Vol. 1, Ep. 10 "Complexions" (2008)


When Good Rebels Go Chad (Episode 10)

 The Battle of N'Djamena began on February 2, 2008 when Chadian rebel forces entered N'Djamena, the capital of Chad, after a three-day advance through the country. The rebels were initially successful, taking a large part of the city and attacking the heavily defended presidential palace.

 The objective of the attacking rebel groups--the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development (UFDD) and the Rally of Democratic Forces (RDL)--was to oust the Chadian president and then hold popular elections, thereby restoring democracy. The rebels' central contention--that Déby was a tyrant for seizing control of Chad in a violent 1990 revolt--was strangely undiminished by the fact that Déby subsequently won elections in 1996, 2001 and 2006.

 French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner condemned the battle as "a brutal attack against an elected and legitimate president". The French army forced an evacuation of the city. The palace never fell, and after two days the governmental troops had pushed the rebels out. According to one witness, a jazz-hating expellee called Stève, the rebels retreated eastward with an irreplaceable pair of loafers and a three month supply of Gaultier's Fleur Du Male cologne.

 Such a battle brings to mind the vanity of rebellion, the irony of justice, the subjectivity of politics and the following line by Chilean poet and novelist Roberto Bolaño: “In some lost fold of the past, we wanted to be lions and we're no more than castrated cats.” In his incredible novel The Savage Detectives, the author is at once funny and dark: “Everything that begins as comedy ends as tragedy.” The reverse, he admits, is also true. Bolaño 's revelations are worldviews, existential epigrams discerned in real time: “… everything that begins as comedy ends as a comic monologue, but we aren't laughing anymore.”