Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

In January 2012, a new derdé (traditional leader) of the Teda in northern Chad was officially appointed. Held in the Tibesti, a remote, notoriously unruly but strategically important part of the Sahara, the investiture ceremony was attended by Teda from throughout the country and neighboring Libya and Niger, as well as by an impressive number of Chadian civil servants and international diplomats. Yet the ceremony itself was short and messy. Similarly, the historical underpinnings of the institution of the derdé and the selection process were unclear, leaving much room for debate. This uncertainty appears to lie at the heart of the institution of the derdé. Far from a resurgence of 'traditional authority' to make up for 'state failure' or to partake in the restructuring of postcolonial states—as observed elsewhere on the African continent—the investiture ceremony confirmed the decentralised nature of Teda social organisation and the absence of even attempted governance, both with regards to the Chadian state and local political institutions. What mattered from a local point of view were not long-term strategies of power and control, but rather the immediate and gloriously wasteful distribution of wealth. Admiring eyes were turned not toward the derdé or the state officials who appointed him, but instead toward high-ranking military officers, well-dressed urban Libyan Teda, and trans-border smugglers, models of rapid but often short-lived success. This provides a counterexample to the current emphasis on governance and power in the analysis of African states and politics.

More information


Journal article

Publication Date





723 - 752


Chad, Sahara