Roadblocks: The Lemonade Stands of Corruption
A quick article about roadblocks in Chad, Central Africa: originally part of the nation's infrastructure, road barriers have become ready-made businesses for those looking to make a quick buck off of motor traffic.
The rain gates are installed and manned by the government, but the E.U. peacekeeping force in Chad still considers them extortion. One French army driver told me that EUFOR never pays, and just bullies it way through the gates.
Other roadblocks are unofficial. Local toughs figure they can “tax” anyone crossing their turf. After all, who’s going to stop them? The Chadian army? The army’s too busy demanding its own bribes to stop anyone else from doing the same.
For Chadian kids, roadblocks are like lemonade stands are in the U.S.: a veritable right of passage for budding entrepreneurs.
I was driving through a U.N.-administered refugee camp in Gore, southern Chad the other day when the road ahead was suddenly blocked by a huge tree limb. Two, unarmed 14-year-old kids stood at the side of the road.
My U.N. driver rolled down the window. It was all he could do to keep from laughing as he explained to these young thugs that this was a U.N. camp and we were in a U.N. vehicle. Did they really think he was going to pay to drive down his own road?
The kids saw his point. The lifted the branch. Best to let this one go.
But there would be others.