Saturday, January 31, 2015


Eleven million people, half of them under the age of fourteen, and a life expectancy average of just forty-two - a land for the future, according to the first two statistics; one that won't make it that far, according to the third.

Chadians are Christians in large numbers, but there were also centuries of Moslem imperialism. Islam dominates in the north, Christianity in the south, with some residual African animism. A recipe for religious war, if the evidence of every surrounding African country is to be invoked. The evidence of Chad's own history as well. The first post-independence President was a Christian; he was ousted in a coup after a Moslem-led civil war. A Libyan-backed northerner, Goukouki Oueddei took over in 1979, from which time the usual saga of coups and counter-coups have plagued the country, though only one has been successful - the current President, Idriss Deby, came to power in a coup in 1990, and has managed to win every election since, and to stave off every attempted assault on his authority.

200,000 Sudanese refugees from the drought-stricken Sudan crossed into Chad in 2003, adding to the 100,000 internal refugees from the civil wars.

Add to this that Chad has become embroiled in the conflicts in both Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria, with its forces helping to fight back the Muslim radicals of Boko Haram.

Gold and uranium are the only crops that grow in this mostly desert land, which leaves behind famine, but brings in much cash. Where exactly that cash goes would make for an interesting journalistic enquiry. Not into schools, hospitals or general social welfare - Chad has one of the lowest scores in that particular league table.

Vast quantities of oil leave Chad ripe for First World exploitation again. Dare we hope that the First World countries will offer their services as paid consultants, so the Chadians can learn to dig out their own oil, and keep the income for themselves? Not much hope for that, given the evidence of every other country in the world.

Chad is on the Tier 2 Watch List in the USA, regarded as "a source, transit, and destination country for children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; the trafficking problem is mainly internal and frequently involves family members entrusting children to relatives or intermediaries in return for promises of education, apprenticeships, goods, or money; child trafficking victims are subjected to involuntary domestic servitude, forced cattle herding, forced begging, involuntary agricultural labor, or commercial sexual exploitation; some Chadian girls who travel to larger towns in search of work are forced into prostitution; in 2012, Chadian children were identified in some government military training centers and among rebel groups."

Chad is also under pressure from Amnesty International to scrap a proposed new law "which threatens to impose jail sentences of up to twenty years and heavy fines for people 'found guilty' of same sex activity".

A travel warning is in place from the the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which "recommends against all travel to some areas and all non-essential travel to the rest apart from N’Djaména". Exactly what exempts N’Djaména from this warning is not obvious. N’Djaména, or Fort-Lamy as the French called it before the Germans bombed it into virtual non-existence during World War Two, is the nation's capital, and the new name, rooted in the Arabic, means "place of rest". A hint at a future tourist industry perhaps? One day, if they make it that far, and the travel advisories are taken down. 

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