The issue of security in eastern Chad is a complex one. Conflict here takes many forms, from mass incursions by well-armed Sudan-based rebels … to shoving matches between matrons at the local water well.
Growing resource shortages underpin the regional conflict that includes Chad’s proxy war in Sudan and Sudan’s proxy wars in Chad and Darfur – and also the growing unrest in eastern Chad, where 250,000 Darfuri refugees have lived since 2004.
There’s no better illustration than the water well outside the Iridimi camp near Iriba. Here 18,000 North Darfuri refugees share water with the original residents of Iriba.
It ain’t always pleasant. Raucous groups of women in colorful wraps haul empty 5-gallon jugs on the backs of donkeys and jostle for space around a gaping, 40-foot well – and atop it on beams that lie across. Fights were common before the camp and the town, encouraged by CARE, the major NGO in Iridimi, formed a traditional committee to broker a water-sharing deal.
But the deal has only delayed conflict, not resolved it, for Iriba’s water supply is steadily shrinking. CARE officials say they have to dig deeper and deeper to strike underground reservoirs, and later and later rains – perhaps due to climate change – have only exacerbated the shortage. What’s more, a dearth of rain means fewer trees, which means less firewood, another important resource that’s in short supply. More on that later.