Chad: Not Worth Getting Involved


April 23, 2009: The government is calling in foreign diplomats to help negotiate a peace deal with the main rebel groups in the country. The problem is that few tribal leaders, in the north and east of Chad, trust the government. That's because president Idris Deby has lied to, and played, tribal leaders so often in the past. Even many factions in Deby's own  Zaghawa tribe (a powerful group in northern Chad) oppose the government. Now Deby has the oil money, in addition to the foreign aid, to buy loyalty in the south (where the oil, and most of the water, is.) Much of the conflict in the north, as in neighboring Darfur, is over water. Too many people and too little water has created more conflict. The introduction of Western medical techniques and drugs caused a population explosion over the past two centuries. Foreign food aid prevents large scale famine deaths. This keeps the fighting over scarce resources going. The UN believes that if they can just get everyone to sit down and talk, a peace deal can be worked out. But all groups want a larger share of the foreign aid and oil money, and many have very personal grudges with president Deby.

The UN is also devoting a lot of effort to demobilizing "child soldiers" (anyone under 18 involved in the fighting.) This is a problem in this part of the world, where you stop being a child when you are 14 or so. Thus the local warlords are perplexed when these foreigners insist that they dismiss all their 14-17 year old soldiers.

The UN can't do much in Chad, because they have only been able to obtain 2,000 of the 5,200 peacekeepers they believe they need. There is a severe shortage of helicopters, and no UN members are willing to provide the choppers or the troops for Chad. The feeling is that Chad and the Central African Republic (which is undergoing a civil war similar to the one in Chad) situations are hopeless and not worth getting involved with.

April 7, 2009:  A member of the French Foreign Legion, serving as a peacekeeper in northeastern Chad, went mad, killed three other peacekeepers, stole a horse and fled into the desert. He was captured the next day.


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