Wednesday, May 10, 2006

April 14 Undeniable imperative

Undeniable imperative

CHAD President Idriss Deby has fought off a strong assault by insurgents bent upon unseating him. It might not be the last time that he would face such a challenge. Clearly, it is an internal Chadian affair, and it is up to the people of Chad to decide their future, and the international community, as represented by the UN, or the African Union representing the people of Africa could intervene only upon an explicit request from the Chadian government.
There is, however, an external dimension to the conflict: Dissidents battling the Sudanese government in the western Darfur region seek shelter in Chad and Chadian rebels fighting to end Deby's 16-year rule take refuge in Sudanese territory. N'Djamena and Khartoum accuse each other of supporting their respective dissidents.
According to the New York Times, weapons used in the Darfur conflict have been traced to Libya, Chad and the Central Africa Republic, which on Friday closed its border with Sudan because the rebels had crossed through it on their way to attack N'Djamena last week.
N'djamena has broken off diplomatic relations with Khartoum in the wake of Thursday's insurgent attack. Again, that is a bilateral affair, and the UN or African Union could intervene only when explicitly asked to do so with a view to ending the crisis.
However, there is the third dimension to the crisis: Chad's threat to expel some 200,000 refugees from Sudan's Darfur region, and that is most worrying.
The conflict in Darfur between the Arab militias and dissidents of African tribal origins in the region has already led to a major humanitarian crisis, with hundreds of thousands of people being killed or displaced from their homes. The UN and international relief agencies are grappling with some of the most difficult conditions to assist the Darfur refugees within Sudan and beyond the border in Chad.
Deby has given the international community until June to find an end to the Darfur crisis.
"If after June we can't guarantee the security of our citizens and the refugees, then it is up to the international community to find another country to shelter these refugees," he declared on Friday.
Chad could also carry out its threat if there were to be a second wave of insurgent attack, which, according to reports from N'Djamena, is a strong possibility.
One way out of the problem is for Sudan to drop its reservations over the planned deployment of internationally backed UN forces equipped with geared to handle the Darfur crisis and maintain peace in the region. If peace takes hold in the area — pending whatever political agreement to end the crisis — then that would create an environment conducive to efforts to solve the core problem.
The need of the hour is the mindset on all parties involved to reject armed confrontation and accept dialogue as the means to settle conflicts. It is not easy, but the gravity of what could follow clearly makes it an undeniable imperative.