French-U.S. imperialist interests behind Chad-Sudan conflicts
May 17, 2009
A flare-up in tensions between Chad and Sudan during the week of May 4 has
exposed the continuing efforts of French and U.S. imperialism to dominate the
political and economic future of North and Central Africa. An effort by Chad
rebels to attack the capital N’Djamena and overturn the Idriss Deby Itno
regime was reportedly defeated May 7 after air power halted the rebel
Chad’s government, backed by France, immediately blamed Sudan for
providing rear-base and material support for the Union of Resistance Forces
(UFR), which claimed responsibility for the attacks inside the country. The UFR
is an alliance of Chadian opposition groups led by Timan Erdimi.
A French military source based in Chad, where over 1,000 French troops
protect the government, claims that the rebels were defeated decisively.
“The Chadian army showed itself to be very organized, it was worthy of a
modern army,” the French military spokesperson stated. (South African
Mercury, May 11) The Chadian government claims that 226 rebels and 22
government soldiers were killed in the recent fighting.
The UFR, however, has stated, “We are regrouping, we are taking care
of the wounded. The situation is calm, but you will see, it will pick up
Sudan’s government dismissed accusations that it was behind the
attacks. In turn, it accused the Chadian regime of supporting the Justice and
Equality Movement, one of the rebel groups fighting in Sudan’s Darfur
region against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s governmental forces.
According to the Sudanese News Agency, “National Defense Minister
Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein has affirmed the readiness of the armed forces to
repel any aggression on Sudanese lands, pointing to the movements of JEM on the
northwestern border with support from the Chadian government.” (May
Hussein made these remarks from El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur.
The defense minister was in the region to monitor developments in the
fighting between the supporters of Minni Arcua Minnawi—a former rebel
leader in Darfur who signed a peace agreement with the central government in
2006—and forces within the JEM.
Minnawi heads a breakaway faction of the Sudan Liberation Army and was
appointed as a presidential assistant after the peace deal with the government
in Khartoum in 2006.
This fighting in Darfur comes on the heels of an agreement signed between
the governments in Chad and Sudan the week before in Doha. The two states had
resumed diplomatic ties in November 2008 after an earlier rupture the preceding
France behind Security Council session
Chad made a special request for a United Nations Security Council session on
May 8 to discuss purported Sudanese aggression. During the session, allies of
Sudan defeated attempts by France to pass a resolution “seeking
accountability of Sudan for recent incidents in Chad, alleging that the Chadian
opposition that led the offensive against Deby’s regime came from
Sudan.” (Sudan Vision, May 10)
The Sudanese ambassador to the United Nations, Abdel Halim Abdelmahmoud,
disputed the charges made by Chad that Khartoum is backing the UFR rebels and
that the problems in Chad are internal. In the same source he said, “We
have nothing to do with that. This is a Chadian problem. It should be dealt
with inside Chad by the Chadians.”
The Sudanese ambassador accused the former Chadian colonizer France of being
the author of the N’djamena request for an emergency session of the
Security Council. Nonetheless, the Security Council on May 8 issued a statement
that condemned “renewed military excursions” by “Chadian
armed groups coming from outside.”
U.S., Israel, oil and the ICC
Since the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants against Sudan
President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the U.S. has taken a two-pronged approach. The
Barack Obama administration has appointed Special Envoy J. Scott Gration to
engage Khartoum in diplomatic efforts. At the same time, the U.S. corporate
media has escalated its attacks against Sudan’s government, accusing the
leadership of genocide in the Darfur region.
Both Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and President Obama called
Sudan’s expulsion of some Western-based aid agencies unacceptable in
light of the humanitarian situation in the western region of the country.
Khartoum has said that it will accept material assistance from the affected
agencies but that any aid must be turned over to the Sudanese state for
Though the U.S.-based Save Darfur campaign has accused the Sudanese
government of genocide to justify its demand for greater Western military
intervention in the region, various international bodies have not made this
claim. A May 4 Los Angeles Times article by Edmund Sanders points out that
there is no evidence that genocide is the official policy of the government in
Sanders writes: “In the United States, many see the six-year war in
Darfur as a bloody campaign by a Sudanese Arab-dominated government against
rebellious ‘African’ tribes in western Sudan. Two consecutive
American presidents and several activist groups have defined it as
“But others, while acknowledging the severity of the violence,
question whether it meets the legal definition of genocide. The United Nations
determined in 2005 that the Sudanese government wasn’t committing
genocide in Darfur. Human Rights Watch and Doctors Without Borders avoid the
“The International Criminal Court renewed the debate in March when it
issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Judges
said his counterinsurgency tactics in Darfur may amount to war crimes and
crimes against humanity, but that there was no evidence of genocide.”
Nevertheless, the U.S. has used the ICC campaign against the Sudanese leader
in an attempt to further destabilize his government. Both Sudan and Chad are
oil-producing states that also contain other strategic minerals that are
important in the Western capitalist system.
With a population of 11.1 million, Chad became a major player in the global
oil industry when a $4 billion pipeline linking its oilfields to terminals on
the Atlantic coast opened up in 2003. The mostly semi-arid country also
produces gold and uranium.
Sudan, with a population of 40 million, is also major supplier of oil in the
international market. The People’s Republic of China and some Middle
Eastern and Asian states manage the concessions for oil exploration. Oil
production was projected to reach approximately one million barrels per day by
the end of 2008. The estimated natural oil reserves has been estimated to total
at least five billion barrels.
French imperialism, which has some drilling rights in Sudan, is very much
interested in gaining greater access. The U.S. has been excluded from
Sudan’s oil concessions. As a result, diplomatic relations between the
two states have become strained over the last few years as Washington targeted
the Khartoum government.
In recent months there have been allegations of Sudanese involvement in the
shipment of arms from Iran to the Hamas government in Gaza, including a report
in the Israeli Haaretz newspaper on April 27 that asserts that “an
Iranian vessel laden with weapons bound for the Gaza Strip was torpedoed off
the coast of Sudan last week, allegedly by Israeli or American forces operating
in the area.”
Consequently, the recent conflicts and strained diplomatic relations between
Sudan and Chad must be viewed within this broader context. Both the U.S. and
France are seeking to enhance their influence in the region.
Anti-imperialists in the United States must recognize the material and
political sources of these conflicts and uphold the right of self-determination
for both the people of Sudan and Chad. Imperialist intervention in these
geopolitical areas will only further the oppression of the people in the