Chad Conflict History
Head of state: President Idriss Déby, December 1990- (1996-2001; 2001-2006; 2006-)
Long inhabited region colonised by French 1900, but given full colonial status only in 1920 as part of French Equatorial Africa (AEF). AEF dissolved 1959 into four states, but elected representatives sat in French National Assembly from 1946. Chad became independent 11 August 1960, with François Tombalbaye – leader of largest political party Chadian Progressive Party (PPT), triumphant in May 1959 elections – as president.
Independence exacerbated existing divisions within population, Tombalbaye’s rule increasingly authoritarian. Opposition parties were banned 1962, protests suppressed 1963. Bloody 1965 Mangalme tax revolt spread across east and centre of country, against southern-led government. National Liberation Front of Chad (FROLINAT) founded 1966 in Sudan to oust Tombalbaye and government. Tombalbaye unable to quell Libyan-supported insurgency, despite French assistance.
1975 military coup unseated Tombalbaye, General Felix Malloum installed as head of state, leading more ethnically representative government. Failed to stabilise country and weakened by French withdrawal and several insurgent victories. Brief alliance with Hissène Habré as PM disintegrated and violence between respective forces broke out in capital February 1979. Nigerian-mediation yielded August 1979 Lagos Accord, then fragile transitional coalition government with Goukouni Oueddei as president.
Then Defense Minister Habré’s forces entered N’Djamena June 1982 following numerous clashes with Goukouni’s forces, ousting Libyan-supported Goukouni with regional and international assistance aimed at countering expansionist Libya.
Habré’s brutal regime lasted until December 1990, with western support and fired by virulent nationalism in face of Libyan interventions. Opposition brutally repressed, some 40,000 reputedly killed under his rule. Libya supported various anti-Habré forces, occupying northern Chad from 1983. Habré’s mid-1980s reconciliation with opponents including Goukouni enabled expulsion of Libyan forces from most of territory. 1987-88 ceasefire held, 1994 International Court of Justice decision giving Chad sovereignty over contested northern Aouzou strip effectively ended Libyan occupation.
Habré unable to create national consensus and depoliticise army: tensions grew late 1980s between different ethnic groups in government. Leading general Idriss Déby defected 1989, fled to Darfur, mounted attacks on Habré, supported by Sudan Libya and French secret services. Déby’s forces took N’Djamena December 1990, with no opposition from French troops in capital.
New order had potential for democratic shift, but new political system remained tightly controlled by Déby and army dissidents continued to foment unrest in parts of the country. Initial liberalisation steps included formal adoption of multipartism October 1991 and disbanding of Habré’s political police. French pressure led to early 1993 national conference, giving first opportunity for political dialogue and attempts to reduce presidential power and shore up legitimate institutions. But in transition years to 1996 presidential election, Déby secured control of civil service, new constitution March 1996 effectively conceived by presidential entourage.
Déby and ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS) dominated flawed 1996 presidential and 1997 legislative elections; 2001 presidential, 2002 legislative elections criticised by international observers, opposition were wiped out. Facing local and international protest, Déby promised to respect constitutional two-term limit, but National Assembly abolished term limits May 2004. Constitutional reform ratified by June 2005 referendum, largely boycotted by population. Déby triumphed in May first round of 2006 presidential elections, boycotted by opposition. Some 70 parties exist, but institutions guaranteeing democracy have been undermined. Government and opposition signed N’Djamena accord August 2007, focusing on electoral reforms but not broader issues. Oil exploration began in 2003, wealth reportedly has since fuelled clientelism and corruption.
Violence continued post-Déby coup: he faced at least 2 coup attempts in first 2 years; civilian killings in southern Chad sparked unrest, several southern groups signed peace agreement with government 1994, later broke down; militias clashed with army 1994-95. Various militias fighting government in 1990s included Movement for Democracy and Development (MDD), National Revival Committee for Peace and Democracy (CSNPD), Chadian National Front (FNT), Armed Forces for a Federal Republic (FARF), Democratic Front for Renewal (FDR). Short peace 1997 broken when FARF clashed with army. 1998-2003 Chadian Movement for Justice and Democracy (MDJT) fought frequently with government in Tibesti region: many casualties, territorial control barely changed. Govt-MDJT peace accord signed September 2005
Déby faced 3 coup attempts 2005-2008, including April 2006 attack on capital by coalition of anti-government rebel groups United Front for Democratic Change (FUCD), with 300 killed. Govt-rebel fighting continued through 2006 (including with Rally for Change, National Unity and Democracy (SCUD) comprising army deserters), state of emergency declared November following heavy fighting in east. FUCD leader broke away to sign peace deal December 2006, 4 rebel groups signed peace deal with government October 2007 but fighting in east quickly resumed. Major rebel assault on capital February 2008 killed hundreds; state of emergency declared, opposition targeted in government crackdown.
Insecurity worsened by tensions with Sudan, both Déby and President al-Bashir of Sudan accusing the other of supporting rebels in their territory. Some 200,000 Sudanese fled escalating Darfur crisis 2004 to eastern Chad camps. Chad declared “state of belligerence” December 2005, both massed troops on border; Chad opposed Sudan’s campaign for AU Chair January 2006 on grounds of promoting regional instability. February 2006 accord did not hold: diplomatic ties repeatedly broken, reestablished. Chadian rebellion instrumentalised by Khartoum, but root causes remain domestic. UN Security Council approved French initiative of UN/EU forces for Chad/CAR (MINURCAT and EUFOR) September 2007 – formally operational March 2008.
updated November 2008