Chad: The Wilderness Of Good Intentions


July 21, 2008: European peacekeepers have been able to provide some protection, but are limited by their small numbers and shortage of helicopters. Meanwhile, in the last week, Sudan has been flying what appears to be reconnaissance missions over Chadian towns on the border. Sudan denies this, but the Sudanese Air Force cargo aircraft fly low enough to be recognized. Technically, Sudan and Chad are still operating under a four month old ceasefire agreement. But Sudan is still mad about a raid by Darfur rebels two months ago, that reached the outskirts of the Sudanese capital. Chad was blamed for this, being the most likely source of the cash required to buy the trucks, fuel and weapons for the thousand man rebel force. Chad denied this, and there was no real proof. So Sudan has now relented and agreed to restore diplomatic relations. Sudan is apparently toning down the violence in Chad, because the president of Sudan was just indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide.

No matter, the mess along the border has a life of its own, with various rebel and bandit groups keeping things volatile and violent without much outside help. The 3,000 European peacekeepers in Eastern Chad are but a few ink spots on a huge canvas (over 300,000 square kilometers) that is the eastern border region with Sudan. The 1,500 kilometer long frontier is mostly desert and brush, and several hundred thousand refugees in twelve major camps, and many more smaller, and often improvised ones. The peacekeepers have to devote considerable resources to defending themselves, and their own bases. The local bandits know the terrain, give the peacekeepers a wide berth, and continue plundering the foreign aid efforts. It's a wilderness of good intentions and failure.

July 10, 2008: Over the last two days, several dozen young men have been harassing NGOs providing food and medical care to 11,000 refugees in eastern Chad. The violence appears to be a combination of locals jealous of all the goodies provided to the refugees, and bandits seeking to rob foreign aid workers. NGOs shut down operations for two days in protest.  




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