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Tombalbaye Era, 1960-75

Gabriel Lisette, a black colonial administrator of Guadeloupian descent, was elected to represent Chad in the French National Assembly. Lisette served Chad in this capacity from 1946 to 1951 and from 1957 to 1959, and rose to the rank of prime minister, although he was eventually replaced by Franois Tombalbaye.

Until the early 1950s, political forces originating in France dominated the development of politics in Chad. Local elections were won largely by members of the Chadian Democratic Union (Union Democratique Tchadienne — UDT), which was associated with a political party in France, the Assembly of French People. The UDT represented French commercial interests and a bloc of traditional leaders composed primarily of Muslim and Ouaddaian nobility. Chad's European community initiated the practice of using the civil service for partisan political ends; African civil servants who were identified with organizations opposed to the UDT soon found themselves dismissed or transferred to distant posts. For example, Francois Tombalbaye (later to become president) lost his job as a teacher and ended up making bricks by hand because of his union activities and his role in the opposition Chadian Progressive Party (Parti Progressiste Tchadien - PPT).

In March 1959 the PPT gained power, this time under the leadership of Tombalbaye, a union leader and representative from Moyen-Chari Prefecture. Lisette, whose power was undermined because of his non- African origins, became deputy prime minister in charge of economic coordination and foreign affairs. Tombalbaye soon consolidated enough political support from the south and north to isolate the opposition into a collection of conservative Muslim leaders from central Chad. The latter group formed a political party in January 1960, but its parliamentary representation steadily dropped as Tombalbaye wooed individual members to the PPT. By independence in August 1960, the PPT and the south had clearly achieved dominance, but Tombalbaye's political skills made it possible for observers to talk optimistically about the possibility of building a broad-based coalition of political forces.

In 1960, Chad became an independent nation under its 1st president, Francois Tombalbaye. Between 1960 and 1973 Chad received about 30 percent of all French military assistance to black African states. The French even assumed a brief fighting role when their assistance was sought by Tombalbaye. Chad remained a ward of the international donor community. The country had been subjected to the machinations of a vast number of groups and organizations. Politically, Chadians endured a series of authoritarian regimes, none of which has successfully limited factionalism.

From 1960 until 1975, Francois Tombalbaye, a Christian Sara civilian, led the nation. His regime was characterized by southern domination of the administrative structure, although he made modest attempts at placating northern and central interests. When Chad achieved independence in 1960, southerners - the group most exposed to the French administrators - dominated political life. These southerners were led by President Francois Tombalbaye, who made only halfhearted efforts at regional integration in government and who generally repressed opposition. Within five years of having taken office, Tombalbaye's heavy-handed approach had alienated a large segment of the population, especially northerners and easterners, and had spurred rebellions. Although he was wary of a French military presence after independence, the president readily embraced France's support in stemming violent discontent.

Tombalbaye faced a task of considerable magnitude when Chad became a sovereign state. His challenge was to build a nation out of a vast and diverse territory that had poor communications, few known resources, a tiny market, and a collection of impoverished people with sharply differing political traditions, ethnic and regional loyalties, and sociocultural patterns. The colonial powers that had created the country's boundaries had done little to promote economic interdependence, political cooperation, or cross-cultural understanding. Chadians who had hoped that the country's first president might turn out to be a state builder like the thirteenth century's Dabbalemi or the sixteenth century's Aluma were soon disappointed. During its first fifteen years, Chad under Tombalbaye experienced worsening economic conditions, eventual alienation of the most patient of foreign allies, exacerbation of ethnic and regional conflict, and grave weakening of the state as an instrument of governance.

At the outset, Tombalbaye demonstrated an autocratic style along with a distrust of the institutions of democracy. One week before the country gained independence, Tombalbaye purged Lisette from his own party, declared Lisette a noncitizen while he was traveling abroad, and barred him from returning to Chad This "coup by telegram" was the first in an extensive series of Tombalbaye's increasingly authoritarian actions to eliminate or neutralize opponents.

To increase his power and freedom of action, Tombalbaye declared a ban on all political parties except the PPT in January 1962, and in April he established a presidential form of government. When serious rioting occurred in 1963 in N'Djamena and Am Timan, the government declared a state of emergency and dissolved the National Assembly. And, as part of a major campaign against real and imagined political opponents, Tombalbaye created a special criminal court. By the end of the year, the country's prisons contained a virtual "who's who" of Chadian politicians. In June 1964, a new National Assembly granted Tombalbaye complete control over all appointments to the Political Bureau of the PPT, which by then was the sole source of political authority. With the PPT, government, and upper echelons of the civil service stocked with loyalists, and with opposition leaders in prison, exile, or completely co-opted, Tombalbaye was in full command of the country.

An effort to Africanize the civil service and security forces as rapidly as possible complemented Tombalbaye's drive for personal power. Between 1960 and 1963, the number of French officials in the central government administration declined from ninety-five to thirty (although the to+:A number of French personnel increased as technical advisers we-p iiired for development programs), and by the end of 1962 the entire territorial administrative structure was in Chadian hands. In addition, units of Chad's national army replaced French military forces in Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti Prefecture and in Ab&h, a process formally completed on January 23, 1965.

Africanization was not entirely popular among Chad's farmers and herders, despite their deep resentment of French colonial rule. A decline in the quality of government service was immediately apparent, in part because of the usual difficulties of transition, but also because many of the newly hired and promoted Chadians were less experienced and less adequately trained than their departing French counterparts. Increasing the discontent, Tombalbaye imposed an additional tax in 1964, under the euphemism of a "national loan." On top of that action, some government administrators were allegedly forcing citizens in rural areas to make payments at three times the official taxation rates. Reports of corruption and other abuses of authority grew as Chad's new officials became aware of both the increased pressures and the decreased constraints on public servants.

Because the great majority of the country's Western-educated and French-speaking citizens were southerners, the policy of Africanization often represented a "southernization" of the Chadian government. What appeared to some Western observers to be progress in African self-government was perceived by those from the northern and central areas to be an increasingly blatant seizure of power by southerners. To many in northern and central Chad, the southern Chadians were simply another - 2t of foreigners, almost as alien and arrogant as the departing French. Tombalbaye's failure to establish hiring and training policies geared to achieving greater ethnic and regional balance in public administration was one of his most serious shortcomings. Another was his lack of success - or lack of interest - in reaching power-sharing agreements with key leaders in the Saharan and sahelian regions.

Dissatisfaction with these failures was expressed violently, and the government response was just as violent. When Muslims rioted in N'Djamena in September 1963 following the arbitrary arrests of three Muslim leaders, the government reacted swiftly and repressively. A little more than a year later, an altercation at a public dance in the northern town of Bardai prompted a Sara deputy prefect to order the inhabitants of an entire village to march to prison, where many were stripped and all were insulted. Many were arbitrarily fined for such offenses as wearing beards or turbans. Included among the targets of abuse was Oueddei Kichidemi, the derde, or spiritual head, of the Teda people, a Toubou group. Explosive confrontations such as this occurred repeatedly as the inexperienced southerners, who understood little and cared less for the customs of the peoples they governed, replaced experienced French administrators.

By this time, just five years after independence, the possibility of armed conflict was growing. Politicians throughout Chad increasingly used traditional loyalties and enmities to decry opposition and solidify popular support for their positions. In view of Chad's historical legacy of conflict, some historians have argued that even the most competent leader with the most enlightened set of policies would have eventually faced secessionist movements or armed opposition. Tombalbaye, however, hastened the onset of civil conflict by quickly squandering his legitimacy through repressive tactics and regional favoritism.

French intervention had given substance to FROLINAT charges that Tombalbaye was a "stooge of the French imperialists."

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Page last modified: 31-01-2020 19:17:18 ZULU