Conflict In Chad, 1975 To
Present: A Central African Tragedy
SUBJECT AREA Strategic Issues
WAR SINCE 1945 SEMINAR
Conflict in Chad, 1975 to Present:
A Central African Tragedy
Major David H. Henderson, USMC
2 April 1984
Marine Corps Command and Staff College
Marine Corps Development and Education Command
Quantico, Virginia 22134
Table Of Contents
List Of Figures iii
I. Introduction 1
II. Background of the War, 1920-1975 3
Physical characteristics of Chad 3
The people of Chad 8
Pre-indendepnce, 1920-1960 11
French influence 11
Political developments 14
Post-independence, 1960-1975 17
Tombalbaye's rule 17
north-south antagonisms 19
government maladministration 19
Government response-French intervention 23
The armed forces of Chad 25
performance of the armed forces 28
Tombalbaye's response to rebellion 30
Tombalbaye's relations with the armed forces 31
The armed forces role in government 32
Tombalbaye's distrust of the armed forces 33
II. Transition of War to War for Personal
Power, 1975-1978 37
The Military Coup, 1975 37
The Supreme Military Counsel, 1975-1978 39
The rebel organizatons, 1975-1978 41
Hissene Habre's Second Liberation Army 41
The Claustre Affair and its results 42
Abba Siddek's FLP 44
Goukouni Odeddei's FAN 46
III. The War for Personal Power 1978-1983 48
Reconciliation Governments, 1978-1979 48
Transition Governments, 1979-1980 53
The first transitional government 54
The second transitional government 54
Expulsion of Habre 55
Libyan intervention, 1980 57
Libyan military support 58
Merger of Libya and Chad 58
Expulsion of Libya, 1981 60
Habre's Return, 1982 61
Governmental organization 62
Southern secession 63
Goukouni's Offensive, 1982-1983 64
Government in exile 64
Libyan involvement; the fall of Faya-Largeau 65
No further advances 67
Governmental Response 68
Military assistance 68
Recapture of Faya-Largeau 69
Goukouni's Offensive Renewed 70
Rebel seige and recapture of Faya-Largeau 72
French intervention 73
IV. Analysis 76
V. Conclusions 85
End Notes 87
Annotated Bibliography 93
List of Figures
1. Map of North Africa 4
2. Map of physical geography of Chad 6
3. Map of climate regions of Chad 7
4. Map of policital subdivisions of Chad 36
Black's Law Dictionary defines a "state" as "a people
permanently occupying a fixed territory bound together by
common-law habits and custom into one body politic
exercising, through the medium of an organized government,
independent sovereignty and control over all persons and
things within its boundaries."(1)
The independent state of Chad is in the north-central
portion of the African continent. That state, since gaining
its independence from France in 1960, has had none of the
characteristics attributed by Black's Law Dictionary
definition of a "state." Its geography, peoples, history,
and susceptibility to the whims and direction of other more
powerful states, has rendered Chad not a true state, but
rather a location on the planet where individuals and groups
spend their lives. Modern countries must recognize the
distinction between the actual Chad and the ideological,
nonexistent "state" of Chad, when determining policy relative
to it. States which fail to do so risk involvement in a
quagmire which makes American involvement in El Salvador seem
to be but a mere Sunday outing. The military professionals
of modern states who find themselves involved in operations
involving Chad or other third world states must also
recognize this situation, for any response must be tailored
to the peculiar situation addressed. Military action
intended to influence an independent state as defined by
Black's may not have the desired results when directed at the
entity called Chad. Clausewitz has told us that war is
merely an extension of politics, and the politial background
of Chad seems to doom it to continuing war.
This paper will examine the war in Chad as an example of
a lesser developed third-world country in which the United
States may become, or be tempted to become, involved in
military action. This paper will attempt to show that the
nature of the conflict in Chad does not invite such
involvement, in that the personal war in Chad may be
unresolveable by military means.
Background of the War
Physical Characteristics of Chad
The physical and historical settings for the Chadian
conflict are unremarkable as African histories go, but they
are important in that they totally portend later events.
Chad was formerly a part of French Equatorial Africa, a
poorly fertile portion of the Sudanese Savannah belt. (See
Figure 1.) A relatively large country, the nation extends
approximately one thousand miles on the north-south axis, and
averages about five hundred miles from east to west. Chad
suffers from an acute lack of physical resources in spite of
its size. Like many sub-Saharan African nations, Chad is
landlocked. The nearest possible Harbor in Porthercourt in
eastern Nigeria, more than sixteen hundred kilometers away.
From Lake Chad on the western-central border of Chad,
the land rises gradually in the south and east to plateaus
and ridges, and in the north to arid plateaus and extinct
volcanoes. Therefore, Chad forms a bowl-like depression,
with Lake Chad as the reservoir of the runoff from the sides
of the bowl. In northern and central Chad, no permanent
rivers or streams flow and summer rainfall is collected by
seasonally dry stream beds, or wadis. The Chari and Lagone
rivers in southern Chad contain water year round, though flow
Click here to view image
is sluggish in February and March. (See Figure 2.)
The climate of Chad varies extensively from north to
south, and the climatic differences and resultant population
and economic distribution have played a major role in Chadian
politics. Three major zones of climate and population exist:
the subtropical south, the Sahelian central zone, and the
northern Saharan zone of true desert. The southern zone, a
natural savanna, is the farming region of Chad. It receives
adequate rainfall--thirty-five to fifty inches per year--and
is generally warm. Even in January, the usual temperature is
above 80 degrees farenheit. The central zone north of the
Chari river contains farming areas wherever swamps or wells
provide moisture in excess of the normal twenty-five inches
of rain per annum. Cattle grazing, however, is plentiful,
and often is combined with subsistence farming. The central
area includes the area up to the north of Lake Chad and
Abeche, between 14 degrees North and 16 degrees North.
There, the scattered greenery gives way to dry steppe land,
with the northern half of Chad becoming tribe desert, an
extension of the Sahara. Here high temperatures--90 degrees
Farenheit during the coolest months--and only trace amounts
of rain for the whole year limit human existence to tenuous
subsistence surrounding small oases or wells. Antelopes,
gazelles, and ostriches, have adapted to these dry
conditions, and they lay claim to this region for the most
part.(1) (See Figure 3.)
Click here to view image
Chad is bordered on the north by Libya, the neighboring
country most actively involved in Chadian domestic strife in
recent years. To the east lies Sudan, and to the south the
Central African Republic. Cameroon and Nigeria lie to the
southwest. Nigeria and Niger share Chads western border.
Most of Chads borders are artificial, drawn by former
colonial powers with little or no regard for natural
demarcation or barriers. (See Figure 4.) Libya's and
Niger's border with Chad run along open desert areas, as does
the northern third of the eight hundred forty five mile
border with Sudan. Other borders are also artificial or
along ill-defined topography, such as the Nigerian border
which wanders through the changing islands and water courses
in the middle of Lake Chad. Similarly, Chad's internal
borders outline prefectures, of which there are fourteen,
divided into subprefectures then counties.
Like water, productive alluvial soil is found mostly in
southern Chad, becoming more scarce to nonexistent as one
moves north. Known mineral deposits, though scarce, follow
an identical pattern, though uranium is said to exist in the
Aouzou strip, along the northern border with Libya.
The People of Chad
The climate and physical geography of Chad which vary
from north to south have also been the primary determinant of
demographic patterns. Larger numbers of people live in the
south in the more abundant rainfall areas; the population
density diminishes as one moves north. Localized population
increases are in direct proportion only to increases in local
sources of water. Communications, including telephone and
telegraph facilities, roads, and other travel means between
these areas are poor to nonexistent. Hense, communications
of any sort between the various areas of the country have
always been extremely limited.
Those generalization aside, however, it should be
recognized that all population statistics found from various
sources have been rendered at least questionable if not
obsolete by the prolonged drought of the late 1970's and by
the even more prolonged civil war in Chad. A total
population figure of 4.32 million was estimated in 1978, and
that number was probably close to valid in 1980. However,
former annual growth rates and even distribution patterns
have probably been altered since that time.(2)
Ethnic diversity as a characteristic of Chadian
population, however, has not changed. Populations have
historically shifted from east to west and north to south
along trade routes through Chad, blending and forming even
more diverse populations. The 1971 edition of the area
Handbook for Chad(3) lists thirty-three different major
ethnic groups found in the country, the largest of which
comprises only 24% of the population. However, those peoples
may loosely be divided into three major groups. The nomads
of Chad's dry, northern areas include the Arabs and the
Toubous. These two ethnic groups, both of which are
caucasian muslims, formerly made their livelihood not only
from nomadic herding, but also from slaving raids, preying
upon the black tribes to the south. The Arabs, also found in
small numbers throughout the country, are the second largest
ethnic group of Chad. The warlike nature of the Toubou
tribes has continued to affect Chad even into modern times.
The sedentary or semisedentary people of the central
Chadian Sahel region reflect their location at the crossroads
of centuries of African migrations. Twenty-three of the
thrity-three major ethnic groups referred to previously(4)
reside in central Chad. Despite historic and geographic
differences, the peoples of central Chad have maintained an
historic affinity with the northern nomads, due to economic
exchanges during the normad's migrations south and the
predominance of the muslim religion in both regions.(5)
The sedentary ethnic groups of the south, predominately
the Sara group, have traditionally been skillful farmers;
they have consistently resisted Islam, and either remained
faithful to traditional African religions or become
Christians. This has contributed a further difference
between these peoples. The southern tribes, especially the
Sara, were able to exploit the more abundant natural
potential of their lands. In addition, the southern peoples
more quickly adapted to European settlement. Beside this
ethnic and religious division, the southerners have
traditionally been politically separate from northern Chad.
Until 1946, the southern prefectures were part of the French
state of Oubanqui-Chari, which was a state separate from
French Equatorial Africa (Afrique Equatoriale Francaise) from
whence came the more northern portions of Chad.
Pre-indepence Chad, 1920-1960. French influences.
Europeans, especially the French, began to exercise
interest and influence in the northern region of Africa in
the mid-1800's. This principally stemmed from an attempt to
unite French northern with central and western African
colonial holdings.(5) Southern black populations, freed from
the slaving and raiding depredations of the north, welcomed
the French and their colonial innovations in southern
economics, politics and education. The southern Sara
tribesmen took advantage of state and mission schools, and
began to become part of the government administration and to
enter the political arena. The southern blacks were rewarded
by economic investment, as opposed to the almost complete
lack of economic assistance to the north. The French found
no coherent political structure to contend with in southern
Chad, and this eased the process of assimilation of the south
into the French way of life. The lack of traditional
authorities over the southern blacks was to differentiate
southern response to Western governmental ideas from the
response of the more northern peoples.
Like the south, the north also lacked an effective
political structure when the initial French intervention
occurred. However, both Toubou and Arab nomads in the north
had strong tribal allegiances; hence they resisted the forced
imposition of the alien French culture and institutions.
Therefore, the French government in the north consisted of a
military regime dedicated to preserving order.(6)
Central Chad was a completely different problem area.
It combined the traditional independence of the north with
political and social organization already more advanced when
the French arrived. French innovation, such as the exercise
of police power by colonial forces rather than chiefs or
sultans, weakened the old tribal power structure as exercised
by the old leaders. This process destroyed what could have
been a valuable tool to control native populations, had the
French used the leaders' powers for French ends.
In the first thirty years of the twentieth century,
France was unable to effectively centralize the government
and eliminate regionalism and tribalism in Chad, in part
because France lacked the administrative machinery to
exercise its central colonial administration.(7) The French
also failed to recognize the influence and importance that
tribal chiefs and sultans retained in northern and central
Chad, even when they had been reduced in French eyes to mere
An attempt was made to put the sultan's powers to work
for the French only in the 1930's, when sultan's powers were
increased by colonial authorities. A partnership between the
French and the sultans existed eventually but then only to
resist the rise of the Sara politicians in the south. The
chieftans as well as the French recognized in the 1930's that
the rise of southern, Sara dominated nationalism in local
politics was a threat to the political power exercised by the
French and the northern and central tribal leaders. In the
1930's, the French restored many powers to the chiefs. The
powerful chiefs of central and northern Chad then became even
more jealous of their own authority, and resisted any
attempts to develop national feelings among populations
within the border of what would become Chad. They also
resisted any attempts to develop any allegiances to political
The rise of the southern politicians, and the
simultaneous decline in the authority of the southern chiefs,
on the contrary, and resulted in large part to the French
policy of forced cotton cultivation in the south. The black
peasants of the south were forced to grow cotton, and abuses
by the southern chiefs made the peasants' plight nearly that
of slavery. French efforts to end those abuses ended the
power of the chiefs in southern Chad; this gave the Sara
politican a ready constituency when the individual farmer,
vice the chieftancy, was championed in the south. Thus, the
southern population, free of the traditional tribal
authorities which still restrained northern populations, were
able to support and identify with the concept of a national
French efforts to improve the economy of Chad fell
victim to the ethnic diversity of Chad. Thus another
potential unifying factor failed to come into being. Cotton,
the main source of income in Chad, was limited to the
southern regions of the country where the climate and nature
of the population permitted for its cultivation. Livestock,
a potentially rich source of income, was a limited resource,
in spite of numerous French efforts to introduce
disease-resistant breeds and modern husbandry methods.
Cattle ownership in the north was a status symbol, not merely
an economic measure, yet the French never recognized that
fact; thus the colonial rulers were never able to effect
truly modern cattle raising practices.
Smuggling of livestock and fish catches out of the
country continued to be practiced on a large scale. Such
smuggling operations entailed a double loss for the
government, through the lost export taxes, and by pitting the
government against regional entrepreneurs. Once again, the
failure of the French to effectively administer the colony,
and their failure to recognize local conditions in their
efforts to unify Chad increased, rather than lessened, the
diversification of the Chadian people.
The political developments in Chad during years of
French colonization likewise failed to consider and counter
the diversity of the people and environment found within the
boundaries of Chad. In 1910, northern Chad joined with
Gabon, Oubangi-Chari, and Moyen-Congo (Middle Congo) in the
formation of the federation of French Equatorial Africa
(Afrique Equatoriale Francaise--AEF) along the lines of
French West Africa. The AEF was mismanaged, or rather, not
managed, by the French until 1946. For example, in 1928
forty-two percent of Chad's administrative subdivisions were
without official administrators.(9) In 1946, after World War
II, the new French constitution made Chad an overseas
territory of France, and made the Chadian residents French
citizens. Chad elected its own territorial assembly with
limited powers, and elected delegates to the government of
the French Republic
The 1946 changes, however, had only minimal effect on
real politics in Chad. Power still rested in France, and
governmental administration, such as it was, was still
heavily dependent on the French. Chadian Africans only began
to be trained for civil service in 1955. The Chadian
Democratic Union (Union Democratique Tchadien--UDT) was the
dominant political force in Chad, but it was itself largely
dominated by European members.(10) Only in the 1950's did
local political powers and tensions begin to develop,
especially regarding elections to the Assembly. During the
1950's political parties engaged in rapid shifts,
splinterings, and mergers in order to obtain majorities in
the Chadian parliament, which resulted in party name changes
which became confusing even for the parties involved. After
the fall of the Fourth French Republic in 1957, Chad, by
resolution of its Assembly, became an autonomous republic
under the French community.
The year of 1959 reflected the lack of political unity
in the country. Four provisional governments came to power
in Chad. The fourth was installed with Francois Tombalbaye,
a Sara, as its Premier. His attempts to achieve national
unity culminated with the creation in Chad of a sole
political party, dominated by southerners, the Union for the
Progress of Chad (Union pour le Progres du Tchad--UPT).
Efforts to unite Chad with the three former colonies of the
AEF failed, and on August 11, 1960, independence was granted
When the French departed Chad in 1960, they left the
country full of splits, factions, and divisions, which became
the roots of the chaos which has existed since that time. As
stated by the authors of Conflict in Chad.
"The frontiers bequeathed by France to Chad when it
became a sovreign state in 1960 were simply a frame
inside of which there was nothing to hold the
country together; hence there was no incentive to
defend those frontiers. An unbalanced economy was
matched by a lopsided political development--a
small sector of prosperity in a generally
subsistence economy paralleled a political
consciousness largely restricted to one ethnic
group and one area. During a half century of rule,
France had done nothing constructive to develop a
national sentiment among Chadians except to give
them a political framework that could be used if
they had the will to do so. The withdrawal of the
French administration removed the one unifying
force in the country."(12)
If "blame" for the conditions in Chad upon its gaining
independence in 1960 must be assessed, the French must
certainly shoulder most of it, if not all. During French
rule, there had coexisted military rule in the north,
theocratic sultanates in the center and east, and direct
civil administration in the south. All of these factors
tended to support tribalism, regionalism, and religious
differences. The conditions in Africa itself, and the
conditions left in Chad by France, were noted by Kenneth L.
Adelman, who stated some of the underlying causes of African
conflicts in general. Those causes he identified were:
1. the historical truth that decolonization is a
painful, often conflict-inducing process,
2. the ludicrous boundaries which have been woven into
the political fabric of Africa, and
3. the extreme poverty of most of Africa and past
historical events which have left black African states
in extremely weak and vulnerable positions.(13)
Going into the 1960's, Chad exemplified all of those
Post-independence, 1960-1975. Tombalbaye's rule.
The first fifteen years of Chadian independence, from
1960 to 1975, were marked by the essentially one-man rule of
Francois Tombalbaye. A protestant mission-educated teacher
of the Sara tribe, Tombalbaye epitomized the qualities of the
Sara tribe which gave them an early lead in the control of
Chadian economic and political affairs. In 1954, at the age
of thirty-four, he began his political career with his
election to the Territorial Assembly. In 1959, Tombalbaye
assumed control of the government in Chad without resorting
to violence. Tombalbaye used what has been called a "coup
d'etat by telegram,"(14) or the simple expedient of sending a
telegram to the former Prime Minister, Gabriel Lisette, which
forbade him to return to Chad after Lisette's being in Israel
attending a symposium. Tombalbaye thus assured that his
position within the newly-formed Progressive Party of Chad
(Parti Progressiste Tchadien--PPT) was solid. Tombalbaye and
the PPT, which had originally gained power and influence by
siding with the peasant tobacco farmers in the south of Chad,
could boast of strong organization not only in the cotton
belt, but also in Muslin areas in Bathia, Guera, and
Opposition to the PPT in the National Assembly decreased
after Tombalbaye assumed power, and a single party system was
implemented in 1962. This occurred over the strong
objections of politicians from the north, and conflict
ensued. Five northern politicians were arrested in March,
1963 because of their objections to the adoption of the
Sara-dominated single party; and in September of 1963 rioting
at Fort-Lamy and in the Salamat Prefecture followed attempts
to arrest other northern leaders who opposed Tombabaye and
The sultanates and Muslim northerners, who traditionally
had seen themselves as more socially advanced than the
southerners, now were in a position exactly opposite from
that which they had regarded as traditional. They were now
under the political control of southerners who had been
heretofore regarded by the northerners as merely a group of
pagan blacks, and a source of slaves and income. Division
between smaller ethnic units of the north continued. For
example, the Toubou tribe remained apart from the Muslim
sultanates. However, traditional antagonisms between the
northern and southern ethnic and political groupings were to
be further aggravated by the governmental administration
imposed by the southern--dominated government.
The major cause of the first rebellion, which erupted in
1965, was primarily maladministration by the regional and
local governmental authorities.(15) Complete responsibility
for the sad state of local governmental administration is not
usually placed by observers on Tombalbaye and his regime. It
was, however, Tombalbaye who had filled the administrative
positions almost exclusively with southerners. It has often
been stated that Chadians from the north had not been trained
or prepared to assume those duties upon France's precipitous
departure, and therefore only the southern, Sara-dominated
tribes could act as administrators to fill the positions
vacated by the French. Though often given as a reason for
the complete Sara domination of those administrative billets
in the early 1960's, previous commentators make little if any
mention of the chances that the Tombalbaye government would
have installed great numbers of northern administrators even
had they been available. It must be remembered that in the
early 1960's when the posts were being filled, Tombalbaye and
the PPT were just then consolidating their control over Chad.
Political appointments remain a powerful tool for politicians
in any country.
Whatever the main cause of the filling of most
governmental positions with Sara officials, the effects of
the Sara administration were clear to President Tombalbaye
and foreign observers alike. The southern administrators
came from a society without stratification; few of them took
the time or expended the effort to develop an understanding
of or a respect for the northern social systems. The
northern societies had retained their hierarchical character
because of the limited contact of the north with the changing
societal organizations of the outside world. Corruption was
rampant among the southern administrative officials.
Anti-Sara sentiment grew strongly in the northern areas, and
the black Muslim peasants and herders of the mountainous
central region rose up against the officials and soldiers
sent there to collect taxes. This enmity arose not only
because the collectors were Sara, pagans, or Christians, but
because the taxes were unfairly high, made so by political
corruption and inefficiency. "In the face of the countless
abuses, humiliations, and discriminatory practices attributed
to Sara rule, the insurrection eventually reached a regional
scale."(16) In 1966, an organized revolutionary resistance
organization, the National Front for the Liberation of Chad
(Front Nationale de Liberation du Tchad-FROLINAT) was formed.
Because of the fractionalization of Chadian peoples and
politics up to this time, the FROLINAT was a collection of
multiple armed factions united only by their opposition to
Tombalbaye. Their educations, religious views, regional
origins, and ideologies ranged to all extremes; thus the
ensuing rifts in FROLINAT solidarity, which began almost with
its formation, existed throughout FROLINAT's existence. It
was clear that the members of FROLINAT knew only what they
did not want: Tombalbaye.
Armed insurrection to the Tombalbaye government thus
began, often supported by Libyan assistance. On November 1,
1965, unarmed peasants were fired on in Mangaline by
government troops in response to a riot against tax
collectors. Fleeing to the hills in fear of government
reprisals, the rebels also drove the outlying government
officials into the towns for safety. Rebel bands, seizing on
the subsequent lack of government authority in the areas
vacated by officials, attacked military and administrative
posts, killed local chiefs, and stole cattle. The arrival of
the secretary-general of FROLINAT, Ibrahima Abatcha, with his
North Korean-trained military leaders, transformed the
peasant revolt into a revolutionary movement. FROLINAT armed
forces were recruited and given minimal military training.
Branches of FROLINAT were also opened abroad, notably at the
Islamic University at Beida in Libya, where Chadian students
The northern Toubou region of Chad is known as the
"Bet," named for the three provinces of the area: Borkou,
Ennedi, an Tibesti. The Derde, or tribal leader, of the
region, on advice of Libya's new leader, Colonal Khadafi,
instigated a rebellion known as "the BET revolt." Like other
aspects of the rebellion, the nature of the true instigating
factor is unclear. However, it is clear that even inter-
Touban quarrels were aggravated by the revolt; furthermore,
like FROLINAT, it too was not a unified regional
In 1965, concurrently with the BET revolt, Ibrahima
Abatcha was killed in fighting with government troops in
eastern Chad. His death was a blow to FROLINAT from which it
never recovered, in that he was probably the one leader
around whom the various FROLINAT factions could have united
due to his abilities as both a field commander and a
politician.(18) Following Abatcha's death, a prolonged
struggle for leadership of the FROLINAT occurred.
By 1968, the armed insurrection had widened. Four of
the country's fourteen prefectures were involved, and at
least six others were touched by the rebellion. At this
time, armed factions abounded throughout Chad. Goukouni
Oueddei had been named "secretary for the interior" of the
rebel armies in the BET, now called the Second Liberation
Army or the Forces Armees du Nord (FAN). The east-central
army of FROLINAT was represented by the Orthodox FROLINAT led
by Abba Siddik. El Hadj Issoha had consolidated his position
of leadership of the First Liberation Army. These armies
often defeated government forces in the field, but were most
effective on the village level, organizing anti-government
militia and conducting political education. Along the
Sudanese border, the Chadian Liberation Front also operated,
not as a part of FROLINAT. All these rebel armies had formed
for the sole purpose of overthrowing Tombalbaye.
Governmental Response. French intervention.
Governmental reaction to the ever-widening revolution
was mixed and ineffective. In 1965 Major Noel Odingar, a
Sara graduate of the French military academy, took the post
as commander of Chadian armed forces; this further
strengthened the Sara domination of the government. That
same year, Tombalbaye attempted to resolve the problem of
incompetant administrators by castigating them for their
performance. Their conduct and their actions after the
Mangaline riots showed the political liability that the
administrators were, yet it took strong external pressure
from France to force Tombalbaye to take even limited reform
action. By March, 1965, the small Chadian armed forces were
over-extended dealing with the rebellions; thus Tombalbaye
was forced for the first time to request French intervention
to dislodge Toubou forces who had taken a government post in
the Aouzou strip from Sara troops. The French
counterinsurgency effort, which lasted in various forms until
1979, was an effort which may be best characterized as having
good intentions for the people of Chad, but which was made in
support of the wrong leader.
The French, as a condition to their involvement,
required Tombalbaye to accept a mission to study
administrative reform (MRA). Prepared by chairman Pierre
Lami, the MRA report recognized that Tombalbaye would resist
making fundamental changes which were necessary to
administrative reform, but would instead continue to treat
opposition by a policy of mass arrests. The monetary cost of
French participation in Chad, the effect of French casualties
on the home front, and the negative reaction of some African
countries to French intervention tended to make France wary
of continued involvement with Tombalbaye. However, other
factors combined to support the policy of Paris: French
military successes against the rebels, fears of anarchy, and
a threat to French interests in Africa. Thus the French
government continued to be committed.
The MRA, however, was never allowed to accomplish the
reforms it recognized as necessary. Restoration of
traditional and canton chiefs' authority was recommended by
the MRA, but was never adopted. Many other MRA reforms never
were completed. The French had delayed the fall of
Tombalbaye, but had failed to require that the reforms needed
to permanently end the revolt be made. However, the
character of the revolution, which had originally begun as a
North-South, Muslim-Christian revolt, soon changed in the
The Armed Forces of Chad. Organization.
The role of the Chadian armed forces from independence
in 1960 until the overthrow of the Tombalbaye regime in 1975
was marked by attention and neglect, professionalism and
disgrace, nationalism and reliance on foreign powers. In
1961, the building of the armed forces began around a nucleus
of approximately two hundred officers and men. The officers
had for the most part received their military training in
French schools, and both officers and men had served
previously in the French army.(19) During this period, most
of the commissioned and noncommissioned officers were
Though the numbers in service were small, one ethnic
group, the Sara, did have a military tradition based on
extensive service with French forces. The Sara tribesmen had
provided the major portion of the African soldiers in the
French army since the First World War; they had also rendered
extensive service to the French Free Forces in World War II.
At the end of 1940, two African battalions composed almost
entirely of Sara tribesmen, under the command of Colonel
Jacques Leclerc, were marshalled in a base in Chad under the
Free French flag. In operations against the Italians at
Mourzouk, Libya, the African forces were successful. Later
the force seized the entire Fezzan region of southern Libya
and crossed the desert to North Africa in a spectacular
military operation. The Second World War gave Sara Chadians
A measure of pride in their armed forces, and a positive
regard for military forces in general.
The economic benefit to the Chadians from military
operations in World War II was also significant, from both
wages and military supply activity going through the country.
The Sara continued to serve in the French army, and large
numbers of the tribe served with French forces in Indochina
from 1946 to 1953, and in Algeria from 1954 to 1962. The
Sara veterans did not participate in the insurgent movements
of the 1960's and early 1970's, because the movements were
centered on northern and northeastern prefectures.
Thus, when the Chadian army expanded in response to the
insurgent movements, it was to the Sara that the Tombalbaye
regime turned for additional forces. This further
strengthened the influence of southerners on the country's
institutions, in conjunction with the southern economic and
political dominance. The numbers of Sara in uniform swelled.
In 1966, French forces had departed from the BET, and
guerilla warfare had begun in the central prefectures. In
response, the formerly small Chadian army was increased to a
seven hundred man infantry battalion.(20) The force had
formerly been equipped with only light weapons, but now a
light artillery unit was raised and equipped to support the
battalion. An aircraft squadron was also established; the
Chadian Squadron (Escadrille Tchadienne). It consisted of
one hundred men, one DC-3 cargo aircraft, three light
observation aircraft, and two helicopters.
By the late 1960's, the Chadian armed forces were
divided into the Territorial Guard (later called the Garde
Nationale et Nomade), the Surete Nationale, the gendarmerie,
and the regular army.(21) (See Figure 5.) The regular army
had increased to four infantry battalions, and there was even
a miniscule Chadian naval unit on Lake Chad. In 1969, the
armed forces contained about four thousand men. The great
majority of these men were from southern tribes, as were all
of their officers except for two Arab lieutenants. Even
though the northern tribes were raised with warlike
traditions, they were never attracted to military service.
The Surete was in effect a national police force, which
had evolved from a similar French organization which had
operated in the AEF. The duties of the Surete were normal
police duties; the organization included a Presidential
Palace Guard, a vice squad, and the National Police Academy.
Agents of the Surete were uniformed and carried light
weapons. For situations requiring more forces, the Surete
had its own para-military units, the Chadian Security
Companies (Les Compagnies Tchadiens de Securite--CTS) which
had light infantry weapons, including mortars.
The National Gendarmerie was a similarly organized
police force, organized into mobile platoons, and equipped
with rifles, machine guns, and pistols. National Guard units
were also in service throughout Chad, mostly serving guard
duties or ceremonial duties in Fort-Lamy. The National Guard
had a strength of about three thousand five hundred in
Performance of the Armed Forces.
The quality and performance of the Chadian armed forces
from 1960 to 1970 was not good, even though the Chadian
soldiers had previously proved their ability when properly
led by French officers. From a purely military point of
view, military operations against the guerillas in the 1960's
were effective. It must be recognized, however, that this
was in large measure due to French forces which had been
recalled to Chad in the late 1960's. This recall resulted
from a military agreement between France and Chad which gave
Paris the responsibility to provide for defense from external
and internal threats to Chad's security. Large amounts of
training and equipment were also provided by France. But in
1971, French forces had begun a phased withdrawal from Chad.
The military gains made by the armed forces had not
compensated for the political liabilities the Tombalbaye
regime incurred from the military actions. Rather than
reducing guerilla activity, actions of the armed forces often
increased the contempt Northerners held for the
Another liability was the fact that French intervention
had given substance to FROLINAT charges that Tombalbaye was a
"stooge of the French imperialists."(23) Any previous
progress made in creating national pride and unity among the
diverse ethnic groups in Chad was turned against the regime
when French forces arrived to assist in the fight against the
Another more serious liability was a result of the
nonprofessional conduct of the military forces. Most
actions, by both the national army and the forces of the
French Foreign Legion stationed in Chad, had been search and
destroy operations directed against guerilla forces.
However, the pacification of rebel strongholds by the
southern forces was often accomplished with excessive
brutality and unnecessary bloodshed. Often more damage was
done to civilians than to guerillas. Sara troops in the BET
or other northern areas were in a strange land, among peoples
who likewise seemed foreign to them. Accordingly, the army
behaved like an army of occupation, hence the local people
treated them like occupying troops. In the town of
Faya-Largeau, children of army troops had to be sent to
school under military escort because of the ill-feelings of
the local populace.(24)
The soldiers were seen by the indigenous population
merely as servants of a remote government, whose more visible
duties included assisting the despised tax collectors and
foreign governmental administrators. The strict control
measures levied by the one-party government were also
enforced by the army and/or the closely affiliated national
police forces. The army reacted to the feeling of the local
population with harassment, including a prohibition on the
wearing of turbans and a ban on meetings of three or more
Tombalbaye's response to rebellion.
Tombalbaye's relationship with the northern ethnic
groups had deteriorated from the mid-1960's into the 1970's.
This was due to the inept administration of his government,
and the operation of his Sara dominated armed forces. Even
inter-Sara opposition to the regime was arising as early as
1972.(26) Tombalbaye's inept control of the government is
illustrated by Tombalbaye's revision and promotion of the
"Yondo" rites of the Sara. This was instituted by Tombalbaye
as a result of his new-found "Africonism." Initiation into
these rites by all Sara adolescents and all candidates
seeking admission to the bureaucracy or appointment to public
office was made compulsory. These rites involved subsistence
in the wild for weeks at a time, and harsh and painful
psychological and physical torture. The unpopularity of this
action was most apparent among the younger and more urbane
population whose support Tombalbaye so desperately needed.
As inept as Tombalbaye's policies proved to be, they
were but one aspect of the situation in Chad at the beginning
of 1975. The condition of the country at that time may be
summarized by a quotation from the Institute of International
"Among the most formidable of its internal
handicaps have been its landlocked situation;
frequent changes in its political frontiers; vast
desert areas; a small, unevenly distributed
population of diverse origins, religions, and ways
of life; strong and often conflicting tribal and
regional loyalties; traditional chieftancies of
widely varying scope and authorities; and an almost
total lack of internal communication...these
impediments to national unity have been compounded
by an unresponsive, often repressive government,
and a plethoric, inefficient, and sometimes corrupt
bureaucracy. Moreover, Chad's known economic
resources are so inadequate and underdeveloped as
to foster chronic dependence on external aid simply
to maintain the administration, the armed forces,
and the public services."(27)
Tombalbaye's relations with the armed forces.
Dissension emerged in the early 1970's throughout Chad,
and the dissension was not limited to the rebel factions
alone. When the overthrow of the Tombalbaye regime occurred
in 1975, it arose from what was perhaps to many an unexpected
quarter. A union of army and gendarmerie units, on April 13,
1975, moved against the presidential palace and replaced
Tombalbaye with a civilian-military junta. Because of the
somewhat unexpected nature of the coup d'etat, a closer
examination of Tombalbaye's relationship with his armed
forces prior to the coup is called for.
The armed forces' role in government.
Though the armed forces were an important part of
President Tombalbaye's retention of power after open
rebellion against his government had begun to rock Chad as
early as 1966, the armed forces were not an important part of
the governmental machine. In the early 1970's, the French
reazlied that the army was growing apart from Tombalbaye, so
the French military pressured Tombalbaye to give the Chadian
military a greater voice in the affairs of the country. The
French realized that Tombalbaye must retain the support of
his armed forces to remain in power. The army
commander-in-chief as a result was taken into the politburo
of the PPT, and there was official urging for army conscripts
to participate in civic activities. Those acts may have
improved Tombalbaye's relations with the army, but those
improvements were soon countered by later actions.
Tombalbaye had been consistent in taking firm action whenever
a plot to overthrow his regime was fancied, and in June,
1973, Tombalbaye confined General Felix Malloum, the Army
Chief of Staff, to his quarters after his arrest on
unspecified charges, based probably on suspicion of his
association with the Toubou rebel leader, Hissen Habre.(28)
Though Malloum's arrest was certainly important in
understanding the army's feelings for Tombalbaye, it is also
important to note that between 1971 and the 1975 coup,
Generals Jacques Doumro and Neque Djogo, as well as other
army officers of lower rank, had also been arrested on
similar charges, often unfounded.(29)
Tombalbaye's distrust of the armed forces.
During the early 1970's Tombalbaye's distrust of his
army manifested itself in other ways. Certain units of the
army received preferential treatment, Israeli and French
instructors were hired to train the army in skills it should
have had, and Tombalbaye even hired Moroccans as his personal
body guards. The army, too, was dissatisfied with the
government. The size of the regular army in the 1970's was
about eighteen hundred. While that was larger than the
twelve hundred man gendarmerie, the army had become smaller
than either the National Guard or the Nomad Guards, each of
which had grown to about two thousand. On April 7, 1975,
Tombalbaye charged that "the army... is becoming the least
effective of all our armed forces.... It resolutely ignores
the power of the civilian authorities.... Our army must
change radically for the honor of our country and to save our
country from a humiliation which is becoming unbearable."(30)
The mandatory "Yondo" initiation rites were not popular with
even the Sara members of the army, and the army was beginning
to show frustration with the protracted guerilla war, fought
far from home for most soldiers. In a speech after the
overthrow of the government, army leaders were quoted to have
referred to, "...useless spilling of the blood of compatriots
in their constant loyalty to the national cause, and the
heavy losses they had to bear in the process."
In the early 1970's Tombalbaye may have hoped to
strengthen his standing with the army. As stated above, he
began to allow political voice to the army, but he
concurrently removed some of the few professionally trained
officers. These officers, coincidentally, were among the few
who could have mounted action to overthrow the government.
One explanation for Tombalbaye's actions against his army
lies in agreements he had concluded with Sudan and Libya in
1972 and 1973. Following a state visit to Tripoli in 1972,
Tombalbaye signed a treaty of alliance with the Libyan
government. A similar agreement was concluded with Sudan in
1973. Secure in the assurance of Libya's Khadafi that no
further aid would pass to the FROLINAT, and secure in his
relations with the Sudan, Tombalbaye may in the mid-1970's
have felt that his borders were at last secure. Because the
regular army was entrusted with border security as its main
mission, he could then safely reduce the size of the army and
purge from among its officer corps several potentially
powerful competitors. This view is consistent with his
having recruited foreign bodyguards for his personal safety
and with his strengthening his internal security forces at
the expense of his army. In any case, Tombalbaye's intent,
whatever it may have been, was not to come to fruition.(31)
Click here to view image
Transition of War to
War for personal power
The military coup, 1975.
The coup began in Boraho, some thirty five miles north
of the capital. (The capital had been formerly called Fort
Lamy; now it was called Ndjamena.) On April 13, 1975,
Lieutenant Dimtolaum and his men from the army barracks in
Boraho drove to the capital; there they were joined by men
from the gendarmerie's Compagnie Tchadienne de Securitie
(CTS). The gendarmerie's participation in the coup is not
surprising, because its commander and his aide, Colonel
Djimet and Major Kyttiga, had been arrested on April 2, 1975,
when the gendarmerie had suffered some FROLINAT prisoners to
escape. Colonel Djimet and his aide were accused of aiding
At about 5:00 a.m. the army and gendarmerie troops
stormed the presidential palace. The presidential special
security guard forces stoutly resisted and heavy casualties
were sustained on both sides. A light artillery attack was
reported to have been conducted by the army forces. Army
General Noel Odingar arrived with additional forces and
assumed command. The fighting ceased by 8:30 a.m. when
Colonel Selebiani, commanding officer of the Chadian Security
Company, issued an appeal by radio to his troops to surrender
to General Odingar "in order to avoid a useless blood
bath."(1) General Odingar, using his authority as interim
commander, sealed off all roads to the capital and imposed a
curfew on the city.
Tombalbaye, who had by now changed his first name from
"Francois" to "Ngarta" as a result of his new-found loyalty
to his African heritage discussed previously, died later of
wounds he had received in the fighting. A military
communique issued after the fighting stated that Tombalbaye's
regime had operated on the principle of dividing the country
in order to rule. It further alleged that discrimination
against various facets of the society had stirred animosity
between the country's tribes and had caused the useless
spilling of blood.(2) That communique also stated that the
president had previously ridiculed and humiliated the
military, and had caused continual deterioration of Chad's
economics and politics. Junior military officers who had
thus seized control of Chad soon turned that power over to
more senior officers. General Malloum, the former Army Chief
of Staff who had been placed under arrest by Tombalbaye, was
released from confinement, along with Colonel Djimet and
Major Kyttiga of the gendarmerie. It was revealed at that
time that they had suffered torture at the hands of security
guards while confined. Other alleged atrocities by the
Tombalbaye government were also revealed at this time by the
The Supreme Military Council, 1975-1978.
After the coup which overthrew Tombalbaye, rule in Chad
was vested in the newly formed Supreme Military Council
(Conseil Superieur Militaire--CSM), headed by General
Malloum.(3) The CSM selected four commissioners, including
military officers and civilians, to operate the government's
daily activities.(4) The immediate activities of the CSM
were unexpectedly conservative. Though the political
organizations of the government, the National assembly and
political parties, were disbanded, no major vendettas or
purges were effected. In May, the government sent teams
throughout the country to explain to the Chadian people the
reasons for the coup, and to disseminate the CSM's promise of
a new constitution and democratic elections. Previously
existing foreign committments were also ratified, and curfews
and travel restrictions were lifted within three days. On
April 20, General Malloum issued an appeal to Chadian exiles
and rebels to join with the new government by stating:
"Our compatriots in the rebellion had been
fighting an unjust regime.... The moment has come
to reintegrate the exiles into Chad's life."(5)
Initial expressions of support for the new government
were not lasting. Rebel leaders who expressed support for
the CSM immediately after the coup soon changed their
opinions. It soon became apparant that much of the initial
enthusiasm was not for the new government, but rather for the
fact that Tombalbaye was gone. Reforms promised by the
government were slow to materialize, and political prisoners
were released only in small numbers initially. The military
retained control of economic programs and strikes were
forbidden. Most importantly, only minimal progress was made
in allowing additional northern and Muslim participation in
the government. Many of the laudatory programs of Malloum's
control were negative in nature, in that they were in the
form of terminating abuses of the previous government. Such
reforms included termination of the numerous arbitrary
arrests Tombalbaye had previously made frequently.(6)
Another factor prevented more popular support for the
CSM: the allegation made in several quarters that the French
had been responsible for, or played a part in, the coup.
Evidence of French involvement did exist at the time. The
French commander of the Chadian National Guard and Nomadic
Guards, was also the Director of Information Services. He
was also a close advisor of Tombalbaye, and in a position to
have known in advance of the coup. His failure to warn
Tombalbaye, and the failure of the 2,000 French troops in
Ndjamena to come to Tombalbaye's aid when requested, may have
indicated at least a decision by the French that the coup
attempt should be allowed to proceed. The French government
was in a position to be unhappy with Tombalbaye for his
failure to settle the war, for his mandatory yondo initiation
rites, and for his failure to resolve the issue of French
hostages being held by Hissene Habre's Second Liberation Army
since April, 1974.(7) Charges of being a lackey of the
French had been made against Tombalbaye, especially upon his
request for French military assistance in 1966. Such charges
in newly-nationalized Chad caused great dissatis-faction
against him. Those same charges when made against the CSM
could only have reduced the new government's popularity in
the eyes of the people of Chad.(8)
The rebel organization, 1975-1978.
Popularity of any government in Chad from 1975
throughout the rest of the 1970's would have been transitory
in any case, however, in 1975, for while the reins of the
national government were seized by General Malloum and the
CSM, the ever strengthening rebel forces were also being
factionalized into divergent groups. That factionalization
is at the root of the Chadian conflict as it exists in 1983;
it is therefore worthwhile to shift attention from the
national government's activities and examine in greater
detail the background of the revolutionary movements in Chad
and their activities during the 1970's.
Hissene Habre's Second Liberation Army.
By 1975, three armies had descended from the revolution
of the 1960's; each claimed to be the legitimate
representative of the FROLINAT uprising. The first of these,
Hissene Habre's Second Liberation Army, operated in the BET
area, under the name of the the Forces Armees du Nord (FAN).
Habre had been born in 1942 into the Aushaza clan of Toubous,
from the Boukou area of Chad. After attending primary
school, he was appointed to an administrative post in the
French colonial adminstration; here he favorably impressed
the local French commander, Colonel J. Chapelle. Habre later
in Paris earned a university degree in the social sciences as
a result of a scholarship obtained for him by Colonel
Chapelle. He returned to Chad in 1971. But after only a
brief period of government service, he journeyed to Tripoli
where he joined the FAN faction of the FROLINAT. Soon Habre
was sharing command of the FAN with Goukouni Oueddei. In
1972, after departure of the French, those FAN forces
recommended successful military operations. Habre had, for
himself and his army, a source of income; revenue was raised
by extracting a "duty" from caravaners, merchants, and
smugglers trading with Libya. Because of the limited needs
of his army--food, fuel, and fire arms--only he, of all the
rebel leaders, could claim financial independence from
external sources and interests.
The Claustre affair and its results.
Habre's incursions into money raising resulted in one
incident in 1974 which would have a serious impact on his
relations with other rebel leaders, on foreign relations with
Tombalbaye's government, and on Habre's relations with his
followers. On April 21 of that year, five Europeans working
in Chad were kidnapped for ransom by Habre's forces.(9) The
original target of the kidnappers was probably a Doctor
Staewen, a medical missionary who happened to be related to
West Germany's president.(10) Foreign adverse reaction to
the kidnapping was initially based on publicity which arose
from that relationship. However, after the kidnapping, Habre
discovered that a French archeologist also kidnapped, Madame
Francoise Claustre, was the wife of the director of the
French MRA in Chad. The French media were to exploit her
three year's captivity; the rebel cause was made known to the
world as a result of what became known as "l' affaire
The financial results of the affair were disappointing
to Habre. Large ransoms were paid, but modern arms and
ammunition purchased with the ransom money were never
delivered.(11) Cash and medical supplies were received,
however, from both the French and West German governments.
A serious split between the French and Ndjamena
governments resulted from the Chadian government's handling
of this affair; this split may eventually have been a part of
the reason for the French refusal to support Tombalbaye when
the 1975 coup occurred.
The Chadian government's inability to react to the
kidnapping may initially have been due to fears for the
hostage's safety. The French daily, Le Monde reported on
April 26 that "in order to preserve the lives of the
hostages," Chadian forces, already on alert because of the
matter, did not intervene.(12) Later, however performance
indicates that it was the simple incompetance of the
government which prevented some resolution, as no meaningful
action was taken or attempted by the government at any time.
In 1975, this French-Chadian governmental split carried over
to the new CSM government, when in October, French
authorities called on the International Red Cross to send
observers to verify Madame Claustre's condition. The Chadian
government denounced such action, and accused Paris of
violating Chadian airspace and delivering "war material" to
"L'affaire Claustre" also had a divisive impact on
FROLINAT and the rebel leadership. Habre's personal power
and ambitions were reinforced by the incident, hence his
intransigence on other matters increased. Jealousies of
other rebel leaders were concurrently increased by Habre's
rise in power. Also, many of Habre's supporters became
convinced that he was using the ransom money for his personal
gain. A basic disagreement over how the matter should be
handled caused the first fatal rift between Goukouni and
Habre. In short, the affair caused aggravation of a
factionalization which had already become widespread across
the entire spectrum of Chadian affairs.
Abba Siddik's FLP.
The second of the three major rebel armies to operate in
Chad in 1975 was Abba Siddik's Forces Populaires de
Liberation (FLP), which operated along the Sudanese border in
the northeast of Chad. Siddik had been born in 1924 of a
Chadian father and Central African mother. He had been
minister of education in pre-independence Chad, but had
quarreled with Tombalbaye and went to Paris to study surgery.
Siddik was a diplomat, not a rebel field commander, and was
one of the original founders of FROLINAT. In 1970, his
personal influence was such that FROLINAT named him, without
an election, its secretary-general. However, upon the French
military's departure from Chad in 1971, his moderate politics
were disavowed by many more radical members of FROLINAT.
Siddik refused to call for elections within FROLINAT, and the
Second Liberation Army (FAN) refused to recognize his claim
to the office of Secretary-General. But Siddik had retained
Libyan support, and FROLINAT members in Libya who rejected
Siddik were arrested. This fragmentation soon proved fatal
not only to Siddik's personal power, which waned from that
time forward, but also to his reformist goals.
Siddik and Habre ever developed a united front against
the Malloum government. One reason for the split between
Siddik and Habre may have been personal. Siddik, a
diplomatic armchair general, was ever jealous of Habre's
well-earned reputation as a valiant guerilla leader.(13)
Siddik was ignored in the negotiations leading to the release
of the Claustre hostages, and in 1977 Siddik was eventually
ousted from control over his army.
Goukouni Oeddei's FAN.
Goukouni Oueddei, a third rebel leader who exercised
great influence in Chadian developments in the 1970's and
1980's, was the son of the Toubou Derde who in 1969 revolted
against the Tombalbaye government, with Libyan encouragement.
Goukouni had been commanding the FAN forces when Hissene
Habre joined him in 1971. The split between Goukouni and
Habre began with a dispute over FAN's relationship with Libya
and the Claustre affair should be handled.
The two matters were interrelated.(14) In 1976, Libya
had issued new "official" maps, which showed expanded borders
to include more than fifty two thousand square miles of
territory which had been previously considered part of
Algeria, Niger, and Chad. Of that area, thirty seven
thousand square miles had been formerly shown in Chad.(15)
This area, on Libya's southern border, was known as the
Aouzou strip. Unlike most of Chad, economically important
mineral resources are located in the area, including iron
ore, phosphates, and uranium. Goukouni considered Libya's
help in the fight to overthrow the government to be more
important than the immediate cessation of Libya's claims to
the area. Goukouni also opposed Habre's handling of the
hostage negotiations, when Habre had continued to raise the
ante after every ransom payment. Goukouni therefore
willingly ignored Libyan territorial claims to the Aouzou
strip for the immediate future and accepted Libya's aid in
the hostage negotiations. On October 18, 1976, FAN's war
council met at Yebbi-Bou; there Goukouni's supporters
expelled Habre from the FAN, and made Goukouni their
commander-in-chief. Habre took with him a few hundred loyal
supporters and the name of the FAN; he then moved his
oranization east-central Chad.
The War for Personal Power,
The splitting and merging of the rebel forces and
factions continued throughout the 1970's; by 1979 an
"alphabet soup" of factions and splinter groups existed in
Chad. As Virginia Thompson and Richard Adloff succinctly
commented in 1981:
"In the course of the FROLINAT's evolution,
idealogy has been in short supply, and the accent
has been on compromise.... Fragmentation of the
FROLINAT leadership, which has characterized it
from its inception, was due far less to differing
ethnic, regional, or ideological goals than to
personal rivalries for power."(1)
Reconciliation Governments, 1978-1979.
The government during the years after the coup did not
succeed in uniting the factions in Chad. General Malloum was
a Sara from the same province as Tombalbaye; (2) but he also
recognized that the failure to unify Chadians was in spite of
his efforts to unite the north and south through attempts to
include representatives of various factions in the
government. The first of many efforts at national
reconciliation was therefore made in August 1978.
The reconciliation attempt resulted from a December,
1977, meeting of the heads of various Chadian factions held
in Libreville, Gabon, under the auspices of Gabon's President
Bongo. Goukouni and Siddik had both made demands on Malloum
as conditions for their participation in a government;
however Malloum considered them unreasonable. Malloum
rejected the demands, and began negotiations with Habre, who
had been more realistic and flexible. Since his expulsion
from Gouhouni's FAN, Habre had recruited followers from
eastern Chad and enlisted the support of Sudan. He was
therefore in a position to bargain with Malloum; thus, in
February 1978 an agreement to form a new government was
announced. Habre would be prime minister and General Malloum
the president. Northerners and southerners would be evenly
represented in the new government.
The agreements which constituted this plan included
political and economic reform; they were also probably based
upon the military stalemate which had existed for some time.
Malloum could provide a functioning administration and an
internationally recognized, if unelected, government. Habre
was in command of a loyal, well-armed, and disciplined
fighting force which he had resurrected from FAN troops and
soldiers previously loyal to Siddik who had not been able to
support his ever-increasing ties to Libya. The threat of
Libyan expansion into Chad was, in fact, one area of total
agreement between Habre and Malloum. Moreover, Habre was
becoming ever more acceptable to the French government
because of his strong anti-Libyan attitudes; this was in
spite of the role Habre had played in the Claustre affair.
Unfortunately, the areas of agreement between Habre and
Malloum were eventually outweighed by their differences. The
charisma and military record of Habre gave him a discernable
edge in popularity, even with southerners who were swayed by
his consistent record of opposition to Libya. Habre's
opponents in the government were thus posted to minor posts
or transferred back to France. Habre was also appointed to
membership on the Conseil de Defense et de Securite in spite
of Malloum's desires to reserve those seats for CSM
Goukouni meanwhile in 1978 had ended any hope of uniting
Habre or the FAN with the remainder of the FROLINAT. He
would also prove unsuccessful even in uniting other splinter
armies of the FROLINAT, unwilling and unable to participate
in the new government, and with lavish Libyan supplies of
Soviet arms, Goukouni in early 1978 commenced a southward
offensive which was stopped short of Ndjamena only by
intervention of the French air force. This action however
benefited only Habre, because it showed Malloum's dependence
on France and Goukouni's on Libya. This defeat further
exacerbated conflict between Goukouni's Arabs and Toubous,
showing again the invalidity of depiction of the civil war as
merely a struggle between northerners and southerners.
In 1979 the new-born government of national union
collapsed as a result of hostilities between Malloum and
Habre, when on February 12 Habre's forces attacked the
government army at Ndjamena. After two days of bloody
fighting, the national army was in full retreat to the south,
and Habre controled the capital. The resulting confusion
inspired additional rebel action throughout the country. The
newly formed Third Liberation Army defeated government forces
in the west, while the First Liberation Army, now operating
independent of Goukouni's FAP, gained control of Biltine and
Ouaddi provinces in the east. Goukouni's FAP took advantage
of the defeat of government forces and arrived in the capital
in time to prevent the complete destruction of Malloum's
During this confusing round of inter-rebel fighting, the
French forces in Chad were conspicuous only by their refusal
to intervene. Though much popular French opinion still
disapproved of Habre due to his kidnapping of Madame
Claustre, many French military officers recognized Habre's
qualities as a military leader.(4)
The defeat of Malloum's forces in Ndjamena had serious
consequences among the southern Sara populations of Chad.
Lieutenant Wadal Abdelkadu Kamougue, Malloum's gendarmerie
commander, had fled south with his forces and united many of
the former government troops who had fled in the same
direction. The feelings of southerners after the loss of the
capital to northern forces was further incensed by the
hundreds of Sara civilians left in Ndjamena and massacred by
Habre's men. Retaliatory action against Arab populations in
the south left between eight hundred and two thousand
dead.(5) Non-Sara southerners reacted to that violence in
Mayo-Kebbi, a southern province, and a further four hundred
civilians were killed there in anti-Sara violence. The
southern prefectures then appointed in May 1979 a
Sara-dominated de facto government, the Comite Permanent, as
a separate political entity. It was headed by Kamougue, who
had taken the place of Malloum as the dominant southern
representative.(6) Though Kamougue had previously been a
vociferous opponent of Libyan intervention in Chadian
affairs, he recognized that the south must have assistance to
stave off what he perceived as an imminent northern incursion
into the region. Kamougue thus visited Tripoli and obtained
arms from the pragmatic Khadafi, who stood ready to assist
any force opposed to a strong central government in
The first attempt at formation of a strong national
government had thus failed. Rather than the union of
nationalistic Chadians forseen by Malloum, no one faction
controlled Chad. No group apparently was strong enough to
militarily force itself on any other. Habre's attempts to do
so had resulted in a shifting of the power equation to
equalize power among ever more disparate factions in the
country. The inability of the French or the Libyans to
impose their will and/or control over Chad had been exposed
to Chadians as well as the world. Into this void now
stepped Nigeria; Loagos would now attempt to reconcile the
parties in Chad.
Transition Governments, 1979-1980.
Nigeria, which borders Chad to the southwest across Lake
Chad, responded to the conditions in Chad by arranging for
another conference of reconciliation in March 1979. These
included the major warring parties in Chad,(8) who at this
time were the following:
1. General Felix Malloum and the armed forces of Chad
(Forces Armees du Tchad--FAT)
2. Hissene Habre and the armed forces of the north
(Forces Armees du Nord--FAN)
3. Goukouni Oueddei of FROLINAT, with the remnants of
the old FAN (Movement Populaire du Liberation du
The first conference was held in March 1979 in Kano,
Nigeria. It achieved an arrangement for a cease fire, the
demilitarization of the capital, and formation of a
transition government. Nigerian troops were also sent to
Ndjamena to monitor the cease-fire, thus introducing another
foreign element into the nation. Another Kano conference was
held on April 1 to develop a means to implement the first
agreements. Civil violence in Chad, however, continued to
erupt. Relations between the parties and Nigeria had also
begun to deteriorate, partly because of the heady conduct of
Nigerian troops in Ndjameria. Additional parties also were
invited to participate in the conference.
The first transitional government.
A new transitional government came from the conference
on April 29, 1979. Of the participants in the new
government, eleven were northern Muslims and ten were
southerners. Goukouni became the Minister of the Interior,
and Habre the Minister of Defense. General Djogo, the
southern representative who had eclipsed Karmougue at the
conference as the chief southern representative, would be the
vice-president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
At Nigeria's "urging," Mohamat Choua Lol, a member of the
MPLT and a protege of Habre, was to be president.
Formation of an apparently representative government
once more did not end the war in Chad. Libya, angered by the
exclusion from the government of Ahmat Acyl and other Libyan
supporters, promptly formed yet another rebel party, the
Front d'Action Commune Provisoir (FACP), to challenge the new
government. Nigeria, angered by the fact that the government
was not to be under the complete influence of a Nigerian
puppet, withdrew its forces from Chad and banned oil sales to
the country. At the urging of Nigeria and Chad's six
neighbors, an additional conference was held in Lagos,
Nigeria, on May 25. Discord and fighting continued, however,
and by mid-summer, the end of the Lol government was at hand.
The second transitional government.
The fourth Nigerian-inspired conference was held at
Lagos in July 1979. AlI the leaders of Chad's military
forces were represented, even leaders of splinter groups. A
second transitional government emerged and optimism again ran
high. Goukouni was named President, Kamougue Vice-President,
and Habre Minister of Defense. For the first time, the
Government de Union Nationale Tchadienne (GUNT) represented
all the major diverse factions, was well balanced between
northerners and southerns (thirteen to eleven), and had
proteges of the neighboring governments in substantially
equal proportions. Units from all the warring armies joined
to form a national police force. French forces were asked to
withdraw as an "obstacle to peace" in Chad, and they
commenced their departure on September 2.
The accord reached by the new government, GUNT, ended
like its predecessors; it crumbled in spite of its auspicious
beginnings. For although the leaders of the various factions
each espoused desires for national unity and freedom from
foreign influence, other factors prevented this: the personal
ambitions and animosities of the leaders, the conflicting
foreign sponsors, the differing regional and ethnic
backgrounds, the general fear of a strong central government,
and the worsening economic situation in Chad. All of these
were all to prove stronger than the Government of National
Expulsion of Habre.
Sporadic violence among the Chadian factions continued
throughout 1979. This erupted into fighting between Habre's
FAN and troops of Goukouni's FAP on March 22, 1980 and
shattered any remaining pretense of agreement between the
parties. About four hundred whites were evacuated from the
capital by French military aircraft on March 24, including
West Germans, Dutch, French, Lebanese, and all the members of
the American embassy staff, including the American
ambassador.(9) The remaining French troops in Chad and the
contingent of Congolese troops sent there in January of 1980
by the Organization of African Unity did not intervene in the
fighting. As of March 25, the death toll was estimated to be
in excess of seven hundred, including three members of the
French detachment. Five separate cease-fires were negotiated
by April 5, when the president of Togo personally exercised
diplomacy between Habre and Goukouni. But by April 9,
fighting had resumed and additional troops had reached
Ndjamena. Kamougue's army joined Goukouni's forces, who had
previously been reinforced by Acyl's soldiers. Goukouni held
the northern half of the city, and Habre held the southern
half, but the forces were then stalemated. Neither side was
able to gain the advantage. The French and Congolese
withdrew completely from the country.(10) Habre was formally
dismissed from his post as Defense Minister on April 25 by
the Assembly, convened by Goukouni , Kamougue, and Acyl.
In the face of France's departure from Chad and the
inability of African states, through the OAU, to prevent the
chaos in Chad, the war spread. By midsummer it had expanded
beyond the capital, and by October 1980 the conflict had
reached into the BET. By early December the FAN forces in
the BET were surrounded, Faya-Largeau had been taken by the
FAP and FAC, and Habre's supply lines to Sudan were being
Libyan intervention, 1980.
Foreign intervention in Chad also continued. On June
15, Goukouni and the Chadian governments' had signed a mutual
defense treaty with Libya; however limited publicity made the
global press ignore this event because of Habre's control of
the national radio and press, which had focused on Habre's
military successes. Habre's attempts to thus develop his own
reputation and support were to act to his detriment in the
long term, because Libya had, through the summer and fall of
1980, been preparing to send arms, troops, and planes to
Goukouni's aid in accordance with that treaty. In December
the FAT and the FAP, backed by Libyan arms, tanks, airpower,
and manpower, stormed Habre's forces holding Ndjamena. After
a week of bitter fighting, on December 16, government and
Libyan forces entered the capital. Habre and his forces were
then forced to flee to Cameroon across the Chari river.
Though their presence was accepted and Habre was given an
audience with President Abidjo, political asylum was not
granted. The Habre forces were disarmed and lodged in
refugee camps which had been established to accept the flow
of refugees from the fighting in Chad. Other FAN forces in
east-central Chad were defeated and either dispersed to their
homes or displaced to United Nations refugee camps in western
Libyan military support.
An estimated two thousand five hundred Libyan troops
participated in the assault on Ndjamena, but the Libyan role
caused only minor consternation among the interested parties.
The Libyan participation prompted only a warning from the
French government against further "intervention of armed
foreign elements" in Chad.(12) At a meeting of the OAU in
Lagos, Nigeria, on December 23-24, the OAU group refused to
call for Libyan withdrawal from Chad, for fear of angering
Libya. President Goukouni and Libya, for their part, denied
the presence or assistance of Libyan troops in Chad; they
would admit only the presence of "advisors." These claims by
the same parties would be heard again.
Merger of Libya and Chad.
International and African apathy to the Libyan
involvement in Chad was shaken on January 6, 1981, however,
by the announcement of the intention of Libya and Chad to
merge, or at least to "work toward the goal of total
unity."(13) The announcement of the merger shocked several
of the more important members of the OAU, and aroused fears
of Libyan intentions regarding other African states.(14)
Senegal and Bambia broke off diplomatic relations with Libya,
as did Sudan on June 25. Nigeria greatly increased its
military spending and strengthened its defenses in its
northern areas. The threat of Libyan aggression upon African
states was recognized by the United States, and was declared
to be a "direct threat along Sudan's border and creating
great worry among other states bordering Chad."(15) Egypt
clearly demonstrated its concern by acknowledging that it had
been supplying Habre's newly constituted forces with small
arms and ammunition. Cairo stated that it feared Khadafi's
move into Chad was a prelude to an attempt to destabilize
Sudan on Egypt's southern border.(16)
The French were also alarmed by the announcement.
France strongly condemmed for the first time the Libyan
incursion into Chad; Paris also offered to provide arms and
troops to strengthen the forces of Chad's neighbors, in a
sudden hardening of its previously vacilating policies in
northern Africa.(17) French military forces in the Central
African Republic, Gabon, Sengal, and the Ivory Coast were
France's toughened stance and the sudden interest of the
United States in Chad's affairs may have been explained in
part by the U.S. State Department's revelation on March 13
that Soviet military advisers had been sent to Chad two
months previously to assist Goukouni's government.(19)
Though the Soviet news agency, Tass, denied the
allegation,(20) the charge was consistent with French reports
on January 30 that Soviet pilots had flown at least some of
the Libyan military jets in Chad. The Egyptian government
also stated its belief that the Libyan adventure into Chad
was Soviet inspired.(21) The Sudan also denounced the Soviet
role in Libya. The OAU, finally spurred to action by the
merger announcement, convened its Chad subcommittee on
January 14, 1981. A condemnation of Libya as the violator of
the August, 1979, OAU agreements on Chad was obtained from
all thirteen members present at the conference for the first
Expulsion of Libya, 1981.
In the fall of 1981, Goukouni was still fighting Habre's
forces, which were receiving support and aid from Egypt and
Sudan. President Goukouni believed that he could declare the
rebels to be beaten in September 1981; he further stated that
now the rebel forces opposing him were "Sudanese
irregulars."(22) However, four-thousand troops were
estimated to be in Habre's new army in Sudan as of October
18, 1981,(23) and Sudanese army and air forces were assisting
their defense against Libyan attacks on FAN base camps in
Sudan. The African and international opposition to the
announced merger had begun to pressure Goukouni, who now
referred to the plan in terms of a partnership, vice a
merger. On 29 October, due to Goukouni's perception of his
army's strengths, world opinion, and renewed French military
assistance,(24) and in spite of Habre's increasing strength,
Goukouni demanded the immediate withdrawal of most Libyan
forces from Chad.(25) French President Francois Mitterand
also approved an OAU proposal that an African peace-keeping
force be sent to Chad to replace the Libyans. That proposal
had previously died when few African nations showed interest
in supplying the needed forces.
Khadafi's response to Goukouni's request was positive,
probably due to his desires to accede to the chairmanship of
OAU and his awareness that refusal to abide by Goukouni's
wishies would reduce any chance he might have to obtain that
post.(26) Libyan forces began immediate withdrawal from
Ndjamena and the Chari-Baguirmi region. Plans were announced
to have all Libyan forces out of the country within one
year.(27) On December 22, the first OAU peace-keeping forces
arrived, seven-hundred Zairian paratroopers. Nigeria and
Senegal also added troops to this force, and the United
States allocated twelve million dollars to support those
contingents with nonlethal equipment and transportation
Habre's return, 1982.
Hissene Habre, meanwhile, had continued the build-up of
his forces in Sudan; his forces had taken control of ten
towns in the eastern part of Chad, thus controlling most of
Ouaddai and Biltine provinces on the Sudanese border. His
successes were partly due to the cessation of Libyan military
activity, once the decision to withdraw from Chad was
announced 29) and to the capture by FAN of large quantities
of Libyan military equipment. Moving west in December 1981,
FAN captured the towns of Ourn Hadjer, Ati, and Faya-Largeau.
An OAU cease-fire proposal in February 1982 failed.
Fighting intensified, and the FAN's drive to Ndjamena
commenced. At the end of May, government forces had taken
defensive positions around the capital, but these were
weakened when Lieutenant Colonel Kamougue's forces left
Ndjamena to quell a rebellion in the south of Chad. On June
7, the FAN entered Ndjamena and in only three hours had
secured control of the city. (30) No opposition was
encountered from the OAU peace-keeping forces, whose orders
were to fight only in self defense. Goukouni having lost
the support of his army, boarded a canoe and crossed the
Chari river into Cameroon, thus duplicating Habre's actions
in 1980. Habre's offensive had begun when Libyan troops were
withdrawn from Chad in 1981, and the victory was assured in
1982 when Libya refused Goukouni's last-minute requests for
On June 19, Habre formed a new Council of State. He
declared the body to be temporary, to be replaced by a
representative government at some later date. The council,
drawn from officers of the FAN, included 18 commissioners and
12 vice-commissioners. This body was dissolved on October 21
when Habre was sworn in as President of Chad, and a thirty
one-member cabinet was appointed. Habre also formed a
National Consultative Council consisting of two represent-
atives of each of Chad's fourteen prefectures an the capital
city.(32) The cabinet was also intended to begin the process
of reconciliation, and included both adversaries and former
The new government confronted a difficult task in
forming a united nation, or any actual nation other than the
international legal charade called "Chad". The basic lack of
resources in Chad, combined with a long drought and twenty
years of civil war, had made Chad the poorest country in
Africa; indicative of this was the fact that nearly
one-quarter of its four million inhabitants existed at
starvation level. The government proved equal to this
Lieutenant Colonel Kamougue in the south, meanwhile,
still had forces under arms, and many southerners were
threatening secession from Chad due to their opposition to
the northern Habre. Kamoughe's plans to secede from Chad and
form and independent Republic of Logone were foiled by
desertions among his FAT forces. FAN troops pressed south
against Kamougue, and FAT troops defected in increasing
numbers. Kamoughe himself was driven to take refuge in
Cameron, while FAN and FAT forces were united in December of
1982 to form a new national army, the Forces Armees
Nationales Tchadiennes (FANT). The gendarmerie was dissolved
and replaced by military police, and compulsory military
service was dictated.
International aid quickly arrived in Chad to assist with
the famine and disastrous economic situation. The United
Nations and the International Red Cross supplied aid, though
fighting in the south and roads muddy from much-needed rain
caused delays in distributing the food. Aid of over one
hundred seventy million dollars from over seventy states was
pledged to the reconstruction of Chad. The situation finally
appeared bright for Chad's future, but former-president
Goukouni once again had become a rebel, and prosperity for
Chad was again a distant goal.
Goukouni's offensive, 1982-1983. Government in exile.
During the fall of 1982, Goukouni and his loyal armed
followers attempted to regroup in Northern Chad. Habre
claimed, with adequate justification, that the rearming of
Goukouni's forces had once again occurred with the military
and financial assistance of Libya.(34) Libya also had aided
in the recruiting of new soldiers for Goukouni, by arresting
up to fifteen-thousand Chadians working in Libya and sending
them to training camps to join Goukouni's army. Habre
concurrently restated Chadian claims to the Aouzou strip
"annexed" by Libya; he further stated his intention to drive
the Libyans from Aouzou, by military action if necessary. On
September 20, the Libyan government denied that Aouzou was
Chadian territory and accused Chad of interference with
Libyan internal affairs. Combining with eight of eleven of
the factions which had composed the old GUNT, Goukouni on
October 28 formed a new, fifteen-man National Peace
Government of Chad. Goukouni was of course named the leader
of the new government. Habre sent reinforcements to
Faya-Largeau in January 1983 to resist an expected attack by
Goukouni's forces.(35) The stage had now been set for an end
to the temporary lull in the fighting for control of Chad.
Libyan involvement; the fall of Faya-Largeau.
In February 1983, the offensive by Goukouni's National
Liberation Army (FAL) began. A FANT force operating one
hundred and fifty miles north-east of Faya-Largeau was
defeated by Goukouni's FAL on February 20, and suffered over
one hundred twenty dead in the battle. Unconfirmed reports
from Libyan press and radio also claimed clashes in other
areas of Chad. Additional defeats of FANT were also reported
throughout the early months of 1983.
From the first, Libyan involvement, with the intent of
the overthrow of Habre's regime by Goukouni or Libyan forces
was recognized by Chadians and western observers alike.(36)
Doubts about the ability of Habre's forces to withstand
Goukouni's and Libya's aggression caused him to seek
additional grants of military equipment from western nations
as well as other Arab African states. Chadian officials were
dispatched in mid-February to the Central African Republic to
attempt to relieve military pressure on Chad's forces in the
south. An agreement was obtained for the Central African
Republic to dispatch forces to Chadian border areas where
Libyan-backed dissidents were formenting revolution. On
March 17 Chad requested assistance from the United Nations
Security Council to remove Libyan forces from the Aouzou
strip by requiring the two countries to submit the
disagreement to the International Court of Justice in The
Hague for a binding settlement.(37) Though Khadafi's
government had previously allowed that court to settle a
boundary dispute with Tunisia, he refused to submit to such
resolution, claiming that Libya did not recognize the Habre
government as the legitimate government of Chad.(38)
On May 17, the Ndjamena government reported heavy
fighting with Libyan troops and "their mercenaries" (39) near
Faya-Largeau. Military aircraft were claimed to be still
operating from the town, despite Goukouni's claims that the
town had fallen. French president Mitterrand issued a
statement saying that France could not accept Libyan or any
other foreign intervention in Chad.(40) That minimal French
support alone, however, did not deter Goukouni and the Libyan
forces. On June 25, the Chadian Embassy in Paris announced
the fall of Faya-Largeau.(41) Subsequent reports were to
reveal that Libyan fighter planes assisted the rebel atack,
staged by fifteen hundred to thirty five hundred rebels
assisted by twelve hundred to five thousand Libyans.(42)
No further advances.
Control of Faya-Largeau and thus about one-third of Chad
placed Goukouni's forces in a substantially stable position
in the country, but their further advances were curtailed by
two factors. First, the road to Ndjamena, though controlled
in part by Goukouni's forces, still was blocked by two
government strong points at Salad and Moussoco. Before those
garrisons could be asaulted, the government garrison at
Abeche in the east had to be taken, as it had been in past
rebel advances on Ndjamena.(43) However, threatening rains
risked any assault on Abeche because of the lack of paved
roads from Faya-Largeau to Abeche, and the subsequent threat
to the mobility of motorired columns.
A probable second factor stalling the advance was the
diplomatic maneuvering of Habre. A United Nations Security
Council debate had been requested, and the President of
Gabon, Ormar Bongo, had been requested to arrange cease-fire
talks with Goukouni as he had done previously.(44) Though
these efforts were unsuccessful, France, on June 26, sent its
Minister for Cooperation and Development, Christian Nucci, to
Ndjamena as an expression of France's support for the Habre
government. The support of the French, who had large and
modern forces stationed throughout northern Africa, possibly
prevented any plunge by Goukouni or Libya until success was
Governmental Response. Military assistance.
Not content with providing merely moral support,
however, Mr. Nucci announced on June 28 an intention to
immediately ship to Habre's forces emergency arms aid to
provide a defense against the sophisticated weapons provided
to Goukouni's forces by Libya. France would ship thirty-five
tons of military supplies to Chad, including anti-tank
weapons and surface-to-surface rockets.(45)
United States military analysts were also becoming
concerned about the threat to Chad. It was perceived by
United States observers that Libya's objective was the
ultimate penetration of Sudan, thus threatening southern
Egypt. Previous military probes into Egypt from Libya
resulted in costly defeats for Libyan forces. A strike from
Chadian territory further south, however, would strike both
Sudan and Egypt where their military forces were less
concentrated. The Libyan military threat was seen as
substancial, including approximately three thousand tanks,
five hundred fifty five modern combat aircraft, thirty armed
helicopters, twenty tank battalions, and fifty five thousand
men. Even with Libyan logistic difficulties, the personality
of khadafi, unrestrained by foreign influence, was seen as
making such an attack on Sudan and Egypt possible.(46)
Accordingly United States assistance, again in the form
of non-lethal military supplies, was sent to Chad.(47) The
emergency aid, valued at approximately ten million dollars,
was composed of clothing, food, and military vehicles. An
American statement indicated that small arms and other
weapons could follow, and that the aid was considered
necessary to prevent Libya from establishing in Chad a regime
favorable to Libya and then using it as a base for subversion
elsewhere in Africa.(48)
Recapture of Faya-Largeau.
On July 30, government forces, fortified by United
States and French moral and materiel support, recaptured the
town of Faya-Largeau from the rebels. The attack surprised
the three thousand well supplied and entrenched rebel troops
there by being launched under the cover of a dust storm on
the western approaches to the city where the defenses were
heavy but were lightly manned. The battle took four hours,
and produced twelve hundred thirty prisoners.(49) Though the
Libyan press agency JANA claimed on August 1 that Habre had
been killed in an artillery barrage near Faya-Largeau, (50)
the report proved later to be false. Government forces were,
however, under Habre's personal leadership, driving the rebel
forces north from Faya-Largeau, towards the town of Kirdimi,
fifty five miles north.
Faya-Largeau then began to suffer extensive aerial
attack on June 30 from Libyan aircraft. Large sections of
the town were being destroyed, and civilian and military
casualties were beginning to rise. Government troops in the
city were without anti-aircraft guns or weapons, and little
action could be taken to prevent the assaults. Though Libya
denied the attacks, western intelligence confirmed them; thus
both the United States and France hurried to supply anti-
aircraft weapons to Faya-Largeau.(51) The first French
anti-aircraft guns arrived in Ndjamena on August 2, and were
deployed to Faya-Largeau the next day, along with French
instructors to assist the armed forces with the weapons. The
United States also rushed thirty Redeye and Stinger
anti-aircraft missiles and three U.S. Army instructors to
Chad to assist in the defense.(52) The three U.S. advisors
were to be in Chad only long enough to show the government
soldiers how to use the weapons against Libyan aircraft.(53)
Aid also arrived in Chad from other quarters, when the
President of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko, sent on August 2
sixteen hundred troops and six aircraft to Chad to assist
Habre's forces. These forces were ferried into Chad by
twenty six trips of U.S. Air Force C-141 Starlifters.(54)
Goukouni's offensive renewal.
The aid received by Chad the first week of August, 1983,
did not prove to be sufficient to stop the rebel and Libyan
forces. Khadafi, in response to Goukouni's defeat at
Faya-Largeau, had ordered a Libyan force of four to five
thousand to assist Goukouni to retake the town. The Libyan
force and Goukouni's rebels were equipped with tanks, armored
personnel carriers, long-range 130mm field artillery guns,
multiple rocket launchers, and SA-9 anti-aircraft missiles.
Air support to the rebels was provided by Soviet-built TU-22
bombers, SU-22 close air support fighters, and Mirage
In spite of repeated requests by Habre for French air
intervention; none was forthcoming, thus air raids on
Faya-Largeau continued with increasing ferocity. Heavy air
assaults, including attacks with phosphorous bombs,(56)
continued to strike, and the raids were extended to the town
of Qum Chaluba, about 200 miles southeast of Faya-Largeau.
The government forces on the ground, at the mercy of the air
attackers, could not hold their positions. On August 5, it
was reported that the town of Faya-Largeau had been cut-off
and Quam Chaluba had heen retaken by the rebels. Additional
rebel forces with Soviet T-62 and T-72 tanks were also moving
into Chad from the northwest.(57)
Continuing government pleas for French military
intervention continued to probe fruitless. The United
States, however, dispatched to the Sudan on August 6 AWACS
aircraft and F-15 fighter escorts. Their purpose was to
monitor the situation in Chad and thereby assist the Chadian
forces, but such intelligence asistance seemed to be to
little avail without aerial or ground combat support.
French forces, long the guarantor of Chad's existence,
had not been deployed to the country throughout the Libyan
interference. The disptach of United States aircraft to
Sudan, though of little immediate military help, helped
prompt the French to action, which once more was to quiet the
guns in Chad. On August 5, an editorial in Le Monde (58)
characterized the American deployment as undermining French
credibility in North Africa, because Paris appeared unwilling
or unable to guarantee the security of the former French
Rebel seige and recapture of Faya-Largeau.
While waiting for French combat assistance, Chad's
forces in Faya-Largeau finally yielded to the rebel attack.
Up to one-third of the three-thousand Chadian troops
surrounded in Faya-Largeau were reported dead, wounded, or
captured. Casualties were evacuated from the town at night
when the unpaved airstrip could be used, but evacuation
ceased when the airstrip was finally put out of action by
rebel shelling. One reporter on the scene observed, "The
rest [of the wounded] lay in the sun, often without water,
and die.... There were virtually no medical facilities in
the north, and even a relatively minor wound would become
serious very quickly."(59) Under a murderous, virtually
non-stop air attack, those soldiers who could get out of
Faya-Largeau and other northern positions retreated on August
10 to set up a new defensive line some two hundred miles
The American-supplied Redeye and Stinger missiles were
the most graphic display of United States support for the
Habre government; however the actual effect of the missiles
on the military situation was not as great as the symbolic
effect. Twenty to twenty five of the missiles reached the
defenders at Faya-Largeau, but no Libyan aircraft was shot
down with the missiles and they were withdrawn before
Faya-Largeau was captured. It was not ascertained whether
any had actually been fired, nor was it determined whether
the failure was due to technical problems or insufficient
training of the Chadian forces. One source speculated that
battery problems in the launching mechanism may have
Prevented their employment.(61)
In any case, American political pressure proved more
valuable than the missiles. As a radio commentator over the
Paris Domestic Service stated on August 10,
"The Americans were the first to show their
presence in the Chad region. One has the slight
impression that Paris has had its hand forced a
bit. The Americans succeeded in making out that
France was not doing enough with regard to Chad.
With false candor, the White House yesterday
expressed the hope for appropriate decisions by
France in the Chadian war. Furthermore, there are
French-U.S. consultations...one knows that certain
of the French trainer-instructors arriving in
Ndjamena are indeed going to have to handle the
information supplied by the American radar planes.
The Americans want to derive political benefit from
the affair by imposing themselves on Africa as the
determining factor in the decisions to be made if
harsh blows should be struck."
The French response, dubbed Operation Manta, began on
August 10. The first unit, thirty French Marines from the
8th Marine Paratroop Infantry Regiment, crossed the Chari
River into Ndjamena from their base in Kousseri, Cameroon,
where they had been stationed some weeks previously to be
able to assist in the evacuation of foreigners from Ndjamena
should the need arise. Reinforcements from the same regiment
and from the 1st Marine Infantry Regiment arrived that same
day. The operation was described by the French as a training
evolution and soon French Transal transport planes began to
arrive in Ndjamena with forces, food, supplies, and weapons.
Those forces, and others which began arriving in Chad at that
time, were equipped with individual weapons, anti-tank
missiles, rocket launchers, mortars, tactical vehicles, and
the Olifant radar system, which is a ground surveillance
Original plans to send only a force of five hundred
French Marines to Chad were soon revised. Operation Manta by
the third week of August had thus grown to involve some three
thousand French troops,(63) four Mirage F-1 fighters, four
Jaguar fighter-bombers, two KC-135's, sophisticated
anti-aircraft systems, five figters from Zaire, and a new
french commander, Brigadier General Jean Poli.(64)
By the end of August, the forces had ended major
fighting in Chad. The rebels had continued to build-up arms
and forces in Faya-Largeau and had repaired damage to the
airport there. French forces, however, had deployed on an
east-west line north of Abeche in "defensive" positions.
They were still described as "instructors" to the Chadian
forces.(65) The French assertions that attacks on French
forces would result in actions "not limited to defensive
actions" were to stalemate the fighting in Chad. Habre's
forces would be involved in minor actions, such as repelling
an attack against its outpost at Qum Chalouba on September 2,
(66) however the insertion of French forces, and the
consequent threat of a Libyan war with France ended for the
present time the military threat to the government of Hissene
The civil war in Chad has continued for over twenty
years. It has advanced from peasant riots to the present
standoff of local forces and of troops of foreign powers
using some of the world's most advanced technological
weapons. Casualty figures on all sides run into the
thousands, and the total cost in human misery is uncounted,
if not uncountable. To focus attention upon the length,
depth, and breadth of the war, however, without understanding
the changes in the character of the conflict, would be to
miss the main conclusions which may be drawn from the
Clauzewitz, the father and master of modern military
theorists, explained in On War what has seen become to most
of us self--evident: "War is merely an extension of
politics."(1) That axiom is illustrated throughout the
Chadian civil war, as may be expected of third-world wars and
revolutions, most of which have historically been won or lost
based on political grounds notwithstanding the military power
balance between the contestants. Yet behind that analysis
lie other questions which must be asked in order to
understand the war in Chad. Whose politics? Politics of
persons, groups, or states? What groups or states? In that
regard, to what extent has Chad itself existed as a "state,"
as opposed to a physical location of persons?
In 1960, the answer to those questions was relatively
uncomplicated. Upon receiving independence from France in
1960, Chad was a "state," in law and in actuality. But the
process of disintegration commenced immediately. Much of the
fault for that disintegration is found in the physical
attributes of the country. The land and people were poor,
and the cultural and social organizations within the country
were not in step with the historical moment of the late 20th
Century. The government left by France had the form of a
representative government, but the people ruled by that
government could not meet its needs. A democractic, elected
government, if it is to function over a pluralistic society,
requires an educated and representative populace in which
there is essential agreement on the form and goals of the
state. The needs of all elements of a diverse society are
not protected merety by the imposition of the form of a
"representative" government, when large elements of that
society have no true representatives.
Such was the case in Chad's early years of independence.
Because of the artificial borders, the contrast between
northern and southern areas was striking. The southernmost
prefectures had produced the country's nearest thing to
economic prosperity. The south was also composed mainly of
blacks who practiced Christianity, African religions,
paganism, or combinations of those religions.
The north, on the contrary, was composed of Moslems and
warlike nomad African tribes. They had traditionally made a
living not from the poor country itself, but rather from
trade with and slaving depredations upon the southern blacks.
The northern low opinion of the southern populations was
heavily influenced by that tradition.
The French dominance over Chad until 1960 did not make
progress in reducing the differences which existed between
northern and southern Chad. Rather, the north was often
ignored by the French and allowed to continue as it had
throughout history, while French and western influences were
developed in the south. Two reasons account for this
attention to southern Chad: the first and most important was
the economic fact that French cotton came from southern
farms. The French, like other imperial powers, asked not
what they could do for the colonies, but rather what the
colonies could do for the empire, and they therefore put
French efforts into the area from which they were receiving a
The second reason, related closely to the first, was the
nature of the people in south Chad. Less tied to tribes and
chiefs, the southern populace more easily adapted to the
western governmental way of life. They were thus more
readily adapted to the French offers of modern existence.
(In fairness, it must be remembered, however, that those
same offers were made to the Northerners, though to a
The character of the southern economy and people, in
contrast with that of the north, set the stage for the
effects of the post-independence government. Francois, later
Ngarta, Tombalbaye was the essence of the southern
government. His initial attempts to unify and nationalize
all the Chadian people were limited by those condition in
Chad which he confronted when the French departed. The
economic base remained in the south. Those Chadian educated
and prepared for governmental leadership and administrative
functions came from the south. The soldiers of the armed
forces came from the south. And Tombalbaye, a southerner
himself, viewed that as natural.
In a few short years, the corruption and ineptitude of
Tombalbaye's government began to evoke northern opposition to
that government. It was then that the lack of effective
northern participation in the government began to show. The
government could not correct the problems because it lacked
input from the north. Even the French, when requested by
Tombalbaye to assist with his anti-revolutionary programs,
recognized that the Sara-dominated, southern-weighted
governmental machine must re-tool to respond to northern
needs and desires. The armed insurrection was surpressed by
the French military, but the true cause of the rebellion was
aggravated when Tombalbaye continued to entrench his southern
power base in response to the northern challenge.
This stage of the revolution illustrates a well-known
weapon of guerilla movements everywhere which is seldom
adequately met by the government in power. Guerilla action,
especially when escalated to the stage of paramilitary
guerilla action, has traditionally further entrenched the
governmental power and policies which initially helped cause
the revolutionary movement in the first place. Those charged
with countering the guerillas often are heard to say that
movement to correct the government's failings can begin only
when the physical threat to the government ends. Too often,
however, the physical threat cannot be completely
extinguished, and governmental frustration with the threat
results in repressive measures which only aggravate the
causes of the rebellion, rather than correct them.
Such was the situation in Chad during the late 1960's
and early 1970's. The French recommendations for
governmental reform were not implemented, the military
actions against the rebels were causing more animosity
against people affected by them, and the French, long
described by even the government as a foreign, neo-colonial
threat to Chadian independence, were once more invited back
into Chad. They remained a constant, visible reminder of the
Superimposed upon this scene was a transformation of one
of the principal actors in the drama. Tombalbaye, by his
numerous arrests of opposition leaders and by his personal
leadership of the Sara, who led the various arms of the
government, had transformed what had initially been the
government of a struggling new nation into Tombalbaye's
personal power base. No longer was it the drama of a
new--born representative government struggling for the right
of majority rule. Tombalbaye was now struggling for his
Tombalbaye's actions were exemplified by his requirement
of Yondo initiation rites for all persons in governmental
posts. This transformation marked the end of war of ideas in
Chad, between north and south, and began what has continued
to be a struggle of individuals striving for personal power.
Even the influence of other governments on the war has been
based less on the ideology of the players than on the power
each player held at the time and who their opponents were.
The feuds within the ranks of the rebel leaders holding
power were also based on personal conflicts rather than
ideology or firm allegiances. Habre and Goukouni, who began
their struggle as allies in the Moslem north, fighting
against the southern government, profess no ideological
differences which have remained constant. Goukouni, a
professed Chadian nationalist, was willing to exchange
valuable Chadian territory with a prospective source of
economic wealth, the Aouzou strip, for Libyan support.
Habre, in his struggle for personal power, was guilty of
kidnapping, extortion and the murder of thousands of
civilians. Habre nonetheless joined forces with the
government and General Malloum in 1978 to legitimate his
power in world eyes. He then allied himself with Goukouni in
1979 to overthrow his former governmental ally. Goukouni in
1980 ousted Habre, and once more aligned himself with Libya
to meet the military threat Habre then posed. In 1981,
Goukouni traded Libyan military support for French, in an
effort to ingratiate himself with the French, North Africa,
and world opinion.
That move was a miscalculation by Goukouni, because the
offended Khadafi withdrew his forces before French and OAU
military forces could take their place. Then Habre, now
aligned with Sudan, seized power once more in 1982.
Goukouni, once more a rebel, has again aligned himself with
Libya in his quest for personal control over Chad. Neither
Habre nor Goukouni has been willing to negotiate with the
other in pursuit of a greater good for the country.
Amidst the continual changes and realignments in the
then-ruling governments and rebel forces, foreign nations
have since 1960 played a major role in the power struggle in
Chad. It is interesting that though the struggle has been a
personal struggle, wherein the parties involved "used"
various nations as it suited their needs at the time, those
nations involved have also switched allegiances between
parties as it suited their national policies at the time.
The French position has been complicated by French
internal politics; thus different Chadian parties have
enjoyed French support. As might have been expected, the
French initially supported the new government of Chad; Paris
continued that support even when it became clear that
Tombalbaye's government had become his personal power base.
The decrease in French support for Tombalbaye was necessary
for the successful coup. Such lessened support, due to
French politics or to the request of those in power in Chad
from time to time, has been a precondition to military
changes in power in Chad. Presently, French support lies
with Habre due to his anti-Libyan stance and the pressure of
North African Francophone states who support Habre for the
same reason. Habre's reputation and background engender
opposition in France, however, even today.
Khadafi, the personal leader in Libya, has maintained a
clear and consistent policy in Chad. That policy pursues
recognition of Libyan claims to Aouzou and establishment of a
weak central government in Chad under the control of Tripoli.
Libyan support has been given to many different rebels and
rebel groups who were challenging any sitting central
government of Chad. Acyl Abrat was Khadafi's favorite until
Acyl's death in 1982, but Libyan support has gone to both
Goukouni and Kamouque.
The United States, whose allegiance has been felt in
Chad only recently, has like Libya followed a consistent
policy. The criterion for American assistance has been
opposition to Libyan involvement. Habre, long and
consistently anti-Libyan, was favored when he was in power,
yet Goukouni was recognized diplomatically when he expelled
the Libyans in 1981. But the United States encouraged
Egyptian and Sudanese support for Habre at the same time,(2)
and has supported, and encouraged French support for Habre
since his return to "power," i.e., control of the capitol.
The politics of the Chadian conflict have been confusing
and complex, due in large part to the transformation of the
war from an anti-governmental rebellion into a personal power
struggle. A further complicating fact has been interference
by more powerful modern states with momentary interests in
the affair. The limitation of military force in conflicts
where political entities and allegiances flux from day to day
is clear. Military force must be supported by an individual,
movement, or government which itself derives support from its
people. A military force cannot exist in a vacuum. Since
1975, the government of Chad has been based upon personal
power, and has not been based on "a people." It has not
operated in or from "a fixed territory," and has not been
"bound together by common-law habits and custom into one body
politic." It has not "exercised independent sovreignty and
control over all persons and things within its boundaries."
Until a government of Chad with a suitable power base and
nationalistic program is able to do these things for a
sufficiently lengthy period and help create a nationalistic
unity, the powers within Chad will continue to be a personal
one; an entity of international law, but only a mirage of an
independent state. The rebellion will continue, at the whim
and mercy of external forces and states, with personalities
and personal factions continuing to be the most important and
1. Henry Campbell Black, Black's Law Dictionary (West
Publishing Company, 1968), p. 1578.
1. Harold D. Nelson, ed., Area Handbook for Chad (Supt. of
Documents, 1972), p. 14.
2. Karl Von Clausewitz, On War. (n.p.)
3. Nelson, p. 44.
4. Nelson, p. 44.
5. Virginia Thompson and Richard Adloff, Conflict in Chad
(Institute of International Studies, Univ. of Calif.,
Berkeley, 1981), p. 6.
6. Thompson and Adloff, p. 7.
7. Nelson, p. 34.
8. Thompson and Adloff, p. 10.
9. Nelson, p. 34.
10. Nelson, p. 37.
11. Nelson, p. 41.
12. Thompson and Adloff, pp. 21-22.
13. Kenneth L. Adleman, "African Security, Facts and
Fantasies," Comparative Strategy, 1 November 1980, p.
14. Thompson and Adloff, p. 23.
15. Nelson, p. 122.
16. Rene Lemarchand, "Chad, the Roots of Chaos," Current
History, December 1981, p. 416.
17. Thompson and Adloff, p. 55.
18. Thompson and Adloff, pp. 51-54.
19. Thompson and Adloff, pp. 45-46.
20. Nelson, p. 225.
21. Thompson and Adloff, p. 46.
22. Nelson, p. 226.
23. Lemarchand, p. 416.
24. New York Times, 16 October 1974, p. 4.
25. Thompson and Adloff, p. 47.
26. Lemarchand, p. 417.
27. Thompson and Adloff, p. 1.
28. "What Happened in Chad?", West Africa, 21 April 1975, p.
29. Thompson and Adloff, p. 48.
30. Charles Monaghan, ed., Facts on File Yearbook (New York,
1975), pp. 258-259.
31. Thompson and Adloff, pp. 46-49.
1. Monaghan, p. 259.
2. Monaghan, p. 259.
3. Monaghan, p. 281.
4. Thompson and Adloff, p. 65.
5. Monaghan, p. 282.
6. Thompson and Adloff, pp. 66-67.
7. Monaghan, p. 322.
8. Thompson and Adloff, p. 43.
9. Henry J. Schulte, Jr., ed., Facts on File Yearbook (New
York, 1974), p. 423.
10. Thompson and Adloff, pp. 62-63.
11. Thomspon and Adloff, p. 63.
12. Schulte, p. 423.
13. Monaghan, p. 920.
14. Thompson and Adloff, p. 70.
15. Bob Hollingsworth, ed., Facts on File Yearbook (New
York, 1976), p. 696
1. Thompson and Adloff, pp. 63-64.
2. "Machets Diars," West Africa, 21 April 1975, p. 445.
3. Thompson and Adloff, pp. 79.
4. Thompson and Adloff, pp. 85-86.
5. Lemarchand, p. 436.
6. Lemarchand, p. 436.
7. Thompson and Adloff, p. 88.
8. Thompson and Adloff, pp. 89-90.
9. Stephen Orlofsky, ed., Facts on File Yearbook (New York,
1980, p 221.
10. Orlofsky, pp. 311, 390.
11. Thompson and Adloff, p. 137.
12. Orlofsky, p. 965.
13. Thompson and Adloff, p. 139.
14. Oye Ogunbadejo, "Quadaffi's Northern African Design,"
International Security, Summer, 1983, p. 161.
15. U.S. Department of State, "Challenge to Regional
Security in Africa: the U.S. Response," Current Policy,
No. 431, October, 1982, p. 2.
16. Stephen Orlofsky, ed., Facts on File Yearbook (New York,
1981), p. 199. New York Times, 16 March 1981, p. 4.
17. Thompson and Adloff, p. 140.
18. New York Times, 10 January 1981, p. 3.
19. New York Times, 15 March 1981, p. 4.
20. Orlofsky (1981), p. 199.
21. Orlofsky (1981), p. 200.
22. New York Times, 19 September 1981, p. 4.
23. New York Times, 19 October 1981, p. 3.
24. New York Times, 28 October 1981, p. 3.
25. New York Times, 31 October 1981, p. 2.
26. Ogunbadejo, p. 161.
27. Orlofsky (1981), p. 803.
28. U.S. Department of State, p. 2.
29. Robert Fraser, ed., Keesings Contemporary Archives, 27
August-3 September 1982, p. 31677.
30. Stephen Orlofsky, ed., Facts on File Yearbook (New York,
1982), p. 442.
31. Time, 21 June 1982, p. 47.
32. Fraser, p. 31680.
33. Orlofsky (1982), p. 830.
34. U.S. Department of State Bulletin No. 2078, September
1983, p. 50.
35. The Guardian, 4 January 1983, n.p.
36. New York Times, 28 February 1983, p. .3.
37. New York Times, 18 March 1983, p. 2.
38. New York Times, 18 March 1983, p. 2.
39. New York Times, 18 May 1983, p. 4.
40. New York Times, 24 June 1983, p. 3.
41. New York Times, 26 June 1983, p. 4.
42. New York Times, 30 June 1983, p. 2.
43. New York Times, 26 June 1983, p. 4.
44. New York Times, 26 June 1983, p. 4.
45. The Economist, 2-8 July 1983, p. 33.
46. New York Times, 30 June 1983, p. 2.
47. Leon Dash, "Foreign Intervention Unlikely to End War in
Chad," Washington Post, 30 August 1983, p. 15.
48. The Economist, 23-29 July 1983, p. 32.
49. The Economist, 6-12 August 1983, p. 27.
50. New York Times, 3 August 1983, p. 3.
51. New York Times, 2 August 1983, p. 2.
52. Wall Street Journal, 4 August 1983, p. 2.
53. New York Times, 4 August 1983, p. 2.
54. Chester A. Crocker, "Reagan Administrations Africa
Policy: A Policy Report," Current Policy No. 527.
November 1983, p. 2.
55. U.S. State Department, Special Report Number 111, p. 4.
56. New York Times, 5 August 1983, p. 3.
57. New York Times, 6 August 1983, p. 1.
58. Le Monde (Paris), 5 August 1983, p. 1.
59. Tiem, 22 August 1983, p. 34.
60. Time, 22 August 1983, p. 34.
61. Baltimore Sun, 12 August 1983, p. 2.
62. Paris AFP English broadcast, 1413 GMT, 10 August 1983.
63. Paul Webster, Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut),
19 August 1983, p. 1.
64. The Economist, 27 August-2 September 1983, p. 22.
65. The Economist, 27 August-2 September 1983, p. 27.
66. The Economist, 24-30 September 1983, p. 33.
1. Carl Von Clausewitz,
2. Margaret A. Novicki, ed., Africa Report, September-
October 1983, p. 29.
Nelson, Harold D., ed.g Area Handbook for Chad.
Superintendant of Documents, Washington, D.C., 1968.
A collection of relevant background material
concerning Chad, including historical data and
geographical data. Though the book was dated, the
historical material was excellent, and much of the
geographical data was also of use.
Thompson, Virginia, and Richard Adloff, Conflict in Chad.
University of California, Berkely, Institute of
International Studies, 1981.
A recent and well written study of the
revolutionary conflict in Chad, beginning with
historical material as it relates to the present
conflict, and analyzing the causes and history of the
war. An invaluable background of the fighting since
"Facts on File Yearbook", New York, 1974-1983.
This collection of current events, compiled from
news media sources worldwide, was of great assistance
for understanding the later years of the conflict,
because it compiled the events relating to Chad in a
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