Panel 1. Escape routes

Chair and introduction: Andrea Behrends
Alfred Ngarmam – Itinéraires d’évasion au Tchad. Comprendre la fédération 
Sali Bakari – Mahamat Abdel kader alias Baba Laddé: autopsie d’un personnage controversé
Adamou Amadou – De la mobilité pastorale à la mobilité d’échappatoire évasion
(Julien Brachet was unable to make it to N’Djamena)

The first panel, entitled Escape Routes and chaired by Andrea Behrends, focused on mobility under duress. The papers drew attention to how duress enables new forms of mobility within Africa, thereby raising reconsidering notions of agency and victimisation in contexts of endured hardship.

Alfred Ngarmam spoke about rural escapism in Chad and argued that Ndjaména’s centripetal force is largely a consequence of Chad’s highly centralised governance structures. However, he drew attention to the deeper historical roots of the phenomenon, that go back to the slave trade, governance in the colonial era, socio-economic reasons, and continuing cycles of conflict and insecurity.

While Ngarmam’s paper drew attention to mobility in relation to structural factors, Sali Bakari’s paper focused on the extraordinary life story of an individual, Baba Laddé (Father from the Bush). His life path seems a series of escapes: he went to Ndjamena, became a gendarme, then left the gendarmerie to become involved in fraudulent activities, and just before being arrested be fled abroad, then became involved in politics and founded a political party, and later joins an islamist group. From Laddé’s life story questions about agency emerge – is Laddé’s life a continuum of escapes, as Bakari proposed? Or should we see him as a chameleon, whole power lies in his ability to adapt to a changing context in order to survive? Bakari suggests that while Laddé’s strength may have been his creativity, he also became hostage of his own creativity.

In the final paper, Adamou Amadou deconstructed the notion of mobility and argued that while we often consider the mobility of nomads like the Mbororo a normal part of their life, we should look at the causes of mobility to understand the different meanings that acts of moving to another place may have. Even though its outer appearance may be similar, the internalised mobility of nomads is a very different social phenomenon than mobility under constraint, for example in response to conflict, violence or political instability.

While focusing on different levels of analysis (structure, the individual, a community), the papers all offered a more nuanced understanding of mobility and escapism in duress. Such mobility may be better understood as an attempt to open up new spaces in order to manage constraint and hardship and to mitigate socio-political challenges. As such, it relies largely on the creativity of individuals and communities, which as Amadou reminded the audience of, is in the blood of Nomads.

Report by Meike de Goede

The panel “Escape routes”

The Connecting in Times of Duress team has followed people moving through fields of conflict and duress. Movement is not an anomaly but inherent to people’s nature. In this panel we look at movement in terms of escaping duress. To escape is defined as the act of breaking free from confinement or control. Yet escaping is not unidirectional, but multidirectional, people move back and forth to all sides and directions over time. While some decide to leave, others decide to stay, or even to move into conflict zones because crisis offers opportunities as well. By escaping one can thus choose to move away from something, escaping coercion for instance, but one can choose to escape towards something too, namely towards better opportunities, aspirations and dreams.

Escaping does not necessarily entail physical movement. Escapism is defined as the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy. Escape routes can therefore be found in the minds (dreaming) without ever being made tangible, yet they are not less real, as dreams oftentimes have very concrete consequences. The role of ICTs and information flows herein is paramount in both designing the escape route, in controlling the ‘escapees’ and in the creation of alternative realities.

Whether dealing with refugees in search for safety or young urbanites who flee stagnation, the escape route panel invites contributions that concentrate on decisions made around escaping, the planning of escape routes, the dreaming about alternative realities, possible blockades and deviations along the route, the narratives of voyage, the physical routes, the political struggles. It also invites contributions that discuss the ways in which individuals try to break free from confinement and control by establishing and organizing themselves in alternative orders, such as religious and political associations, or by escaping into another (new) identity.

Alfred Ngarmam

Itinéraires d’évasion au Tchad. Comprendre la fédération

Le Tchad est un Etat unitaire centralisé. Les leviers politiques, administratifs, économiques et socioculturels sont concentrés dans la capitale. Ce mode de développement à partir de sommet guide les itinéraires d’évasion de la population.

L’exode rural est un itinéraire pour les jeunes de la zone méridionale d’échapper aux conséquences des conflits agriculteurs/éleveurs auxquels certaines autorités administratives et militaires prennent parti en faveur des éleveurs. Au nord du pays, la recherche d’un milieu propice au commerce pousse les jeunes vers la capitale. La recherche des établissements scolaires secondaires et universitaires adéquats amène les jeunes vers les villes; les crimes, les délits, les pratiques culturelles (sororat, lévirat, sorcellerie…) sont des mobiles de déplacement de la population vers les villes ou les pays voisins pour échapper aux arrestations et amendes arbitraires. La conduite d’addiction permet aux jeunes de s’évader des injustices sociales et de la pauvreté. Faute de quitter la campagne, les jeunes s’adonnent à l’alcoolisme et au tabagisme. En milieu urbain, l’évasion se fait à travers la recherche de meilleures opportunités. Les jeunes diplômés, faute d’emploi, trouvent opportun de militer dans les associations des droits de l’homme. D’autres deviennent des pasteurs ou prêtres de l’Eglise. Les désœuvrés se constituent en esclaves volontaires. Ils travaillent de 07h à 18h du 1er au 30 chez les nantis pour gagner un salaire mensuel de 10.000 FCEFA. Les campagnes sont vidées de mains d’œuvre valides ; conséquences, manque de production et de productivité agricoles, pauvreté, violences physiques, morales et sexuelles, cherté de vie, bidonvilles et les maladies y afférentes…

Le développement à la base à travers l’Etat fédéral, principe de partage des pouvoirs, des responsabilités, d’autonomisation du pouvoir local face au pouvoir central, de participation des groupes sociaux internes à la prise de décision et aux ressources nationales, un meilleur mode de partage du gâteau national peut être une esquisse de solution aux évasions au Tchad.

The escape routes in Chad: Understanding the federation

Chad is a unitary centralized State. The political, administrative, economic and socio-cultural levers are concentrated in the capital city. This top-down development model dictates the path of people looking to escape the realities of life.

Rural exodus is a route for the southern youth trying to escape the consequences of conflicts between farmers and cattle breeders, in which many administrative and political authorities take the side of cattle breeders. In the north of the country, the search for a favorable environment for trade drives the youth toward the capital city. The search for appropriate secondary schools and universities also brings the youth to the cities. Crime and offenses, as well as cultural practices such as sororate and levirate marriages and witchcraft, are other motivations behind the displacement of the population to cities or neighbouring countries, in order to escape arbitrary arrests and fines. Addiction is a way for the youth to escape social injustice and poverty. The youth who fail to leave the countryside indulge in alcoholism and smoking. In urban areas, escaping occurs through the search for better opportunities. The unemployed graduate youth find an outlet in militancy with human rights associations. Others become church ministers or priests. Those unemployed, eager for any job opportunity, volunteer to become domestic slaves, working for the rich from 7 in the morning to 6 in the evening and for a whole month against a monthly wage of 10.000 FCEFA. The countryside is emptied of valid manpower. The consequences are the decrease of agricultural production and productivity, poverty, physical, moral and sexual violence, high living costs, poor living conditions in slums and related diseases, etc.

Grassroots development through the federal State, as a principle for power and responsibility sharing, of empowerment of local power vis-à-vis central power, of participation of local social groups in decision making and in the management of national resources, a better national benefit gain, could be the beginning of a solution to the various types of escape in Chad.

Sali Bakari

Mahamat Abdel kader alias Baba Laddé: autopsie d’un personnage controversé

Originaire de la partie méridionale du Tchad, métis qui fait prévaloir sa filiation à l’ethnie peul, Baba Laddé est un gendarme dont le parcours oscille entre chef zaraguina et leader d’un mouvement d’opposition armé qui, consciemment et/ou inconsciemment, recentre son combat sur la communauté peul. A l’aide d’outils de communication, notamment internet, ce personnage se fait une notoriété en s’arrogeant à la fois le grade de général et le titre de baba laddé – maitre de la brousse.

Seul dans les capitales africaines, Bangui, Abuja, Niamey et N’Djamena ou dans le maquis parmi ses éléments, ce personnage à la lisière du banditisme transfrontalier et de l’opposition armée continue de défrayer la chronique. Ce texte vise (a) à retracer son passage d’une opposition armée virtuelle à la constitution d’une rébellion opérationnelle avec une vraie capacité de nuisance et ensuite (b) de présenter son itinéraire du maquis à la prison en relevant quelques étapes de son ascension sur le plan politique.

Mahamat Abdel Kader alias Baba Laddé: autopsy of a controversial character

Baba Laddé, who comes from the Southern part of Chad, is of mixed ethnic background and claims his ethnicity as a Fulani. Above all, he is a gendarme whose career varies between chief zaraguina and leader of an armed opposition movement which, knowingly and/or unknowingly, refocuses its fight on the Fulani community. With the help of communication tools, notably the Internet, this character became well-known by assuming both the rank of general and the title of baba laddé – master of the bush.

Whether he is alone in some African capital cities like Bangui, Abuja, Niamey, and N’Djamena, or in the resistance movement among his men, this character, on the edge of cross-border criminality and armed opposition, continues to make headlines. This text aims to (a) trace back his switchover from virtual armed opposition to the creation of an operational rebellion with a real capacity to cause trouble and then (b) to present his itinerary from the resistance movement to prison by highlighting a few stages of his rise in the political field.

Adamou Amadou

De la mobilité pastorale à la mobilité d’échappatoire évasion

« On a été reçu par le Président Bozizé pour lui exprimer notre inquiétude sur l’ampleur qu’est en train de prendre les exactions sur la communauté Mbororo dans les brousses et des évasions des populations vers des pays voisins. Quelque temps après, sa réponse a été sans appel : « qui sont ces gens qui fuient la RCA ? » il lui a été donné comme réponse, que ce sont les Mbororo. Ce à quoi il nous a répondu. « Alors qu’ils partent. D’ailleurs ils ne sont même pas des vraies Centrafricains ». De cette réponse, j’ai senti qu’il y’avait plus d’avenir pour nous en Centrafrique. J’ai décidé de partir au Cameroun » (propos d’Alh Salé président de réfugiés Mandjou le 22 Juillet 2014 sur les raisons de son départ de la RCA).

La situation vécue par les Mbororo nomades en RCA peu avant et quelques temps après la prise de pouvoir par l’ex-Président François Bozizé comme l’illustrent ces propos de Alh Salé a été la cause principale de leurs évasions vers le Cameroun où ils espéraient un avenir meilleurs. En fait, comme l’a souligné Tennebaye (Tennebaye, 2015), victimes d’exactions récurrentes depuis 30 ans, ils sont également la communauté la plus touchée par la crise centrafricaine, ils ont dues fuir leur pays. Certains qui sont partis à temps ont pu emprunter des voitures pour acheminer leurs bagages. Les bétails, pour ceux qui en disposaient, encore, ont été conduit par des jeunes à travers les pistes des brousses jusqu’au Cameroun. D’autres qui sont restés jusqu’à la détérioration de la situation ont dû se sauver par tout moyen. C’est dans ce sens que ce papier vise à examiner non seulement l’itinéraire des couloirs de ces évasions, mais aussi à scruter la réalité de leur vie dans leur nouvel environnement.

From pastoral mobility to escape or evasion

« We met President Bozize to express our concern over the growing magnitude of the exactions against the Mbororo community in the bushes and the movement of the population to neighbouring countries. The response he gave sometime later was without appeal: ‘who are these people fleeing the Central African Republic?’. It was explained to him that they were the Mbororo. His answer to us was then: ‘So let them go. Besides, they are not even true Central Africans’. This response gave me the feeling that there was no longer a future for us in the Central African Republic. I then decided to go to Cameroon » (from an interview with Alh Sale, president of the Mandjou refugees, on the reason why he left CAR, 22 July 2014).

The situation of the nomadic Mbororo in the Central African Republic just before and after former President François Bozize seized power was the main reason why they moved to Cameroon in the search for a better future, as illustrated by Alh Saleh’s words quoted above. In fact, as highlighted by Tennebaye (Tennebaye, 2015), being the victims of recurrent exactions over the past thirty years, as well as the most affected community by the CAR crisis, forced them to flee their country. Some of them, who could leave in time, were able to use vehicles to bring their luggage. The cattle, for those who still owned them, were driven by young people across the trails of the bushes to Cameroon. Those who stayed until the situation deteriorated had to find a way or another to save their lives. This presentation aims not only to examine the escape routes of the Mbororo people but also to investigate the reality of their lives in their new environment.

Julien Brachet

Être étranger et voyageur au Sahara tchadien. Isolement, communication et escroquerie

Cette communication vise à interroger la manière dont le voyage d’individus provenant de pays « en paix » (Afrique de l’Ouest et centrale) vers un pays « en guerre » (Libye depuis 2011) peut être considéré comme un itinéraire d’évasion en soi. Au-delà de la distinction entre fuite et quête, et de la question des motivations des voyageurs, toujours aussi plurielles que difficiles à établir, il s’agira de s’intéresser aux parcours en eux-mêmes à travers le Tchad, et principalement à travers le Sahara tchadien. Le Tchad n’a pas la réputation d’être un important couloir de passage des migrations transsahariennes, comparé à ses voisins directs que sont le Niger et le Soudan. Les transports de personnes vers l’Afrique du Nord y sont peu développés et très peu structurés, et, jusqu’à récemment, tenter sa chance par le Tchad était une aventure individuelle qu’il fallait chaque fois inventer, par manque d’expériences partagées. En l’absence de professionnels du transport de passagers comme on peut en trouver ailleurs, et de réseaux de circulation de l’information migratoire – tant sur les parcours, leurs possibilités et leurs contrôles, que sur les destinations, leurs opportunités et leurs risques, toujours changeants – l’arrivée récente de la téléphonie mobile dans les oasis du BET a radicalement transformé l’expérience des étrangers qui traversent cette région. Dans un contexte sociale (et écologique) jugé hostile à bien des égards, le sentiment d’appartenance à une communauté de voyageur en mouvement est renforcé, étiré dans le temps et dans l’espace, et donne lieu à l’instauration de réseaux informels et désintéressés de communication de l’information migratoire par les migrants eux-mêmes. Entre solidarité et individualisme, la téléphonie permet de préparer la suite du voyage autant que d’affronter au mieux son quotidien dans les oasis tchadiennes où le statut d’étranger prête à bien des déboires. Cette communication montrera en effet que si la guerre crée bien des opportunités économiques pour qui a le courage de prendre des risques, nombre d’aventuriers originaires d’Afrique subsaharienne se retrouvent confrontés à des petites arnaques et à de grands dangers inattendus dès leur arrivée au BET où certains séjournent malgré eux pendant des semaines voire des mois avant de reprendre leur route.

Being a foreigner and travelling across the Chadian Sahara: Isolation, communication, and fraud

This communication looks at how people from countries ‘at peace’ (West and Central Africa) travelling to a country ‘at war’ (Libya since 2011) can be considered as an escape route itself. Beyond the distinction between flight and quest, and the question of the motivations of the travellers, which are always as plural as difficult to apprehend, we will look into the escape routes themselves across Chad, and in particular across the Chadian Sahara. Chad is not known as an important corridor for trans-Saharan migration, compared to its direct neighbours Niger and Sudan. The transport of people to North Africa is undeveloped and unstructured and, until recently, each journey across Chad was an individual adventure that had to be invented, for lack of a shared experience. In the absence of professionals of passenger transport as can be found elsewhere, and of migration information networks – both on the possibilities and checkpoints of the itineraries, as well as on the destinations and their ever-changing opportunities and risks – the recent arrival of mobile phone in the oasis of BET has radically transformed the experience of foreigners travelling across this region. In a social (and ecological context) deemed hostile in many respects, the feeling of belonging to a community of travellers on the move is strengthened, stretched over time and space, and leads to the establishment of informal and selfless migration communication and information networks by the migrants themselves. Between solidarity and individualism, the mobile phone helps both to prepare the rest of the journey and to confront as best as possible the everyday difficulties of life in the Chadian oasis, where the status of foreigner can lead to many disappointments. This communication will show that if war can be the source of many economic opportunities for those who are courageous enough to take risks, many adventurers from sub-Saharan Africa are subjected to small scams and unexpected dangers when they reach the BET, where some stay for weeks and sometimes months against their will before continuing their journey.