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Chadian solutions viable for local problems in the restive north - analyst

Tibesti region, northern Chad
Tibesti region, northern Chad Hassan Dadi/Wikimedia Commons

In the restive gold-mining northern Chad region of Tibesti, Chadian government officials working together with locals could de-escalate the current blockade and crisis between army officials and locals in Miski, according to a new report out by International Crisis Group.


The rpeort suggests that issues with rebels in southern Libya are unrelated.

“What’s happening in Miski is not linked to what’s happening with armed insurgents in southern  Libya. It’s a local issue,” Richard Moncrieff, a report contributor and Central Africa project director for ICG tells RFI.

Last November, the local Teda community’s small self-defence militia in Miski clashed with the Chadian army, resulting in the army stationing themselves 100km from the town, effectively preventing movement into or out of the area.

Moncrieff, author of the ICG’s latest report “Chad: Avoiding Confrontation in Miski” says that this is due to mistrust on both sides, especially on how the issue of gold has been tackled.

Amateurs have come in to the town to mine gold, polluting the water sources and damaging the area, including army officers and those of the Zaghawa ethnic group, who are seen as being supported by the army, he says. The other issue is the possibility of industrial gold mining.

“The possibility of digging out significant quantities of gold in this area has created disquiet in Miski, and the local population wants to pressure the government to make sure if that was ever to happen, that they would have what they see as their fair share as local resources,” he says.

The relationship between the ethnic Teda and the government has been a difficult one, because the majority of Teda do not trust outsiders, especially the government, and recent events such as the skirmishes and the blockade have reinforced this.

An insurgency in the north ended only some 10 years ago after negotiating peace with N’Djamena, says Moncrieff.

“It’s peace based on ‘you leave us to run our area and we won’t bother you’ -- It’s a peace that the Teda understand that allows them a degree of control in Tibesti and along the border with Libya,” he says.

And while the region borders Libya, these issues are perceived as a localized problem, not a direct connection to Chadian rebels in southern Libya. While a few of the non-Toubou groups have made statements regarding he Miski issue to try to use this to their own advantage, Moncrieff says they have no evidence of concrete links.

The Teda belong to the larger Toubou community that extends into southern Libya and Niger.

“It’s very reasonable to assume that the pressure that the army is putting on the population of Miski will certainly encourage some people to go to Libya; it’s already encouraged some people to take up arms in the Miski area. This is a dangerous combination,” says Moncrieff.

Local mediation, government trust

Part of the solution is perception, according to Moncrieff, because this local issue cannot be treated as other complex problems along the Chadian borders.

“The demands of the Teda people in the Miski Valley remain localized, and therefore are far easier to resolve than the issue of the status of the rebels of southern Libya or Boko Haram, who don’t make demands that are easily treatable,” says Moncrieff.

“The Chadian government has a strong interest in de-escalating the tensions in Miski, because it is something which can be dealt with,” he adds.

One measure includes reversing the recent government decision to change administrative boundaries within the country, a move that triggered the skirmishes in Miski.

Miski was shifted from the Tibesti region to the Bourkou region, effectively cutting their influence on regional matters. Moncrieff believes that the government has wanted greater control in the area.

“Certainly we know for sure that was the perception of local populations, because we know that local chiefs complained to the minister of interior security concerning the breakup of Tibesti and that’s the expression we had sent to us by those in Tibesti,” he says.

There are a number of local actors from both the Teda people and the government who could mediate a settlement of these localized issues, which should not be perceived as part of a greater problem. Migrants in the area have also been swept up into the mix, but the reality is not as complicated.

“The government has a strong tendency to conflate migrants and terrorists, or migrants and rebels, and this is very unhelpful, because people migrate for lots of different reasons,” including migrating for work, says Moncrieff.

The other issue is the army blockade. According to ICG, the Ministry of Public Security in Tibesti said it was going to shut down wells and had already shut down some of them in the area.

“This is an ill-judged approach, and shows a desire of the government to clamp down and take a security-oriented approach, which we feel is a mistake. There is a scope for talking here rather than sending in the army and shutting down wells and setting up blockades,” says Moncrieff.

“If they don’t deal with this there is the possibility it could sow discontent among the Teda population, which of course extends further than Miski,” he adds.

“Dealing with the issues that are raised in Miski in a reasonable way, some give and take, would keep the Teda on side in a very tense environment along the Libyan border,” says Moncrieff, including dismantling the blockade.

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