Friday, February 23, 2007

The "T" is silent and so is the prime minister

The Prime Minister of Tchad died today. A longtime victim of heart problems, he died in a Paris hospital while on leave for medical attention. He was 57. Or possibly 58 or 59. No one seems to know exactly when he was born.

But it doesn't matter, because he was not a terribly important politician. Pascal Yoadimnadji was appointed PM almost exactly two years ago, on February 3, 2005. A longtime member of Tchad's ruling "Patriotic Salvation Movement" party, he was the fifth prime minister in six years.

Tchad, also known as just "Chad," is a landlocked African country that was formerly a colony of France. It's located in a particularly bad neighborhood, with Libya on one side and the Sudan on the other. Both countries have a long history of meddling in Tchadian affairs.

The country is ruled by Colonel Idriss Deby, a military strongman who came to power in a 1990 coup which deposed the previous strongman. He's been somewhat more gentle than his predecessors, introducing some democratic reforms here and there. But he's also simultaneously strengthened his own rule. This is actually a fairly common tactic among African leaders, I notice. Amid much fanfare they create a democratic parliament and hold free elections, but then very quickly after they pass a constitutional amendment eliminating term limits for the president, or something like that. A real "two steps forward one step back" syndrome.

No party other than the Patriotic Salvation Movement has ever controlled a majority of seats in the Tchadian legislature, and as a result the prime ministers of Tchad are just faceless technocrats who the President rotates around as he pleases, with little consequence for day-to-day governance.

Though he is something of an autocrat, Colonel Deby's regime still enjoys a lot of western support. This is mainly because his strong government is seen as a regional counter-balance to Quaddaffi, and now the fanatical death squads of the Sudan, as well.

Here's another fun fact about Tchad. Their flag is exactly the same as Romania's. This has caused tension between the two countries.


Anonymous said...

I'm not familiar with Chad or Chadians, but I have something of an admiration for them, I think they're a gutsy bunch.
In the 1980s Libya and Chad fought a border war, Libya claimed a strip of northern Chad. The dirt poor Chadians had no money for fancy fighter jets or Main Battle Tanks so they fashioned technicals. They put guys with rocket launchers in the back of Toyota pickups and the trucks would zip in and around Libyan Army encampments at night shooting them up.
Supposedly a foreign observer asked a Chadian Army officer if this tactic would work with a first class army, to which the officer replied, "No, but we weren't fighting a first class army were we?"

Eric Stimson said...

Hey, it works...

Anonymous said...

I wonder how this will affect- or if it will affect- relations with Darfur.