Chad: Between the oil curse and a family feud

Discovering oil should be a blessing when you are at the bottom of the human development indicators. Not for Chad. Since its independence, the landlocked country has juggled with political instability and regional conflicts. Under this context, President Idriss Deby and his family have needed money to ensure the subservience of a network of enablers and security providers, his family being at the forefront. As oil barrel prices are reaching historic lows, the president’s clan does not intend to lose out in the process.

Oil against poverty

Oil production started in 2003. Since then, it has become 73% of the state revenues, and 90% of exports, so about US$ 12 billion in total for 17 years. This new flow of money should have alleviated Chadians poverty. It did not.

In what is now oil-producing areas, mango farmers have been deprived of a regular income. For them, oil means less money. Meanwhile, according to a 1999 law.

80% of oil revenues were supposed to be allocated to infrastructure and services, as well as a future generation trust.

But these provisions were made before the latest dramatic drop in oil price, instead, the government must now use all the oil revenues to pay back its debts. Now, just crumbs are devoted to developing the nation.

All the promises made when the black gold was discovered are now obliterated. And citizens have not seen a positive impact on their daily life. But where all the money went? 

Deby: the rock in a sea of instability 

Idriss Deby Itno is a strong man in an unstable region: In the north, Libya is at war; Darfur is still facing a conflict while Sudan faces a difficult transition in the East, and the Boko Haram insurgency is creating turmoil in the south-west. In each case, N’Djamena plays a crucial role. But Chadian’s influence goes beyond its immediate neighbourhood: its army has been critical to the French-led Operation Serval who allowed to recapture Northern Mali from the hands of Islamist insurgents and was a key partner of the following-up Barkhane operation, the UN Mission in Mali and the G-5 Sahel initiative to implement a pan-Sahel stabilization force.

President Deby is a good world citizen and has become a factor of stability in a volatile region. Although his position remains weak in his own country, where his legacy is more contested. On February 7th, 2019, Deby thanked France for blocking the way to a column of insurgents on their way to the capital. It was not the first time that the former colonial power, who still has a military base in Chad, would mingle in Chadian affairs. In 2005, a coup was narrowly avoided with the help of France. In 2008, rebels were, once again, stopped from moving to the capital by French forces.

In the name of preserving weak stability, a strong regime settled in N’Djamena. Since Deby entered the capital in 1980, by the side of dictator Hissene Habré, he always kept a close eye on power.

In 1990, Deby became the president of a sick country with the support of French secret services, after a decade of a bloody dictatorship that killed more than 40,000 Chadians.

The international community, notably France and the United States, during the Cold War, gave a blank check to Habré’s regime, as he was perceived as a way to contain the influence of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. When the Habré’s regime was not sustainable anymore, Deby became the new face of stability, imposing his clan and tight control over the security forces.

A family’s business

Idriss Deby was re-elected in 2016, but the six opposition candidates rejected the results. Since he came into power in the 1990s, the president has locked down the regime, appointing relatives and friends at all levels of government, including his wife. But to remain in power, the regime needs money to feed its network. The Deby Clan has funnelled US$ 10.76 billion of public funds into fiscal paradises, according to the Panama Papers. 

The list of profiteers is long (see visuals) and infightings are frequent. When one of the president’s sons died under unclear circumstances in Paris, despite a travel ban, a confrontation erupted during his funerals, a symptom of the ongoing family quarrels. 

While the family has a firm grip over state revenues, few public funds are left for services for Chadians. Four relatives of President Deby have the biggest share among them: Hinda Deby Itno, Mahamat Zene Hisssein Bourma, Ibrahim Hissein Bourma and Salay Deby.

Deby’s family and jobs

ZAKARIA Idriss DebyAmbassador to the United Arab Emirates
General Mahamat Idriss DebyGeneral Director for the Security Service of the State Institutions (GDSSSI)
SEID Idriss DebyDeputy Director of Rafineerie Chad
Hissein Idriss DebyGeneral Director of Rahad Chad
General Nassouri Idriss DebyPresident’s Private Chief of Staff
Colonel Kerim Idriss DebyMilitary Coordinator at the Department of Foreign Affairs.
General Ahmat Youssouf Mahamat ItnoChief of the General Staff of the Armies, 1st Deputy (CGSA)
Sougour Youssouf Mahamat ItnoAmbassador to South Africa
General Oumar Deby ItnoGeneral Director of the Strategic Reserve
General Ousman Bahar Mahamat ItnoCommander of the Joint Forces Chad, Central Africa, and Sudan.
General Hassan Sendel Mahamat ItnoSpecial Advisor to the General Direction of the Security Service  Institutions (GDSSI)
Hamid Hissein Mahamat ItnoGeneral Coordinator of Water and Forests
Idriss Ibrahim Mahamat ItnoDirector General of Budget of the finance minister
Koubra Hissein Mahamat ItnoManaging Director of Chadian Water management
Haoua Hissein Mahamat ItnoDirector of the Telecommunications minister
Nassour Bahar Mahamat ItnoFirst Counsellor, Embassy to Canada
Mariam Hissein Mahamat ItnoDirector of Administrative and Financial Affairs of Radio Chad.
Hamaday Haïga DebySNE Administrative and Financial Director
Colonel Ousman Kadidja Deby ItnoNational Coordinator of the Support Forces, Ministry of Finance.
Mahamat Haïga DebyAdministrative and Financial Director of Chad Oil and Gas Corporation
Colonel Daoud SendelDeputy Military Zone Commander at Amtiman
Colonel Seby Sendel Mahamat ItnoRegiment Commander AESB
Colonel Sougour Kerim DebyDeputy Director of General Intelligence
Ali Timan Deby ItnoManaging Director of Habitat Bank
Mahamat Timan Deby ItnoGeneral Manager of the Cement Plant
General Sidick Timan Deby ItnoDirector of Military Engineering
Abbas Cheno Déby ItnoGovernor of the Bank of Central African States (BEAC).
Souleymane Ermia Mahamat ItnoGeneral Paying Treasurer of Chad
General Amir Youssouf Mahamat ItnoCommander of the Chad-Sudanese Joint Forces
Hissein cheno Deby ItnoDirector of Wiretaps at NSA

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