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Rebellion in Eastern and Northern Chad

On November 1, 1965, frustration with what was perceived as government mismanagement and tax collection abuses erupted in riots in the town of Mangalmé in Guéra Prefecture. Five hundred persons died, including the local deputy to the National Assembly and nine other government officials. From Mangalmé and nearby Batha Prefecture, the rebellion spread to Ouaddaï and Salamat prefectures, where in February 1967 the prefect and deputy prefect were killed. In August 1968, a major mutiny in Aozou among the Toubou-dominated National and Nomad Guard highlighted the continuing unrest in the north (see Origins and Early Development , ch. 5). In the same year, antigovernment activities and tracts began to appear in Chari-Baguirmi Prefecture, only about 100 kilometers from N'Djamena. Travel became unsafe in much of central Chad, and governmental authority in the north was reduced by 1969 to the garrison towns of Faya Largeau, Fada, Bardaï, and Ounianga Kébir.

In addition to historical causes and what Tombalbaye himself was later to call "maladministration," the country's Arabicspeaking neighbors abetted rebellion in the northern and central regions of Chad. In Sudan and Libya, numerous self-styled "liberation fronts" appeared in the mid-1960s, printing manifestos and claiming leadership over rebellious groups inside Chad. The most prominent of these fronts, the National Liberation Front of Chad (Front de Libération Nationale du Tchad--FROLINAT), was formed in June 1966 in Nyala in southwestern Sudan. Personality, philosophical, and ethnic differences soon led to the front's fragmentation, with one group moving to Khartoum and another, which retained the FROLINAT designation, establishing offices in Algiers and Tripoli.

The influence of external assistance to the rebels during this period was minimal. Prior to 1976, Chad's uprisings were disorganized and uncoordinated among dissident groups. Most observers attribute the rebels' success more to the ineptitude of Chad's government and national army than to outside assistance.

After FROLINAT's eastern region field commander, Ibrahim Abatcha, died in combat in February 1968, four contenders for leadership emerged. Within two years, two of them reportedly had been assassinated and one had fled to Sudan; the fourth, Abba Siddick, became FROLINAT's new secretary general in 1970. But in 1971, when Siddick called for greater cooperation among various groups under the FROLINAT banner, he encountered vigorous opposition in the north from Goukouni Oueddei, son of Oueddei Kichidemi, and Hissein Habré, one of the leaders of the Armed Forces of the North (Forces Armeés du Nord--FAN). Goukouni and Habré broke with Siddick, who managed to retain only nominal control over FROLINAT's First Liberation Army in east-central Chad (see Appendix B).

Tombalbaye's initial response to the increasing antigovernment activities was to attempt to crush them. When the government's forces proved woefully inadequate for the task, Tombalbaye swallowed his pride and called in the French under provisions of military treaties signed in 1960.

Confronted by the unpopularity of such a step, the French government joined many Chadian intellectuals in calling for a broad range of economic and political reforms by Chad's government. Desperate for French assistance, Tombalbaye reluctantly accepted the thirty-three member Administrative Reform Mission (Mission de Réforme Administrative--MRA), which arrived in 1969 with authority to retrain the army, reorganize the civil service, and recommend the abolition of unpopular laws and taxes. The most significant political reform was the full restoration to Chad's major sultans of their previous judicial authority. The government also allowed them to resume their function as tax collectors in exchange for 10 percent of the revenue. This action, which Tombalbaye implemented grudgingly, temporarily undermined rebel activities across central Chad.

Liberalization continued in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Following the 1969 presidential elections, in which Tombalbaye ran unopposed, some 600 political prisoners were released, including a number of prominent Muslims. In April 1971, Tombalbaye, addressing the Seventh Congress of the PPT, admitted for the first time that he had made mistakes and that there were some shortcomings associated with his policies. He promised a campaign of national reconciliation, and a few weeks later he formed a government that included a greater proportion of Muslims and northerners. In June Tombalbaye freed another 1,500 political prisoners and toured rebel regions in the north, where he promised, among other things, government-subsidized salt and sugar for the nomads of Zouar and Bardaï.

These reforms and French assistance contributed to the relative calm of 1970 and 1971. French military forces provided extensive and effective assistance in containing rebellious activities in central Chad. By June 1971, overt rebellion had been reduced for the most part to isolated pockets in the Tibesti region. The French government, under domestic pressure, began to withdraw its forces from Chad.

Data as of December 1988

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