After Libya, a Rush for Gold and Guns

Letter from Aouzou

A gold miner shows his findings. Jerome Tubiana

The road to Aouzou, a village in northern Chad’s mountainous Tibesti region, is dotted with red-and-white-painted stones, which signal the presence of land mines. Everyone in Aouzou, most of whom belong to the Tubu tribe, has had a relative killed by one, including Senoussi Koki, the administrative head of Aouzou, who lost a brother in 1998. The mines were planted by Libyan troops, Koki explained, after Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi seized the strip of land on which the village sits. Qaddafi occupied the area from 1973 until 1994, when the International Court of Justice ruled that the strip belonged to Chad.

Now that at least some of the mines are marked, they are less of a danger to those in Aouzou. But another scourge from Libya is the lawlessness that has seized the country since Qaddafi’s ouster in 2011. One consequence of toppling Qaddafi is that southern Libya and areas in Chad just across the border have turned into an attractive playground for cross-border fortune hunters from all over the region. They come mostly in search of gold, but some of them also traffic in drugs and weapons.


On a cold November evening in 2015, I met with a few Aouzou residents. “You have seen Aouzou. Would you hope to live here?” said Adoum, a young man who, like all of the strip’s Tubu, lost his Libyan citizenship in 1994 after the land returned to Chad and who speaks of the Qaddafi era with some nostalgia. He had just returned from a trip to Libya. His car was loaded with much-needed food. There is no market here, so Aouzouans travel the 300 miles north to the asphalted roads and shops of Fezzan, a southern province in Libya. The other option would be a 900-mile journey on dirt roads, a five-day drive, to Chad’s capital, N’Djamena. “It was better under Qaddafi,” said Adoum. “We had water and electricity. The Libyans built a hospital and a big school hosting kids from all over

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