News

Aid Groups Want Obama to Take New Approach to Chad

A coalition of religious groups and refugee organizations wants U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to take a new approach to Chad.

The coalition of aid groups says the Obama administration should set a new foreign policy agenda for Chad that includes a comprehensive peace process and limits on U.S. military assistance.

The appeal is backed by the Africa Faith & Justice Network, the advocacy group Africa Action, and the U.S.-based Refugees International, along with the Christian children's group Caring for Kaela.

They want the new government in Washington to focus on Chad's domestic problems beyond the more than 200,000 Sudanese refugees in camps along the border.

"I would say the primary shift here should be about dealing with Chad as a country unto itself with issues that are essentially Chadian issues and not just a spill-over from Darfur," said Erin Weir, an advocate for Refugees International. She says the Obama administration should expand the mandate of U.N. peacekeepers in Chad to more actively resolve the country's civil war beyond its current mission to protect civilians and support aid efforts.

"Obviously those are very important, but ultimately those are band-aid issues. You can keep people alive, but if you cannot stabilize the country, you are going to be providing that kind of support, that security for a really long time," added Weir.

Chad and Sudan both accuse the other of backing rebel groups across their remote 500-kilometer border. Chadian President Idriss Deby and Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir both deny direct involvement in their neighbor's conflict.

Many Darfur rebels are based in Chad and come from the same ethnic group as President Deby. Chadian rebels in Sudan reached the capital N'Djamena in 2006 and 2008 in attacks that President Deby said constituted a state of war between the two countries.

But Chad's conflict did not begin with the instability in Darfur. President Deby came to power 18 years ago at the head of a rebellion based in Sudan. He suspended the constitution and promised to create a multi-party democracy, but soon cracked down on political opponents when troops loyal to the former government began attacking from Niger.

Amnesty international accused Deby forces of human rights violations against civilians in retaliation for rebel attacks. Chad's trade-union federation was banned because of a general strike.

Deby's elections in 1996 and 2001 were both surrounded by allegations of vote fraud, with several members of the state electoral commission resigning in protest. Accusations of ethnic favoritism added to tensions over President Deby's use of more than $1 billion of annual oil revenue.

When the president changed the constitution to run for a third term three years ago, significant portions of Chad's army deserted.

Years of instability have left much of the country ungoverned as N'Djamena concentrates more on suppressing rebellion than on providing essential social services.

The associate policy and communications director at the Africa Action advocacy group, Michael Stulman, says the Obama administration could best address needs in Chad by creating a new U.S. Department of Global Development.

"This would be a serious change, and it needs to be headed by a cabinet-level secretary. It would address long-term development needs, and an institutional change such as this would really address the root causes of poverty in Chad. It would give the attention deserved to issues such as health care, education, agriculture, infrastructure development, and especially climate change," said Stulman.

With more than 80 precent of Chad's population relying on sub-subsistence farming and livestock, Stulman says conflicts over water use contribute to food insecurity. The U.S. Famine Early Warning System says much of Chad's eastern border region with Sudan is short of food with poor roads limiting assistance to those in need.

While much is expected of President-elect Obama, both at home and abroad, Refugees International's Erin Weir says America's first half-Kenyan president will have to approach foreign policy in Africa beyond the Bush administration's focus on fighting terrorism.

"Ultimately, I think it is going to come down to policy. How much attention that the president and his staff devote to issues in Africa. How much he is able to engage African political leaders, African civil society in a constructive way. And also in addressing Africa and African issues as issues to be resolved in and of themselves and not just as an extension of the war on terror," said Weir.

In Chad, the coalition of aid groups says that means improving conditions for civilians and broadening electoral reforms to include civil society and armed political groups. 


This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs