“Battling Boko Haram, Chad’s Strongman Pleases the West”
The New York Times, March 28, 2015, p.A4
“Chad’s president, Idriss Déby, speaks in a soft mumble, wears spectacles and an immaculate white robe, and is to be found in the quiet inner recesses of a gilt-edged, marble presidential palace — under crystal chandeliers and vaulted arches that seem part Renaissance, part Vegas — at the dusty center of his country’s capital. Yet he is undeniably one of Africa’s most formidable strongmen. His men once whipped Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s fighters in a desert battle, and he has survived numerous rebel assaults and coup attempts. More recently, his forces have successfully battled the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram and Al Qaeda’s regional affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, shoring up his credentials as the West’s favorite African autocrat. … The president says he took up the war against Boko Haram reluctantly, and mostly as a bid for economic survival: Chad is a landlocked country, dependent on land trade routes through the militant group’s territory. In the process, he has embarrassed Nigeria — a small-country president cleaning up a far bigger and richer one’s mess — and he has overshadowed the militaries of neighboring Cameroon and Niger that are less well equipped, while earning the gratitude of Western leaders. Those leaders once shunned him for his shaky human rights record, low corruption ranking, nepotism and brutal police force. In fact, those conditions have not changed. His country ranks fourth from the bottom on the United Nations Human Development Index of 187 nations, with rock-bottom life expectancy and schooling levels. The Chadian elite connected to him enjoy gargantuan villas, looming above the battered one-story dwellings of ordinary people. Last week, clandestinely recorded video images showed his police officers whipping half-naked student demonstrators. And his military forces were accused of serious human rights violations during their intervention in the Central African Republic last year. Yet Mr. Déby, 62, is a pariah no more. Now the French foreign minister smiles at him in photographs. Although he insists he is not ‘Africa’s policeman,’ the West is only too happy to call on his forces in a region seething with Islamist terrorists.”
Quickie analysis: The article doesn’t mention that the CIA sponsored the coup that brought Déby to power in 1990. Nice to see an investment paying off, eh?