Chad Table of Contents


Chad's political environment in the 1980s was a fluid, changing network, bearing the imprint of centuries of factional dynamics. Traditional authority has generally been diffuse, rather than concentrated in a single individual for an entire society. Clusters of descent groups defined the society in many areas. Factions arose when descent groups clashed, and strong leaders sought kin-group support in confronting one another. Social norms focused on preventing conflict through family law, religion, and authority relations, and a key feature of factional strife was the reunion that eventually followed many violent clashes.

As a result of these traditional beliefs and practices, many Chadians viewed politics according to a segmentary model of descent group fragmentation. They scorned the idea that national leaders, in fixed terms of office, could demand loyalties, regardless of the issues involved. From their perspective, centralizing power and authority served to deny, rather than to implement, democratic principles. In Chad, as in other faction-ridden political systems, opposition and alliance were constantly recalculated, as costs and benefits to the individual or kin-group were weighed. Politics were often blurred and not defined in terms of distinct bipolar rivalries.

Factional fragmentation in Chad occurred in response to predictable issues, such as France's postcolonial role, relations with Libya, the value of negotiation versus armed confrontation, and ethnic and regional balances of power. Rifts also resulted from basic disagreements over policy decisions, forms of retaliation against rivals, and personality clashes. Reconciliation often brought former rivals together in the face of a more threatening opponent.

Factions assumed particular importance after independence because of Chad's diverse ethnic groups, the traditional scorn for centralized authority, the weak impact of central government policies in the north, and the generally inadequate infrastructure that impeded communication among regions. Most important, northern resentment found its expression in numerous strong leaders--in effect, warlords--but instead of organizing under a strong warlord to secede, factional armies in the north sought to wrest control from the government and from each other.

Hissein Habré is an example of a leader whose career has demonstrated skill as a factional strategist. He entered politics after returning from graduate study in France in 1971, but he abandoned his original post in the Tombalbaye government to join the opposition FROLINAT. In this organization, he had personality clashes with a number of leaders, including FROLINAT's ideologue, Abba Siddick. In 1972 Habré formed an army of his own, allied with fellow northerner Goukouni Oueddei, in opposition to Siddick. Habré and Goukouni managed a fragile alliance for more than three years, despite differences in style and ability. Habré negotiated a large ransom payment from Paris for French hostages he and Goukouni kidnapped in 1974, but by the time the hostages were released in 1977, Habré and Goukouni had ended their alliance.

This arrangement did not last because Habré clashed with Malloum over regional and policy issues. Their confrontation allowed Goukouni to seize the capital and declare himself head of state. As minister of national defense, veterans, and war victims in Goukouni's regime, Habré continued to clash with his northern rival over policy, style, and, increasingly, over Libyan involvement in Chad. Habré fled N'Djamena and, with French and United States support, returned to oust Goukouni as head of state in June 1982.

Habré decided he would form alliances only from a position of strength, and he proceeded to defeat, intimidate, or co-opt a number of rebel leaders. He then moved to end factional strife, curb the nation's continuing violence, and extend the reach of government into the countryside. As of 1988, he had been fairly successful in his dual pursuit of national reunification and reconciliation. He had consolidated his control of Chad's fractious population through both military and political tactics, and, following the example of his predecessors, he had strengthened the executive branch of government and postponed democratic reforms. Habré's authoritarian rule outweighed the nation's strong centrifugal tendencies, but just barely. He defeated numerous rebel armies between 1983 and 1987, and as a result of these clashes, the disarray among his opponents, and French financial assistance, he won over most former opponents.

Among those groups that rallied to Habré's government was the Action Committee of the Democratic Revolutionary Council (Comité d'Action et de Concertation du Conseil Démocratique Révolutionnaire--CAC-CDR), founded in 1984 as the intellectual wing of the opposition CDR. Under the leadership of Mahamat Senoussi Khatir, it declared support for Habré in 1985. The People's Armed Forces (Forces Armées Populaires--FAP), a former FROLINAT faction led by Goukouni, also declared support for Habré in October 1986, although Goukouni remained outside the country, attempting to negotiate a dignified return. Goukouni's one-time vice president and leader of the Chadian Armed Forces (Forces Armées Tchadiennes-- FAT), Wadel Abdelkader Kamougué, was Habré's minister of agriculture and rural development in 1988. The Democratic Front of Chad (Front Démocratique du Tchad--FDT) was also won over by Habré. The FDT was a coalition of groups formed in Paris in 1985 in opposition to both Goukouni and Habré. Led by General Negué Djogo, the FDT shifted its support to Habré later that year. Djogo became Habré's minister of justice in early 1986 and was shifted to minister of transportation and civil aviation in mid-1988. Two other former FDT leaders also joined the government, one as minister of finance and the other as minister of culture, youth, and sports.

Several factions of codos, or commandos, were also convinced to rally to the government. Codos were southern rebel formations nominally united under the leadership of Colonel Alphonse Kotiga. Many of them declared their support for Habré during 1985 and 1986. Other small groups also rallied to Habré's government in 1986 and 1987, including the Democratic and Popular National Assembly (Rassemblement National Démocratique et Populaire--RNDP) and the Assembly for Unity and Chadian Democracy (Rassemblement pour l'Unité et la Démocratie Tchadienne--RUDT).

A number of groups remained actively opposed to the government in 1988. Several of these formed a coalition, the Supreme Council of the Revolution (Conseil Suprême de la Révolution--CSR) in 1985. The CSR included nominally united remnants of GUNT, which had controlled the national government under Goukouni's leadership from 1979 to 1982. Goukouni disappeared from the GUNT command while he negotiated unsuccessfully to return to Chad on his own terms in 1987. In 1988 he proclaimed his allegiance to Habré but soon thereafter announced the reorganization of the GUNT alliance under his command.

Another group in the CSR, the was founded in 1979 by Acyl Ahmat but in 1988 led by Acheikh ibn Oumar. The CDR formed the core of Habré's opposition in 1988, following military and political losses by GUNT. Also opposed to the government in 1988 were the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Chad (Mouvement Populaire pour la Libération du Tchad--MPLT), which had broken away from FAP under Aboubakar Abdel Rahmane's leadership, and its splinter group, the Western Armed Forces (Forces Armées Occidentales--FAO); several factions of FROLINAT, including those led by Hadjero Senoussi and Abdelkader Yacine; and the Movement for the National Salvation of Chad (Mouvement pour le Salut National du Tchad--MOSANAT), led by Boda Maldoun. MOSANAT, a Hajerai-based organization, maintained its antigovernment stance through several administrations. No remaining rebel army, by itself, posed an immediate threat to Habré's regime.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress