San José State University
Department of Economics
Thayer Watkins
Silicon Valley
& Tornado Alley

The Political and Economic History of Chad

Chad is another of those countries without internal coherence that exist only as a legacy of the period of European imperialism. There is a north-south divide that has dominated the politics of the country since independence. The north is populated with Islamic nomads and the south with Christian farmers. Chad is political unit of dubious validity situated in an environment of precarious viability, yet against all probability it has survived.

Up until the late 19th century there were three local kingdoms in the region of what is now Chad; the Ouadai, the Baguirmi and the Kanem-Bornu. In 1893 an invader from Sudan, Rabin al-Zubayr, begins his conquest of these kingoms and by 1893 he had completed their conquest. However, France has been conquering an empire from the west and reaches the Chad region about the turn of the century. In 1900 the French army defeats the arm of al-Zulbayr and by 1913 France controls Chad and makes it part of French Equatorial Africa.

François Tombalbaye
France tried to integrate the territories of its empire into the French state, giving each a representative in the French National Assembly. This did not placate the political ambitions of the leaders in these territories and one-by-one they were granted independence. In 1963 Chad under the leadership of Francois Tombalbaye, a southern Christian, became Chad, an independent nation.

The actions of the central government under southern leadership, especially southern administrators operating in the north, prompted rebellions in the north in 1965 and in 1966 these separate rebellions coaleased into a single organization called the National Liberation Front of Chad (FROLINAT). In 1968 this rebellion gathered significant momentum when the northern province of Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti (BET) joined the rebellion. The people of the BET prefecture were an ethnic group, Toubou, with a martial tradition which had enjoyed a degree of autonomy under the French and wanted that autonomy continued. FROLINAT was led by Toubou generals. The other provinces of the north soon joined FROLINAT in the rebellion and drove the national army out.

The national government was close to collapse by 1969 and France sent in troops to rescue Chad from anarchy. The French troops were able to gain control but when they left in 1970 the military situation reverted to the state when they entered. The national government controlled only a few enclaves outside of the major cities.

Goukouni Weddeye
By 1979 the FROLINAT army had conquered the capital city of N'Djamena. Nigeria and other neighboring countries tried to broker a settlement among the factions. At one point Nigerians tried to promote a non-contender, Mahmat Shawa Lol, into the presidency, but their effort failed. Finally a negotiated settlement was arranged and a National Union Government of Transition (Gouvernement d'Union Nationale de Transition, GUNT) was formed which was to include all factions. A Toubou leader, Goukouni Weddeye, was made president. Another Toubou, Hussain Habré, was made Minister of Defense and leader of the army. The southern officer, Colonel Wade Abd-el-Kader Kamougué was made vice president. GUNT was a failure. A power struggle ensued between President Weddeye and Minister of Defese Habré. when Habré was on the verge of winning Goukouni Weddeye asked for military aid from Libyan leader Omar Qaddafy. Within weeks the Libyan forces had defeated Habré's forces and forced him and his troops to seek exile in Sudan. Qaddafy was intent upon taking effective control of Chad but pressure from the U.S., France and the Organization for African Unity persuaded Qaddafy to withdraw his troops in 1981. Habré returned from Sudan with his troops and defeated Goukouni Weddeye's forces in about six months time. Goukouni Weddeye then fled to Libya by way of Cameroon.

Hussain Habré

Habré controlled the north of Chad but the southern military leader, Wadel Abd-el-Kader Kamougué, controlled the south. Kamougué set up a Comité Permanent in May of 1979 to carry out the functions of government in lieu of any effective rule by the central government. The Comité Permanent was soon the effective government in the south, collecting taxes and providing administrative authority but not calling itself the government.

Wadel Abd-el-Kader Kamougué

The miliary bands in the north, perceiving an effective partition of the country, made a token agreement to unite under FROLINAT, but did not relinquish their local control to the central government headed by Weddeye. For a period of time the Comité Permanent was the de facto government of Chad even while the international community maintained the fiction that the government of Weddeye in N'djema was the government of Chad.

In June of 1982 Hussaim Habré's forces captured the capital N'djema and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) recognized Habré as the president of the country.

Over the next three years Habré's troops gained control of the territory not only of the north but also of the south.

Habré ruled effectively until the late 1980's. In 1989 a top general of Habré's forces, Idriss Déby, fled to Sudan where he raised an army. This army with assistance from Libya was able to capture N'Djamena. Idriss Déby became the head of government for Chad in 1991 but he had to counter rebellions and attempts at coup d'etat. France used its influence to induce Déby to legalize political parties and hold multiparty parlimentary elections.

Political parties were legalized in 1992, but rebellions continued and with extensive violence, particularly in the south. Déby announced that election would be held in 1996 and the elections were held then. Déby ran in the elections with Kamougué as one of his opponents. Déby was decared the victor in the presidential election. In 1997 an election for the national legislature was held and Déby's party won a very slight majority of the parlimentary seats, 63 out of 125.

Although rebellions continued sporactically after the election Déby was able to restore order. The Déby government was able to arrange financial support for the development of Chadian petroleum and the building of a pipeline through Cameroon for marketing that oil. Furthermore the Déby government was able to negotiate debt relief for Chad from international lenders.

In 2001 another presidential election was held which Déby ostensibly won in the first round of voting with 63 percent. Déby carried out a persecution of the opposition who questioned the validity of his election.

In 2003 Chad accepted refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan which prompted a confrontation with the national government of Sudan.

The Economy of Chad

With the political turmoil that enveloped Chad from 1960 onward it is surprising that Chad had any economy. Chad did have an economy but one of a very limited sort. Upwards of 80 percent of the population has been engaged in agriculture, either herding or farming. Most of that agriculture has been subsistence agriculture. The primary non-subsistence agriculture has been the growing of cotton and that is feasible only in the south.

Chad consists of three climate zones, each making up one third of the country. From north to south these are:

The area around Lake Chad is a special region agriculturally. Farmers have been able to build polders around the periphery of the lake and farm there. This land is highly fertile and the lake provides moisture.

The French, during the colonial era, promoted and encouraged cotton production in the south, in part by imposing a poll tax on the farmers. About the only way the farmers could get money to pay that tax was by raising and selling cotton.

(To be continued.)

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