Chad: The Devils Playground

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May 19, 2007: Various government and rebel (against either Sudan or Chad) groups continue to plot and maneuver against each other along the Sudan border. The peace deal signed two weeks ago, at the insistence of Saudi Arabia, is having no more impact than the previous two, negotiated by Libya. Chad has also signed a deal to demobilize its child (under 18) soldiers. This was done to ensure continued UN aid, and to keep the UN donor nations happy. Child soldiers have become a popular cause in the West. In Chad, child soldiers have never been an issue. For thousands of years, if a boy was big enough to handle a weapon, he went off with the other men to fight. That usually meant kids as young as 14 or 15 would join the tribal war band. If he survived his first clash, his marriage prospects improved considerably. What has changed now is that automatic weapons, and firearms in general, have lowered the age, by 5-6 years, at which a kid can be armed and dangerous. Moreover, warlords have replaced tribal elders as the recruiters. The warlords often coerce kids to join up, whereas tribal elders had to use a more friendly approach.

Libya and Saudi Arabia are continuing a long running feud (over who is the leader of the Arab world) via their support for different rebel factions in Chad. Libya has been interfering in Chadian affairs for decades, partly because parts of northern Chad are claimed by Libya. In Chad, the rebels are motivated partly by ancient tribal feuds, and partly over who gets how much of the new oil wealth. Chad, like most African countries, was assembled by European colonizers two centuries ago. The normal nation building process, is for all the tribes and ethnic groups to work out a unification arrangement over time. Many African nations are still trying to work out the terms of unification, which is accompanied by much rebellion and violence.

The UN is still trying to get Chad to accept peacekeepers, but Chad doesn't want foreign troops on its territory. Partly, this is because Chad sees this as a UN ploy to get peacekeepers into Sudan. Chad depends on handouts from oil-rich Arab countries, and all of these Arab nations are opposed to peacekeepers in Sudan. Chad also doesn't want peacekeepers, because these foreign troops make it easier for foreign journalists to see and record the various dirty dealings Chadian leaders regularly participate in. So the violence will continue, at a low level, until the various Chadian factions can work out a deal to share power and the oil money, or until someone gains a military advantage, and can run their opponents (the leaders, anyway) out of the country.

Meanwhile, a similar situation exists in neighboring Central African Republic (CAR), except there the central government is weaker, and there's no oil money to fight over (just power and real estate). As in Chad, a few thousand French troops help keep the pro-French government in power.

 

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