If Chad coup succeeds, Darfur crisis could deepen
Rebels stormed Chad's capital, delaying arrival of EU troops to help refugees.
Johannesburg, South Africa
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If President Idriss Déby's government falls by military coup, humanitarian aid operations feeding nearly 400,000 Sudanese refugees and displaced Chadians will be thrown into disarray, and half a dozen Darfur rebel movements taking refuge in Chad may be forced to move their bases back into the troubled Sudanese region.
Coming just days before the expected arrival of a European Union (EU) humanitarian protection force in eastern Chad, called EUFOR, the coup attempt is almost certain to delay that deployment until it is clear which government is in charge – the rebels or Déby – and whether EUFOR's presence will still be welcome.
"If the coup succeeds, it will have a tremendous impact on Darfur, because the rally of Darfur rebel movements apparently received logistical support from Déby," says Paul Simon Handy, head of African security analysis at the Institute of Security Studies in South Africa. With Déby out of the picture, Sudan's government will be able to turn its attention to negotiating with the Darfur rebels on its own terms, he adds. "The misfortunes of Déby are the fortunes of Khartoum."
Supporting one another's rebels
A coup in Chad would mark the culmination of years in which both Sudan and Chad have used each other's largely uncontrolled border areas, common tribal populations, and dissident rebel groups against each other. Déby's links to Darfur rebel groups have allowed these groups to use Chad as a base for launching attacks into Darfur, while Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has responded in kind, giving Chadian rebels haven to launch attacks on Déby's regime.
Political analysts say that the fall of President Déby would have serious consequences, since Déby's regime provided substantial pressure on Khartoum to abandon its military policies in Darfur and to negotiate with rebel groups.
"The implications of a change in government would be dire," says John Prendergast, a longtime Sudan watcher and co-chair of the Enough Project, a Darfur pressure group in the US. "The Khartoum regime would assume a dominant position in the region. The new government in Chad would join the Khartoum regime in a witch hunt for Darfurian rebels in Chad, thus removing any semblance of stalemate and inspiring Khartoum to ignore peace talks and pursue a military solution."
Alex de Waal, a Sudan expert at Harvard University, says the big losers, if the coup succeeds, will be two of Darfur's most powerful rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudanese Liberation Army (Unity Faction).
"It looks like Khartoum has probably won its battle, and JEM and SLA-Unity will be cut off from their supplies," says Mr. de Waal, responding by e-mail to questions from the Monitor. "They will be forced to either submit or fight on, but with reduced strength."