One wouldn’t notice it by the lack of press coverage but the last six days have been most eventful in the Central African Nation of Chad. The short term prognosis is not positive.
On Sunday April 11th the electorate in the country went to the polls to determine whether or not Idriss Deby the long term incumbent was worthy enough to garner a sixth term as President of the Country. What garnered the most notice sadly was that the political opposition decided to boycott the polls. This will assuredly annoit President Deby to another term as President. However little notice was paid to an incident that also occurred on election day.
With little fanfare the Government of Chad announced that rebels based in Libya attacked a border post on the day of elections. The initital reports did not indicate any casualties among either those manning the post nor among the attackers. Nor did these reports indicate whether or not the attack was repulsed or if the attackers were able to move forward with their planned offensive at that time.
As the week progressed it was assumed that the reelection of President Deby was a fait accomplishment. The Electoral Commission has been slow rolling the results as if they will be presented as a grand victory for President Deby. As of April 17th, Official Results have not been announced as to the final tally of votes.
This scenario has been accepted until late in the afternoon of the 17th. On that date several Western Embassies warned their nationals to leave the country as soon as possible. The reason that was given was that a large convoy of vehicles belonging to the rebels had crossed into Chad from their bases in Libya.
It is interesting to note that the embassies of both France and the United States sounded similar concerns in the alerts for their citizens. It is known that Government Troops and the Rebel Forces did have a clash on the 17th but whether or not the advance on the capital was checked has not been determined.
The questions of what would happen if there is a ouster of President Deby are most likely under consideration. How much aid will France provide to the Chadian Goverment to deter this advance? Several times in the past attacks from Libya into Chad were driven back with military assistance from France. Will France be compelled to step in once again to save the day? Another interesting question is whether or not the neighbors will provide assistance to the Deby Government to defeat this attack. Chadian Forces did assist in Mali after the 2012 Coup and collapse in Mali so that is one angle to monitor.
With the insurgencies in Mali and Burkina Faso and the role that Chad has played in these conflicts how will a rebel victory be seen in the Sahel? Another area of concern would be in the Lake Chad Basin. Chadian Troops have been active against both Boko Haram and ISWAP ( Islamic State West African Province) in recent years. There could be an impact in these operations as well. These are some unsavory questions that need to be considered. The impact on the US strategy in the Sahel could also hinge upon events in Chad that continue to unfold at this time as well. There have been calls for the US to reassess its current strategy in the Sahel. Events in Chad could lead to this taking place.