10 Apr 2006
The Spectre Of Civil War Looms over Chad
On Sunday April 9th, rebels led by 35 years old Mahamat Nour claimed to have overran the South-Eastern Chadian garrison town of Haraze Mangueigne. The United Front for Democratic Change (FUCD) rebels also claimed to have advanced further inland to the towns of Am Timane and Abou-Deia. A Chadian government spokesman was shift to rebuff those assertions insisting that they had repulsed the rebel attack. Chad (pop 9.83million) has a surface area of 1,284,000 sq km and is located around Central Africa.
War drums have been sounding in Chad for quite a while as President Idriss Derby’s foes increase by the day. Some Chadian army top brass including generals have reportedly deserted the national army to join rebel ranks. Nour and his partners-in-arms see no peaceful way of changing the “autocratic and corrupt” regime of Derby.
Violent change of governments and civil war is not new to Chad. In 1969 rebels operating in the North launched a guerrilla war against the first post independence government of Tombalbaye. After the assassination of Tombalbaye, Felix Malloum took over the presidency and continued fighting until his overthrow by Libyian-backed Goukouni Oueddei in 1980. Leadership changed hands a couple of times between Oueddei and Hissene Habre (backed by Sudan) until Idriss Derby finally ousted Habre in 1990.
Idriss organized elections in 1996 and won. He was again re-elected in disputed polls in 2001. It was his controversial amendment of the constitution to allow him run for a third term that sparked the latest round of crisis. Some opposition parties have said they will boycott the polls billed for May 3rd this year. They want the government to post pone the elections and instead organize a national forum for the examination of the whole electoral process among other issues.
Chadians have been used to fighting turf wars with one another in a country that had little resources. The stakes are certainly higher now that Chad is an oil producer. Chad agreed with the World Bank (in exchange for the bank financing the Chad-Cameroon Pipeline) that an agreed part of the oil revenue will be kept aside for poverty alleviation programmes. The government of Idriss Derby reneged on the agreement and amended the petroleum law to alter the way oil proceeds could be spent. This action drew the ire of the World Bank and she reacted by withholding some US $ 124 million worth of new loans and grants to the Chadian government in January 2006.
The Chad of Idriss Derby is a country entangled with problems. She hosts 300,000 refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan. She had declared a “state of belligerence” with Sudan- accusing her eastern neighbour of backing rebels. The armed incursions by the rebels will only push the government further away from the agreement signed with the World Bank as Idriss Derby goes shopping for arms to defend his crumbling government.
Every indicator is pointing to more violent clashes as the rebels are reportedly well- armed and numerically strong.
Njei Moses Timah