"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


the truth is stranger...

Many readers of Texas in Africa may not realize that my original interest in African politics had much to do with military policy on the continent. My master's thesis was a comparison of U.S. and French military policies in Africa, and over the years I've met some really bizarre contacts who have very cool jobs that deal with African armies. They do great work to professionalize and ensure better funding for civilian-controlled militaries, and there's no doubt that their work has contributed to the decline in the number of coup attempts we've witnessed over the last decade.

Anyway, I got distracted from that when I got fascinated with the underlying questions of order and authority, but I still follow the military news when possible. This week there's a story out of Chad that is perhaps the most awesome thing I've ever seen. See, Chad has been increasingly unstable for awhile now, due largely to the huge presence of refugees from Darfur along its eastern border, and to the fact that rebels (who are probably backed by the Sudanese government, which is mad at the government of Chad, which is likely backing the rebels in Darfur - confused yet?) have been plotting coups for awhile. Last month, rebels tried to take the capitol, N'Djamena, and they probably would've succeeded if the French hadn't offered immediate military aid.

In an effort to avoid this sort of thing happening again, the government of Chad has begun constructing a TRENCH around the city. That's right, baby, they're building a moat. 3 metres deep, around the whole city, with just a few entry and exit points. From the looks of it, a well-organized rebellion could leap across the trenches, or put down planks for their trucks to make it across. But no one's ever accused the Chadian rebels of being well-organized.

I think this is pretty much the best thing I've ever heard about African militaries, anywhere, with the possible exception of an army colonel who used Luttwak's satirical analysis of coups d'etats as an actual guide to how to pull one off. 'Cause, you know, it worked great in the Middle Ages. Why not in 21st century Africa?


Anonymous Sister said...

It's only a meter wide? That's a tall man's stride. And a moat has to be filled with water to be more than a trench, I believe.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008 3:05:00 PM

Anonymous James said...

Oh, the glory of Africa, and the wonderful ideas some African leaders think of and the "logic" behind their decisions. I'm not at all trying to sound "more logical" or smarter than any of them (my friends and schoolmates often point out my faulty logic and stupid ideas), but it just brings back memories.

Where could we read a copy of your Master's thesis? And what kind of material do you know of that's available on comparing the different patterns of colonialism/imperialism during the Scramble for Africa? Again, I hate to use you as my "expert source" on Africa, but you've experienced so much more of it than I have.

Thursday, March 06, 2008 11:09:00 AM


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