Friday, February 17, 2006

How does one recover from that which we call CHAD?

I have recently been inspired by a fellow aid worker's approach to life after Chad and decided to provide you all with an update - that is if you any of you are actually still reading. Frankly, I was unable to be upfront when writing from Chad and I'm afraid many compelling stories never made it out.

I suppose I should begin with the ending. My final days in Iriba were more trying and anxiety filled than any I had ever known. From local authorities running off to join the rebels across the border in Sudan, to attacks in nearby towns, to local youth threatening our lives for the staff we chose to hire...the list goes on. My last night in Iriba was spent on the satellite phone, trying to explain to my mom exactly what was going on - that foolish need to connect from my isolation with somebody from the outside world. The next morning I was dramatically finding my way onto a UN flight and onto Abeche were I waited out the opportuntity to get on a flight to N'djamena and ultimately out of the country. All as we sat on our hands, wondering if we were about to be witness to yet another collapse.

I breathed a deep sigh of relief when I boarded that huge Air France plane from N'djamena to Paris where I was reunited with my mother. I enjoyed a week of Parisian distration before going on to Germany to visit some of my friends from the Uganda days.

I arrived back in the States in early January to find myself a bit lost. Chad pushed me to a limit I had never reached before. As politically incorrect or culturally insensitive as it may sound, I simply found Eastern Chad intolerable, unlike the Africa I had previously known and loved. I still think so many stories will come of this, so as I continue to unwind, who knows what will come out!

And now? I am in London, consumming mass quantities of milk and finding solace wandering the streets of such a dynamic city. After running around for the past few years, I am attempting some semblence of "normal" Western life. It has its appeal, but also rather scares me. I've already been scoping out work in other corners of the world, but constantly reminding myself to take a deep breath and let what happens happen.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Oldest tricks

That sneaky Chadian government is using some of the oldest tactics in the book, ensuring that current President Deby and his entrourage of cronies remain at the helm. How long before this facade of a country collapses?

CHAD: Parliament votes to prolong its mandate
NDJAMENA, 31 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - Chad's parliamentarians have voted to extend their own terms in office by over a year, saying the cash-strapped country cannot hold legislative elections along with the presidential poll later this year as scheduled.But opposition politicians say the law – introduced by President Idriss Deby’s cabinet – is a deliberate move by Deby to keep close allies in the government in troubled times. Of Chad’s 155-member parliament – heavily dominated by Deby's party – 131 took part in Monday’s vote, approving the extension by 129 votes to 0 with two abstentions, according to Abderamane Djasnabaille, minister of parliamentary affairs and human rights.Legislative elections, normally held every four years, were to take place in 2006 along with a presidential poll. The law, if ratified by the president, would postpone parliamentary elections until 2007.“We cannot organise presidential, legislative and local elections all in 2006,” Djasnabaille told IRIN.“Given the current context we do not have the money to organise all [the polls] at the same time so we prefer to extend the mandate of parliament,” he said, pointing to Chad’s recent falling out with the World Bank, which has halted all loans to the country and frozen an oil escrow account over Chad’s management of its petrodollars.But opponents of the extension are crying foul. Michel Barka, head of Chad’s largest labour union and a member of a civil society group monitoring the country’s oil expenditures, said Deby - who faces fiscal pressures, an increasingly vocal opposition, army defections and labour strikes - wants to maintain a sympathetic parliament.Deby’s Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS) party holds a vast majority in parliament, with 110 of 155 members and a number of others allied with MPS.“One must recall that this is the national assembly that voted to modify the constitution [to allow Deby to run for a third term] and changed the oil revenue law,” Barka said, adding that few were surprised by Monday’s vote. “In reality the president wants to keep these members so they can help him in these difficult times.”Parliament passed a law in December allowing the government to tap into oil revenues that were to be set aside for future generations or devoted to special poverty reduction projects.Barka added that the government’s claim of lack of funds for elections doesn’t stand up.“These elections have been planned for this year for a long time and it’s only now that the government realises it does not have the money.”Opposition parliamentarian Ngarlejy Yorongar, along with a number of other opposition members, boycotted Monday’s vote. Yorongar told IRIN, “We did not want to be party to this grand deception.”