National Union for Independence and Revolution

Chad Table of Contents

Habré's political support came primarily from northerners, the army that brought him to power, and civilians who admired his tough stand on such issues as opposition to Libyan interference in Chadian affairs. To broaden his support, in 1984 he undertook a program to extend the reach of government into rural areas, first by seeking the advice of the nation's prefects. Southern prefects advised that in addition to lingering animosity based on the early association of FAN with FROLINAT, which had worked to oust the southern-based government of Tombalbaye, a major concern in that region was the conduct of the army. The army had become, in effect, an obstacle to security.

In 1984 Habré dissolved the CCFAN and established a political party, UNIR. Habré retained broad power to control the party agenda, and he appointed military officers to nine of the fourteen positions on the party's Executive Bureau, which served as the primary liaison between the party and the government. To placate the south, six posts were allocated to southerners.

UNIR was designed primarily to mobilize and inspire popular participation in government and to enable the president to control that participation. Other important goals were to increase the civilian emphasis in government and, finally, to achieve peace between north and south. The party invoked national values such as brotherhood and solidarity, individual respect, confidence, and "healthy criticism and self-criticism." It also developed a repertoire of songs, chants, and sayings intended to bolster these aims.

The eighty-member UNIR Central Committee was important in extending the reach of the party throughout the nation. For this purpose, it employed groups of about sixty agents (animateurs) and ten organizers (encadreurs) in each prefecture to convert apathetic and war-weary citizens into party activists. Militant UNIR recruiters delivered public speeches on the need for unity, peace, and progress through the party organization and for reduced Libyan influence in Chad. They also helped recruit members to party affiliates, such as youth groups, women's organizations, and trade associations.

The main political impact of UNIR by 1988 was to maintain a cadre of elites on the periphery of the government. The party was successful at orchestrating political displays but had not inspired widespread loyalty. People generally remained skeptical of the ability of government to improve their lives. Rural citizens in particular had seen few benefits of national development and feared that the government's inevitable urban bias would make life even harsher for them.

The party's effectiveness as a democratic forum was hampered by the fact that the president controlled its agenda. UNIR provided very limited opportunities for debating government policy and had little patronage to dispense, except its own offices. It served primarily to convey to the president a sense of popular opinion and to reassure him that his government was not entirely out of touch with its constituency. In this role, UNIR usurped much of the limited power of the interim legislature, the CNC, and left the appointed legislators to act primarily as bureaucratic housekeepers. Habré reportedly intended to allow for greater democratic participation at some time in the future, but before doing so, he hoped to provide sufficient political indoctrination to guarantee support for party aims.

In 1988 Habré proclaimed his intention to convert UNIR into a people's party, a "revolutionary vanguard," for the purpose of grass-roots political mobilization. To begin this task, he created the People's Revolutionary Militia (Milice Populaire de la Révolution--MPR), but the MPR was not yet operational in mid-1988. As head of the UNIR Executive Bureau, the president was to appoint the leader of the MPR and control its agenda.

The MPR mandate was to reach people through the local party organization in each of the nation's administrative divisions. This structure--subdivided into groups, subgroups, sectors, and subsectors corresponding to the nation's prefectures, subprefectures, administrative posts, and cantons--was intended to provide UNIR with an apparatus for enforcing its decisions and a forum for promoting its programs. It would also augment the government's internal security apparatus.

More about the Government and Politics of Chad.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress