The West sees Chad as a reliable ally in the fight against extremists in the African Sahel. But it needs to take more care. Chad is breaking prior agreements by spending much of its oil revenue on the military, while social services and good governance have suffered.
At conference in Paris 7-8 Sept donors pledged estimated $20bn in support of national development program 2017-2021. France 12 Sept encouraged Chad to announce calendar for delayed legislative elections. Amnesty International 14 Sept reported govt increasingly using repressive laws and intelligence services to muzzle critics. President Déby did not attend summit in New York of Sahel G5 countries 18 Sept reportedly to express discontent at international community’s slowness to fund G5 force to counter jihadism in region. Déby also remained absent from UN General Assembly mid-late Sept. Libya 7 Sept reportedly closed its borders with Chad and Niger for three months. U.S. 24 Sept included Chad in new ban on travel to U.S., citing country’s failure to share public-safety and terrorism related information.
Since 2015, the conflict between Chad’s armed forces and Boko Haram has destabilised the Lake Chad region in the west of the country. Defeating this resilient insurgency requires the state to go beyond a purely military campaign and relaunch trade, improve public services and reintegrate demobilised militants.
Regional armies in the Lake Chad basin deploy vigilantes to sharpen campaigns against Boko Haram insurgents. But using these militias creates risks as combatants turn to communal violence and organised crime. Over the long term they must be disbanded or regulated.
Ahead of Chad’s presidential election on 10 April popular discontent is rising amid a major economic crisis, growing intra-religious tensions and deadly Boko Haram attacks. The regime that portrays itself as spearheading the fight against regional jihadism could see all sorts of violent actors gain influence at home if it pursues exclusionary politics and denies its people a viable social contract.
The Sahel’s trajectory is worrying; poverty and population growth, combined with growing jihadi extremism, contraband and human trafficking constitute the perfect storm of actual and potential instability. Without holistic, sustained efforts against entrenched criminal networks, misrule and underdevelopment, radicalisation and migration are likely to spread and exacerbate.
Sensible, inclusive regulation of pastoralism that has mitigated tension in parts of the Sahel should be extended to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR), where conflicts have worsened with the southward expansion of pastoralism.
The fall of Qaddafi’s regime, followed by his death on 20 October, could pave the way to promises of democracy in Libya but left neighbouring countries facing new potential problems that could threaten stability in the region.
[There are no] significant indications of other violent extremist activity [in Chad aside from Boko Haram], so in that respect, [the decision to include Chad in the U.S. travel ban] is completely baffling.
The Boko Haram insurgency is weakening in the Lake Chad basin, but its underlying socio-economic drivers remain to be addressed. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2017, we urge the EU and its member states to support regional governments with winding down vigilante groups, funding youth employment projects, rebuilding agriculture and trade, and restoring public services.
Jihadist groups have regrouped in the neglected hinterlands of Sahel countries and are launching attacks from them. To regain control of outlying districts, regional states must do far more to extend services and representation beyond recently recaptured provincial centres.