Anniversaries in a bright new Chad

In International Development, Niger, Politics, Sustainable Development, Tchad on January 6, 2011 at 7:09 am

I’ve been in N’Djamena, Chad for two days now.  The big deal here is that the 50th anniversary of Chadian independence from France is being celebrated on January 11th – they’re calling it the “Cinquentenaire.”  All the main round-points and traffic circles are being spruced up with new cement bricks and landscaping, they’ve repainted the buildings on the main Avenue Charles De Gaulle (irony alert!) and workers are madly completing a large monument where presumably the festivities will be based.  From time to time, there are also jets rumbling overhead, which a colleague tells me are for an air show.

This Chadian colleague also told me that this is all to show that Chadians are in a new era of a prosperous Chad – they raised fonctionaire salaries and improved their housing, and are cleaning up the streets.  He also was worried that the recent republican takeover of the US congress was worrying for the future of foreign assistance.  I agreed on the last part, but remain uncertain of the new prosperous Chad.

So far, N’Djamena is a sleepy capital city by a river.  The streets do not seem that crowded, most of the people I see out and about are men.  There seems to be the usual Sahelian mish-mash of North Africans, Chinese, French, and here, Oil Workers.  We spent last evening at the Carnivore, a decent restaurant that caters mostly to expatriates. My Country Director here is Congolese, and he knew everyone, especially the other Congolese.  The Carnivore was hopping, with decent live music – one of the singers reminded me of Angelique Kidjo.  There was a point where the band was playing a cover of the Lionel Ritchie song “All Night Long”, sung by a Cameroonian, with Libyan, Chadian, and French guys all drunkenly dancing with each other and singing along.  The juxtaposition of styles was fun to watch.

My wife and I are celebrating an anniversary ourselves.  Yesterday, January 5th, it was our 10 year anniversary of closing our Peace Corps Service in Niger.  I feel like my trip back to Niger last September was reflective enough about this.  But it is a unique anniversary, and I’m happy to be spending it working in Africa, doing something I had wanted to do because of my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer, all those years ago.


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