Chad - Introduction
In the UN Human Development Index for 2015, Chad comes very close to the bottom, occupying the 185th place out of 188. Chad is one of Africa’s largest countries, with a land area of 1.3 million square kilometers that encompasses three agro-climatic zones. Chad is a landlocked country bordering Libya to the north, Sudan to the east, Central African Republic (CAR) to the south, and Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria on the west. The nearest port, Douala, Cameroon, is 1,700 km from the capital, N’Djamena. Chad is one of six countries that comprise the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), a common market. Chad’s human development is low according to the Human Development Index (HDI), and poverty continues to afflict a large proportion of the population.
Factionalism, inter- and intraethnic strife, has become a keynote of Chad's recent history and has unquestionably impeded nation building, resulting in levels of violence ranging from clan feuds to full-scale civil war. Of the many political ills that have visited African states since the beginnings of the independence movement in the late 1950s, a few of the most traumatic have been neocolonialism, coups d'etat, civil wars, governmental instability, and large-scale armed invasions. Some of the most egregious social afflictions have been poverty, illiteracy, ethnic and regional animosities, high mortality rates, and imbalanced population distribution. Dominant economic woes have included famine, drought, economic dependency, and overreliance on a single crop. Many African nations have experienced more than one of these troubles periodically. Few countries, however, have undergone all of them as extensively or as often as has Chad.
Since oil production began in 2003, the petroleum sector has dominated economic activity and has been the largest target of foreign investment. However, agriculture and livestock breeding are important economic activities that employ the majority of the population, and the government has prioritized these sectors in an effort to diversify the economy and to maximize non-petroleum tax receipts in the wake of the drop in global oil prices.
Chad has enjoyed political stability since 2008. There have been no reported incidents in recent years involving politically-motivated damage to foreign projects and/or installations. The latest national Presidential election occurred in April 2016 and parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2017. Socio-economic conditions occasionally spark demonstrations and protests against the Government. For example, in 2016, protests focused on non-payment of salaries to public functionaries and failure to pay student stipends, as well as greater opportunities for youth employment. The protests were occasionally linked to opposition calls for the President to resign or refrain from running for another term of office. In most cases, the government either denied permits for demonstrations, or suppressed them using tear gas, arresting participants and organizers.
Security forces used excessive force to disperse demonstrators, which resulted in deaths. For example, in November 2014 widespread demonstrations in N’Djamena, Moundou, and Sarh occurred to protest commodity shortages, increased fuel prices, and nonpayment of public workers’ salaries. Protesters attacked state-owned vehicles and private gas stations and marched toward government buildings before being dispersed with live fire from police. According to Freedom House, between three and five persons were killed. Authorities arrested and briefly detained dozens of demonstrators.
For example, on May 9, in N’Djamena, members of the Mobile Police Intervention Group (GMIP) violently dispersed students demonstrating against a law requiring persons riding motorbikes to wear helmets. On May 13, the court began trying 14 GMIP officers charged with “illegitimate violence and intentional injury.” On May 20, the court sentenced eight of the 14 officers to six-month prison terms and fines of 50,000 CFA ($87) each for “illegitimate violence and intentional injury;” the six other officers were released. No charges were filed against the GMIP commander who ordered the use of excessive force against the demonstrators, prompting a walkout by attorneys representing the students.
Regional violent extremist organizations pose significant threats to Chad and Western interests. In 2015, Boko Haram conducted attacks on N’Djamena, and it continues to pose a serious regional security and economic threat. Boko Haram’s violence has choked off vital trade routes across Nigeria and the road between Douala, the principal port serving Chad, and N’Djamena. This has increased costs for imports and decreased exports due to border closures. The deterioration in regional security is disrupting economic activity, especially cross-border trade. N’Djamena was the target of terrorist attacks by Boko Haram in June and July 2015. Chad plays a key role in the regional military counteroffensive against Boko Haram, and continues to assist the Mali government, bearing the associated fiscal costs. In addition, Chad hosts some 750,000 refugees and displaced people, with significant direct and indirect economic costs.
Rift Valley fever, a febrile disease that affects livestock and humans, is transmitted by mosquitoes and caused by a virus (genus: Phlebovirus, family: Bunyaviridae) that can persist in nature in contaminated eggs. The virus was first isolated in Kenya in 1930 and is endemic in the region. In Chad, the disease was first reported in 1967 at the same time as in Cameroon; no strain was isolated at that time. Since 1977, RVFV infection resulted in 600 deaths in Egypt, 300 in Mauritania in 1987, and 200 in Saudi Arabia and Yemen in 2000 to 2001.
Armed bandits are active on roads in all areas of the country. Carjacking, burglary, and vehicle thefts are common. Pickpockets, purse snatching, and theft from vehicles occur in market and commercial areas frequented by foreigners. Chad remains vulnerable to attacks by the Islamic State-West Africa Province (ISWAP), formerly known as Boko Haram, an extremist group based in northeast Nigeria.
The roads are in generally poor condition. In the past few years, the government has invested in several major road projects. Most of the major roads in N’Djamena are now paved, and projects to connect major cities within Chad continue. However, there are still unpaved roads. When traveling on unpaved roads, it is advisable to travel in convoys due to risk of vehicular damage (due to road conditions), breakdowns, and becoming stuck in sand/mud. 4X4 vehicles with winches are recommended. It is also advisable to carry extra fuel and water. Outside N’Djamena, fuel is usually obtained from roadside vendors. It is usually stored in liquor bottles and purchased by the liter. “Fuel stands” can be up to several hundred kilometers apart, and travelers have found themselves stranded for hours waiting for assistance. Additionally, fuel from these stands can be of poor quality.
Erratic traffic and poor local driving skills make travel within Chad especially hazardous and the greatest risk to personal safety. Streets are congested with bicycles, mopeds, motorcycles, cars, and trucks and may not be illuminated at night. Pedestrians, many wearing dark clothing and difficult to see, use the roads to push their carts. Traffic accidents are a daily occurrence, and extreme caution must be taken when driving. Cars and large trucks often have only one operable head light, thus giving the appearance of being a motorcycle at night, often with deadly consequences for on-coming traffic. Avoiding isolated areas devoid of security forces, traveling in convoys, and forgoing night time travel will greatly reduce the likelihood of falling victim to a carjacking.
Vistors should not take photos without a permit! The government strictly restricts photography. It is possible for visiting journalists and others to receive permission to take photos, but travelers should be aware that most working-level security authorities work from the assumption that a foreigner taking photos is breaking the law. Visitors have been detained and had photography equipment seized for taking photographs without a permit.
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