The minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Chad, Moussa Faki Mahamat, was recently here in Addis Ababa to attend a meeting at the African Union. Chad became an independent nation under its first president, François Tombalbaye, on August 11, 1960. This process took place after a referendum on territorial autonomy was conducted on September 28, 1958. Under this referendum French Equatorial Africa was dissolved, and its four constituent states – Gabon, Congo, the Central African Republic and Chad became autonomous members of the French Community.
Capital’s Elias Gebreselassie spoke with Moussa Faki Mahamat about the relations between Chad and Ethiopia and the significance of the new embassy opened in Addis Ababa.
Capital: Tell us about relations between Ethiopia and Chad.
Moussa Faki Mahamat: The Ethiopia-Chad relationship began long before Chad gained its independence from France in 1960. Since then our relationship has remained excellent. We have worked strongly together on a regional and continental basis. Since Ethiopia is the seat of the African Union working closely with Ethiopia is a priority for us.
Capital: Could you tell us about Chad’s economy?
Moussa Faki Mahamat: First of all Chad’s economy is based on agriculture and it will remain so. The recent unearthing of fuel in Chad is a good addition to develop this agricultural based economy. Using the income generated through oil we have a plan to expand the agricultural and livestock sectors and the infrastructure of the country. I know that Ethiopia is also an agricultural country. I also know that Ethiopia is exploring to find out if oil is in different parts of the country. We succeeded after years of trial to find oil. I am hopeful that Ethiopia will also obtain oil from its soil. I think production of oil in Chad as well as Ethiopia will help develop both nations. If African countries can use their oil resources wisely and with good governance, they will alleviate poverty. As I see the commitment of African nations to do this is strong.
Capital: Concerning oil, there is an arrangement with the World Bank and the international community for the benefit of oil revenues to be shared with the population.
Moussa Faki Mahamat: Oil exploitation in the southern Doba region began in 2000, with World Bank Board approval to finance a small portion of a project, aimed at the transporting of Chadian crude through a 1000Km buried pipeline through Cameroon to the Gulf of Guinea. The project established a unique mechanisms for World Bank, private sector, government, and civil society collaboration to guarantee that future oil revenues benefit local populations and result in poverty alleviation. We properly managed the income generated from the oil. The local populations are beneficiaries.
Capital: What has been Chad’s role regarding the Darfur problem?
Moussa Faki Mahamat: The problem in Darfur began when the war between Sudan and Chad started in 2005. Sudan was openly supporting militants, Chadian rebels. These rebels backed by the Sudanese government attacked villages and towns in eastern Chad, stealing cattle, murdering citizens, and burning houses. Due to the extended war, over 300,000 refugees from the Darfur region of northwestern Sudan entered into eastern Chad to take asylum. It is true that Darfur is in a serious crisis. In our attempt to resolve this we are working to reconcile rebel groups and the government of Sudan. We have helped what we call the Doha (Qatar) document agreement between the government of Sudan and Darfurian rebel groups and I hope that there will be a way to reestablish peace and stability in Sudan; even in all regions of Sudan. The Republic of Chad is a good neighbor of the republic of Sudan, and we had and still have very, very strong relationships. As you know we have the same people groups on both sides of a border which came about as a result of colonization.
Capital: Chad also happens to border the North African country of Libya. Could you tell us about refugee flows and other issues pertaining to this matter?
Moussa Faki Mahamat: This is a concern for everyone in the region, in Libya there was a revolution and the people of Libya overthrew the Kaddafi regime, but as there’s a wide distribution of illegal weapons and arms in the region, we are working now with the new Libyan government and with the African Union in order to deal with this new situation. Yes, some African workers had problems in Libya, but the new Libyan minister of Foreign Affairs said to the AU conference that Libya is trying to protect all Africans residing in Libya and try to cooperate with neighboring countries and the AU in order to maintain the stability and reconciliation in Libya. And we as a neighboring country and as a member of the AU we are ready to help fix the situation in Libya?
Capital: Northern Nigeria also happens to border Chad, lined with an Islamic extremist sect called Boko Harem. There were some recent reports that Chadian nationals were among captured Boko Harem members, what information have you got in that regard?
Moussa Faki Mahamat: Yes, I heard about this information but it’s not true, also Nigeria is Chad’s neighbor. President Idris Deby Itieno went to Nigeria and he met president Good luck Jonathan and gave him his support in order to fight the Boko Harem terrorist organization. Our intelligence and our security services worked tightly with Nigeria. And this is a myth from media but I think Chad is a very, very good friend to Nigeria and we reiterate our commitment to fight together with Nigeria and other neighbors in order to gain victory against this terrorist organization. And there are no Chadian mercenaries in Nigeria fighting against Nigerian authorities.
Capital: What do you think of the new Chadian embassy in Addis Ababa means?
Moussa Faki Mahamat: Addis Ababa is our African capital, so it’s normal for us to build the embassy here in Addis Ababa. It also shows our commitment to the unity of Africa and the AU and friendship to all Africans and in particular with Ethiopia.