Chad

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    Latest Developments

    In early September 2023, the Administration of Faya-Largeau (in the north of the country) imposed a nighttime curfew and limited phone coverage due to protests erupting outside the French military base in the city following the death of a Chadian soldier within the facility. These are just the latest in a series of protests against the perceived interference of Paris in the internal affairs of N’Djamena: the presence of the French contingent, consisting of 40 personnel, has lasted for 40 years.

    In mid-August 2023, President Déby visited the village of Bardai, near the border with Libya. According to the Libyan press, the trip occurred shortly after the start of the military operation conducted by the Libyan National Army of Haftar against Chadian rebels based in Fezzan, the southwest region of Libya. N’Djamena’s statement claims that the purpose of Déby’s tour, which also took him to Bardai, is to engage with the various components of the country to ensure peace, security, and coexistence.

    The outbreak of yet another conflict in neighboring Sudan in April 2023 worsens the internal conditions of Chad, particularly in its Eastern Region. The local population welcomes thousands of displaced people amidst endemic poverty and continuously rising food prices. In June 2023, UNHCR announced that more than 100,000 Sudanese, mostly women and children from Darfur, had already crossed the border.

    These people add to the over 680,000 refugees (mostly Sudanese) already present on Chadian territory. This escalation of war in Sudan also poses a political security problem for Chad, grappling with a challenging phase of its history. On October 20, 2022, the promised transition from Déby’s military regime to democracy did not occur. There were street protests, silenced by military violence. The distance and clashes between the military junta and its opponents (members of civil society, political parties, and rebel groups) persist: internal stability is severely compromised.

     

    What they are fighting for?

    In Chad, there has been fighting for years for control of land in fratricidal and intercommunal clashes among the country’s over 200 ethnic groups, from North to South. The conflict over control of pastures and the intrusion of livestock into cultivated fields cause extremely tense situations every year between herders and farmers, tensions that often result in bloodshed.

    There is fighting for control of resources, especially gold and uranium in the North, among various armed groups vying for control of the region. Some of these threaten the central government, which often intervenes with the army to contain these expansionist ambitions. A recent example is the case of the Front for Alternation and Concord in Chad (FACT), whose advance toward the capital has led to intense clashes with the armed forces.

    Country Overview

    Chad, a former French colony, became independent in 1960 and joined the United Nations in September of the same year. Hopes for a democratic national future were dashed by the first elected President, François Tombalbaye: his government immediately became authoritarian. By 1962, he had already banned political parties and begun to suppress political opponents. There were several internal revolts, and in 1966, the National Front for the Liberation of Chad (Frolinat) was formed in Sudan. A long civil war began, which continued even after the military coup in 1975, when Tombalbaye was killed and General Félix Malloum, leader of the military junta, became the new Head of Government. Seeking solutions, in 1978 Malloum appointed rebel leader Hissène Habré as Prime Minister. However, the following year, the military junta and Frolinat openly clashed in the capital. Malloum was forced to flee, plunging the country into an even deeper crisis. The UN intervened: in August 1979, a Peace Treaty (Lagos Agreement) allowed for the formation of a transitional government towards political elections. Goukouni Oueddei became President, with Habré as Defense Minister. However, after 18 months, the situation remained unchanged: Chad was still plagued by clashes between authorities and rebel groups. The 1980s were marked by successive coups. In 1990, Idriss Déby staged a coup: this army deserter of Habré’s army became the Head of Government for over 30 years. Since 2003, Chad has received thousands of refugees fleeing the civil war in Darfur. On December 23, 2005, N’Djamena declared war against Sudan. The decision was justified by a long series of clashes between the two countries at the expense of border populations. In 2010, a Peace Agreement was reached. Over the years, rebel groups have not calmed down: there have been many attempts to overthrow the Déby government.

    The country remains prey to violent tensions. Instability increased further in April 2021, when the President died during clashes in the capital between the army and the Front for Alternation and Change (FACT). After Déby’s assassination, leadership of the country became a contest between military clans linked to the Zaghawa ethnic group, that of the late President. Moreover, the army did not overwhelmingly support Déby and his immediate family. Deployed in difficult interventions in the Sahel or against rebels in the north of the country, soldiers were entitled to cash rewards, of which the former President retained two-thirds. Those who complained were eliminated. From the struggles following the Dictator’s death emerged his son Mahamat Déby as the victor, entrusted with the task of guiding the country towards democracy. The expiration of his transitional government (in fact, a military junta) was set for October 2022. On August 20, 2022, after 5 months of negotiations in Doha between the President and rebel groups, the National Dialogue began: about 40 rebel groups and 1,400 representatives of armed forces, civil society, unions, and opposition parties gathered in the capital with the aim of defining the conditions for lasting peace, reforming institutions, drafting a new Constitution, and establishing rules for elections. A central, highly divisive issue is defining the possibility of candidacy for members of the Déby military junta. This experiment in democratic cohesion immediately proves to be very complex, especially due to the absence of some protagonists in Chad’s political-military life. FACT boycotts the meeting, already in disagreement with the Doha negotiations, during which it had complained of not being heard in requests for prisoner release and ineligibility for members of the military junta. Also absent are some opposition parties and part of civil society: both accuse the military junta of human rights violations and of wanting to re-elect Déby to lead the country.

    On October 8, 2022, the Dialogue concluded, confirming internal tensions within the country. Elections are postponed by two years, extending the transition period, and Déby is confirmed as Head of State. He has the prerogative to appoint the Prime Minister, a position assumed by opposition leader Saleh Kebzabo on October 12. The Junta is granted the opportunity to run in future (but uncertain) democratic elections. On October 20, when Déby was supposed to relinquish his position, it was a day of street protests and violent repression. Between 50 and 70 deaths were reported. The Junta also suspended 7 opposition parties. It declared a state of emergency in N’Djamena and two other cities. Meanwhile, in June 2022, the war in Ukraine prompted Chad to declare a food emergency.

     

    Key figure or organization: Mahamat ibn Idriss Déby Itno

    Mahamat ibn Idriss Déby Itno is the son of former Chadian President Idriss Déby. He has a significant military career: he was the second in command of the Chadian Armed Forces for the Chad Intervention in Northern Mali (Operation Serval). After his father’s death in clashes between the army and the Fact rebels in N’Djamena, Mahamat becomes the President of the Transitional Military Council: effectively, the interim President of the country. His appointment has been the subject of numerous controversies because it is unconstitutional. The Chadian Constitution indeed provides that, in the event of the death of the Head of State, the President of the Parliament should succeed him. The transfer of power to Déby’s son suggests a dangerous dynasticization of the highest office of the State.

    FOCUS 1 – A railway for the Mediterranean

    There is a major railway connection project between Libya, Chad, and Niger. In July 2023, the Libyan official responsible for implementing and managing the project, Saeed al Kilani, met with the ambassadors of the other two countries to present it: the railway will connect the East and West of Libya, passing through coastal cities with a double track on which goods and passengers will travel. Al Kilani stated that the project will support African economies: given the position of his country, the new railway will be strategic in connecting the Mediterranean and Central Africa.

     

    FOCUS 2 – The Abu Dhabi Hospital

    In July 2023, the United Arab Emirates confirmed the construction of a field hospital near Amdjarass, a city in northeastern Chad. The declared purpose is to assist Sudanese refugees in the area. Although it is a civilian structure, it is not ruled out that the area could be protected by a military contingent. The Emirati Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that the project is made possible by contributions from the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation for Humanitarian Activities, the Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable Foundation, and the Emirates Red Crescent Authority.