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Sudan 101

Chad and Darfur

Chad and the Darfur Conflict


sudanColonel Muammad al-Qaddafi of Libya has claimed that to resolve the Darfur conflict, tensions between Chad and Sudan needed to be addressed first. Even though that statement is not entirely true, that idea certainly needs to be analyzed. Knowing and understanding the nature and the impact of the Sudan-Chad relationship on the conflict can be a great step to peace.

Geographical and Historical Background
Chad is one of Sudan’s western neighbors, sharing a border with Sudan’s Darfur province. Both countries are big and have a history of coups d’état. Throughout the years, their relationship has mostly been cordial, but the current Darfur conflict has changed that relationship for the worse. To understand the now tumultuous relationship, it is important to examine the link between Darfur and Chad.

Because colonialism focused on Eurpean interests, it did not take into account the numerous ethnic groups when dividing up Africa. Some ethnic groups were divided by the Chad-Sudan border.  The current Chadian president, Idriss Déby, comes from one of those groups, the Zaghawa people, who are found both in eastern Chad and Sudan.  It is  not surprising, then, that Déby used Darfur as his base to instigate the military coup that gave him command of Chad in 1990 and enlisted the help of some Darfuri militias. Deby’s use of Darfur as a launch base for his coup is eve n less surprising since his predecessor, Goukouni Oueddei, did the same thing before, with Déby at the time serving as one of Oueddei mot trusted generals It is clear that the Chadian government has a relationship with the rebels of Darfur, since those rebels helped two consecutive governments gain power.

Beginning of Tensions

In September 2005, the Janjaweed began to intrude into eastern Chad and attack local populations as it tried to follow the Darfurian population that fled to Chad. The attacks multiplied, soon becoming common. The breadth of the attacks ranged from stealing cattle and food to massacring and burning down entire villages. In addition to the Janjaweed attacks, the United Front for Democratic Change (UFDC), a Chadian rebel group based in Darfur, also attacked Darfurian populations. (The UFDC is an assembly of different Chadian rebel groups who had helped Déby ascend to power in 1990.) After gaining power, Déby did not need the UFDC anymore and stopped supporting them, leading the militias to form a coalition to oust Déby from power.

On December 23, 2005, Chad declared a “state of belligerency” with Sudan.  President Déby accused the Sudanese government of funding and supporting the UFDC rebel group and destabilizing Chad by allowing the Janjaweed to freely attack populations of eastern Chad. Omar al-Bashir claimed that his country is not involved in the interior affairs of Chad and that Chad was guilty of helping the Darfuri rebels.

The Tripoli Agreement

On February 8, 2006, Chad and Sudan reached an agreement calling for the end of the conflict. The Tripoli Agreement was sponsored by Libya and signed by Col. Qaddafi of Libya and Presidents Déby, and Bashir. The agreement asked for both countries to stop funding rebel groups and specifically demanded that the Sudanese government stop the Janjaweed’s raids in eastern Chad. The UFDC was not invited to the meeting, so no agreement was reached with the Chadian rebels. For more information on the agreement, click here.
Due to this key weakness, the agreement did not stop the violence.. Instead, the UFDC and Janjaweed attacks became bolder, reaching out as far as the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, on April 13. After repulsing the rebels with the help of Darfurian troops, Chad severed all direct relations with Sudan and threatened to expel the Darfurian refugees from Chad. Since then, diplomatic relations between Chad and Sudan have been virtually nonexistent.
Social Consequences for Chad
The Janjaweed and rebel attacks are not only killing people in Chad, but are also exacerbating the tensions between different ethnic groups.  Janjaweed attacks seem to target specific groups living in southeastern Chad while the other groups are not bothered. The male members of the “privileged groups” are encouraged to join the Sudanese armed groups and to perpetrate attacks against their Chadian brothers. To better understand the social consequences of the Darfur conflict for Chad, click here.
Humanitarian Nightmare
As a result of the attacks in Chad, humanitarian aid organizations are encountering a new problem: dual refugee flow. Apart from taking care of the 218,000 Darfurian refugees now in Chad, humanitarian organizations now have to worry about the thousands of Chadians that are starting to cross over to Darfur and Sudan to look for safe haven. This increases risk to those organizations who are trying to bring relief to the refugees.
Why Does it Matter?
The two main reasons why resolving the Chadian-Sudanese conflict could lead to a resolution of the Darfur conflict are now clear. The first reason is that each of those two countries plays a role in destabilizing the civil order in the other country by founding rebel groups, and the second is that each government must have some kind of leverage with the rebels’ factions if they are able to use them for their own goals.
The governments should use their influence to stop the massacres occurring on both sides of the Sudan-Chad border. If those countries do not come to reason, the consequences could be devastating not only for Sudan and Chad, but for the entire region.
If tensions between Chad and Sudan are not relieved, the first immediate consequence could be a repeat of what happened in the Democratic Republic of Congo post-Rwanda. A civil war broke out in the DRC after the Hutu militias from Rwanda took refuge in DRC, and the same could happen in Chad. The DRC has been in turmoil ever since, even though attempts are being made to stabilize the situation. Chad is not the only country that would be threatened by war. There are already reports that the Darfur conflict is spilling over to the Republic of Central Africa (RCA). The political situation in that country has always been precarious at best, and now Chad has to send over troops to the RCA/Sudan border to try to contain the situation
Potential Disaster for Africa
Half of Africa could end up at war if the Chad-Sudan conflict is not resolved. Africa  is at one of its most vulnerable times. Many of the dictators are becoming old and will soon die, leaving their countries in turmoil. If the Darfur conflict succeeds into spilling into three more countries, it may be too much.  Africa already has the problems of poverty and AIDS to take care of; it just cannot afford another continental war. 

(2006, April 19). Idriss Deby, a President under Siege. Retrieved December 6, 2006, from WorldPress.Org Web site: http://www.worldpress.org/Africa/2323.cfm#down

(2006, June 28). Chad/Sudan: Sowing the Seeds of Darfur. Retrieved November 15, 2006, from Amnesty International Web site: http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAFR200062006

Reuters, (2006, November 17). UNHCR Moves Newly Arrived Darfur Refugees away from Chad-Sudan Border. Retrieved December 5, 2006, from AlertNet Web site: http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/UNHCR/0ee73f4657d0acc07140915d8e48515d.htm