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Decolonization as disintegration: the disestablishment of the state in Chad.

Disengagement as Decolonization

THE PARADIGM OF disengagement(2) assumes that the state from which broad sections of society are withdrawing throughout Africa is a legitimate, if inefficient, inheritor of the colonialistic political framework. That is, even if specific governments are judged to be corrupt, repressive, or disfunctional, it is taken as a given that the sovereign African state commands legitimacy as a moral and political construct. Certainly, it is superior to the colonial state which preceded it.

This assumption is critical to African elites, the African intelligentsia and foreign scholars and diplomats. It is less evident that non-elites throughout Africa subscribe to the same tenet. Wholesale withdrawal by sectors of civil society (as opposed to direct political opposition to specific regimes) indicates more than dissatisfaction with the services incompetently or exploitatively "provided" by their governments. It speaks to a deeper disenchantment which dismisses the exercise of the sovereign state as irrelevant, at best, if not outright antagonistic. Be it through exit (for economic or political motivations), the erection of parallel systems (black markets, smuggling, bribery and alternative judicial mechanisms) or self-enclosure (return to countryside and subsistence cropping, retreat to traditional, regional, ethnic or kinship structures, shift from public to private sector), by freeing themselves from the strictures of state extortion and exaction, civil society is engaging in a kind of informal decolonization. This decolonization, however, unlike its more classically acknowledged version of the 1960s, results in patterns of societal behavior which negate, ignore, or deny the state as the ultimate arena and arbiter of political activity. Indeed, this postcolonial informal decolonization tends towards the very dis-establishment of the state.

Ironically, it is the existence of strong states beyond its borders which has made Chad particularly vulnerable to its own disestablishment. For long Libya, but more recently Sudan, have exerted such destabilizing pressure on the northern and eastern peripheries of Chad that Chadian sovereignty there has been seriously compromised. Chad is a classic case of external pressure feeding domestic instability.

Summary Background

"A huge mosaic of small and splinterized, unintegrated ethnicities, many with sharply different patterns of socio-cultural organization and evolution, lifestyles and religions, [Chad] has always been more a complex patchwork of mutually-competitive microcosms than a political entity, no matter how fragile" (Decalo, 1980a). More than regionalism, ethnicity, religion or outside interventionism (Decalo, 1980b), since its independence in 1960 Chad has been racked by factionalism (Lemarchand, 1986, 1992). For sure, the North-South dialectic, Arab-Toubou-Sara tensions, Muslim-Christian-animist differences, and Libyan obstreperousness have all constituted finders in the Chadian powder keg. But alliances formed along these religious, ethnic and regional lines have ultimately all proved to be fleeting. Greater predictability regarding Chadian instability emerges from the factionalist paradigm: "regional ethnicity has tended to dissolve into factional squabbles" (Lemarchand, 1987: 157).

Such interminable instability and its consequent disfunctionality have caused some to challenge the very existence of Chadian empirical (as opposed to juridical) statehood: "Chad is the paradigm case: a state which is virtually devoid of civic or socio-economic concreteness, and which survives almost entirely by external recognition and support" Jackson and Rosberg, 1986: 27).

From 1960 until 1975, Chad was ruled by the autocratic Francois Tombalbaye (Collelo, 1990: 17-18). Within two years of independence, Tombalbaye instituted a one-party state (the Parti Progressiste Tchadien-PPT). Through the PPT Tombalbaye exiled, imprisoned or cooped the opposition, "Africanized" the civil service (mostly through appointments of southerners), and imposed unpopular financial and cultural measures on the populace. As a result, not only were northerners (and some easterners) marginalized -- leading to the emergence of foreign-based, armed resistance groups -- but southerners too withdrew their residual support for their regional patron. Tombalbaye was consequently overthrown and killed by junior military officers in April of 1975. Another southerner, Felix Malloum (Tombalbaye's chief-of-staff), then installed a military government.

Malloum was unsuccessful in reversing the mismanagement and economic crisis inherited from the Tombalbaye era. Even more critically, he was unable to appease the Libyan-based rebels of the FROLINAT (Front de Liberation Nationale du Tchad, originally founded in 1966) which by that time was headed by two Toubous (albeit of different clans), Goukouni Oueddei and l Hissene Habre. Goukouni and Habre themselves split, largely over a disagreement about concessions to Libya in the Aouzou Strip. Habre then agreed to join Malloum's government (Conseil Superieur Militaire-CSM) as prime minister in 1978, Malloum thereby retaining the presidency.

This arrangement lasted barely one year and Malloum was eased out by Habre in February 1979. But Habre too lost control of the center and Goukouni seized the capital. A series of conferences, hosted by Nigeria, resulted in the following arrangement: A transitional government of national unity (GUNT) was to be headed by Habre, Goukouni and Wadel Abdelader Kamougue. However, the GUNT too failed, and in 1980 that faction of the military aligned with Habre struck. With the two northerners, Goukouni and Habre at crosspurposes with one another, Kamougue led the south into virtual autonomy. Thanks to Libyan military support Goukouni took control of N'Djamena, the capital, in December 1980. But a falling out with Kaddafy, and the withdrawal of Libyan forces, opened the way (with Sudanese, Egyptian and American aid) for Hissene Habre's return. In 1982 Habre captured N'Djamena. By 1986, aided by a split within the GUNT between Goukouni and the staunchly pro-Libyan Acheich ibn Omar, Habre had consolidated his power over most of the rest of the country. The important exception was the Aouzou strip and the contiguous region of Tibesti.

Conflict over the Aouzou Strip was at its most intense between 1986 and 1987 (the "Toyota War", so-called on account of the rapid and stunning mobile success of Habre's light armored all-terrain vehicles). Not until 1994, after arbitration by the International Court of Justice in the Hague, was the dispute over Aouzou settled to Chad's satisfaction. But by that time Hissene Habre was himself in exile and Chad had entered the post-Cold War era. The country now found itself struggling with the constellation of three novel external factors: superpower disinterest in distant desert civil wars, waning French commitment in its former colonies, and a transafrican movement for democratic change.

The inheritor of this new state of Chadian affairs was Idriss Deby, a former Habre loyalist who parted with his commander and seized control of N'Djamena in time for the New Year of 1991. Though speaking the new language of democratization and national reconciliation, and having presided over an eye-opening national conference, the president was still seen by many to govern by long-established Chadian rules of ethnic and factionalist politics: while leading the broadbased-sounding Mouvement Patriotique du Salut (MPS), it was Deby's profile not only as a Zaghawa, but especially as member of the Bideyat clan, which explained his base of support and political modus operandi. Still, it was under Deby's careful watch that, in 1993, Chad joined the burgeoning club of francophone African nations to hold a Sovereign National Conference (CNS).

The Sovereign National Conference and Its Aftermath

The CNS represented the very first gathering of representatives from all walks of Chadian life: the nation's different regions, prefectures, religions, languages, occupations, social classes, economic sectors, and genders were all given voice. Representation was not, however, allocated on the basis of demographic weight: those representing the rural populace which constitutes 85% of the overall population of Chad, were allocated fewer than 19% of the seats.(3) The CNS; for all its national and populistic pretensions, was largely an elite affair. The largest single bloc of seats was reserved for the 38 political parties which had obtained official recognition; the viability, representativity, or numerical following of these parties was not seriously considered as a criterion for CNS participation. The most numerically disproportionate group consisted of those individuals invited as "eminent persons" (personalites resources). There were 144 such persons, out of a total of 832 (17%). Following is a breakdown of the members of the CNS by category, absolute numbers, and proportional weight. Only 51 members of the CNS were female. Judging from the reactions to attempts by some women to obtain positions of authority within the CNS structure, even this feeble percentage of women appeared too high for some of the conservative participants. Only a handful of women managed to assume leadership roles during the proceedings.

Four issues were consistently evoked in the course of the CNS. These were: 1 administrative structure of the state (decentralized vs. federalist vs. unitary type); 2) secular vs. religious identity of the state; 3) official language(s) of the state (French and/or Arabic [Chadian and/or Classical]); and 4) judicial redressment of civil rights violations.

The centralized, unitary system of administration inherited from the French has, ever since independence, aggravated the struggle for control over the helm of state. Ethnic, regional, or religious groups have felt vulnerable when control of the center has gone to rival groups. As a response, many calls were made at the Conference for a decentralization of the Chadian state, one which would confer decision-making powers (including revenue collection and distribution) to administrative units at the local level. Other participants went further and proposed an outright federalist form of government, to give significant autonomy to either existing or newly created provinces. Still others, mindful of the precarious nature of the Chadian state, viewed such calls for decentralization and federalism as a veiled strategy for secession.

There were no explicit calls at the CNS for the establishment of a theocratic state. Nevertheless, underlying tensions along the Christian-Muslim divide in Chad gave rise to special scrutiny of those remarks which elevated religion to an affaire d'etat. The context of a rise in Islamic fundamentalism among Chad's neighbors, particularly Sudan, imparted an additional seriousness to the question. Whereas Muslim clerics stressed the importance of Islam for Chadian history and culture, representatives from Christian denominations emphasized the importance of tolerance and religious diversity. Although a significant minority of Chadians are neither Christian nor Muslim (the so-called "animists"), it is significant that this group did not enjoy any explicit representation at the CNS.

Though nominally a separate issue, the status of the Arabic language in Chad, also discussed at length at the CNS, was directly linked to that of religion. The Chadian form of Arabic functions largely as a lingua franca among much of the population, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, by serving as a dialectical "bridge" to Classical Arabic. It also, however, constitutes a medium for the transmission of Islam. Those who argued for the supercession of French by Chadian Arabic, particularly as the major language of instruction, really argued for a realignment of the Chadian nation with the larger Muslim world. Discussions to upgrade the status of Sara, which on one level could be interpreted as a southern/Christian defensive measure, were in fact muted, for it might have raised fears of Sara hegemony over the other linguistic groups in the south.

Emerging from the dark v ears of the Habre dictatorship, a number of CNS participants demanded that justice, through trials, be exacted from the human rights violators of the ancien regime: a 1992 commission concluded that forty thousand persons had been murdered by Habre's security apparatus. Indemnization to the victims of such violations, or their survivors, was repeatedly called for. For several participants, redressing injustices of the past also included the exhumation and reburial of the late President Tombalbaye, a measure in fact agreed upon by Prime Minister Delwa Kassire Koumakoye a year later.

Convenors of the CNS called for an airing of concerns which had hitherto been taboo in Chadian public life. But whether the "taboos" were sufficiently dealt with, or even really aired, at the Conference is another matter. In interviews with participants six months after the CNS concluded, a consensus emerged that the Conference did not go far enough in grappling with the major issues which have divided the Chadian people since their state achieved independence. Although the CNS in Chad lasted much longer than originally envisioned, many participants believed that it was ended, by the president, prematurely.

It bears emphasis that although the CNS declared itself sovereign, it did not in fact arrogate to itself the executive power of the state. To the contrary, it confirmed the legitimacy of the incumbent president of the republic as the de jure as well as de facto executive head. The major justification invoked for this was the desire to minimize conflict with the executive and thereby avoid possible dissolution of the CNS itself. Nevertheless, as a result, the outputs of the CNS have carried less force than would have been the case had the CNS proclaimed executive as well as legislative supremacy.

The CNS established a provisional parliament, the Conseil Superieur de la Transition (CST), to oversee the government's implementation of the decisions and guidelines of the CNS. To guide the CST the CNS generated two key documents, the Charte de la Transition and the Cahier de Charges. The Charte de la Transition, organized into a preamble, nine sections, and 114 articles, set forth the basic institutional framework for the transitional government and stipulated the prerogatives and limitations of the state, its agents, the citizenry, and the citizens' representatives. The Cahier de Charges, containing the recommendations of the working commissions into which the CNS broke in its final weeks, provided a specific blueprint for the CST to follow during the transitional period.

Post-CNS Politics

Though the CST was intended to monitor the presidency and its transitional government, it gradually abdicated its authority and suborned itself to the president and his MPS party. The nature of this influence seems to have been individually targeted resource distribution (via "envelopes") as well as fear and intimidation. The October 28, 1993 CST vote of censure against Prime Minister of the Transition Fidel Moungar, and the CST's subsequent choice of DelwaKassire to fill that position, were prime examples of political expediency outweighing technical competency in CST deliberations.

From its inception the CST was compromised by its personnel composition. Political parties did not appoint their best or most influential cadres to the CST. preferring to reserve positions within the government itself for top party leaders. Of its 57 members, fewer than 10 (including the group of syndicate representatives) were believed to have retained their independence of thought and action.

In fairness to the MPS, it must be acknowledged that, in certain respects, political conditions substantially improved after December, 1990. Chad experienced a unique period of unbridled freedom of expression. Chadians openly criticized their head of state without apparent fear of reprisal. Abuses by the state security services were at least subject to open criticism.

Detractors of the MPS resisted giving credit to the government for these ameliorations. Change was coming anyway, they claimed: the winds of African democratization would have blown Hissene Habre away regardless of Idriss Deby. Though it is true that the post-Cold War political climate is less favorable to African strong-arm dictators, neither historical inevitability nor MPS benevolence sufficiently explained the post-Habre climate of political openness. Rather, the Deby regime lacked the will, charisma, and efficiency to restore a despotic exploitation of power. The extent of President Deby's accomodation to the personal price of democracy was questionable: while he freely invoked the form and rhetoric of democratization, the willingness of the MPS to surrender power was far from certain. In April of 1994 the CST, citing lack of progress in drafting an electoral law, in conducting the requisite census, in halting sundry rebellions, and in implementing CNS recommendations, decided to extend the transition by another year.

Economic Situation

As of mid-1994, the Chadian economy was in crisis. Strikes were rampant, social services were in disarray, and salaries were in serious arrears. Severe strains in household economy and family stability were showing. Insecurity was as economic a reality as a political and physical one. France's devaluation of the CFA and foreign donor pressure for policy reform compounded the pressure on the government to ameliorate the woeful economic conditions of its citizens.

Chad's economy, based as it is on agriculture, is dependent on two vagaries: the weather and security situation. Neither factor has been promising in recent years. With the passing of cotton as a reliable cash crop, great hopes had been placed on the extraction of oil, both in the Lake Chad region and in the south (Doba). Southern oil, channelled through Cameroon by pipeline, was to serve as an export commodity and northern oil, which would require the building of a mini-refinery in N'Djamena, was counted on for domestic consumption. However, the Lake reserves, though good in quality, are limited in quantity and can satify domestics demand for only a limited period of time. Southern oil, for which prospecting is ongoing, may exist in abundance but is of poor grade. The smuggling of petroleum products, particularly from Nigeria, also seriously undercut the profitability of the Chadian oil market.(4)

Customs fraud represents a serious impediment to economic development in Chad. It is estimated that 1.5 billion CFA are lost to Chad each month. The World Bank thus co-financed an experiment to farm out petroleum product import revenue collection to a private company. Losses from underreported or undeclared real estate, poll, and cattle taxes are immeasurable.

Economic change emanating from the CNS largely paralleled that on the political front: while the rhetoric for liberalization has been extensive, to date there has not been a full transformation. Both the institutional and psychological legacies of state dirigisme in Chad linger on, and the will to implement free market economics has not been matched by across-the-board governmental action. Pro-free market advocates at the CNS were numerous, but not matched by a knowledge of the technical skills necessary to institute economic liberalization.

A Round Table on the Private Sector was held in December of 1992 and a four-year implementation strategy for economic reform was elaborated. The implementation strategy contained four broad sets of intervention: a) improving the performance of the judicial system; b) improving competence and productivity in public administration; c) improving the climate for commercial activity; and d) improving governance and security. Despite such donor-ministerial strategizing, there remained among high- and middle-level ranking civil servants a degree of reticence, if not suspicion, regarding Western-sponsored privatization programs. Protectionist mentalities persisted in key ministries.
Table I

Constituent Elements of the Chadian National Conference

Category                   # Representatives       % of Total

Political Parties                256                 30.8%
Eminent Persons                  144                 17.3%
Traditional Rulers               124                 14.0%
Civil Servants/State Organs      116                 13.9%
Military:                 27
Government:               24
Prefects, mayors, etc:    19
Ambassadors:              19
Provisional council:      12
Presidency:                8
Magistrates:               4
Prime ministry:            3
Socio-professional, Cultural,      99                11.9%
Humanitarian Organizations
Farmers/Herders/Craftsmen          32                 3.8%
Human Rights + Youth Organizations 31                 3.7%
Expatriate Chadians                12                 1.4%
Politico-Military Organizations    10                 1.2%
Religious Organizations             8                  .1%
Total                             832                98.1%
Source: Derived from data in Buijtenhuis 1993.




Civil Society Responses

Faced with such daunting political and economic problems, and with popular disenchantment in the aftermath of the CNS setting in, broad categories of the Chadian populace have reacted by disengaging from the state and regrouping into civil society structures. Even with regard to democratization, the most promising prospects reside in the reemergence of civil society, not in MPS and donor engineered elections at the national level. It is here that freedoms associated with democracy in its widest sense -- freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of economic entrepreneurship -- demonstrate maximum vitality and robustness.

Since 1991 there has been a veritable explosion in Chad of local, municipal, and regional organizations moving to fill the vacuum caused by the breakdown in state services: three hundred new organizations were officially registered by January of 1994, whereas in the entire period between 1963 and December 1990 there had been only ninety. While most of the associations in the 1963-1990 period were religious or sports oriented, the newer ones include professional, gender, language, student and developmental action groups with economic or broad social service interest. The l Union des Syndicats du Tchad U .S.T.), with its 27 affiliates, wields enormous influence within the Chadian civil service and private sector employee circles. In N'Djamena it is particularly strong.

The political implications of this voluntary, self-help movement in Chad are enormous. By demonstrating an ability and willingness to organize and pool resources (manpower, time, money), these associations constitute a veritable school of democracy. Compared to similar movements of civil society withdrawal and autonomous institution development elsewhere (particularly in East Africa), Chadian associational life is relatively embryonic. Yet the psychological impact is already considerable: the citizens of Chad are slowly renouncing their ingrained dependency on the state for the satisfaction of their basic needs. While the collapse of state efficiency is lamentable, the counterreaction of the associations is heartening.

Related to these civic associations, but warranting special mention, is the creation of autonomous, cooperative-like groups on the village level. These have even more modest objectives (shared agricultural labor and marketing) and may include as few as a dozen members. As a result, they are less likely to be formally registered. Unlike the regional and municipal associations, members may have no formal education whatsoever and limited exposure to wider institutional life in Chad. It is precisely because of their traditional marginalization and vulnerability that the initiatives taken by the groupements villageois carry great democratic potential.

In 1980, one could write of the existence of "two Chads" (Decalo, 1980a: 507). This conceptual bifurcation of the Chadian state was a spatial one: the south, then led by Colonel Kamouge, represented a Sara ethnic challenge to the regime in N'Djamena. Today, however, the "two Chad" formulation represents a functional designation. It distinguishes between those areas of the juridical entity called Chad over which the government exercises sovereignty and manages a modicum of institutional and infrastructural activity, and those many communities which function independently of the capital regime. This is not an entirely new phenomenon in Chad, "large areas of Chad have never been truly governed by the central administration in N'Djamena, either during the colonial era or since independence" (Decalo, 1980b). But the extent to which this growing "second Chad" will view its functional disengagement from the government in N'Djamena as a permanent feature of political life will determine the viability of a single, decolonized, Chadian state.

One unequivocal area of positive change in the post-Habre regime is the vibrancy of the press. N'Djamena Hebdo, the most prominent independent newspaper, had a circulation of approximately five thousand in early 1994. While avowedly apolitical, N'Djamena Hebdo represents the most systematic, critical check on the government. Other newspapers, many of them shortlived, are springing up. All take full advantage of the freedom of expression that is the hallmark of the post-Habre era. However, both literacy and finances limit the potential impact of the written press: most Chadians cannot read a newspaper article in French, and many who can cannot afford the 250 franc price. While the written press is important, it directly influences only a small minority of the Chadian citizenry.

Freedom of expression within the electronic media is another matter. Radio is the oral medium par excellence for information dissemination in Chad. (Television contributes to this process but to a much lesser degree.) While RNT (Radio Nationale Tchadienne) has become much more open, it remains a government-owned, government-run, and government-controlled organ.

Supercession of the French Colonial Power

Although the CNS was in large measure funded by the French government, France is-gradually losing its influence over Chad. While part of this loss of influence is voluntary (stemming from a post-Cold War, cost-benefit appraisal on the part of French policy-makers), it is also the result of a multilateralization of external influence (e.g. Sudan, Libya, World Bank). For better or worse, this belated withdrawal represents a further step towards decolonization in postindependence Chad.

Still, as throughout most of French West and Central Africa, France remains a major player. Budgetary support for insolvent governmental ministries comes largely from Chad's former colonizer. Most important is France's salary support for the military, which is tied to a program of downsizing (deflation). Yet France's commitment to supporting the Chadian state, and particularly its treasury, has waned under the Balladur government. France's democratization program throughout Africa is ambivalent and its economic interests will increasingly focus on petroleum exploitation through the parastatal company Elf.

But France is not the sole external determinant of Chadian state integrity. The United States also has interest in Chad's oil industry, though this is manifested through more explicitly private sector activities (e.g. a consortium led by Esso and Shell) than is the case with France. Militant Islam, as promoted by Sudan under al-Tourabi, also explains continued US interest in Chad. Indeed, local newspapers have reported that Sudan is already exercising sovereignty in a number of Chadian settlements along the Sudanese border. And though the International Court of Justice decision seems to have put to rest Libyan claims over the Aouzou Strip, it would be premature to dismiss Mohamar Kaddafy's Libya as an external threat to Chadian sovereignty.

Conclusion

The case of Chad sadly illustrates the shortfall of promise that decolonization yielded in Africa. Economic stagnation is a familiar theme to students of post-independence Africa. So is political instability. But that the very usefulness and functionality of the state are questionable represents a new threshold in Afropessimism. Only by acknowledging the success of stratagems of disengagement can one extract hope out of the disestablishment of the Chadian state. Given the repressive, if not predatory, inclinations of post-independence governments in Chad, this disengagement by the civil society, and the emergence of alternative, functional, nonstatist institutions, may be viewed as a new kind of decolonization.(5)

This second type of decolonization, as a response to state disintegration, is not a uniformly happy one: it also represents a regression in political development as far as the African state has been traditionally perceived. Yet such a development also provides the opportunity for scholars and policy-makers to rethink the very role and function of the state in Africa.

NOTES

(1) Fieldwork for this research was conducted in December 1993 -January 1994 as part of a consultation conducted for the United States Agency for International Development under contract with Associates in Rural Development, Inc. However all analyses and conclusions contained herein are strictly those of the author and should not be construed to imply either agreement or endorsement on the part of U.S.A.I.D. A version of this paper was delivered at the Francophone Africa Research Group (G.R.A.F.) at its Brazzaville + 50 conference, Boston l University, October 7-8, 1994. (2) Sec Azarya, 1994 and 1992; Azarya and Chazan, 1987. (3) This figure represents a collapsing of traditional rulers (112 canton chiefs and 12 sultans) together with the 32 farmers, herders, and craftsmen represented. Seats were not allocated on a statistically proportional basis by the CNS; these calculations are done for comparative analytical purposes only. (4) As structural adjustment conditionality proceeds apace, however, oil is "leaking" out of Nigeria at lower levels and the price differential has accordingly narrowed. (5) After penning the above, I came across the following observation by Crawford Young: "The hegemonic impulses which... flow from the logic of the first construction of the colonial state seem impossible to sustain. Possibly out of the mood of anxiety and foreboding will emerge a formula for the decolonization of the state" (Young, 1988: 60, emphasis added).

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Date:Jun 1, 1995
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