Saturday, February 02, 2008

A Coup On The Cards In Chad

Fighting between government forces and rebels is reported from the streets of the capital of Chad, N'Djamena. The rebels, who've made a stunning advance west across the country in recent days, say they will take the presidential palace within hours. President Deby, who himself seized power in a coup back in 1990, is said to still be inside the palace, although his time seems to be almost up.

What's going on in Chad is closely tied up with events in neighbouring Sudan, and its troubled western province of Darfur. Sudan accuses Chad of backing rebel forces in Darfur, while Chad in turn blames Sudan for supporting the rebels now bearing down on central N'Djamena. The hundreds of thousands of refugees of both nationalities forced into eastern Chad by the Darfur crisis, have added to the instability, and helped strengthen the rebels.

France is the colonial power in Chad, and has now reversed its advice to its citizens to get out. Instead, it's telling them all to stay indoors, as the street fighting continues. Deployment of an international force to Chad has been delayed by France's insistence that it look after its own people first, and seeing as France would supply most of the troops for any UN force, nobody else is really in a position to argue.

As for Chad, it's possible a change in government (albeit by military coup) could help ease the region's problems, as all sides find it easier to negotiate with someone new. But that's pretty unlikely. Instead, expect supporters of the apparently-soon-to-be-ousted President Deby to keep fighting, for months and years, until everyone's more or less forgotten what exactly it is they're fighting for.

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