In This Review

Living by the Gun in Chad: Combatants, Impunity, and State Formation
Living by the Gun in Chad: Combatants, Impunity, and State Formation
By Marielle Debos
256 pp, Zed Books, 2016
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Chad’s history is littered with violence, from the wars fought among its precolonial kingdoms in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; to France’s “pacification” campaigns, which ran from the 1890s until the 1920s; to the country’s postcolonial history of rebellions at home and participation in regional conflicts. In her insightful book, Debos argues that pervasive violence has fostered a soldiering culture that now permeates the country and that has normalized armed violence, even in times of peace. For Chadian boys with few viable employment prospects, learning to use a gun counts as job training. Debos provides powerful evidence that ideological commitments and ethnic grievances motivate Chad’s fighters less than their simple need to make a living. In periods of relative peace, when their skills are less in demand, these hired guns readily turn to banditry. Sitting atop this mess is Chadian President Idriss Déby, whom Debos portrays as an amoral kingpin who has nevertheless managed to curry favor with the West in recent years by offering support for French and U.S. military actions in the region.