Saturday, July 23, 2005


Getting stuck in the mud in Chad.

Stephanie Hancock gives her first impressions after arriving in Chad's capital, Ndjamena, to report for the BBC.

Roads have turned into lakes. When you think of Chad you will probably conjure up an image of a vast desert landscape, with not a drop of water anywhere. This may be true for much of the time, but not at the moment as the rainy season has just begun here. Chadians are very happy their long wait for the rains is over and the streets of Ndjamena are really bustling. But rain is not always good news.
After 30 years of civil war, Chad's infrastructure is almost non-existent. Very few roads are tarred, so the torrential rains are slowly turning Ndjamena into a giant mud bath. Things are so bad that whole neighbourhoods have become islands, cut off by lakes of muddy water. And young boys are renting out pirogues for residents to cross from one side to the other.
Strikes seem to be the norm here.
Drivers are angered by attempts to seize their taxi rank land. Two weeks ago, it was the turn of the capital's security guards, complaining about low wages. And last week Ndjamena became a ghost town when taxi drivers went on strike. Meals are simple, such as grilled fish and rice. But people can be very generous. At a dinner last week, my host served meat stew, four giant fish and two whole roast chickens - even though he had only invited two guests.
One unusual thing about the capital is that nobody appears to play music in the streets. Driving to neighbouring Cameroon last week, I soon heard radios pumping out music, filling the streets with noise. By contrast, Ndjamena can seem sombre and quiet. Since my arrival, I have been contacted by many curious people to sum-up Chad. But this is almost impossible and is like nowhere I have ever visited.


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