August 26, 2022
IntelBrief: Peace Talks Advance in Chad
Chad, facilitated by robust diplomatic efforts by Qatar, recently began the Inclusive and Sovereign National Dialogue to pave the way for elections, with more than 1,400 delegates from various sectors of society meeting in the capital of N’Djamena. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the dialogue a “historic opportunity to build new foundations for the stability of Chad, through the consolidation of democracy and good governance.” Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari agreed about the importance of the negotiations and declared this week that the stability of Chad was in the interest of Nigeria and all surrounding countries in the Lake Chad Basin region. The National Dialogue is a result of painstaking negotiations that have been taking place in Doha, facilitated by Qatari diplomats and government officials working to end the long-running conflict in Chad in an effort to stabilize the country. Mediation has been aimed at ending the ongoing conflict, which has direct linkages to violence occurring in neighboring states. In early August, the Chadian transitional government signed a reconciliation agreement with 42 opposition groups.
A lasting and sustainable peace agreement in Chad would benefit the country and its people first and foremost but could also have significant second-order effects. This includes attenuating conflicts in neighboring countries of the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin areas—including Libya, Niger, and Sudan—since spillover violence is a continuing source of regional instability. The agreement represents a political advantage for Mahamat Déby, whose father, Idriss Déby, had been Chad’s military ruler from 1990 until he was killed in 2021, while leading troops fighting a powerful Chadian rebel group known as the Front for Change and Concord (FACT). The long-term success of the agreement may be undermined by FACT’s refusal to sign and the group’s conspicuous absence from the national dialogue, which was intended to maximize inclusivity. Consequently, Déby will continue to face political uncertainty. Based in southern Libya, one of FACT’s primary demands is that Déby abstain from participating in future elections. In essence, FACT seeks an end to the Déby political dynasty in Chad and calls for a secular and democratic system. There is, however, an ethnic component to this rivalry, with the Déby dynasty representing the Zaghwa and FACT’s leader, Mahamat Mahdi Ali representing the Gorane communities.
France, the African Union, and the European Union are also urging Déby to step down from the Transitional Military Council within 18 months of assuming power from his father in April 2021. The 38-year-old Déby, however, may have been eager to achieve the reconciliation just ahead of this 18-month deadline, including with various smaller rebel groups, hoping to shore up his political legitimacy.
The international context could offer clues about what will happen next in Chad. Controversially, France still holds considerable economic and political influence in Chad, which gained independence from France in 1960. Having formerly lived in France, FACT’s leader is known to the French government, and he maintains a network of support in Paris, which helps to finance the group’s operations. France conducted airstrikes against FACT after the group killed Idriss Déby because France considered the succession of his son, Mahamat, as a prerequisite to preserving stability. In recent weeks, France completed its withdrawal from Mali, ending its nine-year military campaign in the country. Mali’s military junta has now aligned itself with Russia, allowing for the Russian private military company, Wagner Group, to step in to assist the government in the fight against al-Qaeda and ISIS affiliates, which are increasingly active in Mali and neighboring Burkina Faso.
After Déby seized power following his father’s death in 2021, he accused Russia of colluding with FACT to overthrow his government. Adding to Déby’s fears was the presence of Wagner personnel to the country’s north in Libya, to the country’s south in Central African Republic (CAR), and farther to the country’s west in Mali. Moreover, in May 2021, Wagner troops were involved in a clash with Chadian troops that led to six Chadian troops’ deaths near the CAR border. Nonetheless, if France stands by Déby in his attempt to retain power, it could open new opportunities for Russian collaboration with FACT.
What happens next in Chadian politics will largely depend on support from the international community to bolster an initiative that is supported by the UN, African Union, and major African powers, including Nigeria. it could draw armed Chadian elements, including rebels and insurgents, away from other conflicts in the region and increase stability in an otherwise precarious region of Africa. This also depends on efforts by the international community to build Chad's capabilities in reducing porous borders and strengthening governance. Qatari diplomacy has been helpful, especially in reaching this point, but to ensure an opportunity for lasting success, the international community must take a greater interest in Chad's stability, supporting efforts to bring together an inclusive dialogue that could have positive ripple effects throughout the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin. As the next frontier in great power competition, Africa will soon be at the centerpiece of foreign and security policy for major powers, each jockeying for position to spread influence and shore up competing national priorities.