“Chad not looking for international credit over Mali intervention” says country’s Foreign Minister – By Magnus Taylor
Moussa Faki, the Foreign Minister of Chad, has stated that his government was “not looking for [any] recognition or credit” for its role in the military intervention in Mali, but rather was concerned with “peace and security for the region”. Faki, speaking at Chatham House on 5th September, added that “what happened in Mali could happen in any state in the Sahel” and stressed the transnational nature of terrorism in the region. He added that due to combat experience gained during the Chadian civil war, the country’s armed forces had become highly professional and effective at operating in desert conditions.
Whilst Chad is not a member of ECOWAS, which coordinated the initial Mali intervention, it felt it had to intervene in the conflict due to the West African regional organisation’s incapacity to coordinate it effectively itself. Chad, however, paid a high price for its role, with 30 of its French (and US) trained soldiers being killed in the operation.
Writing for African Arguments in March of this year, Celeste Hicks – former BBC correspondent in N’Djamena – stated that “the deployment has been a way to show how far Chad has come since the dark days of 2006 and 2008 when two serious rebellions came within hours of unseating Deby. It has helped to establish a narrative of the country as a regional leader, and perhaps persuade detractors that the $600m of oil revenues siphoned off from social spending plans, to buy military equipment – including six re-conditioned Sukhoi jets, attack helicopters and armoured personnel carriers – was money well spent.”
Foreign Minster Faki sought to portray Chad as an assertive regional “˜island of stability’ in a sea of failing states. For example, pre-revolutionary Libya was described as “the most gangster-like country” in the region and is now awash with arms and run by an administration unable to enforce its will or ensure security.
The conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region – where refuges have spilled over and live in camps in Chad – is, according to Faki, a continuing threat to the country’s internal stability. This is of particular significance to the current Chadian administration of Idris Deby whose ethnic group (and that of his foreign minister), the Zahgawa, straddles the border between Chad and Darfur.
Faki’s talk also highlighted his desire for Chad to take up the next rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council, giving “a new voice for the region”, particularly given Chad’s experience of living and dealing with refugees.
Faki denied that Chad has been “playing power politics” in its neighbour, the Central African Republic (CAR). He admitted that Chadian mercenaries had a role in former President Bozize’s takeover and, following this, Chad had supported his regime. However, he stated that the group that has now taken over is “mixed and dangerous” including many itinerant Cameroonian, Darfurian and Chadian mercenaries.
Faki argued that the CAR should not be allowed to fall into “complete chaos” and that Chad would support the 18 month timeline leading towards fresh elections. Chad already has a contingent of soldiers in MICOPAX – the regional peacekeeping force for the CAR – but he did not suggest that its numbers would be increased through further deployment of troops.
Magnus Taylor is Editor of African Arguments.