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Transition to Northern Rule


Troops being reviewed in 1970 at Fada
Courtesy Michael R. Saks

In 1978 officials in Chad and neighboring countries attempted to craft a coalition that could control the country through military force and still claim to have some popular support. Urged by African heads of state and French advisers, Malloum attempted to bring FROLINAT faction leaders Hissein Habré and Goukouni Oueddei into the government, but these two northerners soon clashed with Malloum and each other. While Habré's troops engaged government forces, Goukouni seized the opportunity to occupy government buildings and claim control of N'Djamena. Talks were held first in Sudan and then in Nigeria, but by late 1979 neighboring states were working primarily to contain Chad's spreading violence and limit Libyan interference in regional affairs (see Relations with Other African States , this ch.).

As N'Djamena became a war zone, with fighting among FROLINAT factions and southerners going on between 1979 and early 1982, outsiders proclaimed the disintegration of the state. Although major disruptions occurred, the government struggled to maintain basic official functions. Executive functions were allocated according to ministerial portfolios and were given limited attention. Many buildings in the capital city were destroyed, but a small civil service continued to operate. Public services were erratic but not absent. Still, the government fought for its survival rather than to protect its citizens, and thousands of people sought refuge in rural areas or neighboring countries.

Talks in Lagos and Kano in 1979 culminated in the formation of GUNT, led by Goukouni, which incorporated several rival northern commanders. Malloum left the country, and the locus of governmental power shifted from south to north, largely because of northern military successes, popular discontent throughout the country, and pressure from neighboring states for an end to Chadian violence. National unity became increasingly ephemeral, however, as members of this coalition were polarized between Habré and Goukouni. Goukouni was the son of the derde, a respected traditional leader among the Teda population of the north, one of the Toubou groups that had generally been receptive to the Libyan-based Sanusiyya brotherhood before independence (see Languages and Ethnic Groups; Islam , ch. 2). In his view, Libyan interests in Chad were valid. Goukouni requested Qadhaafi's assistance against Habré in 1980, bringing Libyan troops into the country as far south as N'Djamena.

As head of state, Goukouni did not implement promised democratic reforms, but neither did he tolerate unlimited reprisals against the south. Instead, he was relatively tolerant of minor expressions of dissent, warned security forces against harsh retaliation in the south, and gave local administrators limited autonomy.

Both allies and opponents perceived this relatively conciliatory attitude as a presidential weakness and a hesitant style of leadership. Indeed, this hesitancy was apparent in 1981 when Qadhaafi proclaimed a merger between Libya and Chad. Following international and domestic protests, Goukouni reversed his position and balked at Qadhaafi's regional demands.

French political shifts in 1981 also had an important impact on events in Chad. The election of François Mitterrand as French president heralded a reorientation in African policy. Socialist leaders vowed to reduce the overall French presence in Africa and to avoid an open confrontation with Libya, a major source of French oil imports. French support shifted cautiously to Habré, who appeared willing to resist Libyan domination with outside support and whose decisive leadership had been demonstrated against French troops for over a decade. France's Socialist Party pursued its goal of reducing its interventionist profile in Africa by persuading francophone states, through the Organization of African Unity (OAU), to send peacekeeping troops to Chad. Goukouni called for the removal of Libya's forces, but when Habré's Armed Forces of the North (Forces Armées du Nord--FAN) moved on the capital, they encountered almost no resistance from the OAU-sponsored InterAfrican Force (IAF). As a result, in June 1982 FAN seized N'Djamena and proclaimed Habré head of state.

Habré's decisiveness and his preference for French rather than Libyan patronage shifted the focus of government once again. He took limited steps to assuage regional dissent, relying on northerners in most military commands and top political offices but appointing southerners to several executive and administrative positions. Habré also reduced the aim of independence from French domination to the status of a long-term goal. France maintained vital economic, financial, military, and security assistance; underwrote the budget; effectively operated the banking system; and provided a variety of commercial and technical advisers. Furthermore, Habré used French and United States military assistance to repel Libyan troops, Libyan-supported insurgents, and local rebel forces (see Habré's Return to Power and Second Libyan Intervention, 1982-84, ch. 5). French funds also helped Habré co-opt former opponents.

As president, Habré brought more peace to Chad than that country had known in a decade. Habré vowed to remove Libyan forces from the north, reconcile north and south, and establish a democratic state. In his first six years in office, he took steps to accomplish some of these goals.

Data as of December 1988

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