Forces: Chad's Collection of Contending Cliques

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April 7, 2006: Civil war is again brewing in Chad, and here is a scorecard so you can tell who is who. Another civil war in Chard should not be surprising, as this is a nation with several dozen different ethnic groups, and a long history of factional fighting. During the 1980s, there was a civil war with fifteen different groups battling each other.

Currently, the biggest faction is the government forces, with about 20,000 troops. Most are poorly trained and equipped. One exception is the Rapid Intervention Force (Force d'intervention rapide, or FIR). Actually, this 5,000 man organization operates more like a Presidential Guard, and a guarantee that the rest of the army won't get out of hand.

The principal opposition is a coalition of rebel groups called the United Front for Democratic Change (FUC). There are at least eight groups in the FUC, but only two of them (SCUD and RDL) have significant numbers of armed men available. Even then, FUC can only muster a few thousand gunmen. SCUD is led by a disaffected relative of Chad president Deby, while the RDL is composed of people from eastern Chad who have been unhappy with Deby for a long time. RDL is believed to have received help from Sudan. Which makes it's alliance with SCUD interesting, as SCUD formed late last year because Deby refused to get involved in the Darfur war just across the border in Sudan. But that's the problem, as one of the tribes getting hammered are the Zaghawa, which also has branches in Chad, and which president Deby belongs to. The SCUD rebels believe that Chad should get involved in helping the Zaghawa people in Sudan. Does all that make sense? Well, it shouldn't, but that's the current state of politics along the Chad-Sudan border.

President Deby is corrupt, which isn't unusual in this part of the world, and is using the new oil money, and any other cash he can get his hands on, to keep people on his side. Deby doesn't want to get involved fighting in Darfur, as it would be expensive, and cause long term ill-will with the Sudanese. But tribal politics counts for a lot in Chad, and that is dragging the country towards another civil war.

 


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