This past July a drug trafficking case tried in Chad was unprecedented both for the quantity of drugs involved—246 cases of the synthetic opiate Tramadol worth approximately 22 million USD—and the sentencing of ten high-ranking security and intelligence officials. As the excerpted accompanying article from the South African Institute for Security Studies explains, Tramadol is not the only contraband item being trafficked through Chad. Hashish, weapons, stolen vehicles, and humans are also being smuggled across the country that is frequently cited as one of Africa’s most corrupt. This trafficking has implications not just for Chad but also several bordering nations as it generates funds for terrorist groups, organized criminal enterprises, and armed gangs, with the end result that violence and conflict become staples across the region.
Libya in particular has significant trafficking ties to Chad, in part because much of the border area consists of desert that impedes effective policing. The large-scale trafficking between the two has helped fuel the Libyan conflict, creating instability that has been difficult to rectify. An attempt has been made by Chad to stop the flow of contraband by placing one of the trafficking routes, the Cotonou Road, under surveillance, but traffickers have not only changed routes, they have also increased the scale of their operations.
Other countries that border Chad, including the Central African Republic, Niger, Cameroon, Nigeria, and the Sudan, have also been adversely affected by the transnational trafficking operations. Also impacted has been Benin, which serves as a transit point for Tramadol shipped from India. From Benin the drug makes its way to Chad via Niger.
The Tramadol trial is important in showing Chad is taking some steps to combat drug trafficking even if the criminals are high ranking officials. However, as the article notes, since this is a transnational problem solutions also need to be transnational. Stronger involvement from Interpol as well as tapping existing regional organizations such as the Agence Nationale d’Investigation Financiere with its anti-money laundering capabilities are some of the author’s suggestions.
Considering possible connections between trafficking and insecurity in the country and the neighborhood, trafficking must be
curbed to prevent entrepreneurs of violence and insecurity (armed gangs, highway robbers, highway criminals and violent extremist groups) in Chad from creating destabilizing interdependencies.
Source: Remadji Hoinathy, “Chad’s Illegal Drug Trade Contributes to Regional Insecurity,” Institute for Security Studies (South Africa), 25 August 2020. https://issafrica.org/iss-today/chads-illegal-drug-trade-contributes-to-regional-insecurity
Considering possible connections between trafficking and insecurity in the country and the neighborhood, trafficking must be curbed to prevent entrepreneurs of violence and insecurity (armed gangs, highway robbers, highway criminals and violent extremist groups) in Chad from creating destabilizing interdependencies.
In other contexts, entrepreneurs of insecurity and violence take advantage of illicit activities to strengthen logistical, operational and financial bases and enhance their resilience to state responses. In 2017, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime also warned of the extent of tramadol trafficking in the Sahel and its use by non-state armed groups.
Addressing trafficking in Chad must begin within the state. Court documents reveal a vast transnational network with strong Chadian connections and huge sums of money circulating between those involved in trafficking. This is sometimes used in attempts to corrupt the judiciary and security environment.
Even with prominent members of the network – those sentenced on 24 July – behind bars, fighting drug trafficking will be long and arduous. The involvement of senior members of the army and intelligence services presents hurdles. The investigation by Chad’s National Security Agency (ANS) following the Tramadol case implicated 11 people, including two army generals and a colonel, as well as ANS, police and gendarmerie officials, traders and diverse intermediaries.