[Dehai-WN] Crisisgroup.org: Africa without Qaddafi: The Case of Chad

[Dehai-WN] Crisisgroup.org: Africa without Qaddafi: The Case of Chad

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Sun, 23 Oct 2011 23:47:21 +0200

Africa without Qaddafi: The Case of Chad

Africa Report N°180 21 Oct 2011

The full report is available in
-without-qaddafi-the-case-of-chad.aspx?alt_lang=fr> French.


The end of the long reign of Muammar Qaddafi, killed on 20 October in his
hometown of Syrte, opens the way to democracy in Libya. His fall has also
left the country and its neighbours facing a multitude of potential new
problems that could threaten stability in the region. Chad is a case in
point. Qaddafi made his presence felt in all the country’s conflicts, for
good and ill, and he maintained a close relationship with President Déby.
Because the latter supported his doomed benefactor politically at the start
of the insurgency and only belatedly aligned with Libya’s National
Transitional Council (NTC), the new era of Chad-Libya relations has started
on the wrong foot. The NTC’s accusations – denied by N’Djamena – that
Chadian fighters supported Qaddafi militarily, racist attacks against black
Africans, refugees and related displacement issues and the volatile
situation on the border increase forthcoming challenges.

During his 42-year reign, Qaddafi was time and again an actor and mediator
of Chad’s conflicts, while using his southern neighbour as a testing ground
to achieve his regional ambitions. Under Déby, N’Djamena was a willing
subject, and relations between Tripoli and N’Djamena improved significantly.
The two leaders’ relationship had its ups and downs, but Déby allowed
Qaddafi to increase his influence through patronage in return for political
and economic support.

Qaddafi’s involvement in Chad became paradoxical. After initially playing an
active role in destabilising the North, he contributed in recent years to
bringing relative peace to that historically rebellious zone by mediating
between armed groups. In view of this, Déby saw Qaddafi as essential to his
own regional policy and was, therefore, reluctant to accept the possibility
of his fall when the Libyan insurgency broke out and slow to realise its
full consequences. When the crisis began, Déby tried to defend Qaddafi’s
legitimacy by accusing the rebels of colluding with Islamists. Though his
government denied it was providing any military support, the presence of
Chadian fighters in Libya among Qaddafi’s troops stripped his statements of

However, Déby’s accusations naturally made the NTC suspicious of N’Djamena,
which it considered as favouring Qaddafi’s continued rule. This had serious
consequences for the treatment of Chadian nationals in Libya in areas where
the insurgents gained control. It was only when NATO intervened and power
shifted away from Qaddafi, that the Chadian government took a more strategic
and realistic stance, calling for negotiations and establishing preliminary
contacts with the NTC.

Déby knows from recent history that hostile relations with Tripoli could
quickly endanger the stability of northern Chad. The recent normalisation of
relations with Sudan that he achieved with Qaddafi’s help is far from
irreversible, so he would like to avoid tensions with the new authorities in
Tripoli. N’Djamena is also concerned for the plight of Chadian nationals in
Libya, who frequently have been perceived and treated as mercenaries, though
at least the overwhelming majority have been in the country for years for
purely economic reasons. It is likewise aware of the need to maintain
economic relations, particularly trade and investments, between the two

Given the security and economic interests at stake, the Chadian regime has
now recognised the former rebels, and Déby has met with the NTC leader,
Mustafa Abdul Jalil. But despite this rapprochement, uncertainty about the
future of relations remains. Will the new rulers of Tripoli and Deby be able
to win each other’s trust and put aside grievances born during the
eight-month crisis? How will the volatile situation in southern Libya’s
impact on these relations? What will be Libya’s new policy on the Chad-Sudan
equation? More generally, what will be Libya’s new relationship with the
rest of Africa?

Due to the length of his reign, his influence abroad and strong patronage
politics, Qaddafi’s shadow will continue to be felt in Libya and
neighbouring countries. The upheavals that preceded and followed his fall
have created new and potential problems, including massive displacement of
populations; tribal tensions within Libya and racist attacks against
nationals of sub-Saharan countries; a possible resurgence of Islamism; and
the proliferation of fighters and weapons. It is too early to say whether
the changes will evolve into medium- and long-term factors of instability in
the region, notably in the Sahel and Darfur. However, the issues faced by
Chad, a country bridging black and North Africa and east and west Sahel,
highlight some of the dangers the region faces in the post-Qaddafi era.


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