On occasion, I write about my experience traveling in Africa – to add an entertaining counterweight to my more analytical rants and musings on the events unfolding on the continent. The following is about my current travel covering parts of Africa and Europe.
Earlier this week, I was in Chad (African Country B). And I’m gonna come right out and say it – I had
little to no involvement in the apparent coup attempt that may or may not have occurred in the Chadian capital of N’Djamena yesterday.
Although news is still emerging about this attempt to “destabilize the institutions of the republic,” here’s what we know:
- Two senior generals (Weiddig Assi Assoue and Ngomine Beadmadji David), a member of parliament allied to President Idriss Déby (Mahamat Malloum Kadre), and a member of the opposition (Saleh Maki) have been taken into custody.
- Between four and eight people were killed in fighting at a military barracks east of N’Djamena.
So in sum, there’s still a lot we don’t know. As an external observer, there are two conclusions I’ve come to:
- If there was an opportune time to launch a coup in Chad, now’s the time. If there was a coup-plotter’s equivalent to the well-known poem “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” (from which the oft-quoted phrase “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may” comes) this would be it. What I mean is, with 2,000 of his best assault forces currently deployed in northern Mali, Déby is more vulnerable than he would be if they were not over 1500 miles away. With the president publicly signaling that these forces may be withdrawn from northern Mali, the time to unseat him would be before these forces returned home. In March, Timan Erdimi, exiled leader of the Union of Forces of Resistance (UFR) threatened to renew its previous rebellion, apparently over discontent that peace talks had never taken place. (I must caveat, though, that at present I have no indication as to who might have been behind yesterday’s disturbances). Erdimi, who is also Déby’s nephew, was a member of the coalition that almost toppled Déby in February 2008 by sweeping west across the country in a matter of days, laying siege to the presidential palace for two days before retreating east. Déby was rescued by French intervention – the French military presence of 1,000 troops and associated support elements, which already existed at the time, continuing to provide a guarantor of regime stability to this day.
- Yesterday’s events could simply be a regime-manufactured part of the larger game Déby has been playing with the international community since Chad entered the fight in Mali several months ago. Chad is well aware that it was the only African country that was capable of rapidly deploying highly capable assault forces to halt the January 2013 Islamist offensive into southern Mali. However, it appears that the international community has not, in turn, demonstrated its gratitude. With Chad hundreds of millions of dollars in the red over its Mali deployment, it may behoove Déby to demonstrate how much he could really use that influx of cash so that he could afford to sustain Chadian troops in Mali for the benefit of regional & global security. (For great analysis on Déby’s great game with the international community, see Celeste Hicks and Alex Thurston).
Anyway, that’s my take on things. I’m headed to African Country C tomorrow, and it’s already shaping up to be quite an eventful week.