What Happened with Chad’s Attempted Coup?

On May 1, a gunfight broke out in N’djamena, the capital of Chad, killing at least four people, and possibly eight (French); a dozen deaths reportedly occurred in a separate clash in another area of the city. Chadian authorities said that the clash had resulted from a failed coup attempt. Authorities arrested at least four more people, two generals and two politicians:

[Chief] Prosecutor Mahamat Saleh Youssouf named the generals as Weiddig Assi Assoue and Ngomine Beadmadji David. Mahamat Malloum Kadre, a member of parliament for the ruling coalition, was arrested alongside opposition figure Saleh Maki.

RFI (French) provides some more biographical details on these figures. Of the two generals, the first served multiple times as minister and regional governor, while the second was serving, at the time of his arrest, as director of the military’s justice system. RFI has little information on the politicians other than what is mentioned in the quote above.

Al Wihda (French), a source with which I am not familiar, speaks of a “wave of arrests” in recent days, the like of which has not been seen since 2008, the year of a major battle in N’Djamena between rebels and government forces. Al Wihda reports that several journalists have been arrested. RFI (see above link) mentions a number of other arrests, including military personnel and intellectuals. The Journal du Tchad (French) reported that authorities were looking for four more politicians on May 7.

According to AP, “The government has released few details of the alleged plot, saying only that the men…were found with incriminating documents outlining their plans.” RFI (French) adds that government spokesman Hassan Sylla Bacary stated on television that the coup plot began more than four months ago.

These are the reports I’ve been able to assemble. For analysis, I recommend reading Lesley Anne Warner’s reactions to the coup reports. She considers both the possibilities that the coup attempt was genuine and that it was “regime-manufactured.”

Chad’s Humanitarian Challenges

Last week I wrote briefly about refugees in and around Mali. Today I want to draw attention to another humanitarian crisis, this one affecting Chadians.

IRIN highlights the plight of Chadian workers deported from Libya:

More than 2,000 Chadians and other sub-Saharan African nationals have been returned since 2012, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Many of the deportees had been detained for several months or years, and were taken back to Chad in open trucks, said returned migrants, recounting that they had been arrested for lack of valid papers or on suspicion of being mercenaries who supported the Gaddafi’s regime.

“Irregular repatriation has lately become more intense. Since last year, Chadian authorities have observed an influx into the north of Chad of migrants previously detained in Libya. This is causing a serious humanitarian challenge,” said Qasim Sufi, IOM’s chief of mission in Chad.

Sufi told IRIN: “Returnees are faced with a multitude of challenges ranging from dealing with the trauma of having been detained for long periods (some up to 27 months), to having experienced or witnessed violence.”

[...]

Some 300,000 Chadians lived and worked in Libya before the February 2011 revolt, according to the Chadian government. They mostly provided low-skilled labour in Tripoli, Benghazi or Sabha where most had lived for 1-5 years.

IOM estimates that some 150,000 Chadians returned home from Libya in 2011, or half the total who were working there before the revolution. To put those numbers in perspective, the CIA World Factbook puts Chad’s population at nearly 11 million – meaning that 2.7% of the population was working in Libya at one time.

Chadians heading home have returned to a country already facing humanitarian strain. According to UNHCR, the “population of concern” in Chad numbers nearly 500,000. Of these people, nearly 177,000 are of Chadian origin. The non-Chadians in that 500,000 come primarily from Sudan and the Central African Republic – a reminder that Chad’s neighborhood is pretty unstable, and that Chad may well absorb further refugee flows from those places in the future.

The humanitarian effects of Libya’s civil war with stay with Chad for some time. In addition to losing their livelihoods in Libya, many Chadian returnees will struggle to build new lives back in Chad. IOM:

“The major challenge facing all returnees from Libya is their reintegration into the communities they left a long time ago. Many have had no communication whatsoever with their communities and considered themselves Libyan citizens. They speak the Libyan dialect; their children have no command of the French language, the teaching medium in Chad. Almost all of them return home empty-handed with nothing to start life with. For those who were still in touch with their families, they were the main providers of material support in the form of monthly remittances. Their return therefore is not a blessing,” says IOM Chief of Mission in Chad, Qasim Sufi.

Finally, there is the threat of hunger. UNICEF (.pdf, p. 1):

Despite favorable rain fall in 2012 and better agricultural production, 1.8 million people remain at risk of food insecurity in 2013. Drought and the impact of climate change are putting poor families at risk of food insecurity.

Any one of these problems on its own – economic losses, deportations, refugees, food insecurity – would be alarming. In combination, they create a situation of profound risk, uncertainty, and suffering for millions of Chadians.

In Senegal, Inauguration of Extraordinary Chambers to Try Former Chadian Leader Hissène Habré

Hissène Habré, a French-educated political scientist, rebel commander, and politician, took power in a coup in 1982 and ruled Chad until rebel forces led by Idriss Déby overthrew him in 1990. Habré has been living in Senegal ever since. Pressure to put him on trial has come from numerous forces: groups within Chad, officials in Senegal and Belgium, the United Nations, the European Parliament, the African Union, and others. For years, however, some observers felt that Senegalese authorities were stalling on the question of whether they would try Habré. Human Rights Watch has a chronology of the case here, an overview here, and a Q&A here.

Today marks an important event in the case: the inauguration of special tribunal called the Extraordinary Chambers, in Dakar. There are a number of points to be made about this event. For one thing, as VOA says, “this will be the first time a world leader is prosecuted for crimes against humanity by the government of another country.” The case will have major ramifications for future attempts to try former heads of state.

Second, there are questions to ponder about how Senegalese politics interacted with the trial. VOA quotes Reed Brody, a lawyer with Human Rights Watch, framing the shift in Senegalese authorities’ behavior on the case as a result of the change in administration from President Abdoulaye Wade (in office 2000-2012) to new President Macky Sall.

“In 10 months, Macky Sall and [Justice Minister] Aminata Toure and the government of Senegal have moved this case more than Abdoulaye Wade had done in 12 years.  Finally, the tenacity and the perseverance of the victims is being been rewarded by this government,” [Brody] said.

What happens next? It’s hard to tell – AFP says that no details are publicly available about when the trial will start. RFI (French) gives a broad timeline: fifteen months (maximum) for investigations; seven months for the trial; and five months for appeals. That could mean that there is no final verdict until May 2015. In the meantime, this will be an important case to follow.

A New Cabinet in Chad

On January 21, Chadian President Idriss Deby named Joseph Djimrangar Dadnadji as the country’s new prime minister. RFI (French) calls Djimrangar Dadnadji, who has served numerous times in ministerial and senior government posts under Deby, a “loyalist among loyalists.” He replaces Emmanuel Nadingar, whose thirty-four month tenure set a record for a prime minister under Deby.

The full list of ministers in Djimrangar Dadnadji’s government is here (.pdf, French). The Journal du Tchad (French) looks in depth at the new team. Sixteen ministers have been carried over from the last government. One new appointment that stands out to me is that of Djérassem Le Bémadjiel, a young engineer and inventor brought from the N’djamena refinery to become Minister of Petroleum and Energy. You can read a profile of him here (French). Oil, of course, has been a source of controversy for Chad as well as a driver of certain kinds of social change.

The Journal du Tchad identifies negotiating with labor unions, who were on strike for part of last year, as one of the key priorities for the new government. The cabinet reshuffle also comes as Chadian soldiers deploy to Mali, an issue which has commanded much of Deby’s attention in recent weeks.

Chad: Debate Over Proposed Constitutional Changes

RFI (French) published a story yesterday headlined, “In Chad, a Plan for Modifying the Constitution worries the opposition.” The ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS) introduced the plan in a special session of the national assembly. RFI mentioned two key proposals included in the plan. One would change Article 71 of the constitution (.pdf, French), which states, “The functions/duties of the President of the Republic are incompatible with the exercise of any other elective mandate, any public employment, and any other profitable, professional activity. They are also incompatible with all activity within a party or group of political parties or a trade union organization.” MPS argues that it is incoherent to have the president elected on a party’s platform but then unable to participate in party activities.

The second major change would end the permanent tenure for Supreme Court judges. This plank seems to be the larger concern for the opposition. MPS leaders argue that permanent tenure is meant to ensure judicial independence, but that other parts of the constitution guarantee judges their independence, obviating the need for permanent tenure. Opponents of the change argue that eliminating permanent tenure would expose judges, even more, to political pressure. This political struggle will be worth following.

Overview and Map of the Rebel Advance in the Central African Republic [UPDATED]

In a military offensive this month, the rebel coalition Seleka has captured at least six towns in the Central African Republic (CAR – see map below). This post gives some background on the situation.

One could start a history of conflict in CAR much further back, but the current cycle of conflict began with the presidency of Ange-Felix Patasse (1937-2011, ruled 1993-2003). François Bozizé launched a rebellion against Patasse in 2001 and took power in 2003. Chadian President Idriss Deby is seen as a key ally of Bozizé, who has been in power ever since. As president, Bozizé won elections in 2005 and 2011, but he too has faced challenges from rebels, notably a conflict in 2003-2007 with a coalition called the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR). An April 2007 peace agreement formally ended that conflict, made the UFDR a political party, and provided for the integration of rebel fighters in the army. Some rebels kept on fighting – a group called the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), for example, launched attacks in late 2009. RFI (French) reported that in August 2012, the CPJP, “the last rebel group active” in CAR, signed an agreement with the government to become a political party. The emergence of Seleka shows that rebellions in CAR are not, in fact, over.

Seleka is made up of “breakaway factions” from the UFDR, the CPJP, and another group, the CPSK, whose French name could be rendered “the Convention of Patriots for Salvation and Kodro” (I was not able to discover what “Kodro” means in this context). Seleka was, according to this French-language site, formed on August 20 of this year. Its demands include what it sees as proper implementation of the 2007 accords, including payments for demobilized rebel fighters and releases of prisoners. More on their demands here.

Seleka currently appears to control six towns: Ouadda, Sam Ouandja, Bamingui, Ndele (captured December 11), Bria (captured December 18), and Kabo (captured December 19). While Ouadda and Sam Ouandja are reportedly small, and Bamingui seems to be as well, the BBC describes Ndele as a “key northern town” and Bria as “a key mining hub in a diamond-rich region.” Together, the BBC says, Ouadda, Sam Ouandja, Ndele, and Bria form “a major route linking the CAR to Sudan, Cameroon and Chad.” Reuters does not assign Kabo any strategic or economic significance, but Reuters notes that taking Kabo, which is 400km/250m from Bangui, brings the rebels even closer to the capital. Many of these towns were battle zones circa 2006, and Ndele was a center of fighting in 2009.

The rebels’ advance seemingly owes partly to the advantage of surprise, but they also seem to have outfought government soldiers (and former rebels fighting alongside the government) in these towns. The BBC describes the battle for Ndele:

An army source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the BBC that the rebels captured Ndele after a surprise attack.

The town was poorly defended, as a detachment of troops was leaving Ndele and had not yet been relieved by other soldiers, the source said.

[...]

The army in Ndele was backed by a former rebel movement, the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), which signed an accord with the government in 2011, AFP reports.

“The CPJP put up resistance, but they were routed by our men and forced to flee,” a rebel spokesman known as Col Narkoyo told AFP.

Seleka fighters also reportedly ambushed a government detachment attempting to retake Ndele on December 16. Chadian soldiers crossed into CAR on December 18 to assist the government in breaking the rebellion, but so far I have seen no reports of Chadian troops clashing directly with the rebels. Chad intervened militarily in CAR during the previous rebellion as well as at other points.

Humanitarian concerns are growing. The fighting has already displaced thousands of people.

UPDATE: See this Reuters piece, “Rebels Say Advance Halted, Ready for Talks.”

Below is my map of the rebel advance. Undoubtedly the locations of some of the towns are somewhat off, so take it as merely an approximation of the geography:

In West Africa and Paris, Chad’s President Idriss Deby Calls for Clarity on Military Intervention in Mali

Chadian President Idriss Deby has made several forceful calls recently for clarity on plans for a possible military intervention in Mali. Deby’s met Tuesday with Boni Yayi, President of Benin (and Chairman of the AU), and Malian Prime Minister Cheikh Modibo Diarra. Deby told reporters:

“It’s up to the Malians to tell us as clearly as possible what kind of support they expect from Africa, beyond what has been done by [the Economic Community of West African States, of which Chad is not a member], and what kind of contribution they expect of Chad.”

He and the AU called formally for the UN to authorize a military intervention in Mali (see a timeline of steps toward intervention in Mali here).

On Wednesday, Deby met with French President Francois Hollande in Paris. A military intervention in Mali was one of the central subjects they discussed. This was the first time the two men had met face to face, but not the first time they had discussed Mali: on July 5, the Presidents had a telephone conversation on the topic. Jeune Afrique (French) reported that at the time Deby gave his conditional support to the idea. But he recommended that the framework of the intervention be broadened beyond ECOWAS to include the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN), with Western powers’ logistical support. “Under these conditions, Chad could participate,” he reportedly said. Since that time, the AU has signed on, and some Western powers (including France) have indicated they would support an intervention logistically, but the UN Security Council has yet to approve the force.

On Wednesday, following his meeting with Hollande, Deby spoke (French) of “total confusion” on the issue of Mali coming from ECOWAS, the UN, and Mali itself, confusion concerning the military option as well as the option of negotiations. Nonetheless he reaffirmed Chad’s intention to work “alongside the Malians so that Mali may recover its territorial integrity.” Deby’s statements in Paris tracked closely with his remarks the preceding day.

Items from Chad: N’djamena Mayor Arrested, Public Sector Workers’ Strike Continues

Two important stories from Chad:

  • The mayor of Chad’s capital N’djamena, Djimet Ibet, took office some four months ago. You can read a bio of him here (French). Ibet was arrested yesterday on corruption and forgery charges and suspended from his position. He was later allowed to return home (French). The corruption charges apparently concern a contract (French) the mayor made with a Turkish firm; the mayor reportedly misrepresented the nature of the contract and failed to disclose the 20% renumeration he stood to receive from the sale. He has been under fire from opponents on the municipal council (French) since the end of October.
  • RFI (French): “The seventh week of the strike by public sector workers begins this Monday in Chad. Since July, they have left work regularly to compel the government to implement an agreement concerning salary increases.” See here for more.

Any other news out of Chad this week?

French-Arabic Legal Training in Chad

One issue that I find fascinating in the study of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa is the position of the Arabic language in majority non-Arab societies. In academic literature on Islam in Africa, particularly on Francophone West Africa, one often reads about young scholars who have Arabic literacy (and, sometimes, degrees from Islamic institutes in the region or in the Arab world) but struggle to find employment because the state treats their credentials and skills as second class. (See, for example, Galilou Abdoulaye’s “The Graduates of Islamic Universities in Benin: a Modern Elite Seeking Social, Religious and Political Recognition” in the volume Islam in Africa.) As I discuss in my dissertation, Arabophones and graduates of Arab universities can sometimes attain considerable status and fame in countries like Nigeria, though it is true that governments’ and societies’ attitudes toward Arabophones can be quite mixed.

The former French colony of Chad is, according to the CIA, 12.3% Arab, although many non-Arab Muslim Chadians attain Arabic proficiency for religious and professional reasons. Given the background I mention above, I was intrigued to read about Chad’s newly opened, bilingual National School for Judicial Training, whose first class of sixty students includes thirty Francophones and thirty Arabophones. The School’s mission, if this source (French) accurately represents the text of the 2009 law that created it, is to produce magistrates, clerks, lawyers, and other judicial personnel.

I doubt that opening a bilingual school will reorient the Chadian legal system, which is, according to Wikipedia, “based on French civil law and Chadian customary law where the latter does not interfere with public order or constitutional guarantees of equality.” But with the school emphasizing linguistic training and admitting Arabophones, it will be interesting to see how the Chadian government moves Arabophone graduates into judicial positions, and what kinds of positions it gives them. In many Francophone West African countries there are “Franco-Arabe” primary and secondary schools, but post-secondary state institutions emphasizing Arabic proficiency outside the context of university Arabic departments are relatively rare in my experience.

Chad: Oil, Electricity, and Inequality

The fate of a national electrification project in Chad (French) will be important to watch as an indicator of whether the country’s oil wealth will bring widespread benefit to the people. Chad has been producing oil since 2003, but most Chadians continue to live in poverty and lack access to basic infrastructure. Current statistics on electricity are revealing:

More than 80% of the production of electricity is consumed by [the capital] N’djamena. A dozen secondary towns and centers have independent networks. There is no interconnected network in the country. The rate of access to electricity hardly exceeds 3%-4% of the population of Chad, which, in twenty years, has doubled to reach eleven million inhabitants.

The government has reduced electricity prices by 37%, and is working with China’s Exim Bank to increase electricity generation for N’djamena and other areas.

Some have hoped that oil would revolutionize living standards in Chad. As of 2010 (the best data I could find), Chad produced an estimated 126,000 barrels of oil per day – a small amount from the vantage of the world market, but a large amount for that country.

Almost from the beginning of oil production in Chad, there has been a huge gap between the wealth the country has acquired and the needs of its citizens. This exchange between a National Geographic reporter and a Chadian farmer from 2005 reveals how shallow the few development projects supported by oil seemed to some Chadians:

Gratitude is simply not on the agenda in the villages we visit. Distrust and unsatisfied expectations certainly are.

“They said the majority of us would get rich, but we have just got poorer. Nothing good has come from the oil,” mutters Mbangtoloum Ngarambé, a lanky peasant farmer who grows cotton, rice, and millet in the fields around his village, Kayrati. We stand in the shade of a mango tree, watching women and children filling their enamel basins at the new water pump, which seems to me to be working pretty efficiently.

“Isn’t that something good?” I ask, interrupting the flow of Ngarambé’s displeasure and pointing at the contraption.

“Yes, that’s good.”

“And the new classrooms over there?”

“Yes, they are good.”

Cleaning his teeth with a little stick, Ngarambé studies me out of the corner of his eye as we run through all the things that are lacking around here: a modern economy with jobs, a hospital close by, paved roads, security.

In 2012, Chad’s oil wealth has still brought “only superficial change,” Celeste Hicks reports:

Ordinary Chadians could be forgiven for asking what benefit [oil] was to them. When the Chinese National Petroleum Company arrived in the late 2000s they promised something different – cashing in on their approximately 20,000 bpd concession in the Bongor Basin, the Chinese have built a refinery at Djermaya which began to produce diesel and petrol for local consumption at the end of 2011. Although this relationship has also been characteristically fraught – the Chinese chairman of the refinery was declared ‘persona non grata’ in Chad earlier this year in a row over the price the Chinese were receiving for the fuel – it has allowed Deby to give a palpable demonstration of the fruits of the oil boom. Diesel is now about 520 CFA at the pump – a guaranteed price – and noticeably cheaper than when I was last in Chad, when all of its domestic fuel was imported from Cameroon or Nigeria.

But life is still not easy in Chad – food and living costs are excessively high (Chad recently came in as the third most expensive city in the world for expatriates and those costs feed down to ordinary Chadians), and hasty promises to increase civil service salaries by up to 40% in the next two years will be difficult to achieve. Once the visitor to N’Djamena leaves the shiny new presidential quarter, very little has changed, with bad roads, few businesses and substandard housing. In the countryside, food production is poor, over three million people are facing food shortages this year – the country’s deficit is 400,000 tonnes and government stocks are only about 40,000 tonnes. UNICEF estimates that 100,000 children could die if assistance isn’t brought urgently. Literacy levels are still low, and the country is struggling to cope with outbreaks of polio, meningitis and measles.

Optimism about Chad continues in some quarters. In November 2011, an IMF official wrote that increases in oil production and improvements in security were boosting Chad’s economic outlook, though he warned that Chad needed to “rebuild a savings buffer against the risk of an oil-price drop,” “find an efficient and affordable way to shield the poor from high fuel prices,” and guard against hunger.

Chad, it seems, has the resources to take on ambitious projects to improve citizens’ lives. After years of disappointment and inequality, the success of the electrification project will help show how far the government is willing to go in achieving that goal.

For more background on the oil industry in Chad, see International Crisis Group, which detailed in a 2010 piece how Chad won “an easy victory” over the control mechanisms the World Bank and the European Union attempted to impose over its oil revenue.