A landlocked country in north-central Africa, Chad is about 85% the size of Alaska. Its neighbors are Niger, Libya, the Sudan, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, and Nigeria. Lake Chad, from which the country gets its name, lies on the western border with Niger and Nigeria. In the north is a desert that runs into the Sahara.
The area around Lake Chad has been inhabited since at least 500 B.C. In the 8th century A.D., Berbers began migrating to the area. Islam arrived in 1085, and by the 16th century a trio of rival kingdoms flourished: the Kanem-Bornu, Baguirmi, and Ouaddaï. During the years 1883–1893, all three kingdoms came under the rule of the Sudanese conqueror Rabih al-Zubayr. In 1900, Rabih was overthrown by the French, who absorbed these kingdoms into the colony of French Equatorial Africa, as part of Ubangi-Shari (now the Central African Republic), in 1913. In 1946, the territory, now known as Chad, became an autonomous republic within the French Community. An independence movement led by the first premier and president, François (later Ngarta) Tombalbaye, achieved complete independence on Aug. 11, 1960. Tombalbaye was killed in the 1975 coup and succeeded by Gen. Félix Malloum, who faced a Libyan-financed civil war throughout his tenure in office. In 1977, Libya seized a strip of Chadian land and launched an invasion two years later.
Nine rival groups meeting in Lagos, Nigeria, in March 1979 agreed to form a provisional government headed by Goukouni Oueddei, a former rebel leader. Fighting broke out again in Chad in March 1980, when Defense Minister Hissen Habré challenged Goukouni and seized the capital. Libyan president Muammar al-Qaddafi, in Jan. 1981, proposed a merger of Chad with Libya. The Libyan proposal was rejected and Libyan troops withdrew from Chad that year, but in 1983 they poured back into the northern part of the country in support of Goukouni. France, in turn, sent troops into southern Chad in support of Habré. Government troops then launched an offensive in early 1987 that drove the Libyans out of most of the country.
In 1990, Idriss Déby, a former defense minister and head of the Patriotic Salvation Movement, overthrew Habré, suspended the constitution, and dissolved the legislature. In 1994 a new constitution was drafted and an amnesty for political prisoners was declared. Déby won multiparty elections in 1996 and was reelected in 2001. His rule has been marked by repression and corruption. Déby has faced about a half-dozen insurgencies since taking office.
Oil Revenues to Be Used to Improve Quality of Life
In June 2000 the World Bank agreed to provide more than $200 million to build a $3.7-billion pipeline connecting the oil fields in Chad to those in Cameroon. Oil revenues are estimated to earn $2.5 billion over the next 30 years. Human rights groups were concerned that the project would only benefit the oil companies and the political elite in Cameroon and Chad. The World Bank, however, forced Chad to agree to spend 80% of the resulting oil revenues on education, health, infrastructure, and other social welfare projects desperately needed by this impoverished country. The deal was hailed as a novel approach to ensuring that developing countries with authoritarian governments manage to spend revenues to alleviate the poverty of their people rather than enrich its elite. (In 2005, Transparency International listed Chad as the world's most corrupt country.) Over the next 25 years, Chad is expected to make $80 million per year, increasing the government treasury by 50%. But in 2006, after the pipeline was completed, Déby reneged on the deal with the World Bank, saying he would spend the oil revenues to finance the military, to buttress his nearly insolvent government, and to shore up his fragile hold on power. In response, the World Bank suspended its loans and froze Chad's bank accounts. In May, the World Bank and Chad reached a compromise: Chad's government would receive 30% of the oil revenues, instead of the 10% originally agreed to, and the remaining 70% of revenues would be spent exclusively on programs to alleviate the country's poverty.
By 2006, about 250,000 Sudanese refugees had fled to Chad to escape the fighting in Sudan's Darfur region, where they face hunger and disease in desperately under supplied refugee camps.
In April 2006, a coup to oust Déby was averted with the help of French troops stationed in the country. Opposition parties boycotted the May presidential elections, and Déby retained the presidency.
Prime Minister Pascal Yoadimnadji died in February 2007. President Déby named Delwa Kassire Koumakoye as his successor.
Rebels from three groups stormed N'Djamena in February 2008 and demanded the resignation of President Déby. Chad's military, however, repulsed the rebels. About 100 people died in the fighting. Leaders in Chad have accused Sudan of fomenting the rebellion. Sudan, on the other hand, claims that Chad sponsors the Sudanese rebels that are fighting the government and its militias. Tension continued to flare throughout 2008, with Sudan severing diplomatic relations with Chad, and Chad responding by closing the border with Sudan.
Signs of Hope for Peace Between Chad and Sudan
Deby met with Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir in March 2010, and the two said their countries are ready to normalize relations. Though no formal agreement was reached, many observers expressed hope that peace would take hold. The leaders themselves expressed optimism. Bashir said, "Deby and I are here to confirm to the Sudanese-Chadian people that we have turned the page of our differences and disputes between the two states. From today, our common battle is the realization of peace, security and stability for the affluence of the people of the two states." And Deby requested that Chadian rebels in Sudan put down their arms and return to Chad. The border between the countries reopened in April.
Fifty Years of Independence
Jan. 2011 marked 50 years of independence from France.
Calls of fraud and misconduct in February's parliamentary election led to the opposition's boycott of Chad's presidential election in April. Vying against only two other candidates, Idriss Déby earned 88.6% of the vote and was reelected for a fourth term as president.
In July 2011, Hissène Habré, who was overthrown in a coup d'état led by Idriss Déby in 1990, had his repatriation canceled; he remained in Senegal and will not return to Chad, where he earned a sentence of death for crimes against humanity while president from 1982-1990.
In Jan. 2013, Prime Minister Emmanuel Nadingar resigned. Djimrangar Dadnadji was named as new prime minister. In May, a long-planned coup against the government of President Idriss Deby was foiled by Chadian security forces.
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