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Chad Table of Contents


Chapter 5. National Security


An elderly hunter from southern Chad

AFTER CHAD GAINED its independence in 1960, its national army consisted of only about 400 men, mostly members of the Sara ethnic group who had distinguished themselves in French army service during World War II and later in Algeria and Indochina. By the mid1960s , however, rebellion in northern and eastern Chad necessitated the enlargement of this army. The rebellion also caused French forces stationed in nearby countries to intervene repeatedly to assist the Chadian government.

By 1979 conditions had become chaotic. As many as eleven separate factional armies were contending for control, generating alliances and schisms at a bewildering rate. In the capital of N'Djamena, after the national army had been pushed aside, the two main northern rivals, Goukouni Oueddei and Hissein Habré, struggled for domination. Libya's intervention in 1980 on behalf of Goukouni resulted in the defeat of Habré's army. With only a few hundred of his hardiest followers remaining, Habré was forced to seek a haven in western Sudan. But after Libya withdrew under international pressure, Habré's revitalized army fought its way back to the capital, and he assumed power in 1982.

The confused pattern of civil warfare continued, but Habré gradually consolidated his political position and brought the resistance in the south under control. With the help of a French expedition, he repelled a new offensive from the north in 1983 that had been mounted by a coalition of opponents under Goukouni's leadership and backed by Libya's armor and air power. In 1986 a split developed among the insurgents in the north when the major part of Goukouni's army turned against the Libyans. Joined by these rebel forces, Habré's army was strong enough in early 1987 to wage a successful campaign to clear the Libyan invaders from most of Chad's vast northern territories and to threaten the Aozou Strip (see Glossary), which Libya had occupied since 1972.

In 1983 the military arm of Habré's movement became the nucleus of a new national army, the Chadian National Armed Forces (Forces Armées Nationales Tchadiennes--FANT). By 1987 FANT had evolved into a potent, mobile, and battle-tested military organization. It had acquired modern arms adapted to the rigorous conditions of the farflung arena of conflict in the north. In addition to receiving arms deliveries from France and the United States, FANT had captured a large stock of Libyan armored vehicles, missiles, artillery, and matériel. In its stricken financial state, the country continued to be dependent on its Western backers for munitions and fuel, as well as maintenance and training support for its newly acquired weaponry. Its air arm was insignificant, but French transport and combat airplanes remained in the country. Moreover, the army's antiaircraft missile defenses had effectively blunted Libyan air assaults.

Habré had been remarkably successful in enlisting previously bitter adversaries in a common undertaking to regain the nation's territory. As part of the reconciliation with his former armed opponents, Habré had absorbed into FANT the remnants of the postindependence national army, dissident guerrilla fighters from the south, and most of the rebel coalition forces of his northern rival, Goukouni. Only the Presidential Guard, a select force mostly drawn from Habré's own ethnic group, retained its separate identity.

This large assemblage of manpower, however, could not be militarily justified as a permanent force once the Libyan danger was removed. For the future, a major problem for the military leadership would be the welding of FANT into an integrated force of sufficient loyalty to be entrusted with a primarily internal security mission and at strengths and equipment levels compatible with the country's financial means and defense requirements.

Data as of December 1988