Chad: Beyond Superficial Stability
Africa Report Nº162
17 Aug 2010
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The full report is available in French.
On the eve of elections, Chad has a chance to escape the political and military crisis of the last five years. A lull in fighting between government forces and rebel groups and the easing of tensions with Sudan since the start of 2010 may bode well for a gradual return to normality. However, President Idriss Déby’s rigid control of political space and recurrent problems in the electoral process could plunge the country into turmoil once again. The government must take advantage of this moment to bolster relations with Sudan, fully respect its commitments to provide security in Eastern Chad per Security Council Resolution 1923 (2010), carry out the internal reforms it has committed itself to and offer lasting peace to the armed opposition.
An end to the crisis seemed a distant hope in May 2009, when a coalition of Chadian armed groups, the Union of Resistance Forces (Union des forces de la résistance, UFR), attacked government troops. The failed offensive, however, has given rise to three factors that are contributing to stability.
First, Déby’s decision to prioritise the military option in countering the rebel threat proved well-founded. Using much of Chad’s oil revenues, he tilted the balance of power in his favour by better equipping, reorganising and re-motivating the army. Secondly, in the wake of their failure, divisions are growing between the rebel factions. Some have called for negotiations with the government, while others remain committed to bringing down the regime by force. The feuding factions have accused each other of treachery, and Déby has taken the opportunity to buy off some of the protagonists. Thirdly, after the failed UFR offensive, some influential circles in Khartoum began to doubt the utility of an alliance with the Chadian armed opposition and consider a rapprochement with N’Djamena. In light of the April 2010 presidential elections and the self-determination referendum in the South scheduled for January 2011, a better relationship with Chad was a pragmatic option for the Sudanese government.
Fearing his military success may only be temporary, Déby wants to ensure the rebels do not find sanctuary in Sudan to regroup and hopes the rapprochement with Khartoum will reduce their room for manoeuvre. The easing of tensions also allows him to reallocate funds from the defence budget to electoral preparations. Postponed several times because of the war, these are now scheduled for November 2010 (legislative and local) and presidential (April 2011).
The 15 January 2010 bilateral agreement and a series of presidential visits – Déby’s to Khartoum in February and May and al-Bashir’s to N’Djamena in July – give reason to hope that relations are returning to normal. However, obstacles remain which, if ignored, could jeopardise the gains made since the beginning of the year. Both presidents aim to use the reconciliation to strengthen their power: Déby vis-à-vis the internal opposition, al-Bashir with respect to the International Criminal Court. But ambiguities surrounding the resumption of talks between N’Djamena and the Chadian rebel groups and between Khartoum and the Darfur rebel group Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) raise questions about the sustainability of the peace process.
On the domestic front, the Chad government is trying to reassert state authority after five years of internal disputes, change the way it runs the country and gain public support for a new national pact based on the rejection of armed struggle. Electoral calculations, however, make this process appear more like a consolidation of Déby’s power. Political manoeuvring in the run-up to voting underscores the high level of patronage within the ruling elites, the regime’s autocratic and clan characteristics and the opposition’s limited political space.
The elections could be an important step in reviving democracy but only if the political situation improves beforehand. Déby’s tight control, disagreements between the government and armed opposition, recurring tensions among ruling elites and more stumbles in the electoral preparations could derail the fragile process. Several windows of opportunity exist for the government to move towards sustainable normalisation, both internally and externally. Above all, it should demonstrate political will by adopting and implementing the measures in the 13 August 2007 agreement reached by the presidential camp and opposition parties which aim to promote an appropriate environment for participatory politics and credible elections. But amid so much uncertainty, the planned withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping mission in Chad and the Central African Republic (MINURCAT) is premature.
To the Governments of Chad and Sudan:
1. Reinforce bilateral reconciliation and implementation of the 15 January 2010 N’Djamena agreement by:
a) elaborating a detailed plan for disarmament and cantonment of rebel forces in their respective territories and offering security guarantees to their combatants for a lasting peace;
b) organising regular meetings to evaluate the implementation of the joint force and the cantonment of rebel forces in their respective territories; and
c) pursuing mediation efforts to convince rebel groups to agree to observe a sustainable ceasefire.
To the Government of Chad:
Regarding rebel groups
2. Provide rebel leaders a framework for discussion and offer an honorable way to leave the armed struggle by:
a) updating the peace agreements and, in accordance with Article 12 of the Syrte Agreement (2007), organising a meeting that brings together both the signatory movements and those who wish to join; and seeking a solution to disagreements, including those on the personal security of rebel chiefs and on transforming armed groups into political parties;
b) preparing a concrete plan for disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) that focuses on social programs benefiting fighters willing to disarm and implementing the recommendations in the 10 June 2010 N’Djamena declaration on child soldiers; and
c) reforming the security sector, as stipulated in the 13 August 2007 agreement.
Regarding the fight against insecurity
3. Reinforce the coordination, mobility and communication capacity of the units responsible for civilian protection by:
a) following-up weekly on the security situation and communicating findings to humanitarian agencies and the Integrated Security Detachment (DIS) responsible for the security of refugee camps and internally displaced people (IDP) sites; and
b) increasing the frequency of night patrols in remote and unsafe areas and improving the communication equipment of the relevant security forces.
Regarding internal reforms and the fight against corruption
4. Reviving the internal reforms it has committed itself to by:
a) revoking the 5 February 2008 ordinance on the press;
b) implementing the provisions of the law on the status of the democratic opposition;
c) extending corruption investigations to the whole administration, particularly the infrastructure ministry and the National Society for Studies and Realisation (Société nationale d’études et de réalisation, SNER), and commissioning an independent audit of all public contracts awarded since 2008; and
d) enhancing implementation of the National Strategy for Good Governance (Stratégie nationale pour la bonne gouvernance, SNBG) by closely involving civil society and external partners and implementing public policies in compliance with fundamental rights and freedoms.
5. Ensure that the criteria for transparency are fulfilled in the approaching elections by:
a) providing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with necessary funding in a timely manner;
b) organising with the INEC a mid-stage review of the electoral process aimed at improving communication and resolving problems that includes all stakeholders, domestic and international;
c) organising with the follow-up committee of the 13 August 2007 agreement a meeting aimed at adopting a consensual draft law on the number and geographical allocation of seats in the national parliament;
d) recommending that the INEC quickly publish the provisional list of voters, so citizens can verify their registration status or make appropriate claims;
e) launching a transparent process to recruit IT specialists to prepare the electoral lists and provide training in how to use census kits; and
f) sanctioning bureaucrats and military officials who interfered in the electoral census and ensuring that public servants comply with regulations on equal treatment of political parties, including equitable access to public media and the prohibition on use of state resources.
To armed groups:
6. Agree to observe a sustainable ceasefire and gather and disarm in exchange for the government’s commitment to implement a comprehensive plan to end the crisis.
To the international community:
7. Press the government of Chad to fully respect its commitments to provide security in Eastern Chad per Security Council Resolution 1923 (2010).
8. Condition financial support for elections on more press freedom and strict observance of transparency conditions recommended by the 13 August 2007 agreement.
9. Demand that Chadian actors not interfere in the work of the international technical assistance team before, during and after elections and plan to deploy long-term electoral observation missions to follow the entire process, including the resolution of disputes over results.
10. Provide technical and financial support to the DDR program, the implementation of the N’Djamena declaration on child soldiers and revival of the National Strategy for Good Governance.
Nairobi/Brussels, 17 August 2010