By Victor C. Ariole
Field Marshal Idriss Deby Itno created semblance of peace in Chad for over 30 years after proving more acceptable to the Chadians in the midst of their warlords – Felix Malloum, Goukouni Wadei, Hissène Habré, Wadel Kamougoué and the Pro-Libyan Chadian forces who are still alive operating from the north and, especially, clinging to the Aouzou strip. Now the regrouped rebels, or, for others, the Chadian Solidarity and Alternative Front – Front Pour l’Alternance et la Concorde du Tchad (FACT) – are insisting on inclusiveness.
The first President of Chad François Tombalbaye, that seemed to have been completely erased by the Chadian, would still remain an issues when Christians are persecuted, especially from Sudan and Central African Republic axis of South-East of Chad. Areas that still resist people of religion fundamentalists; Balaka or anti-Balaka. That president so cowardly ceded Aouzou stirp to Libya that it so much enraged Chadians that his ouster in 13th April 1975 was seen as a great relief and a period to retract and retain Aouzou. General Felix Maloum was also not as territorial minded as expected of Chadians, hence not quite supported by the majority. Idriss Deby had proved a better Chadian than all his peers facing great challenges from Libya, Arabs, the Janjaweed and of recent Boko Haram. Even the fallen Emperor and Presidents of Central African Republic could attest to that as invasions from Chad to dismember Central African Republic (CAR) remain ever hard to accomplish; CAR is still not free from such assaults, even as Russia and China scramble for its soul..
Boko Haram had found safe haven in the border area shared in common by Chad and Cameroun but not so in areas close to Ndjamena, the capital of Chad, so much attached and close to Nigeria and Niger. In effect, the sustenance of Idriss Deby was his unexpressed pact with whoever claims to be in charge of that area; State actors or non State actors or the combination of both. He remained very much diplomatic and cunning about it. Proving very much in charge than Nigerian government.
Boko Haram is not as acerbic as Chadian rebels who had been contained mostly by France’s intervention in Chad to the extent that a former France’s President, currently sentenced or on suspended sentence in France, Sarkozy, diligently planned the ouster of Khadaffi so as to create semblance of peace in France’s military controlled west and central Africa. Deby greatly found solace in that act. It is also what former France’s indicted President; Giscard D’Estaing got enmeshed in as he preferred tangoing with Emperor Bokassa, and enjoying his largesse, to the detriment of war torned Chad of then, so as to keep Central African Republic (CAR) safe. Deposed President of CAR, Bozize knew what it meant to disregard both Deby and France’s soldiers, as subsequent France’s Presidents feared not to thread the path of Giscard d’Estaing. And even when Bozize claimed to be of the same fraters’ creed with Deby, it failed them .
The current mêlée is between what President Macron of France and the newly imposed ruler – General Mahamat Idriss Deby – will do in the face of the demise of Field Marshal Idriss Deby Itno and the northern Chadian rebels, not necessarily Boko Haram. Boko Haram is Nigerian creation seeking for territory in Nigeria and Cameroun for a greater assault on both Nigeria and Cameroon, not Chad. Christians are still doused in Chad, hence quite a non-lieu for attack by Boko Haram except on sporadic interventions to stir the hornest nest, and to test Deby’s support of them or not. In effect, he started hanging the pips of Field Marshall after pushing their ill conceived assault on his soldiers back to Nigeria, and it was in aberration for some of the Boko Haram fighters that killed some of the Chadian soldiers – it was seen as error by a section of Boko Haram. Some Nigerians, uninformed, saw it as bravery. Boko Haram still have respect for Idriss Deby and could have surrendered if not for the mutual respect that existed between them. However, what his son could make of it could be what Nigerian government should position itself for. Those rebels are like the kind of people in east Africa claiming that they are fighting for a land to be called Somaliland or a land exclusively owned by Somalians, quite aberrative of the artificial borders created by the European colonisers.
Field Marshal Idriss Deby Itno was very much an African and wanted to remain African, relating very well with sub-Saharan Africans distinct from the Maghreb Africans; knowing very well that the current world led by “land grabbers” see sub-Saharan Africa as the next “Hong Kong” for multi-faceted interests referred as “margoulins de tout acabit” by Houphouet – Boigny and regarded as “gangster capitalist” inducing global war, by Chomsky and Waterstone (2021); akin to when the Irish people were made to abandon their potato farming and give up their lands for the interests of the marauding bourgeois vassals of the Lords and King of England; hence they were rendered hopeless and helpless and they started seeking for migration to the New World – America. Exploitation of mineral resources in Africa, especially in west, central and east Africa, is making Africa sub-Sahara greatly unsafe; and African Union (AU) and any best ally of Africa should be engaged now to save Africa sub-Sahara from sinking further into a space of another worse “scramble for Africa” aka Berlin Conference type; already, ironically, a stretch so rich in mineral resources is tagged as part of the “Evil Axis”.
Idriss Deby had thought that saving Chad from the multi-faceted assaults of others beyond innocent Africans like Nigerians, ought to be the utmost; and in deed Nigeria had remained very friendly. However, Deby’s expectation or thoughts are so myopic like that of Nigerian government about what Africa Sub-Sahara meant to the gangster capitalists of this world. Even if you create a given space for either any of the ethnic groups at the borders of Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon, Africa as a whole still remains vulnerable and grabbable to the so called gangster capitalist. Note that Maghreb Africa was once entirely a space occupied by the Nubians (Africans) before the Arab invasion in the 12th century. A strongly unified Africa is a task that must be achieved. Any leader concerned about the prosperity of Africa must think of Africa in terms of ONE; either bordered by Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Red Sea/Mediterranean (or Sahara Desert) and the Antarctica Ocean. Hence less militarisms and more of economic progress. I still strongly believe that China cannot help us to attain that as it thinks in line of making a “Hong Kong” of Africa. Former colonisers are still better allies in keeping Africa one. May God accept the soul of Deby – Field Marshal in both the Chadian Army and Soul Searching “Itno” creed of some African leaders
Ariole, Professor of French and Francophone Studies, University of Lagos.