The first soldier has been killed whilst on a European Union (EU) mission. What the fall-out of this will be for both the EU and for France is worth considering. The solider was French and deployed on the Eufor mission in Eastern Chad. The soldier is reported to have strayed across the border with Sudan and was shot at by Sudanese forces. At the moment, both sides - EU/French and Sudanese - are playing down the incident but it risks raising the profile of an already controversial mission. Much of the controversy lies in the French government's relationship with Idriss Deby, the besieged Chadian president. When Deby was recently attacked by rebel forces, he responded with considerable (but entirely hushed) up help from the French military on the ground in the Chadian capital. According to one report, it was a Frenchman who led the counter-attack against the rebels. This raises the spectre of French neo-colonialism reasserting itself in Africa, which is why French president Sarkozy has sought to cloak his country's role in Chad in the blue flag of EU peacekeeping. However it may be that France and the EU have bitten off more than they can chew in Chad. As observers from the region make clear, the civil war in Chad is part of the wider conflagration in Darfur. Deby initially supported Khartoum's crack down on the rebels in Darfur because of the threat this rebellion might have posed for his own regime. However in 2005 he switched sides because of pressure from his own supporters. This set Deby up against Khartoum and explains Sudan's support for the Chadian rebels. The recent attack on N'Djamena by rebel forces was reportedly led by the Sudanese defence minister, General Abd-er-Rahim Mohamed Hussein. The French-led EU mission has stepped into what could become a regional war. It is unlikely Sarkozy or any EU member state would wish its troops to become directly involved in fighting Sudanese troops. With the wider international constellation of forces and interests divided over Dafur, events on the ground are likely to test the war mettle of France's president and that of his fellow European leaders.
-- Chris Bickerton