Accepted paper:

Chad's army, its unwritten institutions, and its roles in military interventions in Mali and Nigeria


Paul Thissen (University of California, Berkeley)

Paper short abstract:

Why was Chad's army able to win short-term battlefield victories against tough opponents in Mali and Nigeria? And why was it unable to coordinate with other institutions to hold the peace? This paper argues that the Chadian military's unwritten institutional structure can help explain both outcomes.

Paper long abstract:

Chad's participation in international military coalitions in Mali and Nigeria presents two puzzles: Why was Chad's army able to win short-term battlefield victories against insurgents that other countries' militaries were unable to defeat? And why did the Chadian military then struggle to coordinate with other governments, militaries, and international institutions to consolidate security in the areas where it defeated insurgents? I argue that both outcomes can be partly explained by the unwritten institutional structure of the Chadian military. This structure is based on indigenous institutions which have organized life for many members of the region's semi-nomadic populations since before the colonial period. These institutions transfer their historical legitimacy, and thus the ability for leaders to command compliance from their subordinates, to the military hierarchy. This paper first outlines the political process by which these institutions became the organizational backbone of Chad's military, then argues that this institutional structure helped shape the outcomes of its participation in conflicts in Mali and Nigeria.

panel P050
A bottom-up perspective on military intervention in fragile states