In the latest travel ban Executive Order Chad is included the reason being, “The Secretary of Homeland Security assesses that the following countries continue to have “inadequate” identity-management protocols, information-sharing practices, and risk factors…such that entry restrictions and limitations are recommended: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen.”
In the order, there is a very clear admission that Chad is an “important and valuable counterterrorism partner of the United States”. However, the argument is Chad does not adequately share public safety and terrorism-related information. In addition, there is a claim that several terrorist groups are active in Chad including elements of Boko Haram, ISIS West Africa, and Al Qaida.
The latter argument can be discounted almost immediately on the basis that other countries, even more affected by terrorist groups are not included in the list. Also, if Chad is a valuable partner, how is it not adequately sharing information?
Chadian Human Rights Association director, Nour Ibedou told The Washington Post, “The reaction has been astonishment and then indignation. We do not understand how our country achieved this lack of trust from the United States.”
The Chadian government for its part said it, “expresses its incomprehension in the face of the official reasons behind this decision, reasons that contrast with the efforts and the ongoing commitments of Chad in the fight against terrorism.”
Indeed there are no indications that Chad is a terrorism hotspot at this point and this decision flies in the face of every official record on the levels of terrorism in Chad. In 2016, Chad had only 4 attacks by Boko Haram while Nigeria had 133 attacks (120 in Borno State, 7 in Adamawa and 6 in Yobe State). Why then is Chad on the list when Nigeria is not?
John Campbell, former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria during the Bush tenure told NPR, “Chad played a significant role in fighting Boko Haram from north-eastern Nigeria. And pound for pound, the Chadian military is one of the toughest around, particularly in West Africa.”
The African Union Commission also expressed its dismay at the decision to include Chad in the travel ban list. In a statement, the AUC said a meeting of the leadership of regional anti-Boko Haram task force “expressed bewilderment at the imposition of the unjust travel ban on the Republic of Chad, in particular, given its important role in the fight against terrorism in the Lake Chad Basin, Northern Mali, and the Sahel.”
The travel ban will come into effect on the 18th of October and it is a lesson: The United States has no permanent friends. It should be remembered that the regime in power in Chad is autocratic but has still enjoyed United States support due to being a “linchpin for terrorism in the region”. While the United States goes around playing big brother in matters of democracy, it is friends with Chad’s Idriss Deby.
It is in Deby’s Chad that a video of an opposition leader’s teenage daughter being gang-raped sparked outrage in the country. Attackers included sons of Chadian officials. Last year, reports suggested that several military officials disappeared after the election for voting against Deby. In the Freedom House report “The Worst of the Worst 2012”, Chad was included in the most repressive list of states that severely suppress opposition political activity, impede independent organisations and censor or punish criticism of the State. What friendship would a self-righteous America have with such a country”
Clearly, the United States of America has always pursued an America First policy and only now is that being brazenly articulated through the undiplomatic rhetoric of Trump. It would be foolish to think friendships with the USA are built on principle; they are built on convenience, American convenience. Alliances with the USA are always on American terms. Chad has been embarrassed for the whole world to watch and this is a good warning for other countries. There are no surprises here, just the USA being the USA.