Who’s in control in Chad?

Thousands of civilians fled Chad’s capital N’Djamena Feb. 4 after rebel forces pulled back from the city following two days of street fighting in an effort to overthrow President Idriss Deby. The government said it had forced back the rebels, who had stormed into N’Djamena aboard armed pickup trucks. But the rebels called the pullback a “tactical withdrawal” before a renewed assault. “We’re asking the population to leave,” said rebel spokesman Abderamane Koullamalah. Foreign Minister Ahmat Allam-mi said N’Djamena was secure and under government control: “The battle of N’Djamena is over.” (Reuters, Feb. 4) Exxon said it oil operations in Chad were not affected by the fighting. (Dow Jones, Feb. 3)

Where did the rebels get all those pick-up trucks—and the ground-to-air missiles they’ve been using to deprive the government forces of air support? Are they being backed entirely by Sudan, as the conventional wisdom holds? Has China, which is grooming Sudan as a client state, had a hand in arming them? Or, given the Deby government’s recent falling out with Exxon, maybe the US has now written Deby off and is backing the rebels? Or, given how factionalized the rebels seem to be, maybe more than one (or all) of these theories are true? Sound off readers…

See our last posts on Chad and the Sahel.