Saturday, February 2, 2008
Chad, Europe & Darfur
A little heads up on the fighting going on in Chad's capital: there's actually quite a bit more at stake there than whether the rebels manage to replace Chad's thug ruler Idriss Deby or work out a power sharing arrangement with him. The real action in that story is the EUFOR Chad force which was scheduled to deploy yesterday to the Eastern part of the country, on the border across from Darfur. The area is a hotbed of Chadian insurgency groups, Sudanese militias, and organized bandits, all of whom target the over 200,000 refugees from Darfur and over 100,000 internally displaced Chadians that are gathered there in UNHCR refugee camps.
The EUFOR Chad mission, authorized by the UN Security Council, was designed to re-establish security in the area in order for humanitarian groups to provide assistance to the refugees, and eventually help them return to their homes. Needless to say, none of the border-hopping armed groups were particularly enthusiastic about the mission deploying, and the Sudanese government wasn't too keen on seeing a European contingent on the other side of the border from Darfur either. So the timing of the rebel offensive, which in cutting off the land route to the east has already delayed the mission's deployment, is highly suspect.
Should they seize power, which is looking more and more likely, it's very possible the rebels will revoke Chad's invitation to the EUFOR force altogether, effectively putting an end to the mission. The last time the rebels threatened Deby's hold on power in 2005, France provided him with intelligence and some air support which allowed him to turn them back. The move caused one rebel group to declare a "state of belligerence" with France, which had already raised some concerns about the largely French EUFOR contingent being targetted.
Now France must decide whether to intervene on Deby's behalf again to make sure the EUFOR mission (which it worked hard to put together) deploys, thereby impeaching the mission's multi-lateral veneer of impartiality; or stand by and let the rebels seize power, thereby watching the mission (and the months' worth of diplomatic maneuvering to get it off the ground) go down the drain.