Northern Chad continues to be ravaged by mines and explosive remnants of war
Since the 1990s, the world has been fighting against the use of anti-personnel mines which led to the adoption of the Ottawa Convention on the ban of mines in 1997. Today, even though numerous countries have completely gotten rid of mines, some are still facing this terrible threat.
Chad is one of the countries that still suffer from the threats posed by mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). The conflict with Libya, in the 1970s, left the inhabitants of the north of the country many areas contaminated with mines, ERW and cluster bombs. Since then, these risks have forced residents and herders to take longer routes to avoid mined areas. According to data from the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA) national database, 90% of mine-polluted zones in Chad are located in the North and East, commonly called B.E.T for the Borkou, Ennedi and Tibesti provinces.
The Ouadi Doum minefield, one of the densest in the world
The Ouadi Doum minefield (Ennedi province) is also located in Chad, and it is considered to be one of the densest minefields in the world, according to the specialized NGOs Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and Humanity & Inclusion (H&I). The contaminated area is so vast that its demining would require several years of work. In fact, the city was occupied by Libyan forces during the Chadian-Libyan conflict and remains heavily contaminated with anti-tank mines, anti-personnel mines and ERW from this time. As a reference, a landmine is an explosive charge designed and placed so as to be triggered by the involuntary action of the enemy, be it people (anti-personnel mine) or vehicles (anti-tank mine).
In addition, the area was bombarded by the French army in 1986 with the aim of damaging the airstrip built by the Libyans. Even though already isolated due to its geographic position, the population of Ouadi Doum has been suffering for more than 30 years from an increased isolation due to mine and ERW contamination.
The heavy goods vehicles route, which used to go through Ouadi Doum, allowed trades between the North (Libya), the Center (Faya Largeau) and the South (N’Djamena) which were profitable to local populations who could then benefit from a regular supply of essential goods. Today, the presence of the minefield has restricted trade. At the regional level, people, goods, and capital movements are limited and reduce the development potential of the region, while at the national level, Chad is deprived of an axis of exchange with the outside. Furthermore, herding -the main source of income for local populations- is severely affected, both by a more difficult supply and by the dangers faced by the cattle.
Chad reported 3,157 victims of mines, explosives remnants of war since 2012
Since 2012, Chad has reported 3,157 victims of mines and ERW, mostly in the northern regions. Despite the heavy contamination and the numerous accidents, there are only two rehabilitation centers in Chad, managed by the Secours Catholique pour le Développement (SECADEV), in the south of the country. In addition to human casualties, cattle losses are also significant: camels, zebus, goats are often found wandering in the minefields. The loss of these animals cannot be underestimated as cattle is an important indicator of wealth in Chad. Camel is invaluable for transport, milk and subsistence. Their roaming greatly increases the risk of accidents, as nomads, while attempting to get their animals back, may accidentally step into a minefield. Approximately 3 million camels out of 19 million animals (goats, sheep, horses) circulate in Chad , mostly in the northern region.
Finally, with the proliferation of migration routes towards Libya, northern Chad has become a crossing point for sub-Saharans migrants, often poorly informed and therefore more at risk of finding themselves in a minefield or in the presence of ERW. According to IOM, the registered number of migration flows during 2020 was 66% higher than the previous year in the cities of Zouarké (Tibesti), Ounianga Kebir (Ennedi ouest) and Faya (Borkou). These cities are not the final destinations for migrants, therefore it is feared that they may end up facing mines and ERW dangers, notably in Ouadi Doum, while desperately seeking to reach Europe.
Contamination in Ouadi Doum by anti-personnel mines, anti-tank mines and ERW, while representing a major obstacle to the socioeconomic development of the region, also directly threatens the physical security of neighboring villagers and nomads. This major minefield must be eliminated in order to improve the lives of Ennedi inhabitants and bring Chad closer to its objective of a “mine-free Chad by 2025”.