The future of President Idriss Déby is looking increasingly precarious. The dictatorial ruler faces major cash flow problems and an ongoing rebel insurgency. The exact military situation on the ground, with respect to both the various rebel forces as well as the army, is conflicted.
What has become increasingly apparent over the last couple of months is that Déby is once again dependent on France for his survival. The latter’s Operation Barkhane — the 3,000 strong military force officially tasked with ridding the Sahel from terrorist insurgency — are instead having to protect one of Africa’s most reviled dictators from being overthrown. The question is how much longer France and Déby’s few other allies are prepared to prop him up.
It is also becoming apparent that Chad’s much vaunted army is not the fighting force it once was. The long praised loyal troops face tightened salaries, exhaustion and, in some instances, share sympathies with the rebel groups.
The current situation is difficult to assess because of the lack of accurate ground reporting and the preponderance of propaganda from all sides. The exact strength and even the identification of the several rebel forces arrayed against Déby is therefore currently unknown.
The two most threatening rebel groups that we are aware of are:
- the Union des Forces pour la Démocratie et le Développement (UFDD) which is led by General Mahamat Nouri; and
- the Union des Forces de la Résistance (UFR), whose forces are now mostly based in Libya, but which are directed from Qatar by Déby’s nephew Timan Erdimi.
The most serious threat to the Déby regime comes from the UFR. The convoy of Timan Erdimi’s UFR was only halted on or around 6 February on the Ennedi Plateau after four days of advancing into Chad from the north east. They were only stopped after the intervention of French Mirage 2000 jet fighters stationed in N’Djamena, which had attacked the convoy several times during the preceding days.