Location: Chad, Sudan, the Sahel
Parties involved: Provisional military government of Chad, Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Sudan, Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), Wagner Group, United States, Russia, tribal groups.
The situation in Chad is unstable largely due to a large influx of refugees from Sudan. The conflict between the RSF and the SAF in Sudan could devolve into a full-out civil war. This could lead to an even bigger flow of refugees into Chad. The World Food Program has warned that they will run out of food if there are no measures taken by the international community. Meanwhile the Chadian military regime has promised it will support general elections in 2024 and presidential elections in 2025 and this is one of the reasons why the United States is still supplying the regime with money and weapons. The other reason the United States supports the regime is the fight against Islamic terrorism in the surrounding countries and in the west of Chad. It is believed that the Russian mercenary Wagner Group could capitalize on Chad’s political instability, though this prospect is limited. Like Wagner Group’s operations in the wider Sahel, their operations typically focus on invitations by military regimes to supply and train fighters, whatever their human rights record, in exchange for mineral contracts.
Due to the outbreak of violent conflict between the RSF and the SAF, thousands of refugees from Sudan have fled to neighboring country, Chad. It is estimated that about 20,000 refugees have crossed the border to join 500,000 others that were already in Chad and a further 80,000 refugees might join them in the near future. A large contingent of RSF fighters crossed the border with Chad and were disarmed by the Chadian regime. The RSF was founded and trained in the Chadian refugee camps before they went back to Sudan to form a military provisional government in Khartoum with the SAF.
Chad is currently run by a provisional military government not unlike Sudan was before its crisis. The provisional government has said it will organize local elections in 2024 and presidential elections in 2025. On this premise, the United States has been giving money and other forms of aid to Chad. Even though the policy of the US is not to support military regimes, it has remained a staunch ally of Chad because of the military governments support in the fight against Islamic terrorist groups, Boko Haram in the east of the country and in countries bordering Chad.
The World Food Program (WFP) has said that a shortage of food and supplies could lead to further destabilization of the country. The large influx of refugees can put pressure on humanitarian aid infrastructure and put pressure on food prices.
If the situation in Sudan turns into a full scale civil war, which would include the southern region of Darfur, it is believed that the spill-over effect into Chad might lead to unrest there.
The Wall Street Journal posted, in February 2023, that the Russian mercenaries of the Wagner Group are planning to destabilize the country in a bid to expand their influence in the Sahel. Wagner is aligned with the RSF in Sudan and rebel groups in the Central African Republic and Mali.
The German ambassador was expelled from Chad on 07/04/2023 by interim president Déby because the ambassador had critiqued the interim military government.
Implications and scenarios:
The situation in Chad is volatile. The influx of refugees from Sudan has had an important impact on the stability of the country. It is probable that hundreds of thousands Sudanese refugees reside in Chadian camps. It is also reported that Sudanese RSF troops have fled Sudan and are now residing in the camps. With the influence of the Wagner group on the RSF, it is believed that they may be recruiting in these camps as happened in the Central African Republic.
The risk posed by the Wagner Group taking part in a coup in the Chadian army is limited, however. Wagner’s activities across Central Africa are mostly focused on protecting military regimes, rather than toppling incumbent military governments. Agreements negotiated between the Wagner Group and military governments on gold and other critical minerals are conducted on the basis of regime protection, as opposed to promoting coup d’etats. Regimes violating human rights sometimes look to Russia and the Wagner Group for training and equipment, to avoid penalties by the international community. However, Chad's military regime has close security ties with the US and plays a role in counter-terrorism operations in the broader region. There are few incentives to invite Wagner Group to provide support to the military regime, given its poor human rights record and close ties to the US.
On the other hand, there is a chance of destabilization of Chad due to the conflict in Sudan. If food runs out in the refugee camps and people start to protest it is possible that the military regime will clamp down on the population as they have done in the past. The regime’s reaction to protests has been very violent. If there is another incident of the Chadian military government killing protestors, the United States might retract its support for the regime. This then could lead the regime to look for support elsewhere – perhaps the Wagner Group – and for the regime to postpone the elections indefinitely.