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French strike against rebels in Chad, but questions remain unanswered

14.02.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
2000 French mirages of Operation Barkhane struck against a rebel Chadian column earlier this month. Paris justified its intervention by the need to avoid a "coup d'etat", oppositions and rebels speak of interference in internal affairs.

Leaving their rear base in southern Libya and entering Chadian territory, the rebels of the Union of Resistance Forces (UFR) probably did not expect such a surprise. Timane Erdimi’s men traveled 400 km without facing the Chadian army. They did not suspect that behind the scenes, N’Djamena demanded the intervention of the French mirages against them. The rebels thought that the deal would be as it has always been between the two countries: the provision of intelligence and aerial surveillance of the armed columns. Surprise for them on this day of February 3rd. The French mirages stationed in the Chadian capital hit them directly by causing them enormous losses, both material and human.

These strikes continued for three days. Many UFR fighters surrendered or were taken prisoner by the Chadian army. The Chadian authorities have announced the capture of 250 “terrorists, about 40 vehicles destroyed and hundreds of weapons seized”. This report is “fanciful” according to the rebels who believe they have “lost a battle but not the war”.

These air strikes continue to stir the Chadian and French political classes. The Chadian political opposition has denounced foreign interference in internal affairs. A member of the opposition said that “France should not be there only alongside the regime, but, on the contrary, be with the people of Chad. Since independence, we are only making war and each time, France supports the regime in power and only intervent when its interests are at stake.

The Patriotic Movement of Salvation, the party in power, on the contrary, rejoiced at this operation. By his spokesperson, “we do not have to be ashamed of the fact that the French army helped us to neutralize a column of mercenaries and terrorists, since the French army, through the operation Barkhane, stalking like the Chadian army in the Sahelian band, the drug traffickers, the terrorists who sow desolation in the homes “.

Faced with the outcry aroused by this intervention in the French political class, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean Yves Ledrian defended himself before the National Assembly. For France this intervention is completely legal. “There was an attack by a rebel group from the south of Libya, which is destabilized, to take power by arms in N’Djamena and President Déby asked us in writing for an intervention to avoid this coup. came from southern Libya, and to protect his own country. ”

The letter to which the French minister referred had been requested by President Macron to his Chadian counterpart Idriss Deby Itno to provide a legal framework for this intervention after telephone exchanges between the two allies. In 2006 and 2008, when the rebels managed to enter the Chadian capital, President Deby had his salvation only thanks to the support of France.

France’s interventions in Chad are not recent even though their legal framework has evolved. Indeed, it is the African country in which there has been the most French interventions. From the first years of the country’s independence in 1960, the French supported the regime of President François Tombalbaye against the insurgency led by the National Liberation Front of Chad (Frolinat). At the height of the conflict between Chad and its Libyan neighbor in the 1980s, France at the request of Chadian President Hissein Habré at the time intervened through Operation Manta to counter the Libyan advance. This intervention was the largest foreign operation of France since the Algerian war. At the end of this operation, France maintained its presence in Chad by the Épervier mission in 1986. Faced with the terrorist threat in the Sahel, the Barkhane mission, whose command post is in Chad, replaced the Épervier mission in 2014.

For some analysts, the last intervention of Paris remains legally vague. Operation Barkhane aims to fight terrorists in the Sahel or 2000 mirages hit a column of Chadian rebels. Did Paris intervene to prevent Chad from repatriating its soldiers deployed in northern Mali to reposition them in the north-east of its territory?

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Credit images : google images/chad French strike

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