Tuesday, January 31, 2006

And the insecurity continues...

This is a few days old, but exactly where I was living and working. Perhaps a hint as to just how difficult the circumstances are in this part of Chad.

UNHCR Reduces its Presence in Guereda and Iriba, Eastern Chad United Nations High Commission for Refugees (Geneva) PRESS RELEASEJanuary 23, 2006 Posted to the web January 23, 2006 Abeche
The UN refugee agency said Sunday it is reducing staff in two of its five regional offices in eastern Chad, as a security precaution. This temporary measure follows an attack by an unknown group of armed men on the town of Guereda and the abduction of five government officials on Friday.
"This measure is temporary," said Claire Bourgeois, UNHCR deputy representative in Chad. ''We have kept enough staff in field offices to continue delivering services to the refugees living around Guereda and Iriba.''
Some 200,000 refugees from Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region are living in 12 refugee camps in eastern Chad.
Explaining the temporary relocation of staff, Bourgeois noted that "the situation is serious enough at this stage, especially when taking into account the number of security incidents in the past days. For example, in addition to the kidnapping of five Chadian officials, two NGO vehicles were reported stolen in the past four days and other partners have also been victims of robbery."
Non-governmental organisations working in Guereda and Iriba have followed the United Nations decision to reduce its staff on a temporary basis. Some 90 humanitarian workers and family members from Guereda and about 80 from Iriba are being relocated to Abeche. In total, humanitarian staff in the region has been reduced by 20 per cent.
UNHCR, UN agencies and NGOs will re-evaluate the situation on a daily basis. In the meantime, the situation is quiet in the refugee camps and no incidents have been reported.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Truth be told

This post is over due and yet somehow it is not so easy to write. The bottomline? I left Chad. It is a bit of a story and not one I am yet ready to divulge in its entirety. However, I do intend to keep posting what I can to keep those interested up to date on the state of Chadian affairs. I am hiding out in my homeland for the moment, but have little doubt that Africa will be in my life again. Well, it never really leaves afterall. But perhaps I will indulge in just a bit of Western extravagence for awhile. Come on, I had an open hole for a toilet and ate $4 canned peas!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


CHAD: Civil servants begin second week of general strikeNDJAMENA, 16 January (IRIN) - State school students and retired civil servants demanding public funds held angry protests in the Chadian capital, N'djamena, on Monday, as government workers moved into the second week of a general strike."We have warned the government we would strike for months, but we have had no response," Michel Barka, president of Chad's largest labour union coalition (UST), told IRIN from N'djamena.Top among civil servants' demands are: at least four months in unpaid salaries, the payment of government pensions and a five percent raise that UST says Chad's President Idriss Deby promised in 2004.Some state school students whose teachers are on strike poured onto the campus of a private school in N'djamena, shouting and throwing stones to support their teachers and to denounce disadvantages in the strike-prone state education system, sources in N'djamena said. Also on Monday, at least 100 government workers demonstrated near the presidential palace, blocking a main road with bricks and large rocks. Retirees carried banners that read "Congratulations to the president and the prime minister - In 2005 not a single pension was paid" and "From 1990 to 2005, 36 billion francs (US $66.5 million) embezzled".Government officials could not be reached for comment on the strike.The stoppage comes as Chad faces lingering fiscal problems, compounded by security threats from a rebel movement in the east of the country.Labour union official Barka said that the strike has been widely observed in a country where the failure to pay government workers is common. The UN ranks the vast arid nation as the world's fifth poorest country. The union was keeping some medical workers in place to provide "a minimum of services," Barka said. But one city resident, who gave his name only as Mohamed, expressed concern about a relative due to have been operated on four days ago. "We fear the worst," he said, standing at the gates of a government hospital.The current strike comes on the heels of a government decision to renege on international accords by tapping into oil revenues set aside for future generations and funnelling 'poverty reduction' revenues to state security and other sectors. The government says it needs funds now to tackle the fiscal crisis and instability.But Barka, who serves on a civil society panel overseeing the use of oil money, said Chad's problem is not a lack of funds but corruption and bad governance."Already the situation is very difficult, especially for government workers," Barka told IRIN. Once the government has more leeway in how it spends oil money, "the situation will be far worse."For now Chad's petrodollars are frozen in a London bank after the World Bank suspended loans to the country last week following Ndjamena's decision to revise its oil revenue management law in defiance of warnings from the lender.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Timeout punishment for Chad

Chad urges World Bank to reverse loan suspension
Sat 7 Jan 2006 8:30 AM ET
By Dany DanzoumbeN'DJAMENA, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Chad said on Saturday it was shocked that the World Bank had suspended all of its loans in a row over how the central African country spends oil revenues and called on the global lender to reverse its decision.World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz told Reuters on Friday the bank was taking the step because Chad had breached a 1999 agreement by altering an oil revenue law meant to safeguard funds to fight poverty in the long term."The bank's decision, which current consultations in no way predicted, comes at an odd and difficult time for Chad and surprises us by its brutality," Chad's Economy Minister, Mahamat Ali Hassan, said in a statement."The government wishes the bank to reconsider its position and look again at this decision, which by its nature undermines the credibility of its action in Chad and blackens its reputation," he said.But he added the government remained open to dialogue and was ready to take measures to resolve the argument, without giving any further details.Chad's oil revenue law, agreed with the World Bank, had been touted as a test case in Africa to show petro-dollars can help the poor, with 10 percent of oil revenues meant to be saved in a special overseas fund for future generations.Chad's parliament approved legislation on Dec. 29 to access more of the profits from a 1,000 km (620 mile) pipeline, funded by the World Bank, which carries oil to Cameroon for export, in breach of the original agreement.TOUGH MOVEWolfowitz's decision to halt the loans, including $124 million in undisbursed funds, came after a two-hour telephone call with President Idriss Deby and is one of the most drastic steps the World Bank can take against a member country.Africa's newest oil producer has said it needs more flexibility in the way it manages its revenues to fight immediate poverty and insists that the changes to the law do not go against the spirit of its agreement with the bank."The modification ... was fully explained by the government which has always said it is ready to give a full explanation of the reasons which led to the change," Ali Hassan said.Wolfowitz said on Friday the bank had been trying for some time to open discussions with the Chadian government but said "regrettably instead of engaging in dialogue, they have proceeded unilaterally."Ali Hassan said aid had been suspended which was being used not only to fund the oil sector but also agriculture, education, health and transport projects.The row comes at a difficult time for Deby, who faces threats from rebel attacks on Chad's eastern frontier with Sudan and from army desertions at home.The former French colony said last month a "state of belligerence" existed between itself and Sudan and has accused Khartoum of backing Chadian rebels, a charge Khartoum denies.Last week several Chadian rebel groups opposing Deby -- a 53-year old former army commander who himself led a revolt from the east to seize power in 1990 -- announced the formation of a political and military alliance to try to oust him.

Friday, January 06, 2006

UN scales back Darfur presence as Sudan-Chad border tension rises

Friday January 6, 7:04 AM
UN scales back Darfur presence as Sudan-Chad border tension rises
The United Nations said it has scaled back its presence in parts of Sudan's restive Darfur region bordering Chad because of escalating tension fueled by a troop buildup along the frontier.
The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) decided to reduce its presence and restrict UN access in parts of west Darfur "due to the increasing instability in the affected areas," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Dujarric cited specifically "a buildup of forces on either side of the Sudan-Chad border with increased potential for armed conflict."
But he told reporters here that the move by the 5,783-strong UNMIS did not signal an overall evacuation from the area.
"Essential life-saving humanitarian services delivered by the UN will continue," he said.
"The mission will monitor the situation and carry out a fresh security assessment of the affected areas in the next two to three weeks," Dujarric added.
UNMIS chief spokesman George Somerwill meanwhile told AFP from Khartoum that about 100 personnel were in the affected areas before the staff cut took effect over the last two to three months. But he would not say how many people had been withdrawn.
"It's not a big reduction," he said, adding that those left behind were humanitarian workers tasked only with responding "to the life-threatening needs of people in the area."
"There is a heavy buildup of troops on both sides of the border. It has been quite bad in the last three weeks," Somerwill noted. "I think there is some cause for concern."
Dujarric said the escalating tension along the Sudan-Chad border would be discussed when Chad Foreign Minister Ahmad Allam-mi attends a UN Security Council meeting on Sudan next week in New York.
The Chadian government declared a "state of war" with Sudan last month following a rebel attack on the border town of Adre, and has called for the African Union and international community to head off further escalation of the conflict.
Chadian President Idriss Deby has repeatedly accused the Khartoum regime of supporting Chadian rebels in eastern Chad, on the border with Darfur, which has been in the throes of a civil war for three years.
Several new rebel groups have sprung up recently on the Chad side of the border, which houses more than 200,000 refugees who fled Darfur.
On Wednesday, Deby accused Sudan of "exporting" the Darfur crisis to his country, as Central African leaders met at a crisis summit in Ndjamena over the escalating tensions.
"The Khartoum regime is secretively going ahead with the recruitment of mercenaries and other elements to put into action its Machiavellian plan -- the destabilization of Chad," Deby said in opening remarks to the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) mini-summit.
Presidents and senior officials of the six CEMAC member states -- Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon -- gave qualified support to Chad in the dispute, and condemned any attempt to destabilize the country.
The CEMAC leaders also hailed "the efforts of Chad in the search for peace" in Darfur.
The Darfur conflict, which has claimed as many as 300,000 lives and left more than two million displaced, broke out in early 2003 when rebel groups began fighting what they say is the political and economic marginalization of the region's black African tribes by the Arab-led regime in Khartoum.
UN chief Kofi Annan has repeatedly urged the Khartoum government and Darfur rebels to reach a political settlement in the Abuja peace talks in Nigeria. But the talks have made little progress so far.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Chad update

CHAD: President Deby seeks regional support amid tensions with Sudan

NDJAMENA, 4 January (IRIN) - Chadian President Idriss Deby stepped up a diplomatic offensive on Wednesday, calling on fellow African leaders to support Chad against what he called the "subversive plots" of neighbouring Sudan.The Chadian leader made the remarks at a special summit of the six-nation Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) in the capital, N'djamena, which he convened amid mounting tensions with Sudan, which Deby accuses of deliberately trying to destabilise Chad."I hope that countries [in the region] will be on our side to fully inform the international community of the gravity of Sudan's subversive plots against Chad," Deby said at the opening of the summit.Deby said Sudan's ravaged Darfur region, since 2003 gripped by violent conflict between rebels on the one side and the Sudanese government and allied militias on the other, should be placed under UN mandate.The Chad government, reeling from a wave of army desertions since October, declared a "state of belligerence" with Sudan after a rebel attack on 18 December in the eastern border town of Adre. Chad blamed the attack on Sudan, saying it is financing, arming and equipping Chadian rebels.Sudan and Chad have long accused one another of backing rebel factions.CEMAC's secretary general, Jean Nkuete, said at the opening session on Wednesday, "This meeting comes as the question of insecurity in the region is more worrying than ever."A traditional leader in Adre told IRIN days after the December attack that Chad could soon face the same violence that has engulfed Darfur and forced about 200,000 Sudanese to flee to Chad."We could see here the same situation as that in Darfur," said a local official who did not give his name. "The rebels who attacked on 18 December were backed by the janjawid [militia linked to the Sudanese government]."With huge military reinforcements calm has returned to Adre, but other villages in the area have seen incursions in recent weeks that have forced some residents from their homes, local officials told IRIN. Meanwhile, unrest continues to ripple across Chad's armed forces. In October a group of deserters fled to eastern Chad and formed a new group called the platform for change, national unity and democracy, known by its French acronym, SCUD.Yet another group, the Rally for Democracy and Liberty, is said to have mounted the Adre attack. On 30 December a number of rebel factions - all insisting that Deby step down - announced that they were joining forces. This is a worrying development, says a humanitarian official in Chad. "They are trying to form a unified front. There is strength in numbers. This makes the rebel threat stronger and more real," the official told IRIN on Wednesday. "It is a volatile situation."Attending the N'djamena summit were presidents Francois Bozize of Central African Republic (CAR), Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo-Brazaville and Omar Bongo of Gabon, as well as Prime Minister Miguel Abia Biteo Boriko of Equatorial Guinea. As of Wednesday afternoon no Cameroon representative had arrived in N'djamena. Also present was Lamine Cisse, special representative of the UN secretary general to CAR.The CEMAC meeting was cited as one of the reasons Libya called off a special mini-summit on the Darfur conflict scheduled for the same day. The N'djamena meeting comes three weeks before the next summit of the African Union, set to take place in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. Deby has called for a change in venue as a protest against Sudan, but Libya's AU minister Ali Triki told Radio France Internationale on Wednesday that it is likely too late to transfer the summit.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Take from the poor, give to the guns

Finance: Chad Dilutes Oil-for-Development Pledge Inter Press Service (Johannesburg)

NEWSJanuary 2, 2006 Posted to the web January 3, 2006
By Emad MekayWashington

Tension is rising between the World Bank and the African nation of Chad, one of the world's poorest countries, over the latter's decision to seize funds from a controversial Bank-funded oil pipeline and not spend the money on social sectors.

Last week, the Chadian National Assembly, the country's legislature, passed amendments to the so-called Petroleum Revenue Management Law (PRML), a legal agreement governing its oil wealth written with the Bank in exchange for investment funds.

The changes now allow the government in the capital N'Djamena to more fully control oil revenues from the high-profile Chad-Cameroon pipeline, and take greater profits to meet increasing budgetary demands.

But the World Bank, whose support was crucial for the start of the project in 2000, and a number of watchdog groups say that the changes will almost certainly weaken the poverty reduction agenda mutually agreed to as a condition of lending.

The original law was the centrepiece and main governance "safeguard" of the World Bank-supported pipeline, designed to guarantee that oil revenues benefit the poor by allocating most of the revenues to "priority sectors" like health, education, social services and rural development.

The law also required that 10 percent of proceeds from oil sales be set aside in the Future Generations Fund (FGF), an escrow account for the post-oil era.

The new changes, however, include an increase from 15 percent to 30 percent of revenues deposited into general government coffers. They also cancel the fund that saves money from the project for future generations and use the money accumulated for immediate expenditures, as well as to redefine "priority sector" expenditures to include spending on security.

The case is particularly important to the Bank because it has marketed its participation in the project as a model for its work to fight global poverty.

The Bank's decision came despite loud protests from non-governmental organisations and anti-poverty campaigners who said oil projects tend to lead to corruption and mismanagement.

The controversial four-billion-dollar oil facilities, which include a 1,000-kilometre pipeline designed to carry oil from Chad to the Atlantic coast of neighbouring Cameroon, were predicted to fatten state coffers by at least two billion dollars over the next 25 years, or 80 million dollars per year.

The pipeline transfers 225,000 barrels of oil a day. It is a joint venture between the U.S. oil giants ExxonMobil (which holds 40 percent of the private equity) and Chevron (25 percent), and Malaysia's state oil company Petronas (35 percent).

The World Bank was quick to condemn the recent move, which still awaits ratification by Chad's President Idriss Deby. The Washington-based public lender says it is in consultations with a number of parties over the appropriate reaction.

"If these amendments become law, it will harm the well-being of Chad's poorest and most vulnerable citizens and represent a material breach of the original agreement," said World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz. "I am consulting with other partners and our shareholders on the appropriate next steps."

Among the options that the Bank can invoke in retaliation is the possible suspension of new credits or grants to Chad; a halt in disbursement of funds under some or all ongoing agreements; and an accelerated repayment of loans extended to the government of Chad.

The Bank says it understands the difficult financial circumstances the government is going through. It has offered to assist with the country's fiscal policy.

But Chad accused the World Bank of acting like a coloniser and of failing to take note of the increasing pressures on its budget.

The country now faces rising security costs in protecting its eastern borders with the neighbouring Darfur region of Sudan, where thousands of refugees are fleeing militia violence.
Last week, Chad said it was in a "state of belligerence" with Sudan and accused Khartoum of giving aid to Chadian rebels.

The country has a population of nearly nine million, with 80 percent living below the poverty line of less than two dollars a day. According to the World Bank, most of Chad is desert or semi-arid land, with a harsh physical environment and a very narrow economic base.

The latest spat between the Bank and Chad vindicates earlier warnings from civil society groups that the massive pipeline project could actually lead to a worsening of socioeconomic conditions in the Central African country, while strengthening its corrupt ruling oligarchy.

The Chadian government ranks among the most corrupt and most abusive of human rights in the world. The government used the first 4.5 million dollars of the signing bonus that it received from the oil companies to buy arms to fight its northern rebels.

Critics have said the World Bank's record of favouring corporations, along with the continued corruption and lack of capacity in the Chadian government, cast doubt on the effectiveness of any mechanism to help govern the country's oil wealth.

Undercover picture operation: N'djamena market