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1979-82 Civil War and Multilateral Mediation

From 1979 to 1982, Chad experienced unprecedented change and spiraling violence. Southerners finally lost control of what remained of the Chadian government, while civil conflicts became significantly more internationalized. In early 1979, the fragile Malloum-Habre alliance collapsed after months of aggressive actions by Habre, including demands that more northerners be appointed to high government offices and that Arabic be used in place of French in broadcasting. Appealing for support among the large communities of Muslims and Arabs in N'Djamena, Habre unleashed his FAN on February 12. With the French garrison remaining uninvolved, FAN sent Malloum into retirement (under French protection) and drove the remnants of FAT toward the south. On February 22, Goukouni and FAP entered the capital.

By this time, most of the city's Sara population had fled to the south, where attacks against Muslims and nonsoutherners erupted, particularly in Sarh, Moundou, and throughout Moyen-Chari Prefecture. By mid-March more than 10,000 were said to have died as a result of violence throughout the south.

In early 1979, Chad became an open arena of unrestrained factional politics. Opportunistic power seekers sought to gather followers (often using sectarian appeals) and to win support from Chad's African neighbors. Between March 10 and August 21, four separate conferences took place in the Nigerian cities of Kano and Lagos, during which Chad's neighbors attempted to establish a political framework acceptable to the warring factions. Chad's neighbors, however, also used the meetings to pursue interests of their own, resulting in numerous externally generated complications and a growing number of factions brought into the process.

For example, at one point, Qadhafi became so angry with Habre that the Libyan sent arms to Colonel Wadel Abdelkader Kamougue's anti-Habre faction in the south, even though Kamougue was also anti-Libyan. At the second conference in Kano, both Habre and Goukouni were placed under what amounted to house arrest so Nigeria could promote the chances of a Kanembu leader, Mahmat Shawa Lol. In fact, Nigerian support made Lol the Chadian titular head of state for a few weeks, even though his Third Liberation Army was only a phantom force, and his domestic political support was insignificant. Within Chad the warring parties used the conferences and their associated truces to recover from one round of fighting and prepare for the next.

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. Despite the help of French combat forces, the Tombalbaye government was never able to quell the insurgency. Tombalbaye's rule became more irrational and brutal, leading the military to carry out a coup in 1975, assassinating Tombalbaye and installing General Felix Malloum, another southerner, as head of state.

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.

In the meantime, Goukouni had been joined by the young and dynamic Habré, who had been named commander in chief of the Command Council of the Armed Forces of the North (Conseil de Commandement des Forces Armées du Nord--CCFAN). Habré, however, was ousted in 1976, when he objected to Goukouni's willingness to cooperate with Libya to further the struggle against the central government. The two leaders also differed over Habré's kidnapping of French citizens and holding them for ransom as a means of raising funds.

Most of FROLINAT's First Liberation Army was reunified under Goukouni's overall command as FAP during 1977. (Habré reclaimed the name FAN for his followers.) Equipped with freshly supplied Libyan weapons, FAP carried on a broad offensive against government troops until a cease-fire was laboriously negotiated in March 1978. The truce was soon broken by Goukouni, whose troops soundly defeated the government army and threatened N'Djamena. French forces were again airlifted into the country and were decisive in routing FAP in a series of sharp engagements during the spring of 1978. During the course of the fighting, much of the new equipment FAP had received from Libya was abandoned.

In 1978, Malloum's government was broadened to include more northerners. Internal dissent within the government led the northern prime minister, Hissein Habre, to send his fighters against the national army in the capital in 1979, reigniting the civil war. In spite of the French rescue effort, the Malloum government was weakened both politically and militarily by the defeats administered to FAT, the national army. To shore up his position, Malloum offered Habré the post of prime minister in a government of national unity under the former's presidency. The new government, however, failed to function because it was paralyzed by factional differences. Clashes between FAT and Habré's FAN were frequent in the capital.

In early 1979, the fragile Malloum-Habré alliance collapsed after months of aggressive actions by Habré, including demands that more northerners be appointed to high government offices and that Arabic be used in place of French in broadcasting. Appealing for support among the large communities of Muslims and Arabs in N'Djamena, Habré unleashed his FAN on February 12. General fighting broke out between the two forces in February 1979.

With the French garrison remaining uninvolved, FAN sent Malloum into retirement (under French protection) and drove the remnants of FAT toward the south. On February 22, Goukouni and FAP entered the capital. The poorly led, less aggressive FAT troops were soon driven out of N'Djamena by FAN. By this time, most of the city's Sara population had fled to the south, where attacks against Muslims and nonsoutherners erupted, particularly in Sarh, Moundou, and throughout Moyen-Chari Prefecture. When the fighting ended, the looting and summary executions that followed precipitated a mass exodus of southern civilians. Mutual reprisals followed. Massacres of Muslims in southern towns were countered by executions of southern officials in eastern areas controlled by FAN. By mid-March more than 10,000 were said to have died as a result of violence throughout the south.

In early 1979, Chad became an open arena of unrestrained factional politics. Opportunistic power seekers sought to gather followers (often using sectarian appeals) and to win support from Chad's African neighbors. Between March 10 and August 21, four separate conferences took place in the Nigerian cities of Kano and Lagos, during which Chad's neighbors attempted to establish a political framework acceptable to the warring factions. Chad's neighbors, however, also used the meetings to pursue interests of their own, resulting in numerous externally generated complications and a growing number of factions brought into the process.

For example, at one point, Qadhaafi became so angry with Habré that the Libyan sent arms to Colonel Wadel Abdelkader Kamougué's anti-Habré faction in the south, even though Kamougué was also anti-Libyan. At the second conference in Kano, both Habré and Goukouni were placed under what amounted to house arrest so Nigeria could promote the chances of a Kanembu leader, Mahmat Shawa Lol. In fact, Nigerian support made Lol the Chadian titular head of state for a few weeks, even though his Third Liberation Army was only a phantom force, and his domestic political support was insignificant. Within Chad the warring parties used the conferences and their associated truces to recover from one round of fighting and prepare for the next.

The final conference culminated in the Lagos Accord of August 21, 1979, which representatives of eleven Chadian factions signed and the foreign ministers of nine other African states witnessed. The Lagos Accord established the procedures for setting up the Transitional Government of National Unity (Gouvernement d'Union Nationale de Transition-GUNT), which was sworn into office in November. By mutual agreement, Goukouni was named president, Kamougue was appointed vice-president, and Habre was named minister of national defense, veterans, and war victims. The distribution of cabinet positions was balanced between south (eleven portfolios), north, center, and east (thirteen), and among proteges of neighboring states. A peacekeeping mission of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), to be drawn from troops from Congo, Guinea, and Benin, was to replace the French. This force never materialized in any effective sense, but the OAU was committed to GUNT under the presidency of Goukouni.

GUNT, however, failed. Its major participants deeply mistrusted each other, and they never achieved a sense of coherence. As a result, the various factional militias remained armed. By January 1980, a unit of Habre's army was attacking the forces of one of the constituent groups of GUNT in Ouaddai Prefecture. Shortly thereafter, N'Djamena plunged into another cycle of violence, and by the end of March 1980 Habre was openly defying the government, having taken control of a section of the capital. The 600 Congolese troops of the OAU peacekeeping force remained out of the fray, as did the French, while units of five separate Chadian armies prowled the streets of N'Djamena. The battles continued throughout the summer, punctuated by more OAU mediation effots and five formal cease-fires.

French troops present in the N'Djamena area did not intervene; French neutrality in effect favored Habré, although the French attitude toward him was divided. Goukouni's FAP, meanwhile, had descended from the north to fight alongside FAN. By March 1979, the struggle had resulted in a de facto partition of Chad: the Muslim armies of FROLINAT controlled the capital, together with the northern and central prefectures, and Malloum controlled the five southernmost prefectures.

By January 1980, a unit of Habré's army was attacking the forces of one of the constituent groups of GUNT in Ouaddaï Prefecture. Shortly thereafter, N'Djamena plunged into another cycle of violence, and by the end of March 1980 Habré was openly defying the government, having taken control of a section of the capital. The 600 Congolese troops of the OAU peacekeeping force remained out of the fray, as did the French, while units of five separate Chadian armies prowled the streets of N'Djamena. The battles continued throughout the summer, punctuated by more OAU mediation efforts and five formal cease-fires.

It became evident that the profound rivalry between Goukouni and Habre was at the core of the conflict. By mid-1980 the south cut off from communication and trade with N'Djamena and defended by a regrouped, southern army - had become a state within a state. Colonel Kamougue, the strongman of the south, remained a prudent distance away from the capital and waited to negotiate with whichever northerner emerged as the winner. In 1980 the beleaguered Goukouni turned to Libya, much as he had done four years earlier. With the French forces having departed in mid-May 1980, Goukouni signed a military cooperation treaty with Libya in June (without prior approval of the all but defunct GUNT). In October he requested direct military assistance from Qadhafi, and by December Libyan forces had firm control of the capital and most other urban centers outside the south. Habre fled to Sudan, vowing to resume the struggle.

Nigeria and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) attempted to bring the Chadian factions together. In August 1979, the Lagos accord established a transitional government pending national elections planned within 18 months. Goukouni Oueddei, a northerner, was named President; Colonel Kamougue, a southerner, Vice President; and Habre, Minister of Defense. Early in 1980, however, the accord broke down and fighting broke out again between Goukouni's and Habre's partisans.

Although Libyan intervention enabled Goukouni to win militarily, the association with Qadhafi created diplomatic problems for GUNT. In January 1981, when Goukouni and Qadhafi issued a joint communique stating that Chad and Libya had agreed to "work for the realization of complete unity between the two countries," an international uproar ensued. Although both leaders later denied any intention to merge their states politically, the diplomatic damage had been done.

With assistance from Libya (which asserted a claim to the northern Chadian territory called the Aouzou Strip), Goukouni regained control of the capital and other urban centers and Habre retreated into Sudan. Goukouni’s policy of political union of Chad and Libya, however, was unpopular and generated support for Habre, whose forces took N'Djamena in June 1981. He proclaimed himself President. French troops and an OAU peacekeeping force of 3,500 Nigerian, Senegalese, and Zairian troops remained neutral during the conflict.

As a consequence of the Libya-Chad rift, Goukouni asked the Libyan forces in late October 1981 to leave, and by mid-November they had complied. Their departure, however, allowed Habre's FAN-reconstituted in eastern Chad with Egyptian, Sudanese, and, reportedly, significant United States assistance-to win key positions along the highway from Ab&ch to N'Djamena. Habre was restrained only by the arrival and deployment in December 1981 of some 4,800 IAF troops from Nigeria, Senegal, and Zaire.

Throughout 1981 most of the members of the OAU, along with France and the United States, encouraged Libyan troops to withdraw from Chad. One week after the "unity communique," the OAU's committee on Chad met in Togo to assess the situation. In a surprisingly blunt resolution, the twelve states on the committee denounced the union goal as a violation of the 1979 Lagos Accord, called for Libya to withdraw its troops, and promised to provide a peacekeeping unit, the Inter-African Force (IAF). Goukouni was skeptical of OAU promises, but in September he received a French pledge of support for his government and the IAF.

But as Goukouni's relations with the OAU and France improved, his ties with Libya deteriorated. One reason for this deterioration was that the economic assistance that Libya had promised never materialized. Another, and perhaps more significant, factor was that Qadhafi was strongly suspected of helping Goukouni's rival within GUNT, Acyl Ahmat, leader of the Democratic Revolutionary Council (Conseil Dmocratique R~volutionnaire-CDR). Both Habre and Goukouni feared Acyl because he and many of the members of the CDR were Arabs of the Awlad Sulayman tribe. About 150 years earlier, this group had migrated from Libya to Chad and thus represented the historical and cultural basis of Libyan claims in Chad.

In February 1982, a special OAU meeting in Nairobi resulted in a plan that called for a cease-fire, negotiations among all parties, elections, and the departure of the IAF; all terms were to be carried out within six months. Habre accepted the plan, but Goukouni rejected it, asserting that Habre had lost any claim to legitimacy when he broke with GUNT.

When Habre renewed his military advance toward N'Djamena, the IAF remained essentially neutral, just as the French had done when FROLINAT marched on Malloum three years earlier. FAN secured control of the capital on June 7. Goukouni and other members of GUNT fled to Cameroon and eventually reappeared in Libya. For the remainder of the year, Habre consolidated his power in much of war-weary Chad and worked to secure international recognition for his government.



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