February 14, 2008

HARRISONBURG—In his weekly “Strategic Interests” column for the World Defense Review, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, dissects the recent attempt by rebels to seize power in Chad, a failed coup which nevertheless left hundreds of civilians killed and more than one thousand wounded, and blames the Sudanese regime’s sponsorship of the Darfur-based Chadian dissidents for crisis.

The article argues that there are two reasons for the timing of the assault. First, Sudan “ may well have calculated that it was worth the gamble to have the rebels attack in order to prevent” the planned deployment of a 3,700-strong European Union peacekeeping mission (EUFOR Tchad/RCA) just on the other side of its borders with Chad and the Central African Republic where the force would find itself “not only occupying what would in effect be a front-row seat on the Khartoum regime’s activities in Darfur, but also constituting a shield for Darfurian resistance groups” which have found shelter in the two neighboring African countries. Second, since Sudanese President Umar Hassan al-Bashir is clearly unwilling to honor the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement ending his country’s long-running civil war by granting the South the possibility of secession, “the installation of a client regime in Chad aligned with Khartoum would continue the encirclement of the nascent South Sudanese state, rendering it less defensible, if not altogether stillborn.”

Thus Dr. Pham concludes:

While the present crisis has largely passed, the EU needs to heed President Déby’s appeal “to make sure that EUFOR Tchad/RCA is put in place as quickly as possible” lest the situation makes another turn for the worst. The U.S. should be prepared, insofar as might be needed and within its capacity, to assist its old allies in shoring up its newer partner in Chad. Over the long-term, however, the only way to solve the interrelated crises, not only in Darfur and Chad, but also in South Sudan and the Central African Republic, and to prevent the destabilization of the entire region is to confront the source of all the trouble: the unbridled ambitions of the Khartoum regime (and those of the broader current of Islamist extremism it represents) and the willingness of the same to use any means necessary to achieve them.

To read the full text of the article, “Sudan Strikes Out in Chad Crisis—At Least for Now,” click here.