Chadian Army: Overrated Unprofessional Force
The death of former Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno, when he had just been elected for a sixth term, appears to be a disruptive element in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel and the Lake Chad region, both for countries in the zone than Chad’s partners, France in the lead. In fact, the Chadian leader had become the leader of an army at the forefront of the fight against the jihadists who are now in the region.
“There are very few strategic studies on the Chadian army that compare it to other armies based on simple standards such as the number, the real level of its equipment, the level of training of its elements, its governance and the ratios between the famous victories on the ground and the losses. In the absence of such studies, one has the impression that there is a bombastic communication around this army to serve a simple objective: that which consists to make Chad the pacifying power of the sub-region in terms of engagement in the field of the fight against terrorism. This is a rhetoric that has flattered the ego of the late Chadian president who, as a soldier – even had these things high on her agenda.Chadian army is sold as such by Chad and by its godfather, France “,anthropologist Remadji Hoinathy, principal researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) based in N’Djamena, the Chadian capital, explains to franceinfo Africa. In Chad, the military has been political since the mid-1970s.
Always maneuvering … political
The reserve to which the army is held in states which consider themselves democratic is not applicable. The military burst onto the political scene with the coup d’etat of April 13, 1975 which put an end to the authoritarian regime of François Tombalbaye, the first leader of the country, to which the Front de liberation nationale du Tchad (Frolinat) is opposed. from 1966. They will never leave it and political life will become the hostage of this army. ” The soldiers or the leaders of different rebellions have succeeded one another in power to this day,” notes Remadji Hoinathy.It is an army which clearly has difficulty returning to barracks and leaving politics to civilians. (…) The principle of governance in Chad has been centered around the military with a simple rhetoric: Chad is an unstable country, a particular country “ in which, ” in the name of security and the fight against terrorism , we can sacrifice democratic, constitutional and republican principles. ” It is de facto a military council (National Transitional Council chaired by the son of the former president, Mahamat Idriss Déby) which was set up to ensure the succession of President Déby Itno. Like other opponents and civil society,Abakar Tollimi, former rebel leader and president of the National Council of Resistance for Democracy (CNRD) refugee in France , considers the installation of the military junta as “a coup”.
” The profession of arms both on the side of government forces and the rebellion has become central in political, social and economic life,” says Franceinfo Africa Marielle Debos, lecturer in political science at the University of Paris Nanterre and author from Living by the gun in Chad: Combatants, impunity and state formation (Editions Zed Books). We must get out of this idea that political power in Chad is military power and that it is a country of only warriors and soldiers in order to allow political actors to emerge and impose themselves. “
The art of making yourself indispensable
A revolution in perspective since President Déby used the army “to stay in power”, says Abakar Tollimi . “However, sending it to the Sahel countries has consequences,” protests the former rebel leader . First and foremost financial. According to the report of the International Crisis Group (ICG) published in January 2021 and vehemently rejected by the Chadian authorities, the country would devote “30 to 40%” of its national budget to defense. With $ 323 million invested in 2020, N’Djamena devoted 3.1% of its GDP to military affairs, the latest note indicates of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on military spending in the world in 2020. “The largest increases in spending are recorded in Chad (+ 31%), Mali (+ 22%), Mauritania (+ 23%) ) and Nigeria (+ 29%), all located in the Sahel region, as well as Uganda (+ 46%). “
Expenses that Chad, “a poor country” , is not obliged to incur, according to Abakar Tollimi, even if the Chadian soldiers ” are familiar with this kind of terrain – the Sahel – they can make a military advance with 4X4s equipped with heavy weapons, it must be recognized “ . “Since the end of colonization and long before, this spirit of sacrifice has been forged on all those who enlist in the army”, adds Brahim Moussa, journalist at the pan-African agency Panapress. ” Everyone knows how to fight (in Chad) and it is not to gain something in return.” Chadian expertise comes from a war that “never stopped” in the country . However,He said , “There is a new generation that has arrived and is starting to think (war) is not the best way to solve problems.”
Especially since “ all the armies of the Sahel can do the work that Chad is doing”, assures Abakar Tollimi . Yet Chadians remain on the front line. “In an area like Agelhok, in the far north of Mali, the Chadian army is the only one fighting all kinds of armed groups. There have been no Malian soldiers for years. Likewise, the Chadian soldiers are entered Nigerian territory to fight Boko Haram. “It’s not our job. Nigeria is still a country which has an army of over a million soldiers, which has a very high budget, “ insists the Chadian opponent .
“It is not a republican national army”
If the Chadian army has become a professional politician, it is not at the military level according to many observers. “The Chadian army is not a proper army, a trained and organized army, a professional army. It is made up of seasoned combatants,” analyzes the opponent Abakar Tollimi . It is a bloated army which ( obeyed) only one person (Idriss Déby, Editor’s note ). It is not a national republican army. ” The first indication of its uniqueness lies in the impossibility of knowing its numbers.” If there is governance, it is information that is given “ ,“The history of Chad means that it is an army which had to integrate successive waves of rebels rallied. “
The Chadian army is said to have at least 40,000 members. This is the lower limit of a range that arrives at 65,000, according to various estimates . A workforce which “is enormous for a country of 15 million inhabitants, underlines in passing Abakar Tollimi. We cannot maintain an army of this volume”.
In fact, “since Idriss Deby took power 30 years ago, there have been discussions about reforming the army to transform this army of ‘combatants’ into a more professional army. There have been several programs of restructuring and demobilization, “ says Marielle Debos. However, “we find ourselves thirty years later, with an army, managed with little institutionalized and bureaucratized standards which explains why nobody knows exactly in Chad how many soldiers there really are” . The failure of the reform is also linked, notes the French academic, “to a way of governing: I driss Déby wanted to keep part of the army which was made up of its faithful recruited from his ethnic group (zaghawa) and allied groups “.
The Chadian army is thus a “two-tier” institution. On the one hand , explains Marielle Debos, there is the General Directorate of the Security Service of State Institutions (DGSSIE), an elite body, and on the other the rest of the army. The first constitutes the part “the best trained, the most combative but it is also this army which recruits in certain ethnic groups close” to the Deby clan. The military institution is now divided and the current fear is that dissensions will lead to armed clashes.
Strong abroad, fragile at home
From the French operation Serval in Mali, through its G5-Sahel missions, to the Multinational Joint Force (FMM) of the Lake Chad Basin, the Chadian army has produced results. Only, notes Remadji Hoinathy, “these epics abroad contrast with facts at home. In 2006, a rebellion entered the heart of the capital”. Ditto in 2008. The latest rebellion claimed the life of President Déby. “It is an army which, finally inside, finds itself under a drip from France (Paris has intervened on several occasions to lend a hand to N’Djamena against the rebels, Editor’s note) and needs it every time. time it is threatened. ” For the researcher, this “is perhaps due to the fact “that most of them are led by dissident officers who know the terrain as well as those who remained in the loyalist army “.
Like all civilians, Abakar Tollimi hopes that after “politicians have discussed” as part of a necessary political transition, “a military commission” will be set up to ” bring order to the army” . For the time being, the challenge facing the Chadian army in the “short term”, according to researcher Marielle Debos, is to be “precisely an army and not to position itself as the main political actor in the country” .