Relations with Other African States

Chad Table of Contents

Chad maintained generally close ties with its other African neighbors, but the primary base of these ties were Chad's economic and security needs, together with other governments' concerns for regional stability. Overall, African states sought to protect their own interests--to isolate or contain Chad's continuing violence without becoming involved militarily. As France was attempting to transfer more responsibility to former colonies and subregional powers, francophone African leaders urged each other and the former colonial power to increase assistance to Chad. Each side partially succeeded.

African states had other reasons for ambivalence toward Chad in addition to their own security concerns. Chad's long-standing unrest, border conflicts, overall instability, and poverty contributed to its image as a relatively unimportant ally. It underwent frequent shifts in government; from 1979 to 1982, it was not always clear who was in charge. In 1982 Chad's new president, Habré, appeared to some African heads of state to be a Pariseducated northerner with aristocratic pretensions, who had not done enough to win their support.

Because of Chad's landlocked status and limited air transport service, Cameroon was an important neighbor and ally throughout most of the 1970s and 1980s. Imports and exports were shipped between Yaoundé and N'Djamena by rail and road, as were military and food assistance shipments. Cameroon became an increasingly important trading partner during the 1980s, following unsuccessful attempts in the 1970s to conclude multilateral trade agreements with Congo and Central African Republic. In 1987 Cameroon was Chad's third largest source of imports after France and the United States, and Cameroon purchased Chadian cotton and agricultural products.

The Cameroonian town of Kousséri had been an important supply center and refuge for Chadians during the worst violence of the late 1970s. The population of the town increased from 10,000 to 100,000 in 1979 and 1980. Cameroon's government urged France to increase assistance to stem Libyan advances because officials feared direct confrontation with Libyan troops and the influx of weapons and refugees from Chad.

Zaire's President Mobutu Sese Seko was one of President Habré's most consistent allies in Central Africa. Even before Habré seized power in 1982, Mobutu's desire to lead Africa's pro-Western, antiQadhaafi efforts and to compete with Nigeria as a subregional power had led him to provide military training and troops for the IAF in Chad.

Chad's relations with Central African Republic were not cordial, but the two nations were generally on good terms. Central African Republic controlled another important access route, and the two nations had concluded a number of agreements regarding trade, transportation, and communication. Chad's President Tombalbaye had clashed with the former president of Central African Republic, Jean-Bedel Bokassa, over the establishment of a central African customs union in the late 1960s, however, leading Tombalbaye to close their common border. After this occurrence, Central African Republic remained fairly aloof from Chad's economic and security problems. Some Chadian refugees crossed into Central African Republic during the 1980s, but Bangui's major concern was preventing Chad's ongoing turmoil from spreading across its southern border.

Niger and Chad shared a number of common features of postindependence political development, but these two landlocked, poor nations were unable to contribute noticeably to each other's progress. The inhabitants of their northern provinces--primarily Tuareg in Niger and Toubou groups in Chad--were both referred to by Libyan leader Qadhaafi as his ethnic constituents, and both nations complained of Libyan insurgence in these mineral-rich areas. At the same time, important segments of both societies supported Qadhaafi's goal of establishing a Central African Islamic empire. Both nations also shared the dual heritage of Muslim and Christian influences and regional economic inequities, and both found themselves overshadowed by Nigeria's wealth and large population.

Chad had become one of Africa's intractable dilemmas in the 1970s, confounding leaders who sought peace and prosperity for the continent as a whole. Chad's conflict with Libya became symbolic of the OAU's frustrated attempts to impose a coherent framework on Africa, and it defied the OAU resolution to uphold colonially imposed boundaries and settle inter-African disputes peacefully. The OAU formed a series of ad hoc committees to mediate the ChadLibya dispute, and in 1988 the six committee members--Algeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Senegal--succeeded in bringing together foreign ministers from Chad and Libya to pursue diplomatic recognition and peace talks. The committee also requested written documentation of each side's claims to the Aozou Strip in the hope of finding a legal channel for curbing violence there.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress