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2004-09 - Chad Civil War

Habre continued to face armed opposition on various fronts and brutally repressed opposition to his rule. In 1983, Goukouni’s forces launched an offensive against the Habre government’s positions in northern and eastern Chad with Libyan military support. This provoked French and Zairian forces to intervene to support Habre, pushing Goukouni’s and Libyan forces northward. In 1984, the French and Libyan Governments announced the mutual withdrawal of their forces from Chad. The French and Zairian troops withdrew, but Libyan forces backing Goukouni continued to occupy northern Chad.

Habre defeated southern rebel groups and began a process of national reconciliation with former armed enemies and regime opponents. In 1986, Habre’s forces, with French and U.S. financial and logistical support, attacked and decisively defeated the Libyans and Goukouni’s forces in northern Chad in what was known as the Toyota War, from Habre’s desert warriors’ preference for using light trucks and desert-warfare tactics in overcoming the more numerous and better-armed and -equipped enemy. With Libyan forces expelled from nearly all of Chadian territory, a cease-fire was declared in 1987 and Chad and Libya restored normal relations in 1989. In 1994 the International Court of Justice confirmed Chadian sovereignty over the Aouzou Strip, effectively ending residual Libyan occupation of parts of Chad.

Habre’s increasingly authoritarian rule and perceived favoritism of his own Gorane ethnic group weakened the coalition of northern and central groups on which he depended for support. In 1989, Idriss Deby, one of Habre's leading generals and a Zaghawa, defected and fled to Darfur in Sudan, from which he mounted a Zaghawa-supported series of attacks on the Habre regime. In December 1990, with Libyan and Sudanese assistance, Deby's forces successfully marched on N'Djamena, causing Habre to flee the country. Deby's Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS) approved a national charter on February 28, 1991, with Deby as president.

In 1996, Deby won the country's first multi-party presidential election, defeating General Kamougue. In 1997, Deby’s MPS party won 63 of 125 seats in legislative elections. International observers noted numerous serious irregularities in both electoral events. In 2001, Deby won reelection in a flawed contest, gaining 63% of the votes. In 2002, the MPS was successful in similarly flawed legislative elections.

In 2004, the National Assembly voted to amend the constitution to abolish presidential term limits; the amendment was approved in a 2005 national referendum. In 2006, Deby was elected to his third 5-year presidential term with 78% of the vote.

As a result, opposition parties boycotted the 2006 National Assembly elections, precipitating a political crisis. The government responded by signing an agreement with the opposition coalition for a program of political and electoral reforms aimed at credible national legislative, municipal, and presidential elections, codified in an August 13, 2007 accord. The accord also extended the mandate of the 2002 Assembly until such time as the reforms were achieved and the elections held.

Dissatisfaction with Deby’s long rule among many ethnic groups, including subsets of Deby’s own Zaghawa ethnic group, and tensions between Chad and Sudan caused by the Darfur crisis led in 2004 to the creation of a renewed and serious rebel threat: several newly-formed Chadian rebel groups found refuge in Sudan and support from the Sudanese Government, enabling them to mount frequent armed attacks into Chad, with the intention of violently toppling the Deby regime. Deby’s situation was complicated by the influx of 300,000 Darfuri refugees into Chad and the displacement of 200,000 Chadians in eastern Chad. The Governments of Chad and Sudan soon became involved in a deadly proxy war, with the Government of Chad supporting Sudanese rebels committed to regime change in Khartoum and the Government of Sudan supporting Chadian rebels with the same goal vis-a-vis Chad. Sudanese rebels reached the Chadian capital twice, in 2006 and 2008, nearly overrunning the city in the latter instance, before being repulsed by government forces.

In 2008-2009, after the Chadian Army had defeated three major rebel attacks, and the Sudanese Army repulsed a rebel attack that reached the suburbs of Khartoum, international pressure for the normalization of Chad-Sudan relations intensified. Several Chad-Sudan agreements brokered by third parties had failed from 2006 to 2008, following which N’Djamena and Khartoum moved to resolve their differences bilaterally. This resulted in January 2010 in a Chad-Sudan peace accord, according to which the sides agreed to end the proxy war by breaking with rebel clients, normalize relations, and secure their border through joint military cooperation. President Deby publicly renounced past support for Sudanese rebels, a key Sudanese and international demand, and committed Chad to assist international efforts to resolve the Darfur crisis through peaceful negotiation.

The humanitarian effort to assist refugees and displaced persons in eastern Chad led to the deployment of two international peacekeeping operations, a European one from 2007-2008, and a UN one called MINURCAT, beginning in 2008. In 2010, the Government of Chad declined to agree to a renewal of MINURCAT's mandate, claiming that the project had been ineffective and proposing to provide better security with its own resources. MINURCAT ceased operations in December 2010. Chad provides security in and around refugee camps and to humanitarian personnel providing assistance through the Detachement Integre de Securite (DIS), a Chadian national police force created by the Chadian Government expressly for this purpose.

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 11:38:41 ZULU