Why were Hundreds of Young Men arrested for “Clandestinely Traveling to Libya”?

Photo Credit: Hunter, Marcena. (2019) with rebel locations marked by Peter Lee
Photo Credit: Hunter, Marcena. (2019) with rebel locations marked by Peter Lee

In the last month over 240 young men have been arrested in the Bourkou and Kanem provinces in Chad. All were arrested for “clandestinely traveling to Libya,” despite being hundreds of miles from the border. All were traveling in large groups of fifty or more. Why a large and sudden migration to Libya? And why were they arrested so far from the border?

Around August 3rd, 118 persons (including some under 18 years of age) were arrested in Kanem for “clandestinely traveling to Libya

On the 10th of August, 55 persons were arrested while “on an illegal road that leads to Libya” in Kanem

On the 12th of August 60 persons in 15 vehicles were arrested in the Bourkou province about 300 km (186 miles) from Faya.

Article 17: Every Chadian has the right to move freely within the national territory, to leave and return to it. His rights can only be infringed under the conditions defined by law.

Transitional Military Council Charter

While the Chadian government often claims that Human Trafficking is the problem, a recent report (made after the arrests) by the US State Department seems to discredit these claims.

The [Chadian] Ministry of Justice legally established its national anti-trafficking committee and designated a focal point to lead the country’s human trafficking efforts. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity. Authorities did not report investigating, prosecuting, or convicting any confirmed trafficking cases, and the government did not report designating members of or inaugurating its national anti-trafficking committee as required by the country’s 2018 law.

State Department of the United States of America

While these arrests are not necessarily unprecedented, both the large numbers and isolation of the incidents are.

If not Human Trafficking, what could cause over 240 people to willingly leave their homes and sneak across the border to Libya?

Gold has a significant draw and has been attracting immigrants and others looking for easy money since 2012. Such people come from all over Africa and rely on ‘people smugglers’ to take them to the gold fields and beyond. Many immigrants travel through Chad on their way to Libya, hoping for a better life in Europe. These immigrants to the gold fields, Libya, and Europe are usually guided through the Sahara desert in small groups by ‘people smugglers’ who transport their passengers (often without papers) through the desert and past military and police checkpoints. However, such travel has reduced in volume due to the violence around the gold fields and across the north of Chad.

Map detailing gold mining areas and migration routes to mines in Chad. Photo Credit: Hunter, Marcena. (2019) with annotations by Peter Lee

While those arrested recently in Kanem and Bourkou may have been traveling common gold migration routes, they might not have been in it for the gold. Not only are there gold fields in the northern border regions, but also rebel groups whose ranks are growing rapidly due to the increasing tension and discontent in the country.

Rebel groups are quickly growing in popularity, especially in the Kanem, Bourkou, and Tibesti regions. The apparent lack of real democratic portals and the authoritative manner in which the Transitional Council operates often forces the population to turn to rebellion in an attempt to initiate change.

Many citizens experience a feeling of helplessness in regard to the current political situation and the static condition of government for the past 31 years. Recent rumors indicate that the FACT rebel group is engaged in heavy recruiting for a new attempt to take over. Many FACT leaders, including their president, are from the BET region and have family ties to the region where the aforesaid arrests were made. It is rumored that citizens from all across the region are traveling to join the rebels.

The government has recently put special emphasis on preventing “illegal” travel through the desert, including the Governor of Bourkou’s recent chase after “thugs”. The three day military mission through the desert was lead by Major General Ismat Issakha Acheikh. General Acheikh’s team found “equipment used for military missions”

It remains to be seen whether dialogue attempts between Transition representatives and Rebel forces will be successful, if not, another armed rebellion is likely in the coming months.

Related news in French:






Peter Lee

Freelance Journalist and Editor, currently working with Heartbeat Africa News covering events in "The Heart of Africa". Contact Peter Lee in English or French at PeterLee@heartbeatafrica.news

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