By 2006 President Deby's Zaghawa clan was severely divided, a result of his insufficient support for the Darfur rebellion and fears of tribal retribution against his rule. The Zaghawa tribe, from which President Deby, led Chadian rebels, and the largest proportion of Darfur rebels come.
Some see an analogy between Togo and Syria to Chad (a small minority of warrior tradition dominating the military officership, exercising an unbreakable lock-hold on power, which becomes hereditary). The analogy was a good one, except that the Zaghawa minority in northeastern Chad was much smaller (less than six percent, possibly much less) than the Kabyes in northern Togo (roughly 20 percent) or the Alawis in northern Syria (12 percent). The Zaghawas, along with the Goranes of northern Chad, constituted a majority of officers in the Chadian army (an estimated 60 percent were Zaghawa and Gorane, of which 60 percent Zaghawa) and were, of course, the most trusted officers with the most sensitive positions who had done most of the serious fighting when it was needed. But the Zaghawas in Chad, as evidenced by the coup attempt of 14 March 2006 and preceding coup attempts, were severely divided, unlike the ruling minorities in Syria and Togo. Another difference from the Kabyes and Alawis, was a Zaghawa aversion to hereditary rule.
Eyadema and Asad strove to take care of their co-tribalists as a first priority, but Deby seemed to have done a less good job of taking care of his own. First, Deby had been insufficiently supportive of the Darfur rebellion. His elder half-brother Daoussa had been instrumental in starting and maintaining the Darfur rebellion, but Daoussa had dropped out of the picture, and Deby had from the start in 2002 not been a loyal supporter of the pan-Zaghawa cause. Second, Deby had driven the country into the ground and even Zaghawas had become concerned at the level of corruption and incompetence. All Zaghawas were painfully aware that the fall of Deby would be certain to have dire consequences for them, unless another Zaghawa took charge, which necessarily would have to be by force of arms not ballot. A continuation of Zaghawa power would be disastrous and but their familied would likely be harmed in the event of change of power to a different ethnicity; i.e., they felt deeply worried at any conceivable scenario.) Third, Deby had toyed with the idea beginning in 2002 of grooming his son Brahim (then only 23 years old) as his successor, violating the nonmonarchical tradition among the Zaghawas, and especially outraging his cotribalists because of the boy's youth and bad reputation. Fourth, Deby's last two marriages were romantic marriages outside the tribal network, also a serious breach of tradition.
The February 17 defection of Major General Seby Aguid as the most serious indicator yet of division "within the family." Seby Aguid was a Bideiyat Zaghawa from the Bahai area, just like Deby. Seby was a paternal cousin of twins Tom and Timan Erdimi, who were maternal nephews of Deby. Illiterate and one-armed, Seby Aguid was seen in the Zaghawa community, at least among the soldiery, as a straight-talking man of action and courage -- "widely admired and loved." Seby Aguid appeared to have been the author of a considerable amount of brutality, but t a reputation for brutality would not have tarnished his reputation among the Zaghawa soldiery. Some heard disparagement of Seby Aguid from the officer corps, on account of his being illierate.
Isak Diarra, who decamped with Seby, was another close relative, although Diarra's precise relationship to Deby or Seby was unclear. Meanwhile, Col. Ramadan Bakhit, commander of the armored squadron in the presidential protective reserve unit and alleged leader of the 14 March 14 2006 coup plot, was a nephew of Seby Aguid. Bakhit had been commander for 15 years and "would have died 100 times to save Idriss" Deby, but he had been revolted by Deby's ransacking of Seby Aguid's home and turning Seby's children out into the streets. Here, too, Deby had violated an ingrained Zaghawa precept.
Seby Aguid commanded the Republican Guard in mid-1990's when he was seen as a key figure in the regime with the Erdimis and Daoussa. Cited in the press for conducting massacres in the East. In the late 1990's as deputy director of the Gendarmerie, he carried out a wave of executions in the Logone provinces, became director general of the Gendarmerie but was relieved of that post in 1999 due to allegations of torturing a businesswoman. Promoted from colonel to brigadier general and then major general in 2000, led the counterattack against a rebellion in Bardai. As First Deputy Chief of the Armed Froces, received military decoration for valor at Bardai. In October 2005 Deby sent him, as Chief of Saff of the Armed Forces, with Tom Erdimi and Daoussa to negotiate with Zaghawa Chadian rebels led by Yahya Dillo. On February 17, 2006, he joined the rebels.
"Zaghawa" was a typically triliteral semitic word, used by Arabs to describe the ethnicity of the inhabitants of northern Darfur and northeastern Chad who speak a nonsemitic language. The word which the Zaghawa people use to describe themselves is "Beri," and these people call their language Beriyya. They are closely related to the Gorane and other Nilo-Saharan peoples of northern Chad, linguistically and culturally (i.e., greater ease of intermarriage), and the whole northern group know themselves as Teda (i.e., Zaghawa/Beri plus the peoples of Borkou, Ennedi, Tibesti, and Kanem). The term Teda is, we understand, more commonly reserved for the language of the Toubou people inhabiting the Tibesti region of northwestern Chad, while Daza is the language of the Gorane people of Borkou and east to the Ennedi; while the term Gorane is sometimes used to describe all the Nilo-Saharan northerners, even to include the Zaghawa. Confused?
At the time of colonization there were four Beri (Zaghawa) sultans, three in what is today northern Darfur and one in what is today Chad. The sultan in Chad was based in the area of what has today become the town of Iriba. The town was created around a watering hole in the 1930's, the sultan having decided to move there from what had been a much tougher but more defensible site nearby, when the colonial era had brought more stability. Iriba is today the center of the Kobe sub-tribe of the Beri. President Deby came from the Bideiyat sub-tribe, centered north of the Kobe in Bahai. Even further north, in true desert, is the Borogat sub-tribe, centered more or less at a watering hole called Kouba, in the vicinity of Fada in the Ennedi. On the Darfur side, according to Ali, the three Zaghawa sultans at the time of colonization were based in Tine, Kornoi, and Koulbous. The Darfur Zaghawas are divided into Touwer sub-tribe centered at Tine and the Wagui centered at Kornoi. The Darfur Zaghawas were and always have been more numerous.
Observers estimated there to be one million Zaghaas today, with 300-400,000 in Chad (a higher figure than some usually hear, but of course, ther is no census). At the time of the defeat of te Sultanate of Fur in 1916 by the British, the two most important "empires" of the region, were not Zaghawa but the Fur in Nyla and the Oueddai in Abeche. The groups in the Oueddai realm speak related languages known generically as "Maba," consisting of the Masalit (mainly West Darfur), Tama (around Guereda), Aboucharib (around Am Zoer), and Mimi (around Biltine). The Dadjo are a large ethnicity, south of the Maba speakers but without close linguistic ties to them, on both sides of the border, running from Goz Beida east.
The Fur and Zaghawa-Goranes were fiercely resistant to Arab incursion and influence, though strongly Koran-based and strong slavers in their own right, while the Oueddai were more willing to accept the Arabs. The Arabs passed through beginning some centuries ago and established themselves in a central belt from Arada to Ndjamena (Oum Hajjar, Jidda, Bokoro, Dagana-Massakory, and even Am Timan further to the south). The Baguirmi sultanate (centered near Ndjamena in Massenya) kept its own language, allied to the Sarah group of southern Chad, but in the manner of the Fur and other peoples along this central zone (Arab and non-Arab), the Baguirmis were slave-raiders. "Arab," in Chad, is used in the linguistic sense -- if someone only speaks Arabic as his native tongue, he is "Arab." The term does carry a racial implication, even when people in question all seem to have the same outward racial appearance.
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