Chad and the Darfur domino effect: Darfur conflict will suck in all its neighbours
Spillover from the Darfur conflict is in danger of destabilising the entire central African region say observers. Since the war in Sudan erupted, rebel groups have formed in neighbouring Chad and are beginning to emerge in the Central African Republic (CAR), which shares a border with both states.
Although many of the Sudanese rebels come from the same tribe as Chad's President Idriss Deby, for the first few years of the rebellion he tried to avoid antagonising his powerful neighbour by not openly supporting the rebels, while turning a blind eye if members of his government chose to do so. But relations between Chad and Sudan soured last year, with each country accusing the other of supporting rebel groups on each other's territories.
The situation is complicated by numerous defectors from Deby's inner circle, who have formed their own rebel group in Chad. They accuse Deby of not doing enough to support their kinsmen in Sudan.
Observers also say that they were angered by his decision to seek a third term in Wednesday's elections. Since Chad began exporting oil a few years ago, many of Deby's family has been eyeing the position.
United States of Africa?
"Chad's crisis is homegrown, but converging dangerously with the conflict in Darfur. These crises feed off of one another and, inevitably, civilians are caught in the middle. CAR is involved because northern CAR is essentially ungoverned and, therefore, a useful rear base for attacks on Chad," said Colin Thomas-Jenson of the International Crisis Group. "You cannot solve one conflict in the region without addressing the others."
Adam Rakiss, a 41-year-old who claims to be a colonel in the CAR, is one of about 235 rebels who were seized after they launched a major assault on Chad's capital a fortnight ago. He says Sudan promised the CAR fighters bases from which to launch their own rebellion if they helped topple Deby. "If we help [leader of the United Front for Change rebels] Mohamet Nour take power in Chad, Sudan will help us," he said, adding that he had arrived with about 20 fighters from the CAR.
Sudanese-backed rebels using CAR as base for incursions into Chad
A Chad-backed coup helped CAR President Francois Bozize into power three years ago. Last week, his foreign minister lodged an official complaint with Sudan regarding two planes that had allegedly landed in the north of the country carrying 100 mercenaries. Military observers believe that Sudanese-backed rebels are already using the CAR as a base for incursions into Chad.
One country sets an entire region afire
Olivier Bercault of Human Rights Watch says the availability of automatic weapons, porous borders and weak government means the Darfur conflict will suck in all its neighbours. "The dynamic is unfortunately something we know very well. One country sets an entire region afire. In western Sudan, eastern Chad and CAR, it's exactly the same pattern."
Photo: Sudanese children sit in their makeshift classroom in the refugee camp Kou Kou Angarana in Chad. (Photograph: AP)