Chad is one of the six member states of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC). Its population is estimated at 14 million inhabitants living across an area covering 1,284,000 km2. The country is divided into three broad ecosystems: desert in the north, savannah in the centre and forest in the south.
Two peoples are considered indigenous to Chad: the Mbororo sub-group of the Fulani people and the Toubou. The Mbororo Fulani live primarily from pastoralism and subsistence farming. According to the 1993 census, they number some 250,000 clustered in the dry centre and tropical south where there is pasture for their livestock. It is estimated that they make up some 10% of the Chadian population. Many of the Fulani have emigrated to neighbouring Cameroon, the Central African Republic or Niger. They can be recognised by their way of life, culture, language, and by the discrimination they suffer. The Fulani are often poor, the majority of them are illiterate and they have no political representation at the national level.
The Toubous are considered one of the oldest groups currently living in the Sahara. Their origin remains a mystery and they have always been an enigma in the eyes of others. Warriors and pastoralists like many other Saharan peoples, these nomads are feared by their neighbours, and owe their reputation to their legendary capacity for adaptation and survival in the particularly arid environment of the Tibesti mountains. They rear camels and cattle and live largely in northern Chad, with the exception of small communities settled in Niger, Libya and Egypt.
Chad was absent on the day of the vote on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in the UN General Assembly.
General situation of the Mbororo Fulani people in Chad
The Fulani are a large group living throughout the whole Sudano-Sahelian belt, largely in West and Central Africa. They can be divided into several sub-groups, including the Mbororo, who now live in five countries: Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic. In Chad, they are represented by several dozen communities, including the Wodaabé, Dya-dyaé, Bibbé Woila, Fukarabé etc., and are also commonly known as “Fulbé Laddé”. When nomadic, their communities practise cross-border transhumance, following the rhythm of the seasons in search of water and pasture for their cattle. Primarily pastoralists, some communities are 100% nomadic while others are semi-nomadic, practicing subsistence farming. These latter are generally nomads who have lost their cattle due to land grabbing, the closure of transhumance corridors and climate change.
Major challenges for the Mbororo Fulani in Chad; Increasing but still insufficient recognition
The Mbororo people are not officially recognised by the Chadian government in law. Despite the lack of official recognition, the UNDRIP ensures recognition through self-identification: a people must recognise itself as indigenous and meet all the criteria as specified in the Report of the African Commission’s Working Group of Experts on Indigenous Populations/Communities.1
Given the absence of any legal clarifications on land ownership, there are still many ongoing problems in this regard. Nomadic land issues are regulated by Law 004 of 1959 (enacted during colonisation), which governs “pastoral lands”. This was updated by a Pastoral Code in 2014,2 some parts of which were adopted or rejected by parliament and the government. The lack of legal clarity disadvantages not only Chad’s Fulani but its nomadic communities as a whole.
The closure of transhumance corridors, privatisation of water sources and land grabbing remain a major obstacle, preventing indigenous peoples’ access to land and natural resources.
The administrative division of Chad means that nomadic indigenous peoples are reliant on decisions from several different administrative districts which do not communicate. When moving from one area to another, they often have to pay the same taxes several times. In addition, this division acts to marginalise indigenous peoples, preventing their access to political processes. In 2018, very few Fulani were able to participate in decision-making circles and even fewer could access the arenas in which the implementation of these decisions are planned.
In 2010, the indigenous organisation Women’s Association of Indigenous Fulani in Chad (AFPAT) participated in a study organised by the Ministry of Education and Livestock Rearing on the education of isolated and remote nomadic children. This resulted in the creation of a Department for Nomadic Children’s Education (DNCE) in 2012. Despite the implied progress, however, the real impact for indigenous communities is minimal. The rare schools that do exist, and serve these indigenous groups, often have charitable origins, independent of the government. AFPAT has run workshops with these communities, and reports that a lack of resources devoted to the DNCE has resulted in a failure to achieve satisfactory results. Average school registration rates among nomadic children remained very low in 2018, at less than 1% for boys and virtually zero for girls.
In 2018, entire nomadic communities lack birth certificates. Often there are just a handful of men with identity cards in any settlement or village, largely because they are required to travel for the cattle trade. Despite a lack of documentation, most community members have voting cards, meaning that the state sets more store on distributing polling cards for electoral purposes than on providing identity cards. Without an identity card it is impossible to access most government services, including schools and medical centres.