Balancing needs and insecurity: the challenges of the State in Chad

Balancing needs and insecurity: the challenges of the State. Chad National Report

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Study areas
This study has been conducted in four regions of Chad: in the Lake and Kanem regions – located directly on the border – as well as in the Bahr el Gazel region and the capital city N’Djamena. These regions are characterized by great ethnic and linguistic ersity. They are also marked by precariousness, underemployment, food insecurity, drought and rural exodus. Currently, the major challenge facing the region is linked to the presence of Boko Haram around Lake Chad. Insecurity and signs of violent extremism have become a ‘daily reality’ for people in the area. This study touches upon several issues including identity, cross-border dynamics, radicalization and the role of women and young people.

The Kanem region (pop. 333,000) is considered Islam’s door into Chad and the entire population is Muslim. The area is a quasi-desert area and primarily a livestock farming area. Trade, agriculture and the artisanal harvest of natron are also practiced. The Lake Chad region (pop. 430,000) is bordered to the southwest by Cameroon and to the west by Nigeria and Niger, two countries also located on the shores of Lake Chad which offer great potential for agriculture, fishing and livestock farming. The region is mostly populated by Muslim populations. Finally, the Bahr el Gazel region (pop. 250,000) is a pivotal area between, on the one hand, the interior and Lake Chad and, on the other, the interior and the Saharan zone. Principal activities are raising livestock, farming and trade.

Besides, N’Djamena (pop. app. 950,000) is located directly across the border from Kousseri, Cameroon. It is both the capital of Chad and a region, and a centre where people from erse backgrounds mix. Data collection was also conducted in the N’Djamena region.

State and citizenship, religion and identity
Chad is a mosaic with a great number of ethno-linguistic groups and its population is mainly ided between Muslims and Christians. Identity, especially religious identity, has always been at the heart of the antagonism and turmoil in the country and remains a potential factor of instability. Increasingly frequent and intense tensions have been expressed between the Tijani and Wahhabi inside the Chadian Muslim community. The secular state of Chad is struggling to play a constructive role in inter-religious (especially inter-Muslim) discussions, as some of the denominations feel unjustly ostracized and marginalized. The Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Chad has a difficult and controversial role in managing inter-Muslim tensions. Its authority is not accepted by a large number of Wahhabis.

Inter-communal and cross-border dynamics
In spite of the administrative boundaries, communities in border areas live in close contact with each other, and the result is a consistent cross-border social, cultural, economic and religious identity. Borders are porous: in relation to smuggling and illegal trafficking, but also in relation to insecurity and the ideas and actors of violent extremism. Often the state is barely present and there is a lack of public infrastructure. People in border areas find themselves in the crossfire of growing insecurity and the danger from Boko Haram. On the one hand, they suffer the atrocities of Boko Haram; on the other, collateral damage from the armed struggle against this movement. These conclusions lead to suggest that border areas should be managed regionally, as opposed to being exclusively managed at national level.

Radicalization: clues and process
Radicalization was treated distantly, and even with a certain degree of denial, by most of the sources interviewed for the study. They all insisted that the phenomenon is foreign to Chad, brought in by travellers, students, traders, etc. However, daily life and the events which have shaken the country show that radicalization, as a reality or process, has been making its way in Chadian society for decades. Recent incidents have highlighted the role of Chadian extremists in the operations of Boko Haram. Extremist movements are not only based on religion to attract young people but they actually use the entire social and cultural register, the context, and co-opt hopes and dreams to spin and sell an idyllic model of society where every desire will be fulfilled. The atrocities committed by extremist groups like Boko Haram result in a highly negative perception of these groups among the majority of the border peoples, who denounce their selected use of religion.

The role of women and young people
Women and young people represent a large percentage of the population but have the least access to debate, decision-making and, especially, the means of production. Women, as a result of their status and responsibilities, are most vulnerable to social turmoil. Young people are the main target for recruiters of extremist movements. However, it seems clear that the role of women and young people can be significant in preventing violent extremism in terms of education, raising awareness and community-based dissuasion, if a better place in society can be made for them.

Avenues for reflection
Based on the perceptions collected during the study and observation in the field, as well as the analyses of, and discussions with, various relevant stakeholders, the following avenues for further reflection emerge:

  • Develop a multi-sectoral national strategy/policy for counter-terrorism;
  • Adopt an expanded collaborative approach;
  • Avoid treating communities or religious groups collectively;
  • Reclaim border areas in a sustainable manner and through a sub-regional approach;
  • Meet the specific needs of young people;
  • Develop a strategy of communication, raising awareness and training to counter radicalization;
  • Adopt a more neutral position for the state in the management of religious affairs.


1. Diversity and contrast
2. The never-ending work of building unity and secularity
3. The state in turmoil: “Tijani vs. Wahhabi”

1. Border regions: national or regional zones?
Rethinking the cross-border area as an open space
Poor infrastructure, isolation and extroversion
2. The complex characteristics of insecurity
Smuggling and illicit trafficking: between necessity and insecurity
Insecurity, Boko Haram and the response to terrorism
3. Citizens without borders?

1. Radicalization: imported or endogenous?
2. Strategy of approach and recruitment: fulfilling needs
3. Perceptions of extremist groups and their actions

1. Women: a silent and vulnerable majority?
2. How the isolation of young people helps extremist groups
3. What role do women and young people play in resistance?




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