KOUSSERI, CAMEROON - Trade between Cameroon and its landlocked neighbor Chad has come to a virtual standstill, with Chad refusing entry to hundreds of trucks carrying essential supplies for its capital. Chadian military authorities sealed the border last week after the death of longtime president Idriss Deby amid threats from armed rebels.
Hundreds of trucks with goods meant for Chad’s capital, N'Djamena, are sitting idle in Kousseri, a town on Cameroon’s northern border with Chad. Another long line of trucks sits and waits on Chadian side of the border.
Only a few vehicles said to be transporting humanitarian aid and hospital equipment are being given access to N’djamena by Chad’s border security men.
Cameroon’s Ministry of Transport says at least 700 trucks bound for Chad’s capital have been asked to delay their trips.
Nana Seini transports rice from Cameroon’s coastal city of Douala to N'Djamena. He says movement between Kousseri and N'djamena has been halted for about a week now.
He says traders have been in pain and consternation since last week's death of Idriss Deby. When Deby was alive, he says movement between Kousseri in northern Cameroon and Chad's capital was very fluid and business was thriving. He says Deby’s death has brought enormous economic setbacks that may grow worst if the new government in Chad fails to open the border.
Landlocked Chad relies on Cameroon for 80 percent of its imports, while Cameroon buys food staples such as sorghum, onions and groundnuts from Chad.
Zacharie Roger Mbarga is a researcher in regional integration and free trade in Central Africa at the University of Yaounde. He says Chad’s military council is preoccupied over the security of the capital.
Speaking by telephone from Douala, he said by closing the border, Chad’s Transitional Military Council is indicating that its immediate preoccupation is to stop rebels from advancing towards N'djamena. He said the council wants to secure N'djamena for the 18 months before examining if it can hand Chad to civilian rule. He said the border closure is already stifling economic liberty and the free movement of people and goods which are not good signs for a country where people live in poverty.
Marsa Success, a Chadian opposition leader, says security will be threatened in Chad until the Transitional Military Council created after Deby’s death hands power to civilians.
Speaking by telephone from Chad, he said it's high time Chad’s military, the civil society and the rebels meet at a dialogue table and immediately hand power to civilian rule. He said Chadians are angry that after Deby’s 30 years in power, the military unconstitutionally decided to hand Chad to General Mahamat Idriss Deby, the 37-year old son of the former leader. He said a majority of Chad citizens are disgruntled with the confiscation of power by Deby and his family. He said civilians are ready to sacrifice to free their country, even if they go hungry because of the border closure.
On Sunday, Chad’s ruling military council in a statement read on state TV said it will not negotiate with rebels whom they accuse of killing Deby.
The military said Mahamat Mahadi Ali, the leader of the rebels known as the Front for Change and Concord in Chad, had fled into Niger and asked its neighbor to help track Ali down.
The council has promised to fully reopen the border in the days ahead if the security situation improves.