Peace force tests OAU's resolve - and Qaddafi's

President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya has taken on about as difficult a challenge as an African leader could: setting up a peace-keeping force from the Organization of African Unity to take the place of Libyan troops in Chad.

Colonel Qaddafi sent troops to Chad at the invitation of Chad's President Woddei to help him win a civil war against forces led by Hissein Habre. Now Woddei wants the Libyans to leave. OAU leaders declared support for Chad President Woddei at their recent summit in Nairobi and agreed to replace the Libyans.

This peace-keeping plan is viewed as a test for the OAU, of which Moi is chairman. An African force has been talked about for years, but the cost of maintaining it, and deciding who would pay for it and who would lead and staff it are seen by many observers to present almost insuperable problems.

If the force had to fight - and some observers say fighting is a possibility in volatile Chad - it could create more anger and bitterness in Africa than it is designed to overcome.

Qaddafi has proposed a merger between Libya and Chad, which could complicate the exchange of OAU for Libyan forces as well.

The OAU plan seems to be to create a battalion, which would assemble at a central spot and fly into Chad, possibly under command of a Nigerian.

President Moi has taken on the task even though he has little support so far. Only Nigeria, Egypt, and Senegal have offered troops, according to Moi. Other possibilities are Egypt and the Ivory Coast. Kenya presumably would as well.

Last weekend Moi announced Libyan troops would not leave Chad till a Pan-African force has been sent there. So Colonel Qaddafi, aware of monumental struggle in setting up an OAU force, probably feels he can keep troops in in Chad for some time.

Moi takes the Chad situation very seriously. As OAU chairman, he wrote a forceful letter to Qaddafi, appealing to him to refrain from taking any action or pursuing any course that might destabilize the already fragile situation in Chad.

He told Qaddafi that he has reports that there was fighting and that one of the fighting units was receiving aid from Libya.

He reminded Qaddafi that the OAU stood firmly by its resolutions, supported President Woddei unequivocally, and noted that ''the unity of this continent requires that we observe meticulously the letter and spirit of our own decisions.''

President Moi said arrangements for the peace force were in ''an advanced stage'' and he expected ''troops would be transported to Chad in the very near future.''

Observers here believe that Colonel Qaddafi will have to move very carefully and cautiously if he wants to have African support for his chairmanship of the OAU next year. The summit is due to be held in Libya, which makes Qaddafi the chairman for the year. There is already strong African opposition to this possibility.

If Qaddafi wants this prize, which would increase his influence in Africa, diplomats here say he will have to cooperate in welcoming a Pan-African force - if it gets off the ground.

President Moi has indicated that he is prepared to fly to Chad to reconnoiter the confused situation at first hand, a trip that might include a visit to Colonel Qaddafi in Libya. It is believed an invitation was delivered this week by a Libyan envoy.T

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.