The Lake Chad Basin crisis still demands the world’s attention. While scaled-up humanitarian efforts narrowly averted famine last year, continuing conflict has left almost eleven million people in urgent need of life-saving assistance, including almost eight million affected people in northeast Nigeria alone.
Chad is one of the poorest countries in the world. Over 80% of Chad’s population relies on subsistence farming and livestock raising for its livelihood. Last year, the government committed itself to spend 70% of its budget on development needs such as an increase in access to healthcare delivery and education. However, none of this materialized. The Chadian government is widely seen by many Chadians as corrupt and has not been selfless as promised to alter the present rate of poverty. Unfortunately, the recent crisis has left a deluge of refugees in Cameroon and Nigeria with severe humanitarian consequences.
The discovery of oil has not altered positively the lives of the people. Oil proceeds have been grossly mismanaged and promises have not been fulfilled.
The failure of the World Bank-backed Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline project valued at $3.7 billion to reduce poverty has helped the rebels to build the much-needed support. The worsening economic situation has enabled the rebels to get more sympathizers. The discovery of oil also provides a real opportunity for the rebels to wrestle control of government mainly to lay hand on oil-related revenue. Rebels are largely fighting for the control of oil revenue.
With the exception of China Oil Company that signed an exploration agreement worth $30million, Chad has not fared better in terms of direct foreign investments. The World Bank has recently frozen $100 million oil royalties after parliament in N’Djamena voted to amend Petroleum Revenue Management contrary to the earlier agreement. Prior to 2005, foreign investment in the oil sector alone was put at 30%. This plummeted to 8.0% in the subsequent years. One possible explanation for this is that investors are wary of the prevailing situation in Chad. The ultimate victims, of course, are millions of Chadians.
It is quite possible that interference by France in the internal politics of Chad could be responsible for renewed hostilities.
The events unfolding in Chad are test cases for the African Union over its relevance in the 21st century. While the African Union does inform the whole world about its efforts or steps being taken to end crises in parts of the continent, most often such efforts have failed to cut ice.
On a number of occasions, the AU continues to display its inability to proffer solution to crises within Africa. It continues to treat with kid-gloves those whose actions are responsible for crises.
It is crystal clear the crisis in Chad can only be resolved through African unity, constitutionalism, the rule of law and not through the battlefield. To make this happen, the whole process would have to be spearheaded by the African Union. It must take a pro-active role in resolving most of the crises on the continent. Failure to do so would portray African Union as a body that is always prepared to shirk one of its primary responsibilities- protecting ordinary African citizens from plunder.
Image Credit: United Nations