Chad: Country Security Situation Report

07 JUNE 2023

The national flag of Chad

Photo by engin akyurt / Unsplash

Report Summary

Chad is an important country in Africa partly because of its geopolitical position in the continent. In a very volatile neighborhood, the physically large country has several security challenges that affect its stability and domestic safety. Threats include; rebellion in the north, violent extremism in the west, clashes between pastoral and agriculturalists, political unrest and illicit trade in drugs and arms.

The revamping of the Chadian Army, cooperation and coordination between states in the Lake Chad Basin and the G5 Sahel states have been some of the mitigating factors that have prevented an escalation of these threats. However, more needs to be done in respect of political dialogue between the military-led government and the conventional opposition.

This notwithstanding, businesses and international organizations interested in the country need to stay off the northern provinces and the Kanem province of the west. Kidnappings and indiscriminate attacks by extremists could affect the staff and facilities of firms and organizations. The petroleum industry--the most important in the country--is however relatively safe in the south.

Country Report: What To Know

The Security situation in Chad has been precarious and volatile since its independence from France in 1960. Its colonial history was one of deprivation and less significance. With other landlocked territories in the Sahel, the territory was treated as a labor reserve possession of France and therefore had less development. Other coastal territories like Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire were prioritized under colonialism.

Currently, Chad faces a plethora of security situations that have ramifications for the country, region and continent at large. These present some multifaceted risks of a different magnitude to the state.

Firstly, Chad has for decades had significantly active and armed sub-state actors that have shaped both domestic and regional politics. These actors have always posed a security risk to the political stability of the state. Consequently, the country has constantly had rebellions within its territory. The current regime has assumed power after a long rebellion in the 1980s. In April 2021, Idris Derby Ithno, the country's long-time ruler who was a former rebel was shot and killed by rebels in the north of the country.

Sub-state militancy and rebellion have, therefore, become a permanent national security threat in Chad.

Furthermore, the antagonistic nature of conventional politics in Chad poses security challenges to the state. Over the years, the current Chadian regime has had major disagreements with traditional opposition parties that have sometimes resulted in protests and concomitant killing of demonstrators. These have often happened under Idris Derby when he consistently refused to leave office after his tenure expired.

Currently, the imposition of Idris Derby's son, Mahamat on Chadians after the assassination of his father has resulted in major protests around N'djamena, the capital city, and other regions. Opposition elements calling for democratic transition have been targeted by the government. These have created some destabilization and insecurity of their own.

The most recent security challenge for Chad has been the ongoing conflict in neighboring Sudan. The ethnic fluidity and porous borders between the two states have meant that Chad is the most affected neighboring state of Sudan in the current conflagration. The immediate threat has been the massive movement of refugees from the Horn of Africa country to Chad. While almost all the seven immediate states have received refugees, Chad is by far the recipient of the largest number of people escaping the crisis.

As one of the poorest states in the region, this poses human security as well as a physical security challenge to the state. While the global community has pledged to support humanitarian aid, it remains a pledge.

In the midst of all these is the challenge posed by violent extremism. For the past decade and over, countries in the Sahel region of Africa have been awash in violent extremism to the detriment of regional stability and state security. Consequently, the security of Chad has been significantly affected by the threat posed by these jihadists.

The country was initially affected by the rise of Boko Haram in neighboring Northeastern Nigeria. The militants crossed the border into Chad and northern Cameroun to escape the Nigerian security forces. Over time some Chadians joined the fighters. Currently, a more ferocious and brutal group, Islamic State, West African Province (ISWAP) is active in the Lake Chad Basin. In the last years, a military task force created by Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger has been fighting extremists in the region. This notwithstanding, the asymmetrical warfare by jihadists kept them still active. ISWAP is particularly growing in strength as more ambitious Boko Haram fighters have joined its ranks. This is a major security situation.

Also critical are the ethnoeconomic clashes between and among the different groups in the country. With climate change and growing desertification in the Sahel region, pastoral and transhumance groups are having to move downwards to the lands used by sedentary farmers for crop growing. Like elsewhere in the region, this has led to clashes between these two major economic dichotomies.

The volatile security situation together with limited state presence and ineffectiveness have resulted in transnational crimes awash in the country. Gun and drug smugglers have used the country and adjoining territories as hubs and transit zones for their nefarious activities. Porous borders have also encouraged illicit trade.

High-Risk Zones and Regions

The northern half of Chad is effectively outside the control of ten governments. The provinces of Tibesti, Ennedi and Borku are dominated by rebel groups and incendiary activities that make them too hostile and unstable for meaningful economic activities. Laws and institutions of the central governments are seldom felt in these regions. The assassination of the former leader by rebels from the north further reinforces the influence of the latter in the northern half of the country.

The western province around the Lake Chad region is another no-go area in the country. Much closer to N'djamena, the region has violent extremists actively roaming around and causing havoc. Closer to Nigeria, Niger and the northern fringes of Cameroon, terror groups have sought to achieve composite threats against multiple states by operating in the region.

Drug traffickers and other organized criminal activities with corollary physical insecurity can be found around the country. In the capital, frequent protests and their potential to degenerate into more macabre unrest is a real possibility.

Assessed Operational Risk Levels for International Organizations

Commercial Entities

Despite its economic challenges and widespread poverty, Chad is an important exporter of oil in Africa. With over 140000 barrels per day, the commodity covers over 90% of state revenue. This and the many businesses built around it are what the Chadian economy is based on. The main oil pipeline goes through eastern Cameroon and reaches the country's port in Douala.

Fortunately, the country's major reserves are in the south. This means the government has control over the vital industry. While other finds have been made in the north, that of the south is fully developed and safe to be manned by international business. Dominant players in the country's oil industry are China, the United States, France and Taiwan.

While rebels trying to move southward towards N'djamena pose a significant threat to the government and by extension business organizations, the most immediate threat happens to be violent extremists in the east who would stop at nothing to capture or attack foreign nationals and interests. This puts workers of multinationals at risk. Also, the pipeline that transports the oil passes through a relatively secure terrain devoid of frequent sabotage.

Other businesses including merchandising and logistics are emerging; the latter because of the vastness of the country and the former because of its growing population.

This notwithstanding, international businesses are not safe to operate in the restive north and the western Kanem province.

NGO Organizations

With many poor people and refugees in Chad, many NGOs and charities have been attracted to the country to offer humanitarian assistance. These are either independent agencies or organizations working in partnership with international intergovernmental organizations. While much of the refugee presence is found in the East, workers and agencies face similar threats as businesses. Fortunately, too, very active refugee regions have a government presence in respect of security. While this is not relatively strong, staff members of aid agencies are relatively covered.

Travel and Transportation Issues

Traveling is much safe in the southern and eastern provinces. However, the more northward one moves, the worse the security situation. The Kanem region of the west close to the Nigeria and Niger borders is also unsafe for travelers. A strong security presence would be needed to venture into these areas.

Country Monitoring: Events and Triggers

Escalation Triggers

  • About the threat posed by rebels in the north, increasing southward movement towards N'djamena would be a major escalation trigger. In the past, the closer rebels have been to the capital the more likely to have the government fall. However, with recent retooling and moves by Chadian forces a relatively good security wall has been created between the the north and the south. Any major breach of this "wall" will be an escalation.

  • In the extremists prone west, a rise in guerrilla attacks by militants would signal an escalation. The use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and light weapons to launch attacks against governments and the multilateral task force is a modus operandi. Any uptick in the frequency of attacks could signal an escalation.

  • Also, attacks in the south where the government seems to be in full control could signal an escalation.

  • Politically, how tensions between the military-led government and the opposition are handled could signal an escalation or otherwise of political violence in the country. The opposition is putting pressure on the government to organize elections as soon as possible to return the country to constitutional rule. Continued reluctance by the government to hold elections is a trigger to escalation.

  • When clashes between pastoralists and agriculturists become more frequent and macabre, that would signal an escalation to insecurity in the country. This is sometimes exploited by extremists to gain a foothold in new areas.

De-escalation Triggers

  • Constructive dialogue and confidence building between the opposition and the government could be a strong signal toward de-escalation. Currently, such confidence-building is lacking.

  • Another de-escalation trigger would be the stability of Sudan and other neighboring states like Libya and Nigeria. With its geopolitical position, Chad is vulnerable to events that occur in adjacent states. For example, some rebel forces have been known to launch their attacks from Libya. The current refugee influx and its corollary insecurity have been the result of the Sudanese conflict. The situation in northeastern Nigeria will also affect Chad. Stability in these countries is therefore positive trigger to an escalation in Chad.

  • Increasing coordination among security forces in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad also gives a positive signal. For example, while forces in these countries have cooperated over time, there have been reported operational and tactical challenges that leave gaps for extremists to exploit. Better coordination will be a good de-escalation trigger.

  • An innovative agricultural policy centered on sustainability could also help de-escalate clashes between pastoralists and crop growers.


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