Country Listing

Libya Table of Contents



In 1975 Libya occupied and subsequently annexed the Aouzou Strip a 70,000-square-kilometer area of northern Chad adjacent to the southern Libyan border. Qadhafi's move was motivated by personal and territorial ambitions, tribal and ethnic affinities between the people of northern Chad and those of southern Libya, and, most important, the presence in the area of uranium deposits needed for atomic energy development.

Libyan claims to the area were based on a 1935 border dispute and settlement between France (which then controlled Chad) and Italy (which then controlled Libya). The French parliament never ratified the settlement, however, and both France and Chad recognized the boundary that was proclaimed upon Chadian independence.

Qadhafi became entangled in factional rivalries among the various Chadian groups. In the late 1970s, it appeared as though Libyan ambitions were being achieved. Goukouni Oueddei, a member of the Tebu Muslim tribe in northern Chad, was installed as president in April 1979 with Libyan support. In January 1981, the two countries announced their intention to unite.

Goukouni's overthrow in 1983 led to further Libyan involvement in Chad. From his Libyan exile, Goukouni reorganized his forces and occupied the strategic northern town of Faya Largeau. As the conflict drew in other players, particularly France, Chad was in effect a partitioned country. With French help, the N'Djamena government of Hissein Habré controlled the southern part of Chad. The area north of the sixteenth parallel, however, was controlled by Goukouni and his Libyan backers. According to the terms of a September 1984 treaty, France withdrew its forces from Chad. Libya, however, decided to keep its troops there, and skirmishes and fighting continued intermittently.

The stalemate in Chad ended in early 1987 when the Habré forces inflicted a series of military defeats on the Libyans and their Chadian allies, at Fada, Ouadi Doum, and Faya Largeau (see Invasion of Chad , ch. 5). The press engaged in considerable speculation on the repercussions of these humiliations on Qadhafi and his regime. It was reported that Goukouni was being kept forcibly in Tripoli, and that, as a result of some disagreements with the Libyan leader, he was wounded by a Libyan soldier. Qadhafi's position had clearly been weakened by these developments, and the long-term fighting in Chad aroused discontent in the Libyan army as well.

Data as of 1987