Chad is a landlocked country in the North Central part of Africa. The country measures 495,755 square miles. Chad’s capital and largest city is N'Djamena. The capital sits at the confluence of rivers Chari and Logone. N'Djamena is a cosmopolitan city and has a population of over 700,000 people. Chad’s location in both north and central parts of Africa gives the country different bioclimatic zones. The northern part of Chad is mostly desert and averages less than 7.9 inches of rainfall annually. The Sahelian belt stretches across the central part of Chad giving it a semi-arid climate with between 7.9 and 23.6 inches of annual rainfall. The Sudanian Savanna zone is in the south of the country. The last zone is the Guinea zone in the southwestern part which has annual rainfall ranging between 39.4 and 47.2 inches.
Countries Bordering Chad
Six countries border Chad, these are Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Niger, Nigeria, Libya, and Sudan.
Chad and Cameroon share a common border of 693.45 miles to the southwest. These two countries share a land and lake border, Lake Chad. Border towns include Bongor, Kousseri, Mani, and N'Djamena. The nearest international airport to the borders is Maroua. This common border has several challenges, mainly of security as armed groups in the region use it to smuggle illegal diamonds from the CAR. Terrorism is also another threat to this border. In 2015, the two countries closed several border crossing points due to twin terrorist attacks.
Central African Republic
The Central Africa Republic borders Chad to the south. The two countries share a 966.85 mile-long border. The Chari and Logone Rivers that feed Lake Chad originate from the highlands of the CAR. Despite being neighbors and members of the same regional bodies, the relationship between these two countries has not been all good. CAR and Chad have been in conflict for some time, a situation that led the African Union (AU) and EU to send troops to the region. CAR accuses Chad of political and military involvement in its internal affairs, leading to the resignation of CAR's interim president Michel Djotodia in 2014. The fact that most of the AU troops are from Chad also complicate the relationship and border cooperation further.
Niger shares a 743.16 mile-long border to the west of Chad. Niger also borders Lake Chad. These two countries shared a cordial relationship for a long period of time. The two countries share similar geographic characteristics, political development, economic inequality, and challenges. In the past, Libya’s Muammar Ghaddafi referred to Niger’s Tuareg and Chad’s Toubou groups as Libya’s ethnic constituents. Gaddafi wanted to establish a Central African Islamic country. The common challenge, which came about recently, is the terrorist group, Boko Haram which has a base in Northern Nigeria but often crosses the porous Niger border to access Chad. Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria recently formed a joint military task force to combat the terror group within their respective territories, an initiative that continues to yield fruits.
Nigeria also borders Chad to the West but has small borderline measuring 52.82 miles long. Although Nigeria and Chad have recently had a cordial relationship, it was not always the case. In 1983, Nigeria undertook an economic austerity campaign that led to the expulsion of many foreign workers. Among the expelled were over 30,000 Chadians. Most of those expelled worked in the oil industry. The two have also had several border conflicts including on Lake Chad. These actions ruined the relationship between the two, but Nigeria later helped Chad achieve stability through its economic and military influence like limiting Libyan expansion into Chad without direct involvement. The two countries went on to become direct trade partners and Nigeria also offered thousands of jobs to Chadians. Currently, the two countries work together in fighting Islamic fundamentalism across their borders.
Libya is to the north of Chad. The two have common border measuring 652.44 miles long. Immediately after independence, Chad, especially the northern part, associated more with Libya. The friendship deteriorated after Libya laid claim on the Aouzou Strip. Gaddafi’s interests in Chad generated into the Chadian-Libyan conflicts of the 1970s and 1980s before ending through international arbitration in the early 1990s. The relationship between the two countries blossomed with trade and cooperation in different areas like security. After the death of Gaddafi, Chad-Libya relations deteriorated as militants who took over different Libyan territories and Chad rebels near the border took advantage of lawlessness in Libya. One time, Chad closed its Libyan border to prevent Libyan militants and arms from infiltrating into Chad. Chad also accused Libya of harboring Chadian rebels. This border remains volatile. Libyan militants cross to train in Chad. Chad rebels also cross to train in Libya. Authorities in both countries deny each other’s accusations.
Sudan is to the east of Chad and the two share an 871.78-mile long border. The two countries, even before independence, had strong social and religious ties. Even as their governments disagreed, the people retained the ties. In the 1960s, Sudan allowed Chadian FROLINAT rebels to train and organize within Sudan. The common fear of Gaddafi temporarily improved Sudan-Chad relations. Soon, the relationship deteriorated when Chad supported the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) that waged a war against Omar Al Bashir. This support ended in 1991 when another regime took over Chad. The relationship worsened in 2005 because of the Darfur region. The Darfur conflict and Chadian civil war strained the relationship between these two neighbors. Each country accused the other of supporting rebels within their territories. In 2006, the two countries ended diplomatic relationships which normalized later on in the year but officially resumed in 2008. Diplomatic relationships ended again the same year and resumed in 2010 after both sides agreed on joint border patrols and kicked out rebels from their territories.
Overall Situation With Neighbors
Being a landlocked country, and having developmental challenges, Chad needs a cordial relationship with its neighbors. Unfortunately, geopolitical, and internal issues continue to hamper these relationships. This situation led Chad to maintain a strong military at the expense of economic development and prosperity of its people, thus making a poor country overspend to maintain a force capable of keeping the country safe. Chad has had to protect its territory and natural resources like gravel, gold, limestone, petroleum, arable land, and lake from internal and external rebels and militants. Since independence, Chad found itself in a tight position of having to maneuver international relations with different regimes that have different characteristics. This position led to countries being friends or foes depending on the regime and strategic interests.