While debate continues in the Western press over Idriss Deby Itno’s claim that Abou Zeid and Mokhtar Belmokhtar are dead, news from Chad suggests there’s little support for Deby’s decision to send Chadian soldiers to Mali. Al Jazeera reports that, “Many in Chad are sceptical of Mali offensive.”
La Nouvelle Expression in Cameroon writes that Deby’s military move is an attempt by an old putchist to improve his image. Deby’s country is paying a heavy price, La Nouvelle Expression writes, but Deby accepts it courageously. For Chadian blogger Makaila the losers in Mali are the people of Chad. “Que toute l’opposition tchadienne se taise car désormais, Hollande, Obama et les autres, ne jureront que par (Deby).” (The Chadian opposition should shut up because from now on Hollande, Obama and the others will only swear by Deby.)
How many more jihadists and Chadian fighters need to die before all of Deby’s past sins are forgiven?
Mar. 5 (GIN) – Bombardments of presumed strongholds of the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb militia entrenched in Mali are continuing from the air by French planes. But the fight on the frontlines is being waged almost alone by fighters from the north African nation of Chad. And losses are piling up.
Earlier this week, military planes returned 26 coffins of Chadian fighters who were selected for their intimate knowledge of the Saharan desert. “Chad has one of the world’s true desert armies,” said Al Jazeera reporter May Ling, “but they have also born the main brunt of the war.”
Most Chadians don’t believe the war serves their priorities, Ling, reporting from N’djamena, Chad, says. “France is pushing Chad into this war,” said a disgruntled citizen interviewed in the news video. “The majority of the Chadian people don’t agree with it. They’re very sad because this is Mali’s business. It’s not Chad’s fight.”
Another citizen told the reporter: “We don’t know whether or not the Parliament voted for this or not. All we know is we went to bed one night and woke up the next day to hear us telling us that they’re sending 2- or 3,000 troops to Mali. We’re not happy with this intervention at all.”
Chad’s government has pleaded with ECOWAS, a regional security group, to send more African troops but for the moment they are fighting alone. The U.N. is withholding peacekeeping troops until the “appropriate time.”
Meanwhile, reports of abuses by Malian soldiers of civilians of Arab and Tuareg origin are alarming human rights groups. Five soldiers are reportedly under investigation for atrocities committed against civilians.