War between Sudan and Chad imminent?

It looks like my hopes for soccer diplomacy may have been premature.

My wife Jeannie was supposed to travel to Abeche on Saturday, near the Chad-Sudan border, for work with Dafuri refugees. Her trip was just canceled a few moments ago.

The NGO with whom she’s working reports that Chadian and Sudanese forces are gathering at the border, possibly about to attack one other. The NGO has moved its staff to a nearby town.

The information is sketchy, but an AFP report, dated about an hour ago, reports Chadian army helicopter attacks near Abeche. French troops (supporting the government) and French peace keepers under the UN are stationed in Chad, but are not yet releasing details.

Tensions have been rising since Saturday. From the AFP :

On Saturday, rebels from war-torn Darfur staged an unprecedented attack on Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman — the first time that the capital has ever been involved in decades of regional fighting.

More than 200 people were killed in that assault and other clashes outside the city in recent days.

Sudan accused Chad of backing the rebels and broke off diplomatic ties on Sunday. Chad closed its border the following day, ramping up tensions.

Relations have been strained since 2003 when war broke out in Darfur, sending hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees fleeing across the Chadian border.

Meanwhile, tensions intensified on Tuesday and Wednesday in southern Sudan with the kidnapping of oil workers and the killing of a Sudanese government official by south Sudanese rebels (the SPLA). Probably unrelated, but who’s to say. See the CS Monitor article here.

My guess is that outright war between Chad and Sudan is extremely unlikely. Rather, they will probably continue to fight by proxy through opposing rebel groups: the Sudanese army fighting Chad-supported Darfur rebels, and the Chadian army fighting Sudan-supported Chadian rebels. This was Sudan’s approach to the war in northern Uganda as well. This kind of war iss worst for those trapped in between–namely civilians in Darfur and eastern Chad.

Reader insights, or links to further information, are welcome in the comments section.