The Corner

Re: Chad

Ah yes, KLo, and now I’ve had flashbacks of the mid-1980s when I spent a lot of time in Chad for the NYT. Many stories I could tell.

Ok, here’s a quick one in case anyone is bored waiting for Christmas eve dinner (which is what I’m doing):

I had just arrived in Africa as a Times correspondent. I was in Lagos, Nigeria. (That’s Lagos — not Legos but it might as well have been built of Legos. Actually, Lagos is like a city built by someone who has never seen a city and who only had instructions written in a foreign language. But that’s another story.)

I had gone to see Patchi (he may have spelled it Paxi), an AFP correspondent. I went to his house armed with a good bottle of duty-free whiskey, hoping to get some useful local intelligence out of an old Africa hand — a good guy although he had, as we said in those days, “gone native,” with a Nigerian wife and a lot of kids running around barefoot.

Just before I went to see him, I received a telex – are you old enough to remember telexes? — telling me that civil war had broken out in Chad and that I was to get myself to the Chadian capital of Ndjamena soonest to cover whatever was going on there.

So I asked Patchi how best to travel. “Eet iz is not difficult,” Patchi told me, in his thick French accent (he was actually a Basque). “Fly from here to Douala, in Cameroon. From there take another plane north to Garoua — or as far as you can go. Then hire a car to take you to the Chari River. Find a boy with a pirogue and give him a dollar or two to take you across. The Chadian authorities will then find you – and if you’re nice to them, they’ll see you get to your hotel in Ndjamena safely.”

He was right. That’s what I did. It worked out OK.

Clifford D. MayClifford D. May is an American journalist and editor. He is the president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative policy institute created shortly after the 9/11 attacks, ...

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