Le Monde: French Soldiers Fired on Rebels in Chad Fighting

Did French forces participate in the defense of N’Djamena against the rebel forces that attacked the Chadian capital earlier this month? The title of an article in last Friday’s edition of Le Monde suggests that they did not: “Chad: Paris Decided Not to Intervene.” But the details of the article indicate exactly the opposite. The article cites unnamed French government sources, at least one of whom is supposed to have taken part in the government’s deliberations. Here a translation of the key paragraph:

Confronted by the attack of the Chadian rebels, the French President chose at first to stick to a strict application of the 1976 [Franco-Chadian defense] agreement. Paris provides arms, logistical support and intelligence to the army of [Chadian President] Idriss Déby. Without engaging in fighting. But for one exception, however: On Feb. 2, the soldiers of Operation “Sparrowhawk” [Epervier] prevented the rebels from seizing control of the airport of N’Djamena by opening fire in response to the shots fired by the assailants. The role [played by the French forces] will weigh heavily in deciding the outcome of the battle, since it is at the airport that the most crucial elements of the Chadian military are concentrated.

The article is available online here. The Le Monde editors appear, however, to have recognized in the meanwhile that it does not permit the pretense of French “non-intervention” to be maintained. Thus, the title has been changed to the more plausible “Chad: the Elysée was Divided on the Intervention.”

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