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Chad Table of Contents


Origins and Early Development


Chadian military vehicles on parade, around 1970
Courtesy Michael R. Saks

When Chad became independent in 1960, it had no armed forces under its own flag. Since World War I, however, southern Chad, particularly the Sara ethnic group, had provided a large share of the Africans in the French army. Chadian troops also had contributed significantly to the success of the Free French forces in World War II. In December 1940, two African battalions began the Free French military campaign against Italian forces in Libya from a base in Chad, and at the end of 1941 a force under Colonel Jacques Leclerc participated in a spectacular campaign that seized the entire Fezzan region of southern Libya. Colonel Leclerc's 3,200-man force included 2,700 Africans, the great majority of them southerners from Chad. These troops went on to contribute to the Allied victory in Tunisia. Chadians, in general, were proud of their soldiers' role in the efforts to liberate France and in the international conflict.

The military involvement also provided the country's first taste of relative prosperity. In addition to the wages paid its forces, Chad received economic benefits from three years of use as a major route for Allied supply convoys and flights to North Africa and Egypt. By 1948 about 15,000 men in French Equatorial Africa (Afrique Equatoriale Française--AEF; see Glossary) were receiving military pensions. Many Chadian southerners, finding military life attractive, had remained in the French army, often becoming noncommissioned officers (NCOs); a few had earned commissions as well. The French wars in Indochina (1946-53) and Algeria (1954-62) also drew on Chadians in great numbers, enlarging the veteran population still further. Those men receiving pensions tended to form the economic elite in their villages. As southerners they did not become involved in later insurgent movements that developed in central and northern Chad.

Prior to independence, the French forces had been reorganized to redeploy some of the Chadian troops assigned to other African territories back into Chad. Following independence the Chad's army was created from southern troops that had served with the French army. Initially, the army was limited to 400 men, some Chadian officers and many French commissioned officers and NCOs. Other soldiers were transferred into a larger paramilitary security force, the National Gendarmerie (see Police Services , this ch.). Equipped with light arms and other supplies, the army used facilities inherited from the French units that it had replaced.

Because the French army units in Chad provided security, a large indigenous force was unnecessary. Accordingly, the Chadian army was deliberately restricted in size. By 1966, however, the departure of the French administration from sparsely populated Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti Prefecture in the north encouraged dissident forces in the central prefectures to rebel. In response the government expanded its armed strength to a 700-man infantry battalion with supporting light artillery and also activated an air unit (see The Air Force , this ch.).

The continued insurgency necessitated further enlargement of the army, to a total of 3,800 men by 1971. The army formed a paratroop company from 350 Chadians trained by Israeli instructors at a base in Zaire. In addition to strengthening the regular army, the government increased mobile security companies of the National Gendarmerie, equipped as light infantry, to a strength of more than 1,600 men. A third force, the National Guard (later known as the National and Nomad Guard), which had at least 3,500 members, provided security for officials, government buildings, and regional government posts.

Except for the small number of nomad guards, the army and other security components continued to be composed primarily of members from southern ethnic groups, especially the Sara. Little effort was made to enlist northerners, who, in spite of their reputation as fierce warriors, were not attracted to the professional army. Consequently, southern troops stationed in Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti Prefecture were looked upon as an army of occupation. They imposed humiliating restrictions in the northern settlements, and their abusive behavior was a source of bitterness.

The growing unpopularity of the country's first president, François Tombalbaye, impelled him to strengthen further the internal security forces and to employ a unit of Moroccan troops as his personal bodyguard. During the early 1970s, Tombalbaye doubled the size of the National and Nomad Guard and augmented the National Gendarmerie considerably. At the same time, he neglected and downgraded FAT, which the force interpreted as a lack of trust. These actions ultimately contributed to the decision by a small group of officers to carry out a coup in 1975 that resulted in Tombalbaye's death and a new government under Malloum's presidency.

Malloum's military regime insisted on the departure of the French troops. FAT, however, found itself increasingly unable to cope with the insurgency in the north, and, as a consequence, Malloum was obliged to invite the French back in 1978. As part of an effort at conciliation with one of the rebel factions, Habré was brought into the government. Habré rejected, however, the plan to integrate his FAN troops into the army, and his force soon demonstrated its superior resolution and strength by expelling Malloum's army from N'Djamena (see The FROLINAT Rebellion, 1965-79 , this ch.).

Data as of December 1988

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