A Territory Ravished by Civil Wars and Seeing the Bright Light on Chad


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In the following essay I plan to decipher why Chad has been in so many civil wars and seek potential ways to bring the state to some sort of resolution. I will begin by investigating the events in Chad’s early history that lead to its having so many internal conflicts. Next, I will explain the parties of the dilemma and their goals and demands for resolution. Then, I will follow up by examining the consequences of Chad remaining in civil war and where the state could end up in years to come. The remainder of the essay will cover possible facets of resolution that can be taken to help Chad work towards a brighter future.

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Origins and Possible Causes


It is quite difficult to regard Chad as a state seeing as it has been at war with itself for so long. There are many reasons that the Chadian government has been having internal conflicts since the early 1960’s. It was not until after World War II that Chad was introduced to representative institutions and political parties started to rise (Library of Congress Country Studies 2). Chadian politics were greatly structured with reference to France, their early history colonists. The Library of Congress Country Studies indicates that “When Chad achieved independence in 1960, southerners—the group most exposed to the French administrators—dominated political life” (Ibid. 2). From this one can derive that the state had been split up from the start of its so-called sovereignty. The early French colonization put a heavy influence in Chad, which ultimately was able to work its way into their politics.

In 1960 Chad elected its first president, François Tombalbaye, who was represented by the southern half of Chadian politics. Two years after presidency Tombalbaye banned all other political parties from Chadian elections. This sparked a flame in the North, which is what originally started the separation of Chadian rebel groups and the government. “Tombalbaye’s heavy-handed approach had alienated a large segment of the population, especially northerners and easterners, and has spurred rebellions” (Ibid 2). President Tombalbaye greatly oppressed the state to keep himself in power. Several rebel groups were formed in the north because of oppression. Due to Tombalbaye’s unsatisfactory governing the military worked against him and ended his reign with the bullets of an unpleased militia.

Unfortunately, this was not the end of Chad’s internal conflicts. Rebel activity was still dangerous in the light of their new overthrown government. Rebel groups had begun fighting against each other, which divided the country that they were fighting to keep together. Hissen Habré, previously a rebel activist, worked his way through the ranks up to presidency. Habré created a secret police for Chad (Wikipedia; Hissen Habré). These police were much like the Stasi in the former East Germany. Habré’s secret police were used to eliminate his opponents (Ibid.). A BBC news report states, “A Commission of Inquiry formed after he was deposed in 1990 said his government carried out some 40,000 politically motivated murders and 200,000 cases of torture in the eight years he was in power.” It is apparent here, that Habré was clearly abusing his powers as president during his reign.

Following Habré was Idriss Déby, the present president of Chad. Coincidentally, Déby and Habré were close political friends. Again, this did not help to cease the rebel activity in the country. Déby is accredited for overthrowing Habré, although he was most likely doing it for personal gain (Miles 55). “It is said that, in terms of freedom of expression, political life improved after Déby replaced Habré” (Ibid. 57). This can be seen as somewhat true. Déby did improve many things in the political system, but he is still regarded as a dictator. As with most dictators, Déby was power hungry. Thus, he changed the Chadian constitution so that he was able to run for a third election. This is mainly what set off the most recent Chadian Civil War.

Possible Causes

In the journal Natural Resources, Conflict, and Conflict Resolutions: Uncovering the Mechanisms, Macartan Humphreys examines the connection between natural resources and internal conflict with Chad. Humphreys claims that “oil has had striking prominence in Chadian politics” (509). He explains that Tombalbaye cut off connections with France and allowed the U.S. to monitor Chad’s oil exports (Humphreys 509). This caused rebel groups to flare up because they wanted the state to take care of its own oil exports.

It is easy to see that Chad has never really worked well as a country; from the time of French colonization to the current dictatorship of Idriss Déby. Chad has been a country trying to be run by the upper-class, but as we have seen many times before, such as with the Otpor movement in Yugoslavia, the lower-class cannot stand to be treated as waste. Therefore, rebels groups have formed to fight against the dictatorships that keep ravaging the country. The problem with these rebel groups is that they commit violent acts in order to make a point. This causes the government to fire back. Unfortunately, the bullheadedness of both parties causes the conflict to remain prominent in Chad. Recently, Sudan and a few other neighboring countries have gotten in on the conflict. Currently, Sudan is on the side of the rebel activists.

Parties and Their Goals

The Government

The government in Chad is most recently being run by Idriss Déby. He has been named the world’s 17th worst dictator by Parade Magazine. Obviously, this is a problem. He has been president of the country for about nineteen years. His dictatorial rule has caused the population to remain broken up in rebel groups who wish to take him down. Additionally, it has been noted that the Sudanese militia has teamed up with Chadian rebel groups to help overthrow Déby.

The Chadian government has a few demands that they would like to see from Sudan that they believe will resolve the conflict. They are listed below as…

  • “disarm Chadian army deserters and other armed groups in its territory” (Reuters AlertNet)
  • “turn militants over to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR” (Ibid.)
  • “halt Sudanese militia raids into Chad” (Ibid.)
  • “pay compensation to those affected by previous raid” (Ibid.)

These demands are basically asking Sudan to stay out of Chadian conflicts and to pay for anything they might have damaged. Another goal that the Chadian government has is to keep President Déby in power and for the country to be run as a dictatorship.

Rebel Groups

There are many different rebel groups in Chad, but most of them are fighting for the same reason. It is alleged that Sudan has been fueling these rebel groups. This is the main topic of the most recent conflict in Chad. Most rebel groups in Chad use violent acts of resistance. For instance they tried to take down Déby while he was flying (IRIN). Obviously, these rebels want change as quick as possible. A large leader within the rebel groups was Mohammed Nour Abdelkerim.

Nour lays out what the rebels want quite simply. Nour “offered Déby a final chance to accept a national to discuss democratic change or face removal by force” (Reuters AlertNet). He explains how no one wants a war, but since the Chadian government is unwilling to work with them that is the only path to take (Ibid.). Bishara, a rebel in a green army uniform puts it like this: “Déby has taken the money from the Chadian people—now we want freedom” (Reuters AlertNet). So, one can tell that the rebels main goal is to achieve democracy and rid themselves of all dictatorial leaders, such as Idriss Déby and his predecessors.

Possible Resolutions, Their Barriers, and Conclusion

Possible Resolutions

To discuss possible resolution I will refer to Conflict Management in the Modern World-System, by Marian J. Borg. In this book she uses Peter W. Black’s theory of conflict management. This contains five steps i.e. self-help, avoidance, negotiation, settlement, and toleration (Borg 265). The main focus of this book is on the first three strategies of conflict management (self-help, avoidance, and negotiation). Borg says that first we must understand that labeling an entire country as a party in a conflict is most likely an enormous generalization (Ibid. 265). More often than not the party that “represents” the country is a select few higher-ups in the political system that have made an unwise decision or two in the past which makes the illusion that the country as a whole has made the mistake. For instance, Chad is typically generalized as “Chad vs. The People,” when specifically it should be more like “Chad’s Dictatorial Leaders vs. Rebel Activists.” So Borg has laid out three strategies to conflict management which most parties use to solve their conflicts. However, Borg indicates throughout her work that these forms of conflict resolution are indeed counterproductive, insofar as they usually segregate the parties from one another.

Self-help is the first strategy discussed. Typically self-help is split into discipline and rebellion with regards to their parties (Borg 266). Unfortunately, this is a bad way of splitting things up between two parties because it typically creates an hierarchal setting where the “masters” must discipline those below them and the “slaves” must rebel against those who are more powerful than them (Ibid. 266). To best work towards a resolution we must take “two polar opposites [and put them] on a scale of equality” (Ibid. 266). Of course, this is not simple. The entire purpose of self-help is to get the parties to both realize that they only way to work towards a resolution is to think rationally and work as equals.

Next, Borg discusses the avoidance strategy. The most typical form of avoidance is a boycott, which is generally regarded as a nonviolent strategy (Borg 269). Parties will boycott one another in order to inform the opposing side that they will not even associate themselves with their standards (Ibid. 269). Borg also comments that countries will “boycott” other countries by not exporting or importing their goods because they have not received any aid from them (Ibid. 269). Boycotting is only a temporary punctuation to a conflict; however, it cannot stand ground to make permanent resolution of the conflict.

Borg states that the best strategy of conflict resolution is negotiation. An unbiased third party mediator is necessary for most negotiations (Borg 271). The third party should “be both socially equidistant from both disputants and higher in status than either of them” (Ibid. 271). A mediator is key in all negotiations. Negotiations should be made in a setting where both parties feel safe. Contact is also important in negotiations. The contact hypothesis states that when two disputing parties meet with one another and interact they often realize that their enemy is just the same as them, often reducing prejudice. Negotiation should be used in order to find the interests of both parties in order to work towards a solution.

Barriers of Resolution

Conflict resolution often follows the saying, “easier said than done.” In the above section everything is laid out so simply and it seems that anyone who cannot understand these simple rules is ignorant. However, one must take into consideration that when a conflict has been resonating through you for such a long time, as with the Chadian wars, you lose your sense of rationality. Thus, it is difficult to try and follow standards that have been set by “experts” in the modern world of conflict management.

In the case of Chad, the government wants to retain it power over the people and the rebels want a fair democracy from the government. The problem is that if one side backs down the other will take heavier action to eliminate them. Additionally, when the conflict has been with you for all of your life that you can remember, as it has with mostly all of both Chadian rebels and politicians, it is hard to place it aside and talk things out. Things are never as simple to solve as they look from the outside in. The only way to understand the conflict would be to live it.


After researching the Chadian conflict I have made many findings. Primarily, I learned that the conflict is too often put off to the side. Personally, I did not even know that Chad was having such a hard conflict until I started researching possible projects. This is somewhat a surreal realization to me, which I can generalize with most people. Many people are unaware of what is going on around them and never take the time to care.

I would say Chad has a lot of work to do in order to make any type of resolutions. In my opinion, getting the youth involved in coexistence programs is the best way possible to navigate towards a resolution. In Chad’s case there are not very many young politicians that can be administered into the youth unfortunately. However, if the rebel activists begin small social nonviolent meeting of the youth between children influence by that of the government they may be able to build a bond between the opposing youths. After all, the youth is the light of the future.

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