In Senegal, Inauguration of Extraordinary Chambers to Try Former Chadian Leader Hissène Habré

Hissène Habré, a French-educated political scientist, rebel commander, and politician, took power in a coup in 1982 and ruled Chad until rebel forces led by Idriss Déby overthrew him in 1990. Habré has been living in Senegal ever since. Pressure to put him on trial has come from numerous forces: groups within Chad, officials in Senegal and Belgium, the United Nations, the European Parliament, the African Union, and others. For years, however, some observers felt that Senegalese authorities were stalling on the question of whether they would try Habré. Human Rights Watch has a chronology of the case here, an overview here, and a Q&A here.

Today marks an important event in the case: the inauguration of special tribunal called the Extraordinary Chambers, in Dakar. There are a number of points to be made about this event. For one thing, as VOA says, “this will be the first time a world leader is prosecuted for crimes against humanity by the government of another country.” The case will have major ramifications for future attempts to try former heads of state.

Second, there are questions to ponder about how Senegalese politics interacted with the trial. VOA quotes Reed Brody, a lawyer with Human Rights Watch, framing the shift in Senegalese authorities’ behavior on the case as a result of the change in administration from President Abdoulaye Wade (in office 2000-2012) to new President Macky Sall.

“In 10 months, Macky Sall and [Justice Minister] Aminata Toure and the government of Senegal have moved this case more than Abdoulaye Wade had done in 12 years.  Finally, the tenacity and the perseverance of the victims is being been rewarded by this government,” [Brody] said.

What happens next? It’s hard to tell – AFP says that no details are publicly available about when the trial will start. RFI (French) gives a broad timeline: fifteen months (maximum) for investigations; seven months for the trial; and five months for appeals. That could mean that there is no final verdict until May 2015. In the meantime, this will be an important case to follow.

A New Cabinet in Chad

On January 21, Chadian President Idriss Deby named Joseph Djimrangar Dadnadji as the country’s new prime minister. RFI (French) calls Djimrangar Dadnadji, who has served numerous times in ministerial and senior government posts under Deby, a “loyalist among loyalists.” He replaces Emmanuel Nadingar, whose thirty-four month tenure set a record for a prime minister under Deby.

The full list of ministers in Djimrangar Dadnadji’s government is here (.pdf, French). The Journal du Tchad (French) looks in depth at the new team. Sixteen ministers have been carried over from the last government. One new appointment that stands out to me is that of Djérassem Le Bémadjiel, a young engineer and inventor brought from the N’djamena refinery to become Minister of Petroleum and Energy. You can read a profile of him here (French). Oil, of course, has been a source of controversy for Chad as well as a driver of certain kinds of social change.

The Journal du Tchad identifies negotiating with labor unions, who were on strike for part of last year, as one of the key priorities for the new government. The cabinet reshuffle also comes as Chadian soldiers deploy to Mali, an issue which has commanded much of Deby’s attention in recent weeks.

Overview and Map of the Rebel Advance in the Central African Republic [UPDATED]

In a military offensive this month, the rebel coalition Seleka has captured at least six towns in the Central African Republic (CAR – see map below). This post gives some background on the situation.

One could start a history of conflict in CAR much further back, but the current cycle of conflict began with the presidency of Ange-Felix Patasse (1937-2011, ruled 1993-2003). François Bozizé launched a rebellion against Patasse in 2001 and took power in 2003. Chadian President Idriss Deby is seen as a key ally of Bozizé, who has been in power ever since. As president, Bozizé won elections in 2005 and 2011, but he too has faced challenges from rebels, notably a conflict in 2003-2007 with a coalition called the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR). An April 2007 peace agreement formally ended that conflict, made the UFDR a political party, and provided for the integration of rebel fighters in the army. Some rebels kept on fighting – a group called the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), for example, launched attacks in late 2009. RFI (French) reported that in August 2012, the CPJP, “the last rebel group active” in CAR, signed an agreement with the government to become a political party. The emergence of Seleka shows that rebellions in CAR are not, in fact, over.

Seleka is made up of “breakaway factions” from the UFDR, the CPJP, and another group, the CPSK, whose French name could be rendered “the Convention of Patriots for Salvation and Kodro” (I was not able to discover what “Kodro” means in this context). Seleka was, according to this French-language site, formed on August 20 of this year. Its demands include what it sees as proper implementation of the 2007 accords, including payments for demobilized rebel fighters and releases of prisoners. More on their demands here.

Seleka currently appears to control six towns: Ouadda, Sam Ouandja, Bamingui, Ndele (captured December 11), Bria (captured December 18), and Kabo (captured December 19). While Ouadda and Sam Ouandja are reportedly small, and Bamingui seems to be as well, the BBC describes Ndele as a “key northern town” and Bria as “a key mining hub in a diamond-rich region.” Together, the BBC says, Ouadda, Sam Ouandja, Ndele, and Bria form “a major route linking the CAR to Sudan, Cameroon and Chad.” Reuters does not assign Kabo any strategic or economic significance, but Reuters notes that taking Kabo, which is 400km/250m from Bangui, brings the rebels even closer to the capital. Many of these towns were battle zones circa 2006, and Ndele was a center of fighting in 2009.

The rebels’ advance seemingly owes partly to the advantage of surprise, but they also seem to have outfought government soldiers (and former rebels fighting alongside the government) in these towns. The BBC describes the battle for Ndele:

An army source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the BBC that the rebels captured Ndele after a surprise attack.

The town was poorly defended, as a detachment of troops was leaving Ndele and had not yet been relieved by other soldiers, the source said.

[…]

The army in Ndele was backed by a former rebel movement, the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), which signed an accord with the government in 2011, AFP reports.

“The CPJP put up resistance, but they were routed by our men and forced to flee,” a rebel spokesman known as Col Narkoyo told AFP.

Seleka fighters also reportedly ambushed a government detachment attempting to retake Ndele on December 16. Chadian soldiers crossed into CAR on December 18 to assist the government in breaking the rebellion, but so far I have seen no reports of Chadian troops clashing directly with the rebels. Chad intervened militarily in CAR during the previous rebellion as well as at other points.

Humanitarian concerns are growing. The fighting has already displaced thousands of people.

UPDATE: See this Reuters piece, “Rebels Say Advance Halted, Ready for Talks.”

Below is my map of the rebel advance. Undoubtedly the locations of some of the towns are somewhat off, so take it as merely an approximation of the geography:

In West Africa and Paris, Chad’s President Idriss Deby Calls for Clarity on Military Intervention in Mali

Chadian President Idriss Deby has made several forceful calls recently for clarity on plans for a possible military intervention in Mali. Deby’s met Tuesday with Boni Yayi, President of Benin (and Chairman of the AU), and Malian Prime Minister Cheikh Modibo Diarra. Deby told reporters:

“It’s up to the Malians to tell us as clearly as possible what kind of support they expect from Africa, beyond what has been done by [the Economic Community of West African States, of which Chad is not a member], and what kind of contribution they expect of Chad.”

He and the AU called formally for the UN to authorize a military intervention in Mali (see a timeline of steps toward intervention in Mali here).

On Wednesday, Deby met with French President Francois Hollande in Paris. A military intervention in Mali was one of the central subjects they discussed. This was the first time the two men had met face to face, but not the first time they had discussed Mali: on July 5, the Presidents had a telephone conversation on the topic. Jeune Afrique (French) reported that at the time Deby gave his conditional support to the idea. But he recommended that the framework of the intervention be broadened beyond ECOWAS to include the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN), with Western powers’ logistical support. “Under these conditions, Chad could participate,” he reportedly said. Since that time, the AU has signed on, and some Western powers (including France) have indicated they would support an intervention logistically, but the UN Security Council has yet to approve the force.

On Wednesday, following his meeting with Hollande, Deby spoke (French) of “total confusion” on the issue of Mali coming from ECOWAS, the UN, and Mali itself, confusion concerning the military option as well as the option of negotiations. Nonetheless he reaffirmed Chad’s intention to work “alongside the Malians so that Mali may recover its territorial integrity.” Deby’s statements in Paris tracked closely with his remarks the preceding day.

Africa News Roundup: Eid and Boko Haram, Northern Mali, Chad and China, and More

Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid al Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, this Sunday. In Northern Nigeria, authorities are bracing themselves for possible attacks by the rebel sect Boko Haram:

A centuries-old Eid festival in the major northern city of Kano, famed for its elaborate horse pageant, has been cancelled, officially due to the local emir’s health, but residents suspected the worsening violence was to blame.

In the volatile central city of Jos, authorities declared off-limits two main prayer grounds that have been hit by violence in the past over security concerns, but said alternative locations were available.

The authorities’ moves were an indication of how badly security has deteriorated in northern and central Nigeria, where Boko Haram has been blamed for more than 1,400 deaths since 2010.

Nigeria’s national police chief urged the public to share tips with officers, something many people have been reluctant to do out of fear of both Boko Haram and the authorities, who have been accused of abuses.

The warning message from the US Embassy in Abuja is here.

The Washington Post reports on Boko Haram’s efforts to gain a foothold in towns along the Nigeria-Niger border. An interesting article, although as regular readers know I think the “tolerant Sufis versus militant fundamentalists” line is simplistic.

In other Nigeria news, Shell “said on Friday it had contained oil leaked from a failed pump within a flowstation on Nigeria’s Nembe Creek though local residents disputed this, saying it had spread to mangrove swamps.”

VOA:

Observers of Somalia’s political transition process say the final political benchmarks to end the transition, including the election of a new president, will not be met by the August 20 deadline.  An arbitration committee working to solve clan disputes on how to share parliamentary seats is yet to reach agreement. Some reports also say the technical selection committee working to screen and approve members of the next parliament objects to some of the candidates put forward.

The numbers out of northern Mali are grim and getting worse: over 435,000 people displaced, and 4.6 million hungry.

Patriarch Abune Paulos of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church passed away on Thursday.

China delivered food aid to Chad this week, marking the occasion with a ceremony on Monday (French).

Presidents Alassane Ouattara and Idriss Deby met in Mecca (French), where they discussed Mali and other matters.

IRIN writes that education in the Sahel is “in crisis.”

What else is happening?

Jeune Afrique’s Series on Chad

Jeune Afrique has recently published a series on Chad called “Apres la tempete, s’ouvrir au monde” (“After the storm, opening up to the world”). As the articles are in French, and since Chad does not receive a lot of news coverage, I will summarize some of the most important articles for the benefit of Anglophone audiences, and provide links for those who read French. The central theme, or implication, of these articles, is that much of what goes on in Chad turns on the actions and preferences of President Idriss Deby, who took power in 1990. Deby’s coalition has (unsurprisingly) triumphed in presidential, legislative, and local elections held over the past fourteen months (French).

Two articles from the series provide macro-level narrative frameworks for understanding Chad. One, “Genese d’une nation” (“Birth of a Nation”) surveys Chadian history through the lens of a quotation from former French President Jacques Chirac, who called Chad “a space demarcated by the borders of its neighbors.” (There are of course other, more complimentary, ways to view Chadian history and nationhood.) The second, “La stabilite malgre tout” (“Stability Despite It All”), argues that Deby’s pragmatism, and the amicable relations he has built with both Libya’s new leaders and Sudan, have allowed Deby to concentrate on Chad’s internal problems, such as economic performance and social discontent.

A third article, “Sursauts de croissance” (“Flashes of Growth”), looks at the Chadian economy. Beyond the ups and downs of the country’s erratic growth, the author perceives several constants: relatively low inflation, and investment of oil revenues in infrastructure projects and local industries (made possible by relative peace in recent years). Economic decision-making occurs in an environment of opacity, as the president “alone arbitrates between the interests of the clans and of the lobbies.”

A fourth, “Frustrations dans l’opposition” (“Frustrations within the Opposition”) relates that the opposition, which won only 30 of 188 seats in January’s local elections, possesses “a certain cohesion” but feels that the presidential majority “wants, by every means, to intimidate them.”

Other articles profile opposition leader and former Deby ally Saleh Kebzabo and musician Kaar Kaas Sonn.

If I’ve committed any errors in translation, please let me know in the comments.

Sahelian Leaders Look to a Post-Qadhafi Libya

During his long rule Colonel Moammar Qadhafi has exercised substantial influence over Africa. The Colonel has aided client regimes, helped bring rulers to power or ruin, and intervened in conflicts as participant or peacemaker. As this map shows, his influence has been particularly pronounced in Sahelian countries like Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad.

The civil war in Libya has dramatically affected the Sahel: Niger and other countries are absorbing thousands of refugees, Sahelians are being accused of serving as pro-Qadhafi mercenaries, Libyan weapons have reportedly traveled south, and money flows have been disrupted or altered. Perhaps reflecting the interlinked fates of Libya and the Sahel, the latter has been well represented in the African Union’s peace efforts, providing two of the five members of the AU’s committee on Libya (they are President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania, who chairs the committee, and President Amadou Toumani Toure of Mali). This AU group, at least initially, tried to broker a peace that would have allowed Qadhafi to remain in power.

Given all that, it is significant to see several Sahelian leaders begin to speak about – and act to bring about – a post-Qadhafi Libya. Senegal appears to have led the trend, with President Abdoulaye Wade establishing relations with the Libyan rebels in mid-May. Last week, Wade met with rebel leaders in Benghazi and said that Qadhafi should step down. Gambia also recognizes the rebels. Wade’s call for a transition was seconded last week by Mauritania’s Abdel Aziz, who said that Qadhafi’s “departure has become necessary.” With this, Abdel Aziz seemed to speak for the African Union as a whole. Another Sahelian leader, Chad’s President Idriss Deby, soon added his voice to the chorus. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chadian Foreign Minister Moussa Faki met on the sidelines of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) forum in Zambia last week, and afterwards Clinton announced that “the Chadian government does not support Gadhafi.”

To say there is an emerging Sahelian consensus against Qadhafi would be going too far. I have not seen a statement from Mali’s Toure calling for Qadhafi’s resignation, nor to my knowledge has newly elected Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou gone beyond calling for a solution to the crisis (without stating a preference on who rules Libya). President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, according to one source, has continued to proclaim solidarity with Qadhafi. And further east, Sudanese President Omar al Bashir has not demanded Qadhafi’s ouster either. So if the baseline position among Sahelian leaders three or four months ago was support for Qadhafi, or neutrality, many of them have not moved. But the movement that has occurred in the region has been toward breaking with the Colonel.

AFP has discussed the Senegalese and Mauritanian statements in the context of a larger African shift away from Qadhafi. Attention to the Sahelian context is also important, though, as Qadhafi’s departure could affect the Sahel more than any other region in Africa. The calculated risks that Wade, Abdel Aziz, and Deby are taking indicate that the political landscape in the Sahel has already shifted even though Qadhafi still clings to power. These decisions also suggest some confidence on the part of Sahelian leaders that siding with Qadhafi’s foes is a better bet than staying neutral, or continuing to support the Colonel on the chance that he might weather the storm. If and when Qadhafi does go, the relationships forged in this time of crisis, both between the Sahelian countries and the rebels as well as among the Sahelian countries themselves, will influence the direction of regional relations in the future.