Sunday, February 16, 2014

CAR: " And so as I patrol in the valley of the shadow of the tricolour "

DW ( Germany ) reports  

Chad's role behind the scenes in the Central African Republic

A bloody conflict is threatening to tear the Central African Republic (CAR) apart. The African Union has sent troops, the EU wants to follow suit - but it is Chad which is pulling the strings militarily and politically.

The Central African Republic's northern neighbor, Chad, is a military heavyweight in the region. Under the leadership of President Idriss Deby Itno, it is a driving force behind key decisions in the current crisis. For example, on the question of the president: CAR's interim president Michel Djotodia was invited to attend a summit of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) in the Chadian capital N'Djamena in January 2014. He then resigned following pressure put on him by President Deby. This was not the first time Chad had decided on the rise and fall of a Central African president. Deby has always considered CAR to be Chad's backyard, says Helga Dickow, an expert on Central Africa at the Arnold Bergstresser Institute at Freiburg University. In the 1990s, former president Ange-Felix Patasse came to power with Chadian support, she said in an interview with DW. "And Djotodia's predecessor, Bozize, was basically only head of government with Deby's approval."

I think there is far more to it than that. There can be little doubt the Seleka Alliance is a movement under the control of Chad.  

" Numerous interviewees identified the ex-Séléka perpetrators as being Chadian nationals. Witnesses consistently reported that ex- Séléka wearing the armbands of Chadian FOMAC went from house to house searching for anti-Balaka, and shot and killed civilians, including children, women, elderly and disabled civilians.

The mission received multiple testimonies of collusion between some Chadian FOMAC elements and ex-Séléka forces. For example, a credible source reported that, on 5 December, in District 4, at around 3 pm, several witnesses had seen ex-Séléka, jointly with Chadian FOMAC, going door-to-door looking for anti-Balaka and indiscriminately killing at least 11 people, including elderly women, sick persons, and persons with mental disabilities, who had been unable to flee in the morning."  

The better question is why did Chad topple Bozize ? One also has to question now the role of France in the fall of Bangui to the Seleka. Abandoning the CAR to the depredations of the Seleka bandits with I admit the benefit of hindsight was a bloody silly move, France surely could see the the colonial ambitions of Deby.     

Military might

Chad also has a very strong military presence in CAR. A large part of the 5,500- strong military mission of the African Union (MISCA) was provided by Chad. In December 2013, the intervention force was tasked with bringing stability to the country. In addition to MISCA, there are also some 1,600 French soldiers in the Central African Republic

It would also have to be said that the Chad peacekeepers are doing a bloody awful job, they are clearly not trusted by the other African National armies contributing to the AU forces.  

" Lieutenant-Colonel Pontien Hakizimana, head of the Burundian contingent in MISCA, told AFP his men were disarming former rebels when Chadian troops from MISCA threw a grenade and opened fire on them, prompting some Burundian elements to return fire, wounding three Chadians."

The result of this was supposed to be the removal from the south of the Chad forces to the north of the country, something that although ordered by the command of  MISCA did not happen. 
" Chadian troops are to be pulled out of the Central African Republic's capital, Bangui, after clashes with demonstrators and Burundian soldiers. The Chadians, who are the largest contingent of the African peacekeeping force, Misca, will be redeployed to the north.

Chad is widely believed to be have been behind the Seleka rebellion and having troops from there is not all that smart. The feeling in the Christian community is that the peace keepers from Chad are actually protecting Muslim and particularly Seleka interests.

"The whole Chadian contingent will be sent to secure the north in the next few days," Misca spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ndong Toutoune told the AFP news agency."

The alliance between the Chadian and French armies is not new. Chad had already shown itself to be an experienced and important ally during the French intervention in Mali. Since that joint operation, France has now "sided with Deby," says Dickow. "France is now basically supporting a dictator who was previously not socially acceptable. He is now back in the fold of international politics."

I think France has made a major error, I have little doubt that Deby is planning to engage in a bit of thieving of the considerable resources of the CAR, however his Seleka thugs have overplayed his hand and it would seem that the CAR might well be heading towards a homogeneous Christian state. 

However, in the Central African Republic, the population took a skeptical view of the foreign troops. There have been accusations that Chad "supported Seleka rebels and even trained some of them," Dickow told DW.

"The Chadian troops in CAR have reached a size that is uncontrollable,” says Acheikh Ibn-Oumar, a Chadian opposition politician and former ambassador to the United Nations.

"Chadian troops have been crossing the almost one thousand kilometer-long (620 miles) border with CAR, saying they are trying to control it," he told DW.

I am reminded of the Muslim demands when the French troops first arrived for an independent Muslim Nation in the North of the country. 
" On Tuesday the crowds making their way down the deserted city streets were holding signs that said: "We say No to France!" and "Hollande = Liar." Other signs had a hand drawn map of this nation located at the heart of Africa, but showed it split into two, with a Muslim homeland penciled in in the country's north."
Splitting the CAR into separate Christian and Muslim nations is I suspect the objective of the Chadian troops and why they are enabling the Seleka Alliance to carry on the slaughter of the Christian community. "

Brice Kevin Kapayen, a human rights activist and member of the CAR transitional parliament, confirmed that Seleka supporters had entered CAR. "They are armed. The question is: who gave them arms?" The spokesman of the Chadian government has denied any involvement. "But he is not here. He is not in Bangui to see what is happening. We have evidence for everything we are saying," said Kapayen.

Chad is currently a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. In negotiations, Chad argued against sending a UN peacekeeping mission to the Central African Republic. "They want to find an African solution," says Helga Dickow.

There is an irony that the African solution that Chad seems to be proposing could have with a few subtle alterations have been written in Rwanda. Balkanisation is not a solution for either the DR Congo or the CAR, furthermore it is not an African solution.
The oil factor

Chad has built up its military strength thanks to its oil revenue, says Dickow, and this makes the country appear stable and powerful. However this appearance is deceptive. President Deby is looking for a way to secure the southern borders. He wants to make himself militarily impregnable as he did before in the Darfur conflict when rebels from Sudan threatened his hold on power. "The other crisis region which could be a gathering point for rebels who could rise up against N'Djamena is the border region between CAR and southern Chad," Dickow said.

She sees another reason why this border is of interest for Deby. In southern Chad and in the north of the Central African Republic are oil wells. "Any trouble in this border region would also jeopardize oil production in Chad."

Not if the north was to become a client state or even a southern province of Chad.

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