Libya forges links with new style Chad




Gadafy’s move alters West African politics, writes Mark Huband from N’djamena

The Guardian, 8 December 1990

LIBYA’S rapid diplomatic offensive in Chad, following the victory a week ago of rebel forces armed by Tripoli, has given Colonel Gadafy a significant ally south of the Sahara and has transformed the region’s political make-up.

Within two days of taking power last Saturday, the new President, Idriss Déby, released 400 Libyan prisoners of war captured by the deposed regime of Hissene Habré during his war against Libya in the early 1980s.

A top-level Libyan delegation arrived in N’djamena on Monday, led by Colonel Massoud Abdel Hafiz, who is believed to have been the main link between Mr Déby and the Libyan leadership while the overthrow of the Habré regime was being planned.

Col Massoud, diplomatic sources in N’djamena said, organised the supply of Libyan weapons to Mr Déby’s Popular Salvation Movement (MPS) at its base in Sudan. Libyan supply aircraft have arrived in the Chadian capital just after dawn every morning this week. According to the Libyan ambassador, the planes have been carrying food and medical supplies to assist Chad in the aftermath of the war, which began when the MPS invaded from Sudan on November 2l.

President Déby arrived in N’djamena with relations with his immediate Arab neighbours already formed.

Sudan, where his force had been based in the Western Darfur province since last March, had allowed the MPS to remain in the country even after sporadic fighting had spilled across the border.

The military governor of Darfur province, Adoum Tahir, who reflects the good relations between the Sudanese leader, General Omar el Bashir, and Col Gadafy, allowed the Libyan-backed rebels to stay in his territory even though there were objections over the diplomatic row it caused with ex-President Habré.

Mr Tahir, who is a member of Sudan’s ruling Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), is said to have ignored civilians in the region who complained that the MPS was exhausting scarce food supplies.

In what is now seen as recognition of the Sudanese government’s support, it was confirmed yesterday that the new government in N’djamena had closed down the office of the Sudanese rebel movement, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).

The largely Christian SPLA has been fighting the Muslim-dominated government in Khartourn, as well as the regime overthrown in 1989, over its plan to introduce Muslim sharia law in the south.

Chad is similarly divided on religious grounds, with the south of the country being 90 per cent Christian.

Col Gadafy’s long-term aim of creating an Arab union from Africa’s western seaboard to Sudan has already raised concern among Chadian Christian’s.

However, the new Chad government has so far made it clear that it does not believe Libya has any intention of taking Chadian territory or undermining its sovereignty.

President Déby has also said that the contested border area in the north of Chad, the Aouzou strip, over which the former President fought an inconclusive war against Libya after Col Gadafy attempted to annexe the mineral-rich area, will remain part of Chad.

Defence of the Aouzou strip laid the ground for current relations between Chad and the United States. Under pressure from the US, Chad’s former colonial ruler, France, provided ex-President Habré with weapons with which to fight Libyan aggression.

The war allowed Libya’s Eastern bloc allies and the US to test their weapons in the desert war between Chad and Libya.

The conflict has now been referred to the International Court of Justice.

Both France and the US were aware of the planned uprising against Mr Habré several weeks, if not months, before it took place. It is unclear whether they knew the extent of Libyan backing for Mr Déby.

France has a strong military presence in Chad, and a defence strategy codenamed Operation Sparrowhawk.

France made no attempt to save Mr Habré, and this has led to former ministers in the Habré regime accusing France of complicity in the uprising.



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