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Chad: The Misadventures of the North-South Dialectic

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 May 2014


Is there more to Chad than the murderous idiosyncrasies of an improbable state which shares with its neighbors the vicissitudes of drought, famine, and environmental bankruptcy? The question is not merely rhetorical. In order to bring the present conflicts and confusions within the realm of comparative discourse, the uniqueness of the Chadian crisis must be assessed against its generic traits. To those of us who once debated whether Zaire was a unique or an extreme case, the issue has a familiar ring, and it carries intimations of inconclusiveness that may well apply to other states, including Chad.

All states are, in one way or another, unique and Chad in more ways than one. Its uniqueness goes far beyond its sudden emergence as a strategic pawn in a desert war among proxies. With its national territory semi-partitioned, its northern half under Libyan occupation and its southern flank threatened by rebel activity; with a government in exile comprising no less than eleven factions at the latest count, some in open warfare with others, some appealing to Libya for continued military support, and others perpetually casting about to form an anti-Libyan coalition; with a central government overwhelmingly dependent on outside donors for military, economic, and financial aid but, nonetheless, highly sensitive to attempts at external manipulation; with a capital city in shambles, an infrastructure thoroughly inadequate for the tasks of rehabilitation and national reconstruction, and anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 refugees living in neighboring states—what other state can make as many claims to being unique in coping with, or surrendering to, the blows of adversity?

Copyright © African Studies Association 1986

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