Chad Table of Contents

Preindependence Factions

Chad became part of French Equatorial Africa (Afrique Equatoriale Française--AEF) in 1905 and became a separate colony within the AEF in 1920. Colonial policy exploited the agricultural potential of the south, exacerbated regional animosities that were the result of centuries of slave raids from the north, and failed to prepare Chadian citizens for self-rule. During World War II, the colonial governor general, Félix Eboué, brought Chad to international attention by leading the AEF in support of Charles de Gaulle's Free French movement.

After the war, Gabriel Lisette and other political activists, including François Tombalbaye, established the Chadian Progressive Party (Parti Progressiste Tchadien--PPT). The PPT protected southern interests in competition with the more influential Chadian Democratic Union (Union Démocratique Tchadienne--UDT). The UDT was dominated by expatriates, who treated Chad's political arena as a forum for debate over events in Paris.

More than two dozen political parties and coalitions arose to oppose this Eurocentric view of local politics and to compete with the UDT and the PPT. These groups were generally aligned as southerners, northerners who sought to share in the nation's economic development, other northerners who opposed modernization, and socialist groups who hoped to replace the European-dominated economy with one oriented more toward local needs. Further fragmentation occurred along subregional and religious lines and over the question of the future role of expatriates in Chad.

Chad's 1946 constitution declared it an overseas territory of France. As French citizens, its people elected representatives to a territorial assembly, which in turn elected delegates to a French General Council for the AEF and to several governing bodies in France. Chadians demanded further political rights, however, including training in administrative and technical areas that would lead to self-government and the right to set their own political agenda independent of other francophone states. The PPT won a plurality in the Territorial Assembly, and Lisette became head of the first government established under the loi cadre of 1956, an enabling act that made Chad an autonomous republic within the French Community, instituted universal suffrage, and established a single electoral roll.

Demands for greater local control of politics led to dramatic political shifts in the late 1950s. The UDT, attempting to shed its expatriate emphasis, was reorganized and renamed Chadian Social Action (Action Sociale Tchadienne--AST). The AEF was dissolved in 1958 amid rising African demands for autonomy. A series of unstable provisional governments followed the ouster of Lisette as the PPT's leader in 1958. His successor, Tombalbaye, became head of the territorial assembly in 1959 and head of the nation's first independent government in August 1960.

Southern Dominance, 1960-1978

Tombalbaye banished Lisette and many of his supporters from Chad and eliminated Lisette's power base by dividing the Logone region of the south into three prefectures. Tombalbaye openly discriminated against the north, ignored the growing national political awareness that was evident during the postwar years, and established a repressive regime that contributed to Chad's fragmentation during his fifteen-year tenure as president.

Major regional rifts were complicated by intraregional divisions, especially in the north, where numerous warlords, each with an ethnic-based following or cadre of supporters, attempted to overthrow Tombalbaye's regime. In 1966 northern rebels united as the FROLINAT. They established bases in Sudan and received assistance from Algeria and Libya, but FROLINAT, too, was divided over military and political issues, attitudes toward Libya, interpretations of Islam, and individual leadership style. An important split occurred in 1969 between northern factions and those from Chad's eastern and central regions, which had dominated the group for three years. Northern factions went on to form FROLINAT's Second Liberation Army.

Tombalbaye expelled French troops from Chad but otherwise perpetuated the dependence established under colonial rule. He employed French advisers in many government posts and allowed France to control most of the nation's financial operations. Tombalbaye also strengthened presidential authority and resisted recommendations of his expatriate advisers, who urged him to decentralize authority to provincial officials and traditional leaders. Rather than assuage northern grievances or pacify the increasingly numerous rebel armies, Tombalbaye responded with repression. He dissolved the National Assembly in 1963 and eliminated rival political parties. He also jailed outspoken critics and closed down most public media. His repressive style and rebel violence were mutually reinforcing, leading Tombalbaye to recall French troops.

Amid increasing destabilization in the early 1970s, Tombalbaye sought first to protect southern interests. He implemented the authenticité movement, an ill-conceived campaign (modeled on that of Zairian president Mobutu Sese Seko) that deemed southern cultural characteristics more authentic than those of the north. Opponents successfully exploited public outrage when Tombalbaye required civil servants to undergo yondo--traditional initiation rites indigenous only to his ethnic constituency among the Sara population of the south. Weak efforts to pacify the north by granting limited autonomy to traditional leaders and releasing prominent political prisoners served only to recruit new dissidents.

After Muammar al Qadhaafi seized power in Libya in 1969, he exploited Chad's instability by stationing troops in northern Chad and by channeling support to Chadian insurgents. Although Tombalbaye expelled Libyan diplomats in 1971, blaming them for inciting a coup attempt and inspiring unrest, in general he sought a balance between concessions and resistance to Qadhaafi's regional designs, hoping to persuade Qadhaafi to reduce his support for Chadian insurgents. Tombalbaye voiced a willingness to cede the Aozou Strip and did not object to Libyan troops' being stationed there after 1973. Chad erupted in renewed protests against Tombalbaye's unpopular and weakened regime, culminating in a successful coup against him in 1975.

General Félix Malloum, a former government critic imprisoned by Tombalbaye, proclaimed himself head of the Supreme Military Council (Conseil Supérieur Militaire--CSM), which seized power in 1975. As a southerner with strong kinship ties to the north, Malloum believed that he could reconcile Chad's divided regions and establish representative institutions. He set a high priority on freeing Chad from French economic and political control, but in this effort he was unsuccessful. He sent French combat forces home, but he retained several hundred French advisers and renegotiated a series of military accords to ensure emergency aid.

Malloum was unable to convert dissatisfaction with Tombalbaye's regime into acceptance of his own. His opponents exploited popular displeasure with the remaining French presence by recruiting new dissidents. In response to this threat, Malloum seized control of all branches of government and, in the increasingly repressive manner that characterized his presidency, banned almost all political activity. His opposition coalesced around FROLINAT, which established alternative administrations in outlying areas to compete with N'Djamena. In 1978, in the face of mounting violence, Malloum reluctantly called for the return of French forces.

Transition to Northern Rule

In 1978 officials in Chad and neighboring countries attempted to craft a coalition that could control the country through military force and still claim to have some popular support. Urged by African heads of state and French advisers, Malloum attempted to bring FROLINAT faction leaders Hissein Habré and Goukouni Oueddei into the government, but these two northerners soon clashed with Malloum and each other. While Habré's troops engaged government forces, Goukouni seized the opportunity to occupy government buildings and claim control of N'Djamena. Talks were held first in Sudan and then in Nigeria, but by late 1979 neighboring states were working primarily to contain Chad's spreading violence and limit Libyan interference in regional affairs.

As N'Djamena became a war zone, with fighting among FROLINAT factions and southerners going on between 1979 and early 1982, outsiders proclaimed the disintegration of the state. Although major disruptions occurred, the government struggled to maintain basic official functions. Executive functions were allocated according to ministerial portfolios and were given limited attention. Many buildings in the capital city were destroyed, but a small civil service continued to operate. Public services were erratic but not absent. Still, the government fought for its survival rather than to protect its citizens, and thousands of people sought refuge in rural areas or neighboring countries.

Talks in Lagos and Kano in 1979 culminated in the formation of GUNT, led by Goukouni, which incorporated several rival northern commanders. Malloum left the country, and the locus of governmental power shifted from south to north, largely because of northern military successes, popular discontent throughout the country, and pressure from neighboring states for an end to Chadian violence. National unity became increasingly ephemeral, however, as members of this coalition were polarized between Habré and Goukouni. Goukouni was the son of the derde, a respected traditional leader among the Teda population of the north, one of the Toubou groups that had generally been receptive to the Libyan-based Sanusiyya brotherhood before independence. In his view, Libyan interests in Chad were valid. Goukouni requested Qadhaafi's assistance against Habré in 1980, bringing Libyan troops into the country as far south as N'Djamena.

As head of state, Goukouni did not implement promised democratic reforms, but neither did he tolerate unlimited reprisals against the south. Instead, he was relatively tolerant of minor expressions of dissent, warned security forces against harsh retaliation in the south, and gave local administrators limited autonomy.

Both allies and opponents perceived this relatively conciliatory attitude as a presidential weakness and a hesitant style of leadership. Indeed, this hesitancy was apparent in 1981 when Qadhaafi proclaimed a merger between Libya and Chad. Following international and domestic protests, Goukouni reversed his position and balked at Qadhaafi's regional demands.

French political shifts in 1981 also had an important impact on events in Chad. The election of François Mitterrand as French president heralded a reorientation in African policy. Socialist leaders vowed to reduce the overall French presence in Africa and to avoid an open confrontation with Libya, a major source of French oil imports. French support shifted cautiously to Habré, who appeared willing to resist Libyan domination with outside support and whose decisive leadership had been demonstrated against French troops for over a decade. France's Socialist Party pursued its goal of reducing its interventionist profile in Africa by persuading francophone states, through the Organization of African Unity (OAU), to send peacekeeping troops to Chad. Goukouni called for the removal of Libya's forces, but when Habré's Armed Forces of the North (Forces Armées du Nord--FAN) moved on the capital, they encountered almost no resistance from the OAU-sponsored InterAfrican Force (IAF). As a result, in June 1982 FAN seized N'Djamena and proclaimed Habré head of state.

Habré's decisiveness and his preference for French rather than Libyan patronage shifted the focus of government once again. He took limited steps to assuage regional dissent, relying on northerners in most military commands and top political offices but appointing southerners to several executive and administrative positions. Habré also reduced the aim of independence from French domination to the status of a long-term goal. France maintained vital economic, financial, military, and security assistance; underwrote the budget; effectively operated the banking system; and provided a variety of commercial and technical advisers. Furthermore, Habré used French and United States military assistance to repel Libyan troops, Libyan-supported insurgents, and local rebel forces. French funds also helped Habré co-opt former opponents.

As president, Habré brought more peace to Chad than that country had known in a decade. Habré vowed to remove Libyan forces from the north, reconcile north and south, and establish a democratic state. In his first six years in office, he took steps to accomplish some of these goals.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress