Security cooperation as the only way for peace and stability in the Sahel region of Africa was the focus of an unprecedented two-day symposium with senior Chadian traditional leaders, military leaders and U.S. representatives, which took place December 13-14 in N’Djamena, Chad. The aim was to start a dialogue between traditional and military leaders on how to keep their communities safe from the threat of violent extremism.
His Majesty the Sultan, President of the Association of Tribal Leaders, Tamitah Djidingar, thanked everyone for the opportunity to bring together, in one room, for the first time, civilian authorities and military leaders to debate regional security concerns. “Even if our country, Chad, is stable and relatively calm, the fact remains that we are a small island in an ocean of insecurity,” the Sultan said.
While challenges are numerous, there are viable solutions to counter these threats. As the saying goes, “when there is a will, there is a way.” For the participants in the symposium, getting together to discuss alternatives was a first step in the right direction.
The Sultan emphasized that when it comes to security issues, every citizen has a role to play. “Security is not just the responsibility of the military -- and since you, religious and traditional leaders are the foundation of your communities, both rural and urban, security cannot escape you. You are the link and the serious interface between our Administration and the people. You must then be fully engaged with defense and security forces to halt all and any security perils,” said the Sultan.
Threats coming from violent extremist organizations in the Lake Chad Basin have continued to expand and require a more aggressive approach from the countries affected was an often-repeated sentiment by attendees. Several pointed out how the military alone cannot counter these threats without the full support of traditional and religious leaders, as well as the people of Chad.
“Soldiers must no longer be seen as ‘the other.’ They must not be a foreign entity. The civil-military coalition must be the curtain that bars the way to all forms of extremism, be it terrorism or traffickers. This coalition can be formed only when mutual trust is achieved, hence when we know each other well. This understanding must occur within a framework of dialogue and opportunity to exchange ideas,” explained the Sultan.
With Chad hosting Exercise Flintlock 2015 from February 16 through March 9, there is a unique opportunity to enhance relationships between participating regional and international military forces, as well as Chad’s civilian population and its military forces.
“We will, from this time forward, build our coalition and construct a common front to overcome insecurity,” said the Sultan, adding that “together, we will fight, and together we will vanquish the common evil.”
The symposium, which was moderated by Dr. Zakaria Osman, was attended by Chadian traditional leaders and military leaders, the U.S. Ambassador to Chad, James A. Knight and Maj. Gen. James B. Linder, Commanding General of Special Operations Command Africa.