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Sudan - Francophones - Chad, CAR, & DROC

Since 2003, more than 240,000 Sudanese refugees fled to eastern Chad from the conflict in Darfur, joined by approximately 45,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR). With the around 180,000 Chadians displaced by the civil war in the east of the country, this has generated increased tensions among the region's communities. Responding to this, and to the activities of armed groups based in eastern Chad and Darfur, including cross-border attacks, the Security Council adopted resolution 1778 PDF Document on 25 September 2007, in consultation with the authorities of Chad and the CAR, authorizing the deployment a UN civilian and police operation, MINURCAT, and a European Union military force (EUFOR). Despite sustained cross-border attacks and a volatile security situation in Sudan's Darfur region and eastern Chad, bilateral relations have continued even as the two nations trade accusations of supporting each other's rebel groups.

If there is one thing most Africa experts agree on, it's that nothing in the Sudan-Chad relationship is simple. They describe it as a bond molded by deep cultural and tribal ties that transcend the borders separating Sudan's western Darfur region from eastern Chad. These links have kept relations between the people of these two regions strong despite official differences. And as William Church, Director of the Great Lakes Center for Strategic Studies in Rwanda points out, cultural and ethnic ties have, until recently, allowed the two governments to foster the kind of solid relationship they had when Chadian President Idriss Deby came to power in the 1990s.

"Some people believe that the Khartoum government supported Deby in his grab for power originally, and that they were, if not allies, [then] it was convenient for Khartoum to have Deby there. However, things have gotten a little rocky because of cross-border issues and a disagreement over the conflict that has spilled from both countries, from Chad into Darfur, and then from Darfur into Chad," says Church.

Sudan's involvement in Chad's internal affairs in not new. According to William Foltz, Professor Emeritus of African studies at Yale University, Khartoum has been a player in Chadian politics for decades and maintains a measure of cultural influence in Chad today. He says, "Hissen Habre, [President] Deby's predecessor, came to power [in the 1980s] with the help of the Sudanese government, then the government of [former president Jaafar] al-Numeiri. Then, Idriss Deby overthrew Hissen Habre a decade later, again with the connivance of the Sudanese government [under President Omar Hassan al-Bashir]. Now it's not clear who's backing whom, or when, and under what circumstances," says Foltz.

When the Darfur conflict broke out in 2003 between the Sudanese government and rebels demanding more political representation and a share of the nation's oil revenues, President Deby initially supported Khartoum against the rebels, even though many of them belonged to his own tribe. But that did not last long. The Darfur conflict and rebellions in eastern and southern Chad have weakened the authoritarian Deby government. Some Chadian rebels wanted to overthrow the president and return the country to democratic rule, while others want a greater share of the nation's oil wealth. Mr. Deby has also been criticized for not doing more to support Darfuri rebels belonging to his own influential Zaghawa tribe.

In August 2006, Chad severed diplomatic ties after accusing Sudan of backing a rebel attack on N'Djamena that killed hundreds of people. Sudan denied the charges and relations quickly returned to normal after the two sides signed an agreement promising non-interference in each other's affairs. More recently, Khartoum and the Darfur rebel groups agreed to a 60-day ceasefire to allow for a peace conference aimed at resolving the conflict.

Some analysts said resolving the Darfur crisis would help diffuse tensions between Chad and Sudan and in the region as a whole. The cross-border conflict has bled into the Central African Republic and displaced thousands of people in all three nations. According to the United Nations, as of 2007 Chad was hosting more than 300,000 refugees from Darfur and the Central African Republic, which was also fighting a rebellion, plus nearly 92,000 of its own internally displaced citizens. The United Nations is considering deploying peacekeepers in Chad and the Central African Republic to help refugees fleeing the Darfur crisis.

In 2009 Sudan and Chad signed a new agreement aimed at ending hostilities against each other. Representatives of the two countries signed the accord Sunday in Qatar, following five days of talks. The deal called for the countries to improve relations, implement past agreements, and end media campaigns against each other. Sudan and Chad have repeatedly accused each other of supporting rebel movements on each other's territory. The two governments had signed at least five other peace deals this decade to no avail.

The 2010 Sudan-Chad Agreement represented a potentially significant step forward. If successfully implemented, the Agreement has potential to not only shore up regional stability, but also to move the conflict in Darfur toward the negotiating table and away from the battlefield, which had already become increasingly quiet over the past year. Without safe haven in Chad and direct military support from Chad, the JEM would no longer pose a significant armed threat to Khartoum, and Khalil Ibrahim's inability to pursue a military solution would likely isolate him politically, and possibly force him to alter his hard-line. There were still some difficult unknowns in this equation, including hundreds of armed Chadian oppositionist still present in North Darfur. The agreement stipulated their disarmament, but their willingness to lay down their weapons was questionable.

In July 2010 Chad's ambassador to the US said that his country will ignore calls by the International Criminal Court to arrest Sudans President Omar Al-Bashir. The ICC had charged him with genocide and crimes against humanity in his role as commander-in-chief during the guerrilla war in Darfur, which began in 2003.

On 25 May 2010 the UN Security Council voted to end the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Chad and the Central African Republic by the end of the year, after the Government requested the move despite concerns that it could impair aid to some 430,000 people. In a unanimous resolution, the Council ordered that the military component of the UN mission in the CAR and Chad (known as MINURCAT) be reduced from its current 3,300 troops to 2,200 military personnel 1,900 in Chad and 300 in the CAR by 15 July. Withdrawal of the remaining troops would begin on 15 October, and all military and civilian personnel are to be withdrawn by 31 December 2010.

In December 2008, the DRC, Uganda, the Central African Republic (CAR), and South Sudan launched Operation Lightning Thunder against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group that has been terrorizing the civilian population in northeastern DRC for almost a decade. The operations were relatively successful, scattering the LRA into very small bands, with many LRA elements fleeing to the CAR and South Sudan. By 2013 The group had moved from Uganda to the border region of Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR). An African Union LRA task force launched in March 2013 to hunt down the remnants of the brutal ragtag army, using 5,000 soldiers from Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

CAR president Francois Bozize's public demonstration of support for Sudanese president Bashir in 2009 was easy to understand in the context of good neighborliness and African solidarity, but other factors may be at play. Bozize feared, with some reason, that he may also be under investigation by the ICC. Bozize attended the opening of the ICC's Bangui office and was apparently happy to have investigations conducted into the responsibility of former president Felix-Ange Patasse for the abuses committed by former DRC Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba when Bemba's MLC forces came to Patasse's aid in 2002 (Bemba's excesses in CAR in 2001 occurred before the court came into being and are thus outside the court's jurisdiction).

The Chinese may have been the driving force the unexpected and sudden decrease in tension in the CAR's troubled northeastern region of the Vakaga in 2009, through Sudanese good offices were behind the local peace deal that is report to have significantly eased tensions which previously threatened to spill over into violence. While ethnic conflict in the Vakaga may still flair up, it was clear that China is making a strong economic and political play in the CAR. Sudan - which, through its Consul in Birao and various economic interests, virtually controls the Vakaga - brokered a deal between the warring factions. This was done at the behest of China as the oil fields of interest to the Chinese were just northwest of Birao, and the Chinese did not want instability jeopardizing the project.



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