Africa in Turmoil: Another Country at Risk

February 20, 2008


Above: map of Chad (Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.)

Chad is another African country where democracy is at risk and genocide is lurking. Chad was until recently the poorest country in the world; however,the recent discovery of major oil reserves have meant a sudden influx of cash.

Crude oil began flowing July 15, 2003 to markets via a 665 mile pipeline to the coast through neighboring Cameroon (Chad is landlocked). Part of petroleum development was an agreement between Chad and the World Bank ensuring that a portion of oil revenues would be set aside and used for health, education and infrastructure in the country.

After a controversial election in 2007, the government is now under attack from rebels. Chad military forces have so far been able to fend them off, but the rebels are regrouping and civil war seems imminent. Ever since 1966 rebels have been sporadically fighting each other, and the central government.

Chad is a West African kingdom that is thousands of years old. Up until 1900 it consisted of many tribal districts without any central government. France took control in 1900 and it became a French colony. On August 11, 1960 it became the independent Republic of Chad. The first multi-party elections were held in 1996. In 2007 violence from the adjacent Darfur region of Sudan spilled over into Chad.

The problems in Chad are linked to ethnic and economic roots. There are two major religions, Islam (53%) and Christianity (35%). The other problem is that the Sahara desert is encroaching from the north to the south of the landscape. Only about 3% of the country is arable and that is in the south. Also as mentioned before, Chad doesn’t have direct access to the sea. The only water body is Lake Chad in the southwest and it is shared with Nigeria and Niger.

In my opinion most of the civil wars in Africa are the result of the method used to determine national boundaries. The European powers controlled these countries prior to their independence. After the Second World War independence was granted. The borders of the newly independent countries were imposed by the colonial poweres, France, Italy, Belgium, Great Britain and others, regardless of traditional tribal borders. As a result within the countries are multiple peoples, many of whom are traditional enemies of each other. They are expected to become nationalist and work side by side with their sworn enemies. This is just not working.

Chad has become strategically important because of its large oil reserves. Tribal warfare is on-going and rebels are using this as an excuse to wipe out traditional enemies. The West needs to start paying attention to countries like Chad.  Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Chad are bleeding. Does anyone care?

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