Chad Embassy in Ottawa, Canada

History of Chad


People of Chad The first kingdom known in the region as the Kanem, boostsat the end of the 11th century, under the Sefawad dynasty. The commercial relations with the continent’s north and the conversation of the MAI (sovereigns) around 1100 spread Islam in the whole of the lower region. The Kanem possessed a strong and skilled army, a net of civil servants called upon to maintain order, and to levy taxes from the farthest regions, as well as a prospering economy. But power conflicts struggles and religious dissensions weakened the empire. The Boulalas, vassals of the Kanem, took advantage of this instability in order to revolt. In the 14th century, repeated attacks by the Arabs oblige the Sefawad to flee the Kanem. In the 15th century, the Sefawad dynasty constitutes a new empire west of the lake, in Bornou. The troupes of MAI Idriss (1497-1519) invade the former Kanem and integrate it in the empire. It reached from Kano to Darfur. Other kingdoms emerged in the region, notably the Quaddai, in the 14th century, and the Baguirmi in the 16th century, the long-time vassals of Kanem-Bornou. Kanem-Bornou lived off commerce, particularly from the slave trade with Arabia. Conquest wars served as a plea to capture the “unfaithful” - men, but especially women and children, who were very much sought after on the markets of the Middle East. Women, in particular, had the reputation to be excellent housewives and exceptional cooks.

The spring of the 19th century

At the beginning of the 19th century, the jihad launched by Ousmane dan Fodio, who founded the caliphate of Sokoto, violently collided in Kanem-Bornou. It took the intervention of premier minister, Mohammed Amin al-Kanemi, for the empire not to act as a buffer. He took advantage to reform the monarchy, and to capture more power, which he then would pass on to his son Oumar. He let a new capital be built, Kouka, which is today in Niger. The Quaddai took advantage of the chaos to take back his autonomy, and to enjoin himself in Baguirmi. He developed business relations with Tripoli and Egypt. In the same century, the Senoussis brotherhood spread largely in the country. Around 1860, the kingdom exhausted by the wars and the intestine brawls, was in decadence. In 1879, coming from Sudan, Rabah, a slave merchant who became powerful, launched a wide initiative to conquer the Quaddai. He established his business leverage over eastern Chad, while building a 35,000 soldier strong army. The vending of ivory and the slave trade allowed him to purchase rapid fire guns and munitions. M thus subdued the weakened Baguirmi, and then the Bornou (1893), and founded an extensive empire. But the arrival of the Europeans crossed his projects.


In the middle of the 19th century, Europeans got interested in central Sudan. Explorers, like Heinrich Barth, Clapperton and Nachtigal passed through it. Monteil, who went to Senegal, was the first French man to get to Lake Chad in 1891. France launched a couple of expeditions in order to take control over Chad, in order to link their northern, central, and western African possessions. In 1891, the mission of Paul Crampe! resulted in a disaster. The French understood that the presence of the Rabah compromised their projects. They sent three missions with the assignment to eliminate the charge, under the pretext to fight against the slave trade: the Foureau-Lamy mission, which started from Algeria, the Voulet-Chanoine mission, coming from the west of today’s Niger, and followed by Joalland, and the Gentil mission, coming from Congo. The three missions met on Lake Chad and attacked Rabah in 1899, who was defeated in Kousseri in 1900, finding his death in the battle. His empire disintegrated. But the resistance of the peoples of Chad continued with the Senoussis and Chad was not entirely “pacified” for many more years (around 1917).

The edict of 1900 stipulated a “military territory of the counties and the protectorate of Chad”, integrated in the Oubangui-Chari colony. In 1920, Chad becomes an autonomous colony, endowed with a civil administration. In 1923, the Sudan-Chad border was precisely determined.

In 1928, Chad integrated Tibesti. In 1936, a treaty between France and fascist Italy concluded in the cession of the Aozou stripe (north of the country) to Italian Libya; but this treaty never materialized. The French invested little in the Chadian colony. They installed obligatory cotton growing in the south, and used Chadian to build the Congo-Ocean railroad. Forced labour caused numerous revolts in the area.

During the Second World War, Chad, under the impulse of Governor Felix Eboue, was the first French colony to ally with General de Gaulle and France libre, in August 1940. Chad served as base to the operations of colonizer Leclerc in the Libya campaign (1941-1943). Its strategic position lead to infrastructural edification: an airport and a road network dedicated for the troupes movement. After the war, the Chadian participated for the first time in elections, by appointing their representatives to the constitutional assembly (1945-1945), and then to the French national assembly (1946). The struggle favouring independence had a political aspect, under the patronage of Gabriel Lisette, founder of Chad’s progressive party (PPT), section of RDA, in 1946, thus under the patronage of Francois Tombalbaye. But the discrepancies between the two men, the religious and regional antagonisms, accentuated by the colonization, cut the country in two. With 98 per cent the Chadian approuve the French community project at a referendum vote in 1958. After sixty years of French domination, the country accepted its independence on August 11, 1960.


After sending Gabriel Lisette into exile, Francois Tombalbaye, who became head of state, put into place a authoritative regime, after the insertion of the PPT as single party (1962), causing a strong dictatorship from 1963, peasant revolts in the north, the east and the north-east of the country. In 1963, Tombalbaye austerely suppressed the Muslim revolt in the north, which was the main victim of his politics. The armed insurrection escalates in 1965, following the formation of the Frolinat (Chadian national liberation front) in 1966, a large rebellion movement developed. Despite military help from France since 1968, and from divisions of Chadian rebels (notably between partisans from Goukouni Queddei and Hissène Habré), Tombalbaye can’t cope with the agony.

In 1972, he asks for help from colonel Kadhafi, and promises him the Aozou strip in exchange. Kadhafi doesn’t keep his promise, but occupies the promised territory, rich in uranium and magnesium, nonetheless. In 1973, Tombalbaye holds to restore Chad’s unity propagating the “Chad-itude”. A military coup overthrows him, and he is assassinated in 1975. General Felix Malloum becomes his successor as the head of state, who then reinforces dictatorship. The rebels launch another offensive in 1977; in 1978, former rebel leader Hissène Habré becomes prime minister. But the new leaders don’t go along, and the civil war intensifies in 1979. The conflict becomes international with French military intervention, and mediation attempts form Libya and Nigeria. The constitution of the government of the national union (Union nationale, 1979) presided by Goukouni Queddei, and supported by Libya (who military intervenes in 1980), fails, and the conflict expands into an open war between rival fractions of Goukouni Queddei and Hissène Habré.

In 1982, Hissène Habré’s forces invade N’Djamena. Habré becomes president. He receivesFrench help to regain the north, but he has to confront new Libyan interventions alone. In 1990, armed opposition under the direction of Idriss Déby, near Tripoli, launches a huge attack against the regime and seizes its power. A national reconciliation conference (1993), decides on the democratization and multi-party system, but elections are delayed by Déby. In 1994, the International Court of Justice declares the Aozou stripe to be Chadian. In 1996, Déby, having pronounced a national charter of increase of freedom of expression, a multi-party system, and a new constitution, finally a presidential election was organized, from which he became the victor. Five years later, for a second time he wins the presidential election on May 20, 2001.