The Free State
"Man, in a word, has no nature. What he has is - history."

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Chad in the News

I've been doing a lot of work on my dissertation this summer, much of which focuses on Chad. Chad? Yes, Chad, it's a country over 3 times the size of California of 10 million people (doubled in the past 25 years) right smack in the middle of Africa. The northern half of the country is empty desert, "useless Chad", while the South "useful Chad" survives by subsistence farming.

Chad doesn't usually get more than passing attention. During WW2 the French colony was prominent for being the largest part of France's empire to stay in the fight. During the 80s Libya fought a war there which eventually led to Chad kicking Qaddafi out killing 5 000 Libyan troops in the process (imagine if the US lost the equivalent of 75 000 troops over 7 months in Iraq...). Chad's been getting attention over the conflict in Darfur spilling over into the country.

Chad, who historically had a national budget smaller than the movie Titanic's, is getting her oil industry setup. Chadian President Idriss Déby has kicked out oil firms ChevronTexaco and Petronas claiming they didn't pay their taxes. This leaves only ExxonMobil and effectively nationalizes (Chavez-style? more like Bolivia...) 60% of Chad's oil production. I think he didn't like the World Bank's rather draconian rules for using the little of the oil profits which would go to Chad primarily on poverty-relief/infrastructure etc. Instead, Déby now can control all profits and spend it as he pleases. If other 3rd world petro-states are any indication, he will use it to solidify his clique's rule, buy arms, make the odd monument to his glory and fill Swiss bank accounts.

Who knows, he might invest enough in education and infrastructure to make Chad's economy viable, but I doubt it. If I were to make a suggestion, I would use some money to upgrade the official website of the govt-owned telecom company (Telecommunications Internationales du Tchad, or Tit). The presidential page, none of the links work and it's garrishly worthy of of an UglyMySpaceShowDown.

Chadian identity is pretty artifical, or at least, recent. It's just a big square in the middle of the desert named after a shallow lake it shares with several other countries. A square shared by Muslims, Christians and Animists with about a zillion languages. I recently found a site designed for young Chadians (who, if they have an internet connection, must be fairly wealthy or maybe even cosmopolitan American-schoolers) dedicated to Chadian athletes, rappers and general culture. The site puts a lot of stress on a certain Miss Chad 2005 who was until recently going to contend for Miss World 2006 (the page also has entries for a blind guitarist, Chadian international reporter and the N'djamena town crier). They've yet to update the site :-/

The page has text saying that Chad now competes alongside traditional African fashion-leaders Angola, Ethiopia, Cote d'Ivoire and Nigeria... "The barrier is now broken!" This was going to be an opportunity to assert a little Chadian pride and identity in the world.

Now, I'm not saying the lovely Miss Aché Myriam Commelin isn't pretty. But where the heck is she from (one of the photos as "MabuhayBeauties.com" written on it... perhaps she is part-filipino?) Now, it's worth noting that there is a substantial Arab minority in Chad, but ethnic labels are always very parochial and like in Sudan, it's not what Westerners usually have in mind when using the word "Arab":

Chadian Arab boy

I googled "Chadians" to which google replied "Did you mean Canadians?" (I could see how you could confuse the two vast wastelands...) and got this. I tried again with "Tchad fille" and got:

(Cool page "Faces of Chad" with lots of photos)

If you're going to trump up a representative of your country abroad to young people as an example, especially in a competition based completely on esthetics, it'd help if she were actually representative.

Chad's got a long way to go. At the current population growth rate (currently 3% per year), a 15 year oil-cushion for the elite will not mean any real change.


Blogger scott said...

Liked all the photos and links.

Unfortunately, the Chad telecom and Chad president URLs timed-out.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pls keep quiet when u start talking about people.
My name is Myriam Ache and i'm Miss Chad ok? I know i must look what white but i'm typically an arabic girl from a region who's called DJADDAA.
My parents are from there and me too. Any question buddy?

8:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I speak english , arabic, french and spanish too so pls next time be carefully about what u are saying.
u dont know nothing about me so pls....
Have a nice day.

8:05 AM  
Blogger CJWilly said...

Is that true? Wow. I didn't mean any offense. Out of curiosity, how did you find my blog?

3:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I found your blog by using google search under my name just curiosity to see who's saying shit about me..

I am sorry if i have been really hard on u...
Have a nice day!


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey i have your search in Chad informative and interesting; specially regarding the oil industry in there. out of curiocity have you being there your self? I quest not; rather sitting on your back site and writting mostly from what you Google is quite a subjective way of writting an article. I suggest you take some lesson on how to critically writting an article. Tchad desert is not a waste land or is the south my friend; what ever your motive for writting up this article; it is a complete and utter rubbish desrciption regarding the country and it people. Regarding the model she is only pursuing her modelling career and dos not represent the majority of how female Chadian look nor do the poeple in this picture you show. Chad is an undiscover land full of beauty, mistery and natural environment; this is less than i could describe US; which is what they are trying to conserve or manufacture. I'm a 100% Chadian who you would probably say is Ethiopian, or what most Ethiopian themself think that Chadian girls from my town are. This is how unpredictable and exotic Chad is; is just ONE exmple. Next time THINK BEFORE YOU TYPE

3:23 PM  

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