Christiane Badgley, for the Pulitzer Center
The President of Chad, Idriss Deby, made a surprise visit to Yaounde on October 28th. As the visit was announced only 24 hours before Deby's arrival, the private press was full of speculation on what urgent matter brought Deby to Cameroon.
Officially, Cameroon's president, Paul Biya and Deby held a short, private meeting to discuss bilateral cooperation and the receding waters of Lake Chad, an item that both countries will bring up at the Copenhagen climate conference. Unofficially, the corruption scandal at the Bank of Central African States, in which a Chadian minister may be implicated, as well as the renegotiation of pipeline contracts, could have been items for discussion.
Banners announcing the visit, Chad and Cameroon's cooperation and efforts in favor of democracy, development and peace, were draped across the boulevards of Yaounde. Roads were blocked for hours before Deby's arrival and traffic was snarled across the city. CRTV, Cameroon's state-run television station, went live with the event all afternoon, reminiscent of the good old days of state television when broadcasting consisted largely of endless presidential speeches.
The visit was both a photo op. and a reminder of how dramatically the pipeline project has increased the importance of the relationship between Chad and Cameroon.