Chad is not a likely place to take refuge from violence. Only five years ago, in February 2008, rebel militias battled their way into the capital city of N’djamena and nearly overthrew President Idriss Deby Itno, who still holds power. Most foreign workers evacuated—if only for the worst of the fighting. Chadians scattered into bush villages and towns and at least 50,000 N’djamena residents made a desperate trip across the Chari river border to seek refuge in neighboring Cameroon. Some refugees still live in Cameroon, unwilling to return to Chad.
Ironically, Chad today is the island of calm in a region bristling with political and religious strife. Players making headlines include the Muslim-led Seleka rebels of Central African Republic; Tuareg militias operating in Mali and Niger; Boko Haram jihadist fighters spread throughout Northern Nigeria and North Cameroon; the Sudanese Government, in its own conflict with non-Arab populations within its borders, including Western Darfur; and rebel armies in Libya, still reeling from the 2011 overthrow of its dictator and resulting destruction of civil and political infrastructure.
Though Chad has a short track record for keeping its own armed rebel elements at bay and neighboring conflicts outside its borders, in early 2013 President Deby sent 2,000 Chadian troops to aid the African regional coalition (MISMA) and French forces in Mali against ethnic Tuareg separatists. The official motivation was eliminating the threat of al-Qaeda affiliates sprouting up within the Tuareg conflict—from afar. Following the success of French-led Operation Serval, in May Chadian soldiers returned home to a day of national celebration.
For now, Chadians have relief from many of the conflicts plaguing Northern and Central Africa. But with the present measure of political stability and modest economic growth in Chad, they may see an increase in those seeking refuge from persecution and the privations of war.
Read more about the Nigerian and Sudanese Christians taking shelter in Chad.