Good Enough Report on Chad
There is a good “˜Enough’ report on Chad published this week, identifying the absence of any political process in Chad save the power calculations of Idris Déby as the weakest link in the Darfur peace process.
It is widely recognized that there cannot be peace in Darfur without peace between Sudan and Chad, and nor can there be a viable settlement in Chad while war continues in Darfur. At first glance there is symmetry to the Chad-Sudan proxy war: each government is backing the military opposition of the other. Underneath it is more complicated.
While Sudan possesses viable (if troubled) processes which are grappling with its national political challenges, there is nothing comparable in Chad. The NCP is an organized party with a constituency and a substantive agenda””whether one agrees with it is a different question. The Chadian MPS is a patronage machine which has no constituency beyond the Presidential circle and no program other than staying in power. The Sudanese state has institutions, albeit weak and politicized ones. Chad has no state worthy of the name. Stabilization of the Sudanese Government of National Unity is a worthwhile goal in itself, as it will enable CPA implementation to proceed. Chad has no civil political process and the president has no succession plans. Stabilizing Déby in power can only buy time. There are two major scenarios: either Déby leaves the scene (through death or putsch) or he is forced by stronger powers (such as a combination of France, Libya and the U.S.) to broaden his power base.
The asymmetry is also present in the relationship of each government to its sponsored insurgent. For Sudan, backing the Chadian rebels is simply a matter of security against an external threat. But the N’djamena-JEM relationship is not only sponsorship of a foreign insurgent, but also a domestic political-military relationship that is fundamental to Déby’s survival. While Khartoum can stand down the Chadian forces based in Darfur, Déby cannot instruct JEM to remain on the defensive and still less can he disarm the movement.
Control of state power in Chad is all-or-nothing and is intimately and intricately linked to the political position of the Zaghawa, who are a small minority with disproportionate power and wealth. If the Zaghawa have no access state power, either in N’djamena or Khartoum, their entire collective standing will be imperiled. Déby and JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim have locked themselves into a high-stakes gamble in which each requires the other but neither can control the other.
It’s unfortunate that Chadian politics is still presented as a sideshow to Darfur. Chad is an important enough country in its own right.