The death of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the master planner of the gas plant holdup in Algeria that left over 37 hostages killed has proven that African forces can play a vital role in the war against terrorism. Although Chadians are still mourning the death of 13 soldiers killed in the recent raid to free northern Mali from the hands of insurgents and fugitive Islamic jihadists, the families of these soldiers and the entire Africa would at least be proud of their achievements in Mali and in honour of Africa.
Paying tributes to the fallen war heroes, the President of Chad, Idriss Deby, disclosed last Friday that although Chad has suffered the worst casualties so far in the ongoing conflict in Mali, Chadian forces successfully made a big catch, by killing Abou Zeid a senior commander of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in their operation in the mountainous hideout of Ifoga, close to the borders with Algeria. Two days later, it was the Chadian army chief of staff who announced the killing of another insurgent leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar.
Death confirmation on hold
France whose kidnapped citizens are still in the keeping of these insurgent groups is yet to confirm the death of these two Al Qaeda affiliated group leaders. Notwithstanding, it is worthwhile to appreciate and encourage the Chadian forces for what they have gone through in the campaign and the success made so far. If the death of these insurgent leaders is actually confirmed to be factual, then Chad must be extolled. France would at least fly its own kite for achieving part of its mission in Mali. However, though the combat is yet to be over, the next task at hand for the French would be to throw their fishing net wide and get the French hostages freed without any casualty or ransom paid. In any case, the prowess and capability of the Chadian army must not be underrated, but saluted, especially as the 800 Chadian armed forces have continued to be instrumental to the French in the ferocious combats going in the mountains of Ifoga that have taken the lives of three French soldiers.
After close to a decade-long war fighting against Gaddafi on land dispute, the Chadian forces amassed lots of experience and tactic. Today, they are using their capabilities in Mali to show that if provide with the right equipment and logistics they remain unchallenged fighting insurgents and are also masters in any mobile, attack in a desert. Within the central African region and in the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa, CEMAC, Chad soldiers are regarded with high esteem. They are often invited to parade in national celebrations or ceremonies where they often take the public spellbound with their Russian marching style – the goose step. The goose step is a special marching step performed on formal military parades and other ceremonies. While marching in parade formation, troops swing their legs in unison high off the ground, while keeping their legs straight and unbent.
Deby’s propaganda or prestige
For regional security, the Chadian forces are believed to be providing guard to the vulnerable and under-threat President François Bozizé of Central African Republic. Although Chad has been in many international reports accused of backing the rebels in Darfur, President Deby has constantly denied these allegations by the Khartoum government. President Idriss himself took over power through a coup, but for many years he has continued to fight rebels from the East – Sudan. The latest battle with rebels was in 2008, which the rebels came quite close to overthrowing President Deby but were repelled by his well armed, trained and presidential guards in N’Djamena.
Some critics of President Deby believe his recent announcement of the killing of the leaders of the insurgents is just a propaganda to boost the morale of the Chadian forces after they suffered the worse casualties sustained in the operation in Mali. However, rather than continue to doubt the killing of the two senior militants by Chadian forces, the rest of Africa should consider their achievement and courage as a model for other African forces. If the fight against terrorism is everyone’s concern and Africa must stand on its feet with its own forces ready to protect and defend the continent, then the Chadians have just set the example for others to emulate. It is unfortunate that heroes are hardly value or praise at home but form abroad. In Chad’s situation the praise should rather come from home, Africa and not from abroad.