France’s defense minister made a surprise visit to Chad’s capital to show support for President Idriss Déby after weekend battles between government and rebel forces left the dead bodies in the streets. Rebels, who accuse Déby of corruption and embezzling oil wealth, said they were ready for a cease-fire. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he was ready to send soldiers to support the government in the former French colony if necessary. “"If France must do its duty,” he said, “it will do so.” (AP in Yahoo! News)
What the commentators said
“Déby is no Mr. Clean,” said The Christian Science Monitor in an editorial. “He came to power through revolt, has held his position through unfair elections, and heads a corrupt government that's skimming his country's oil profits.” But the rebels want to keep out European Union forces being sent to protect camps of refugees from Darfur and Chad, so the president’s “ouster” would make matters worse for people “who have already suffered terribly.”
This is “what the world looks like when America relies on multilateral diplomacy and the United Nations instead of taking the lead,” said The New York Sun in an editorial. “Horrified Americans have marched on Washington, they have passed resolutions, given speeches, backed divestment of pension funds, advocated Olympic boycotts. They have done everything except what many of those so agitated about the situation in Darfur oppose when it comes to the Battle of Iraq—commit the American military to intervene.”
France’s threatened intervention may have helped calm things a bit, said The Economist in an editorial. “Ideally, however, a diplomatic solution is needed.” Chad is the main gateway for humanitarian aid for the people of Darfur, and as long as the tensions go on, food-aid deliveries will be prone to interruption.
The unarmed opposition and civilians are always “the first to pay the costs” when the bosses go to war, said Christophe Ayad in the French daily Liberation. In Chad, the people are trapped between a corrupt, autocratic president and rebels desperate to take his seat.