World Markets Research Centre (WMRC)
After a long delay, France has finally ordered troops from its permanent garrison in Chad into the field to support Chadian forces that are providing aid and security to Sudanese refugees from Darfur. Commander Philippe Charles told the United Nations’ Integrated Regional Information Networks (UN’s IRIN) that France has already begun to provide an airlift capability to ferry supplies to refugee camps in eastern Chad, which are now cut off by road due to seasonal heavy rains. Around 200 ground troops are also to be deployed in support of the Chadian army to prevent incursions by the Sudanese Janjawid militias, which have continued to harass Darfur refugees across the border into Chad. Charles said that, as of the the past weekend, French military transports are conducting two daily flights to the town of Abeche, with helicopters being used to distribute supplies to UN-run camps dispersed along the border area.
France has scaled down its military presence in Chad in recent years, but still maintains a deployment of around 1,000 ground troops, with armoured vehicles, five Mirage fighter planes, two transport aircraft and three Puma helicopters in the capital, N’Djamena.
Significance: In contrast to the timely French involvement in Côte d’Ivoire, President Jacques Chirac has come under criticism for his tardy response to the Darfur crisis, which has been affecting Chad since early this year. The French reluctance to employ troops already on the ground perhaps reflects a general desire in the international community to delay action until the Sudanese government rectified the situation, a forlorn hope which has only recently been abandoned (see Sudan: 2 August 2004: UN Resolution Unhappily Accepted by Sudanese Government, Seen as Declaration of War by Army).