Central African Republic and Chad

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What happens next in Central African Republic  is anyone’s guess, but Chad is likely to remain an important player in CAR politics.

Chad’s president Idriss Deby “lost patience” with Francois Bozize, as RFI reports, and along with Francois Hollande, ignored Bozize’s last calls for support. RFI asks why Deby, who helped bring Bozize to power a decade ago, recently turned against him. Read the RFI story, Centrafrique: Bozizé lâché par Déby, ignoré par Hollande. My translation/summary:

Deby’s entourage says the Chadian president was simply tired of dealing with Bozize.  In May 2012 Deby went to Bangui and publicly called on Bozize to dialogue with the opposition. That was a sign of the tension already existing between the two heads of state.

In private, Idriss Deby reportedly asked Bozize to drop his plan to modify the constitution so that he could run for a third term…. Bozize had hard time accepting this advice from Deby who, himself, had modified the constitution of Chad to stay in power.

In the following months, things only got worse. Bozize suspected Deby of supporting the rebels….

Nonetheless, when Seleka launched its first offensive on Bangui in December, Chadian soldiers intervened. Ndjamena suspected  Michel Djotodia of supporting the Chadian rebellion. But by January Chad had received assurances from the Seleka leadership that Bangui would not become a rear base for Chadian rebels. This time there was no need to intervene.

Certainly the fact that France was not going to intervene on behalf of Bozize bolstered Deby’s decision. Deby has improved his standing with France by sending 2,400 Chadian soldiers to Mali. Deby’s decision to send soldiers to Mali does not have support at home, however. And with Chadian soldiers in both Mali and CAR, the Chadian army is stretched thin.

Was Deby’s decision to abandon Bozize also a recognition that continuing to support him could be too risky?  Several Chadian rebel groups had released communiques in support of Seleka and denouncing dictators like Bozize — and Deby.

And, interestingly, just a few days before Bozize fled CAR, Chadian rebels announced they would take up arms again against Deby, Reuters reported:

Chadian rebels said on Thursday they would take up arms again against President Idriss Deby after he failed to negotiate with them since they agreed to stop fighting more than two years ago.

The Union of Forces of Resistance (UFR), a rebel coalition, put down their weapons after Chad and Sudan agreed to end their proxy wars in 2010 by ceasing their support for insurgents in each other’s country….

However, speaking by telephone from the Qatari capital Doha, Chadian rebel leader Timane Erdimi told Reuters that after two years of waiting for talks they had no other options left.

“We’re tired of waiting. Our supporters on the ground are tired and are pushing us to fight given Deby’s obstinate refusal. We must resume fighting.”

The former French colony, one of the poorest nations in the world, has been rocked by humanitarian crises over the last decade including conflicts in the east and south, drought in the arid Sahel region, and flooding.

Deby seized power in a 1990 military coup and has since won a series of elections whose fairness has been questioned by international observers. He has dismissed those allegations and defended his record.

Erdimi was the leader of one of several rebel groups in a 2008 rebel coalition which attacked the Chadian capital N’Djamena in February that year, besieging Deby in his palace.

The rebels eventually withdrew, accusing former colonial power France, which has troops and planes based in Chad, of backing Deby. Paris said its forces gave intelligence, medical and logistics support to the Chadian army, but did not participate directly in combat.

Read the Reuters story, Chad rebels say to resume fight, Deby’s promises unmet.

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