Conflict in the north puts Chad’s dictatorial regime to the test

If Chad’s regime have been given a temporary bail-out by France — with €50 million (US$57 million) to the government to pay civil servant salaries for December — they are likely to be further tested this year by the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the country’s northern Tibesti Region.

Chad’s New Year began with a recruitment drive to enlist 3,000 more soldiers into the army. Finance Minister, Allali Mahamat Abaka, slipped the measure into the draft budget for 2019 on 28 December in response to the growing rebellion in northern Chad and the escalation of fighting in the Tibesti Region. On 27-29 December the region saw what was probably the heaviest fighting in this region for some years.

Accurate reports and details of what is going on in the region are hard to come by. Some local reports said it was between two groups of gold miners. Others said it was between Arabs from Libya — believed to comprise mostly of the Sudanese rebels Darfur’s Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), who are deemed close to the Chadian regime — and Ouaddaïen gold miners in the small gold rush town of Kouri Bougoudi. The latter are believed to comprise many Chadian rebels of the Conseil de commandement militaire pour le salut de la République (CCMSR).

As more Arab reinforcements were reportedly being recruited in Sebha, a significant Tebu force — led by Colonel Cherfedini Barkaï — headed towards the Chad-Libyan border to: secure the border; and stop the fighting between the JEM and CCMSR militias which had spread to both sides of the border. International reports are blaming the Chadian state for promoting the conflict.

Chad’s internal conflicts are beginning to open up its governance and financial problems to not only the region but the international community. While Chad’s regime — arguably the most dictatorial on the continent — has been able to tread water with the support of its former coloniser France, the escalation of internal conflict may just push this precarious government of the edge.

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