Chad has known human habitation since time immemorial. The oldest
humanoid skull yet found in Chad (Borkou) is more than 1 million years
old. Because in ancient times the Saharan area was not totally arid,
Chad's population was more evenly distributed than it is today. For
example, 7,000 years ago, the north central basin, now in the Sahara,
was still filled with water, and people lived and farmed around its
shores. The cliff paintings in Borkou and Ennedi depict elephants,
rhinoceri, giraffes, cattle, and camels; only camels survive there
today. The region was known to traders and geographers from the late
Middle Ages. Since then, Chad has served as a crossroads for the Muslim
peoples of the desert and savanna regions and the animist Bantu tribes
of the tropical forests.
Sao people lived along the Chari River for thousands of years, but their
relatively weak chiefdoms were overtaken by the powerful chiefs of what
were to become the Kanem-Bornu and Baguirmi kingdoms. At their peak,
these two kingdoms and the kingdom of Ouaddai controlled a good part of
what is now Chad, as well as parts of Nigeria and Sudan. From 1500 to
1900, Arab slave raids were widespread. The French first penetrated Chad
in 1891, establishing their authority through military expeditions
primarily against the Muslim kingdoms. The first major colonial battle
for Chad was fought in 1900 between the French Major Lamy and the
African leader Rabah, both of whom were killed in the battle. Although
the French won that battle, they did not declare the territory pacified
until 1911; armed clashes between colonial troops and local bands
continued for many years thereafter.
In 1905, administrative responsibility for Chad was placed under a
governor general stationed at Brazzaville in what is now Congo.
Although Chad joined the French colonies of Gabon, Oubangui-Charo, and
Moyen Congo to form the Federation of French Equatorial Africa (AEF) in
1910, it did not have colonial status until 1920. The northern region
of Chad was occupied by the French in 1914.
In 1959, the territory of French Equatorial Africa was dissolved, and
four states--Gabon, the Central African Republic, Congo (Brazzaville),
and Chad--became autonomous members of the French Community. In 1960,
Chad became an independent nation under its first president, Francois
A long civil war began as a tax revolt in 1965 and soon set the Muslim
north and east against the southern-led government. Even with the help
of French combat forces, the Tombalbaye Government was never able to
quell the insurgency. Tombalbaye's rule became more irrational
and brutal, leading the military to carry out a coup in 1975 and to
install Gen. Felix Malloum, a southerner, as head of state.
In 1978, Malloum's Government was broadened to include more northerners.
Internal dissent within the government led the northern Prime Minister,
Hissein Habre, to send his forces against the national army at N'Djamena
in February 1979. This act led to intense fighting among the 11
factions that emerged. At this point, the civil war had become so
widespread that regional governments decided there was no effective
central government and stepped in.
A series of four international conferences held first under Nigerian and
then Organization of African Unity (OAU) sponsorship attempted to bring
the Chadian factions together. At the fourth conference, held in Lagos,
Nigeria, in August 1979, the Lagos accord was signed. This accord
established a transitional government pending national elections. In
November 1979, the National Union Transition Government (GUNT) was
created with a mandate to govern for 18 months. Goukouni Oueddei, a
northerner, was named President; Col. Kamougue, a southerner, Vice
President; and Habre, Minister of Defense.
This coalition proved fragile; in March 1980, fighting broke out again
between Goukouni's and Habre's forces. The war dragged on
inconclusively until Goukouni sought and obtained Libyan intervention.
More than 7,000 Libyan troops entered Chad. Although Goukouni requested
complete withdrawal of external forces in October 1981, the Libyans
pulled back only to the Aozou Strip in northern Chad.
An OAU peacekeeping force of 3,500 troops replaced the Libyan forces in
the remainder of Chad. The force, consisting of troops from Nigeria,
Senegal, and Zaire, received funding from the United States. A special
summit of the OAU ad hoc committee on the Chad/Libya dispute in February
1982 called for reconciliation among all the factions, particularly
those led by Goukouni and Habre, who had resumed fighting in eastern
Chad. Although Habre agreed to participate, Goukouni refused to
negotiate with Habre on an equal basis. In the series of battles that
followed, Habre's forces defeated the GUNT, and Habre occupied N'Djamena
on June 7, 1982. The OAU force remained neutral during the conflict,
and all of its elements were withdrawn from Chad at the end of June.
In the summer of 1983, GUNT forces launched an offensive against
government positions in northern and eastern Chad. Following a series
of initial defeats, government forces succeeded in stopping the rebels.
At this point, Libyan forces directly intervened once again, bombing
government forces at Faya Largeau. Ground attacks followed the
bombings, forcing government troops to abandon N'Djamena and withdraw to
the south. In response to Libya's direct intervention, French and
Zairian forces were sent to Chad to assist in defending the government.
With the deployment of French troops, the military situation stabilized,
leaving the Libyans and rebels in control of all Chad north of the 16th
parallel. In September 1984, the French and the Libyan Governments announced an
agreement for the mutual withdrawal of their forces from Chad. By the
end of the year, all French and Zairian troops were withdrawn. Libya
did not honor the withdrawal accord, however, and its forces continued
to occupy the northern third of Chad.
President Habre's efforts to deal with his opposition were aided by a
number of African leaders, especially Gabon's President, Omar Bongo.
During accords held in Libreville, Gabon, in 1985, two of the chief
exile opposition groups, the Chadian Democratic Front and the
Coordinating Action Committee of the Democratic Revolutionary Council,
made peace with the Habre Government. By 1986, all of the rebel
commando (CODO) groups in southern Chad came in from the forests,
rallied to President Habre's side, and were re-integrated into the
Forces Armees Nationales Chadiennes (FANT).
In the fall of 1986, fighters loyal to Goukouni Oueddei, leader of the
GUNT, began defecting to the FANT. Although Libyan forces were more
heavily equipped than were the Chadians, Habre's FANT, with considerable
assistance from ex-GUNT forces, began attacks against the Libyan
occupiers in November 1986 and won victories at all the important
cities. The Chadian offensive ended in August 1987, with the taking of
Aozou Town, the principal village in the Aozou Strip. Chad Government
forces held the village for a month but lost it to a heavy Libyan
The OAU ad hoc committee continued to seek a peaceful solution to the
Chad/Libya conflict, holding meetings over the years with heads of state
or ministerial-level officials. In October 1988, Chad resumed formal
diplomatic relations with Libya, in accordance with recommendations made
by the OAU.
A month later, Habre's reconciliation efforts succeeded, and he took
power in N'Djamena. In April 1989, Idriss Deby, one of Habre's leading
generals, defected and fled to Darfur in Sudan, from which he mounted a
series of attacks on the eastern region of Chad. In November 1990, he
invaded; on December 2, 1990, his forces entered N'Djamena without a
battle, President Habre and forces loyal to him having fled. After 3
months of provisional government, a national charter was approved by the
Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS) on February 28, 1991, with Deby as
source: U.S. State Department Background Notes 1992
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