WILL CHAD LEAVE THE AFRICAN UNION?
By Celestin Ngoa Balla, US Africa News. Updated 2015-04-30
The Chadian opposition in the US has raised the alert: Chad could soon join the Arab League and drop out of the African Union. According to Abdullah Chidi Djorkodei, leader of the US Chadian opposition, the request came from Saudi Arabia during the official visit of the Saudi Deputy Minister of Defense about three weeks ago. “According to the Chadian government’s official declaration, the visit was about bilateral cooperation. But we know that Saudi Arabia, given the way its monarchical system operates, cannot send a member of its government for a bilateral visit to a black African country," argues Chidi Djorkodei. He notes a further curiosity: the account of the visit was removed just 24 hours after its publication on the official website of the Chadian presidency.
The fight against terrorism was another reason officially given to justify the visit of Saudi Minister. Last year an Israeli newspaper revealed that it was thanks to the intervention of Saudi Arabia (acting behind the curtain) that negotiations between the government of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Boko Haram Islamists were held in Ndjamena. One of the biggest mistakes of the outgoing Nigerian president was this meeting in Ndjamena, which put trust in Saudi sponsorship and the mediation of Idriss Deby. In any case, Chadian dissidents based in the US say that the Saudis did not come to Ndjamena this time to talk about Boko Haram. "If he had come about security in the sub-region, the Saudi deputy minister would not have limited his visit to Ndjamena. He would have continued to Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon, which currently have a common enemy, namely Boko Haram," assert the dissidents, who say they have reliable sources of information, including a letter of invitation from the Arab League handed to Idriss Deby by his Saudi host.
By extending the Arab League membership card to Chad, Saudi Arabia is offering an inducement. This is to convince Idriss Deby to send ground troops to Yemen to confront the Houthi militias who have dislodged President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Riyadh is asking Chad to send 10,000 men. For this war that has been raging in recent weeks, Saudi Arabia has mobilized 150,000 soldiers and 100 combat aircraft; the United Arab Emirates has sent 30 fighter jets, Bahrain and Kuwait 15 jets each, and Qatar 10. Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, and Jordan also already entered the war. If the Arab international force is focusing on dropping shells from the sky, it lacks a ground strike force that alone can allow it to achieve victory. It is likely, then, that Riyadh is looking to Chadian troops specialized in land battles, especially in desert and mountainous areas. If the Saudi refuses to leave Yemen, they are proposing that Chad enter Libya to replace the Egyptian troops which could better be deployed in Yemen. In return, Saudi Arabia would take over the payment of one year's salary for Chadian civilians and soldiers. It would be surprising if Deby turns down this Saudi offer when Chad is going through a serious financial crisis that could last until June and is preventing it from paying its civil servants, at least in a timely fashion. In addition, secondary school teachers are on strike, while pensioners are protesting non-payment of their pensions. In some Ndjamena newspapers there is warning of an impending mass protest against poverty and bad governance. This movement would stand out from what has been known in Chad until now, as it will get starving women and children out into the streets.
"We are against the withdrawal of Chad from the African Union and we also say that our troops have nothing to do with Yemen or Libya," assert the Chadian opponents in exile in the US. They note that the military interventions in Chad, Mali, and now Nigeria have already created too many widows and orphans in their country. Given the firepower of the Houthis militias, who have been tutored by Boko Haram and Malian separatists, the Chadian dissidents fear that the number of Chadian widows and orphans could reach record levels. The dissidents also brought forward the assertion that "Idriss Deby uses many wars outside of Chad to carry out cleansing of certain ethnic groups that are enlisted in the army”. In their battle to thwart the diplomatic negotiations between Ndjamena and Riyadh, the US Chadian opposition is joined by France. According to Chidi Djorkodei, exchanges of fire in Ndjamena a few weeks ago between French troops and Chadian soldiers did not happen by chance. On the one hand, it was a shot across the bow from Paris; on the other, Ndjamena’s response affirmed its choice of a new camp.