Lake Chad was once an incredibly important stopover on the West-East trade route through Africa, but today the region has faded into international obscurity; Earning the “Dead Heart of Africa” reputation. The lake was once very large, straddling the countries of Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon, but since 1960 the lake has shrunk by almost 90%, with 10% remaining having to support 30 million people. The situation causes turmoil, panic and instability, and where you find instability you will always find people looking to take advantage of it.
She was on a board this week to discuss the crisis in Lake Chad >>
TOMASZ ROLBIECKI – (University of Gdansk)
Vincent Faucher – (CNRS)
John Campbell – (US Ambassador to Nigeria).
Each of the four Lake Chad countries view the lake in completely different ways, and each of the four countries has different problems radiating from the region. The Republic of Chad is the most dependent on Lake of the Four, and its capital, N’Djamena, is only 100 kilometers south of the lake. The people of Chad depend heavily on this lake for food, water, and transportation, but as the lake is rapidly shrinking, competition for resources has become tense; With the warlords carrying arms to secure parts of the lake for themselves. The French have worked for many years to keep Chad as stable as possible to prevent a bloody power vacuum, but N’Djamena’s grip on large parts of the country is fading.
Niger also shares a lake, but the lake is 1,200 kilometers from its capital all the way across the desert. Niger is possibly the least stable of the four Lake Chad countries, with Niamey controlling a governing archipelago rather than a cohesive state. Many terrorist units such as ISIS in Africa and Boko Haram are using the areas around Lake Chad and southeast Niger to train and prepare to launch strikes in the heart of Nigeria and Niger. To combat this American leadership in Africa, it has relied on a large regional drone program in the middle of the Niger desert around Agadez, where they carry out reconnaissance strikes and drone attacks usually in support of Franco-African forces fighting Boko Haram and ISIA.
Boko Haram attracted international attention a few years ago when it kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from northern Nigeria, and since then the government in Abuja has been working hard to crush the terrorist unit. A few years ago, they even tried to launch a large-scale offensive to finally break them down, and brought in large numbers of South African mercenaries to impose some heavy sanctions on the Boko Haram groups. Although Boko Haram has not been defeated, it is spread across the region with operations now stretching from Mali to Chad. What was once an exclusively Nigerian problem has now become a regional problem.
Nigeria needs a stable northeast (Lake Chad region) for a number of reasons, the first of which is oil. Although Nigeria has very large offshore reserves on its southern coast, oil extraction in the Near East will be much cheaper; But it is also more dangerous to the infrastructure, with the spread of terrorism in the region. The country also sits on a religious divide with Christians and Catholics in the greenest farther south, and Muslims concentrating in the drier north. People living in the north often view every large-scale operation Abuja launches against groups like ISIS in Africa or Boko Haram as attacks on the Muslim north, leading to an escalation of regional tensions. This forces the Nigerian government to undertake this balanced action of pressing hard enough against terrorist units to limit their ability to cause harm, with little effort to isolate half of the country. The last thing anyone would want to do in any of these four countries is to risk a civil war, which is probably the main reason why these long-term dictators in Chad and Cameroon receive military and financial support from Paris. The French want to risk any kind of power vacuum, and they seem to have adopted a policy of “the best devil you know” when it comes to the region.
The main issue is by globalization, as climate change rapidly shrinks the resources available on the lake. People who live outside the lake are scared and frustrated and see nothing but inaction from their capitals; To these people, might a group like Boko Haram appear to be the only possibility for real change?
I would like to have your thoughts on this?
Should Nigeria “loot first aid” and launch another all-out offensive in the Nordic countries? Should the United States and France do more to combat terrorism in the region, bearing in mind that if too many bodies pile up from these operations, the public may demand to pull out together? Is there anything we can do to support Chad and prevent it from collapsing when the oil bubble bursts or when the situation in Lake Chad slides out of N’Djamena and widespread fighting breaks out?
Anyway, thanks again folks in this sub, there were many great resources here when we were looking at the piece.
Check out the full panel discussion here >>
YouTube >> https://youtu.be/WzETJldePco
Site >> www.theredlinepodcast.com