Tombalbaye government

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History of Chad
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President François Tombalbaye faced a task of considerable magnitude when Chad became a sovereign state in 1960. His challenge was to build a nation out of a vast and diverse territory that had poor communications, few known resources, a tiny market, and a collection of impoverished people with sharply differing political traditions, ethnic and regional loyalties, and sociocultural patterns. The French colonial powers that had created the country's boundaries had done little to promote economic interdependence, political cooperation, or crosscultural understanding. Chadians who had hoped that the country's first president might turn out to be a state builder like the 13th century's Dabbalemi or the 16th century's Aluma were soon disappointed. During its first fifteen years, Chad under Tombalbaye experienced worsening economic conditions, eventual alienation of the most patient of foreign allies, exacerbation of ethnic and regional conflict, and grave weakening of the state as an instrument of governance.


Tombalbaye's Governance

At the outset, Tombalbaye demonstrated an autocratic style along with a distrust of the institutions of democracy. One week before the country gained independence, Tombalbaye purged Gabriel Lisette from his own party, the Chadian Progressive Party (PPT), declared Lisette a noncitizen while he was traveling abroad, and barred him from returning to Chad. This "coup by telegram" was the first in an extensive series of Tombalbaye's increasingly authoritarian actions to eliminate or neutralize his opponents.

To increase his power and freedom of action, Tombalbaye declared a ban on all political parties except the PPT in January 1962, and, in April, he established a presidential form of government. When serious rioting occurred in 1963 in N'Djamena and Am Timan, the government declared a state of emergency and dissolved the National Assembly. And, as part of a major campaign against real and imagined political opponents, Tombalbaye created a special criminal court. By the end of the year, the country's prisons contained a virtual "who's who" of Chadian politicians. In June 1964, a new National Assembly granted Tombalbaye complete control over all appointments to the Political Bureau of the PPT, which by then was the sole source of political authority. With the PPT, government, and upper echelons of the civil service stocked with loyalists, and with opposition leaders in prison, exile, or completely co-opted, Tombalbaye was in full command of the country.

An effort to Africanize the civil service and security forces as rapidly as possible complemented Tombalbaye's drive for personal power. Between 1960 and 1963, the number of French officials in the central government administration declined from ninety-five to thirty (although the total number of French personnel increased as technical advisers were hired for development programs), and by the end of 1962 the entire territorial administrative structure was in Chadian hands. In addition, units of the Chad's national army replaced French military forces in Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti Prefecture and in Abéché, a process formally completed on January 23, 1965.

Africanization was not entirely popular among Chad's farmers and herders, despite their deep resentment of French colonial rule. A decline in the quality of government service was immediately apparent, in part because of the usual difficulties of transition, but also because many of the newly hired and promoted Chadians were less experienced and less adequately trained than their departing French counterparts. Increasing the discontent, Tombalbaye imposed an additional tax in 1964, under the euphemism of a "national loan." On top of that action, some government administrators were allegedly forcing citizens in rural areas to make payments at three times the official taxation rates. Reports of corruption and other abuses of authority grew as Chad's new officials became aware of both the increased pressures and the decreased constraints on public servants.

Because the great majority of the country's Western-educated and French-speaking citizens were southerners, the policy of Africanization often represented a "southernization" of the Chadian government. What appeared to some Western observers to be progress in African self-government was perceived by those from the northern and central areas to be an increasingly blatant seizure of power by southerners. To many in northern and central Chad, the southern Chadians were simply another set of foreigners, almost as alien and arrogant as the departing French. Tombalbaye's failure to establish hiring and training policies geared to achieving greater ethnic and regional balance in public administration was one of his most serious shortcomings. Another was his lack of success - or lack of interest - in reaching power-sharing agreements with key leaders in the Saharan and sahelian regions.

Dissatisfaction with these failures was expressed violently, and the government response was just as violent. When young Muslims rioted in N'Djamena on 16 September 1963 following the arbitrary arrests of three Muslim leaders, the government reacted swiftly and repressively, using the army for the repression; as a result, more than 300 people were killed. A little more than a year later, an altercation at a public dance in the northern town of Bardaï prompted a Sara deputy prefect to order the inhabitants of an entire village to march to prison, where many were stripped and all were insulted. Many were arbitrarily fined for such offenses as wearing beards or turbans. Included among the targets of abuse was Oueddei Kichidemi, the derde , or spiritual head, of the Teda people, a Toubou group. Explosive confrontations such as this occurred repeatedly as the inexperienced southerners, who understood little and cared less for the customs of the peoples they governed, replaced experienced French administrators.

By this time, just five years after independence, the possibility of armed conflict was growing. Politicians throughout Chad increasingly used traditional loyalties and enmities to decry opposition and solidify popular support for their positions. In view of Chad's historical legacy of conflict, some historians have argued that even the most competent leader with the most enlightened set of policies would have eventually faced secessionist movements or armed opposition. Tombalbaye, however, hastened the onset of civil conflict by quickly squandering his legitimacy through repressive tactics and regional favoritism.

Rebellion in Chad

On November 1, 1965, frustration with what was perceived as government mismanagement and tax collection abuses erupted in riots in the town of Mangalmé in Guéra Prefecture. Five hundred persons died, including the local deputy to the National Assembly and nine other government officials. From Mangalmé and nearby Batha Prefecture, the rebellion spread to Ouaddaï and Salamat prefectures, where in February 1967 the prefect and deputy prefect were killed. In August 1968, a major mutiny in Aozou among the Toubou units of the Nomad and National Guard highlighted the continuing unrest in the north. In the same year, antigovernment activities and tracts began to appear in Chari-Baguirmi Prefecture, only about 100 kilometers from N'Djamena. Travel became unsafe in much of central Chad, and governmental authority in the north was reduced by 1969 to the garrison towns of Faya-Largeau, Fada, Bardaï, and Ounianga Kébir.

In addition to historical causes and what Tombalbaye himself was later to call "maladministration", the country's Arabic speaking neighbors abetted rebellion in the northern and central regions of Chad. In Sudan and Libya, numerous self-styled "liberation fronts" appeared in the mid-1960s, printing manifestos and claiming leadership over rebellious groups inside Chad. The most prominent of these fronts, the National Liberation Front of Chad (Front de Libération Nationale du Tchad or FROLINAT), was formed in June 1966 in Nyala in southwestern Sudan. Personality, philosophical, and ethnic differences soon led to the front's fragmentation, with one group moving to Khartoum and another, which retained the FROLINAT designation, establishing offices in Algiers and Tripoli.

The influence of external assistance to the rebels during this period was minimal. Prior to 1976, Chad's uprisings were disorganized and uncoordinated among dissident groups. Most observers attribute the rebels' success more to the ineptitude of Chad's government and national army than to outside assistance.

After FROLINAT's eastern region field commander, Ibrahim Abatcha, died in combat in February 1968, four contenders for leadership emerged. Within two years, two of them reportedly had been assassinated and one had fled to Sudan; the fourth, Abba Siddick, became FROLINAT's new secretary general in 1970. But in 1971, when Siddick called for greater cooperation among various groups under the FROLINAT banner, he encountered vigorous opposition in the north from Goukouni Oueddei, son of Oueddei Kichidemi, and Hissène Habré, leaders of the Command Council of the Armed Forces of the North (Conseil de Commandement de Forces Armeés du Nord or CCFAN). Goukouni and Habré broke with Siddick, who managed to retain only nominal control over FROLINAT's First Liberation Army in east-central Chad.

Tombalbaye's initial response to the increasing antigovernment activities was to attempt to crush them. When the government's forces proved woefully inadequate for the task, Tombalbaye swallowed his pride and called in the French under provisions of military treaties signed in 1960.

Confronted by the unpopularity of such a step, the French government joined many Chadian intellectuals in calling for a broad range of economic and political reforms by Chad's government. Desperate for French assistance, Tombalbaye reluctantly accepted the thirty-three member Administrative Reform Mission (Mission de Réforme Administrative or MRA), which arrived in 1969 with authority to retrain the army, reorganize the civil service, and recommend the abolition of unpopular laws and taxes. The most significant political reform was the full restoration to Chad's major sultans of their previous judicial authority. The government also allowed them to resume their function as tax collectors in exchange for 10% of the revenue. This action, which Tombalbaye implemented grudgingly, temporarily undermined rebel activities across central Chad.

Liberalization continued in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Following the 1969 presidential elections, in which Tombalbaye ran unopposed, some 600 political prisoners were released, including a number of prominent Muslims. In April 1971, Tombalbaye, addressing the Seventh Congress of the PPT, admitted for the first time that he had made mistakes and that there were some shortcomings associated with his policies. He promised a campaign of national reconciliation, and a few weeks later he formed a government that included a greater proportion of Muslims and northerners. In June Tombalbaye freed another 1,500 political prisoners and toured rebel regions in the north, where he promised, among other things, government-subsidized salt and sugar for the nomads of Zouar and Bardaï.

These reforms and French assistance contributed to the relative calm of 1970 and 1971. French military forces provided extensive and effective assistance in containing rebellious activities in central Chad. By June 1971, overt rebellion had been reduced for the most part to isolated pockets in the Tibesti region. The French government, under domestic pressure, began to withdraw its forces from Chad.

Fall of the regime

Tombalbaye's reform efforts ceased abruptly in August 1971. In that month, he claimed to have quashed a coup involving some recently amnestied Chadians who allegedly received support from Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi. Tomabalbaye severed relations with Libya and invited anti-Qaddafi elements to establish bases in Chad. In retaliation, Qaddafi recognized FROLINAT, offered (for the first time formally) an operational base in Tripoli to Siddick, and increased the flow of supplies to the Chadian rebels.

Domestic calm deteriorated further when students conducted a strike in N'Djamena in November 1971. Although easily contained, the strike demonstrated the growing politicization and disaffection of young members of the southern elite and reflected their increased awareness of the army's political potential. Tombalbaye then replaced the chief of staff, General Jacques Doumro, who was a favorite of the students, with Colonel Félix Malloum.

In June 1972, a band of Libyan-trained saboteurs was captured while attempting to smuggle guns and explosives into the capital. These arrests coincided with a serious financial crisis, a worsening drought, bitter government infighting, and civil unrest in the capital. These events convinced Tombalbaye to abandon his policy of national reconciliation. He incarcerated more than 1,000 real or suspected "enemies of the state". In an indication of his growing distrust of the previously secure south, Tombalbaye detained hundreds of southerners and removed two key southern cabinet ministers. He also effected a dramatic diplomatic aboutface designed to obtain economic assistance from the Arab world while undermining FROLINAT. To enhance ties to the Arab world, Tombalbaye broke Chad's relations with Israel in September 1972. A few months later, Tombalbaye secured an initial pledge of 23 billion CFA Francs from Libya. In 1973 other Arab capitals promised aid. In addition, Chad withdrew from the Afro-Malagasy and Mauritian Common Organization (Organisation Commune Africaine, Malgache, et Mauricienne or OCAMM), a moderate alliance of French-speaking African states.

Tombalbaye's strategy to create difficulties for FROLINAT was successful. When Qaddafi began restricting deliveries of military supplies and food to the rebels, fighting for the limited supplies erupted between FROLINAT's First Liberation Army and FAN (at that time also called the Second Liberation Army). The Second Liberation Army lost control of Ennedi and retreated into northern Borkou and Tibesti. In April 1974, however, it struck back by seizing three European hostages, including a French archaeologist at Bardaï.

By this time, the Tombalbaye presidency was rapidly unraveling, as greater attention focused on the real and suspected threats from within the government. In June 1973, Tombalbaye arrested Malloum, the head of the women's wing of the PPT, and a score of other party officials, mostly from the south. These individuals were held on charges of "political sorcery" in what came to be known as the "Black Sheep Plot" because of their alleged involvement in animal sacrifices. Moreover, when Outel Bono, a widely admired liberal politician, was assassinated in Paris while organizing a new political party in August, many believed that Tombalbaye's government was behind the murder. Also that month, Tombalbaye decided to replace the PPT with a new party, the National Movement for the Cultural and Social Revolution (Mouvement National pour la Révolution Culturelle et Sociale or MNRCS).

To deflect domestic criticism, Tombalbaye embarked on a campaign to promote authenticité, or "Chaditude." This effort was aimed at expunging foreign practices and influences. To shore up his support from Chad's expanding urban elite, Tombalbaye Africanized the names of several places (Fort-Lamy and Fort Archambault became N'Djamena and Sarh, respectively) and ordered civil servants to use indigenous names in place of their European ones; he changed his first name to Ngarta. In addition, his policies induced many foreign missionaries to repatriate. His strident attacks on the French government were also popular. Tombalbaye lashed out specifically at Jacques Foccart, the powerful secretary general to the French Presidency for African Affairs, who was labeled an "evil genius" and formally condemned in a National Assembly resolution as the source of some "fourteen plots" against the government of Chad.

To restore his sagging support among Sara traditionalists in the rural south, Tombalbaye came out in favor of the harsh physical and psychological yondo initiation rites for all southern males between sixteen and fifty, making them compulsory for any non-Muslim seeking admission to the civil service, government, and higher ranks of the military. From mid-1973 to April 1974, an estimated 3,000 southern civil servants, including two cabinet ministers and one colonel, went through the yondo ordeal. Because the rites were perceived as anti-Christian and essentially borrowed from one Sara subgroup, resistance to the process exacerbated antagonisms along clan and religious lines. Therefore, rather than encouraging greater southern support, Tombalbaye's action created disaffection among civil servants, army officers, and students.

The worsening drought in the early 1970s also affected Chad's degenerating political situation. Throughout 1974 international criticism of Chad's handling of drought-relief efforts reached a new peak, as government insensitivity and overt profiteering became obvious.

In response to its economic crisis, the government launched Operation Agriculture, which involved a massive volunteer cotton planting effort on virgin lands. The project increased production somewhat, but at the expense of major economic dislocations and greater southern resentment, particularly from people in cities and towns who were rounded up by the military to "volunteer" for agricultural labor.

By early 1975, many observers believed that Tombalbaye had eroded his two main bases of support - the south and the armed forces. Only intra-Sara divisions and concern over the possible loss of southern influence in government had prevented any well-organized anti-Tombalbaye movement. In addition, throughout the early 1970s Tombalbaye's criticism of the army's mediocre performance in the field had angered the officer corps and dissipated its loyalty. Other military grievances included frequent purges and reshufflings of the top ranks. In March 1975, Tombalbaye ordered the arrest of several senior military officers, as suspects in yet another plot. On April 13, 1975, several units of N'Djamena's gendarmerie, acting under the initial direction of junior military officers, killed Tombalbaye during a coup.

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