflicts have been entangled ever since. Many of the Arab militia
fighting in Darfur are of Chadian origin, and many of the rebels
similarly served in the Chadian army or militia. The current
Chadian war is best seen through four different lenses.
First, it is a continuation of the entangled conflicts of Darfur
and Chad, which includes competition for power and land.
Second, there is an internal Chadian conflict. After a hopeful
broadening of the base of his regime in the late 1990s, accompanied
by the growth of civil politics in N'djamena, he has reverted to
one- man military rule. Deby relies heavily on a very narrow circle
of close kinsmen and on using state finance as his personal
property, distributing largesse in return for loyalty. He is also
ill and the political vultures have been circling for several
years. The most feared scenario now is that Deby will eliminate the
civil opposition in Chad, forcing the international community to
choose between him and the rebels, whom he depicts as Sudanese
mercenaries. Murdering the civilian opposition in this way is not
unprecedented in Chad.
Third is Khartoum's strategy for managing security in its
borderlands, which includes treating weak neighboring states as
extensions of its internal peripheries. Sudanese security helped
bring Deby to power in 1990 as part of a policy that also saw it
engage militarily in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda, Democratic Republic
of Congo and Central African Republic over the subsequent decade.
In the same way that Khartoum uses a mixture of reward and force to
control its provincial elites, in Darfur, the South and elsewhere,
it uses the same tools to influence its trans-border peripheries.
Last is a regional competition for dominance through a vast arc of
central Africa that has rarely been governed by state authority.
This hinterland includes Chad, CAR and northern DRC, as well as the
adjoining areas of Sudan. As well as Khartoum, Tripoli, Kampala,
Kinshasa, Kigali and even Asmara are vying for influence across
Darfur and Chad
Deby came to power in 1990 on the basis of a simple deal with
Khartoum - each would deny support to the other's rebels. For
twelve years that deal held. When the Darfur rebels began to
organize at scale in 2002 and 2003, Deby at first tried to
dissociate himself from them. He mediated the first ceasefires in
the war (Abeche in September 2003 and N'djamena in April 2004),
worked to split and undermine the rebels, and even reportedly
cooperated in some military actions against them. But he was unable
to control his Zaghawa kinsmen who formed many of the fighters of
both SLA and JEM, and by 2005 Chad was sucked into the conflict as
a direct supporter of the rebels. The Sudan government responded by
backing Chadian rebels, who attacked the border town of Adre in
December 2005. At this point, Deby declared that Sudan and Chad
were in a state of war. Even while the peace talks continued in
Abuja, the Chadian war intensified, reaching its climax with a
rebel attack on N'djamena in April 2006. Just weeks before the
deadline for concluding the peace talks, Khartoum tried to alter
the reality on the ground in its favor. It nearly succeeded. JEM
forces helped sway the battle for N'djamena in Deby's favor.
The entanglement has continued since. Deby's favored intermediary
has been JEM, which he has rearmed with weapons captured in Chadian
battles. Meanwhile, Sudan has backed a series of Chadian rebels.
Among them are the United Forces for Democracy and Development
(UFDD) of Mahamat Nouri, a Goraan and former ambassador, the Rally
of Forces for Change(RFD) of Timan Erdimi, a Bedeyat cousin of Deby
and former army chief of staff, and a breakaway group from the UFDD
headed by Abdel Wahid Aboud Mackaye, a Salamat Arab. Most of these
groupings are transient - the important things to watch are the
individual leaders, their ethnic affiliations and their backers.
In recent months, JEM has been on the offensive in western Darfur,
broadening its own coalition to include militia from groups such as
the Gimir (a group on the Darfur-Chad border that has long valued
its autonomy, and which in recent years has been politically
identified as 'Arab' though it has no Arab lineage) and Missiriya
Jebel (a group from nearby Jebel Mun, which has an Arab lineage but
lost the Arab language several generations ago). Chadian forces
were reportedly engaged in these offensives too - though
citizenship is largely meaningless along this border.
As Darfurian rebel forces - both JEM and some SLA - have rushed
back to N'djamena to join the battle for the capital, we can expect
to see the Sudan army and militia take the offensive against the
rebels remaining in West Darfur.
Chad's Civil War
Idriss Deby is a strongman who gained power through military
prowess and external backing. He has stayed in power through the
same combination, his position strengthened by oil revenues and
French military cooperation. He dismantled a model World Bank
program for control of Chad's oil revenue, which had been intended
to ensure that the funds were used for development, rather than
patronage and arms purchases. He fixed the elections. He stays in
power through intrigue, intimidation and cash.
Since 1986, when France dispatched special forces under Operation
Epervier to Chad to support the war against Libya, French troops
have been a key factor in Chad's civil wars. The French have
assisted the Chadian army with intelligence, logistics and medical
units - the first two turning the tide of battle in Deby's favor
several times in the last three years.
Under Jacques Chirac, France's policy towards Chad was handled by
the military, whose response to the political crisis was to extend
military assistance rather than to encourage talks with the
opposition. But Deby was careful not to overstep the mark he knew
the friendship was tactical and feared that the French could always
stand aside and allow a rival to seize power, just as it had
refused to intervene to prop up Deby's predecessor HissŠne Habr‚ in
1990. Until February 3, it looked as though French troops were
going to do the same - there were reports that France had offered
to evacuate Deby from his besieged presidential palace. Certainly,
Deby had offended Paris with provocative remarks on the Zoe's Ark
child abduction case, when he alleged publicly that the children
might be about to be taken to have their organs harvested.
But by this morning, it seems that the French government had
decided that Chad without Deby was a worse proposition than with
him, and swung back behind the beleaguered president. This is only
a short- term option - Deby is literally fighting for his life and
will do anything that is necessary to stay in power. One thing he
may consider 'necessary' is eliminating the civil opposition.
Already, civilian opposition members and civil society leaders have
been rounded up and there are fears that they will be murdered en
masse. Habr‚ did the same thing just before he was ousted in 1990.
Deby will then present the world with a choice - either him or
While Deby's forces have regrouped, so have the armed rebels.
Reinforcements have arrived and there may well be another battle
for N'djamena in the coming days - a fight to the death for all
Sudan's Management of its Borderlands
Khartoum's strategy for managing the security threats in Darfur is
seamless with its strategy for Chad. Sudanese security officers'
favored instrument is cash and they opportunistically buy support
among the Darfurian and Chadian elites. They buy Arab and non-Arabs
as they can. Inside Darfur, Military Intelligence is the most
powerful governmental institution. For the Chad policy, it is the
National Security and Intelligence Service.
This is the most recent manifestation of an approach to governing
the peripheries that stretches back to the mid-19th century and
earlier. Under the Turko-Egyptian rulers of Sudan (1821-83), the
territory was divided into 'metropolitan' and 'military' provinces.
Darfur and the South were the latter, where the center established
its claim to sovereignty through making deals with local
potentates. The Mahdist rulers and the Darfur sultans used much the
same practice. For all of these, the border was not a line it was
a territory which extended indefinitely into eastern, central and
west Africa, until it met a point at which military resistance was
too great or the price of buying influence was too high.
Quasi-autonomous agents of Turko- Egyptian rule ranged across
central Africa, reaching the Congo river and Nigeria. The British
reproduced a similar division of administrative systems within the
borders of Sudan - in the peripheries they called it 'native
administration' in the 'closed districts', and differed from their
predecessors principally in that they preferred not to distribute
weapons. Post-colonial Sudanese governments are acting in exactly
the older tradition of a deep and extended borderland, seeking
influence, security and profit far both within their own remoter
provinces and across their national borders.
Competition for Regional Dominance
Alongside Sudan, Libya sees Chad as part of its sub-Saharan
periphery. Colonel Muammar Gaddafi proclaimed the unity of Chad and
Libya in 1980 and fought a long war for control of the territory,
until defeated by a Chadian army extensively armed and supported by
France and the U.S. Recent Libyan policy has tilted towards Deby
and against his Sudan-backed adversaries. But Gaddafi was also
offended by Deby's refusal to make political compromises during
peace talks in Libya last October. Anticipating the arrival of
European soldiers who would act as a military bulwark, Deby took a
hard line and caused the talks to fail.
The war for Chad is also a war for Central African Republic, where
President Francois Bozize was installed by Chadian troops in 2003,
overthrowing his predecessor Ange-Felix Patass‚. With Deby
endangered, the Zaghawa troops who formed the backbone of Bozize's
army have left to defend N'djamena. This creates a potential vacuum
in which Chad's competitors for influence may once again meddle.
Sudan will be interested in securing this outer frontier. So will
Libya, which supported Patass‚. Kinshasa and Kampala will also be
looking for influence there - it was a stronghold for the Congolese
leader Jean-Pierre Bemba at the height of the war in DRC. Eritrea,
which has its fingers in every troublespot in and around the Horn
of Africa, will also be keeping its interests alive. France has a
military base in CAR and could well play the role as guardian of
In the last two years, international policy towards Chad has become
a byproduct of Darfur policy, and specifically the push to bring an
international protection force to Darfur. After the election of
Nicholas Sarkozy, French policy shifted, focusing on the use of
Chad as the launchpad for humanitarian action in Darfur, including
military support for a UN protection force. A European protection
force for eastern Chad and north-eastern CAR (EUFOR) was authorized
by the UN Security Council as a neutral international civilian
protection force, distinct from the French soldiers whose mission
has always been political. But it was only a substantial French
military contingent that could bring EUFOR up to strength. For all
the political actors in the region, EUFOR is seen as a non-neutral
military protection to Deby - hence the military strike at
N'djamena in the days before it was due to be deployed.
The limitations of an international protection-first policy are
sharply revealed by the battle for N'djamena. A humanitarian
protection mission had political implications that turned out to
contribute to an escalation in violence. The Europeans now are
faced with the dilemma of whether they send troops into the middle
of ongoing hostilities - with the Chadian rebels having declared
that EUFOR is an enemy - or whether they revert to a traditional
peacekeeping approach, and seek a negotiated settlement first.
EUFOR has no ceasefire commission and no formal means of dealing
with the rebels, a recipe for disaster. Most likely, EUFOR will
simply not deploy in Chad at all. Troop contributors will decide
that they don't do civilian protection in wartime after all.
The implications for the hybrid UN-African Mission in Darfur
(UNAMID) are no less far-reaching. This has the mirror-image
problem - it deals with Khartoum on a day-to-day basis but there is
no ceasefire commission in which the rebels are represented, so its
only contact with them is through the mediation team working on the
peace talks. This is wholly insufficient should the war intensify
for example if Deby regroups and decides to take the offensive by
mounting attacks deep into Darfur. UNAMID runs the risk of being a
target of attack or even an unwitting party to a conflict. In such
scenarios, international attention will become focused on the
integrity and safety of UNAMID and its members, rather than on
solving Sudan's problems.
The prospects for Chad in the immediate future are dire indeed. The
worst prospect is a massacre of the civilian opposition followed by
a battle for N'djamena which causes immense destruction,
displacement and bloodshed, and creates a new vortex of instability
President Deby may survive and regroup. He might be able to do this
with his domestic and Darfurian reinforcements, but France's role
will be crucial. Most probably, Chad and France will try their
hardest to portray the war as a Sudanese invasion and bring it to
the UN Security Council on those terms. This could be a cover for
Deby to eliminate civilian opposition and counter-attack in Darfur.
The rebels may succeed in overrunning N'djamena, leaving a ruined
city controlled by factional leaders who distrust one another and
cannot form a government, with Sudanese security playing a leading
role in brokering whatever agreement is possible. A government
formed under these conditions would certainly be an international
A third scenario, familiar from Chad's history, is collapse into
warlordism. The chances for a fourth political agreement and the
construction of a civilian alternative is fading by the hour.
AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication
providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with
a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus
Bulletin is edited by William Minter.
AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please
write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin,
or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about
reposted material, please contact directly the original source
mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see