Chad has been involved in a civil war for twelve years. The effects of the?
Chad has been involved in a civil war for twelve years. The effects of the fighting, combined with a change of government in 1975 and many serious economic problems have disrupted life in the country. Despite recent droughts, widespread poverty, warfare and failing agriculture, the capital of the former French colony, N'Djamena, appears calm, only weeks after the city was threatened with invasion by the Chad Liberation Front forces (FROLINAT).
SYNOPSIS: When the French ruled Chad, N'Djamena, formerly Fort Lamy, was the centre of the administration and after independence in 1960, nothing changed. The Chad government has been struggling ever since to bring the whole of the country under its control, but the French had done little to develop distant rural areas, and these remain isolated and problematic. This dusty city is the focus of the attacks by FROLINAT forces who claim that the government denies the north of the country its true Arab identity.
FROLINAT troops are predominantly Moslem and of Arab origin. They took up arms against the Chad government in 1966. In N'Djamena, a mosque stands near to a Roman Catholic Cathedral, but the country is split between the Christians in the south and the Moslems in the north, another symptom of the dominance of French influence around the capital. The first president of Chad, N'garta Tombalaya, was assassinated in the 1975 coup which brought the present leader, General Falix Malloum, into power.
President Malloum was faced with enormous problems the FROLINAT rebellion, widespread illiteracy among Chad's four million inhabitants and an economy based upon raw cotton and cattle, crippled by the after effects of a massive drought. With an estimated annual budget of about 50 million U.S. dollars, (23 million pounds) Chad relies heavily on French aid. There is oil in the country, but few other natural resources. The American aid organisation CARE is attempting to combat soil erosion and scanty vegetation with an acacia tree planting project.
Communications between N'Djamena and the rest of the country are poor, the dirt tracks in the city lead to the neighbouring states of Nigeria, Cameroun and the Central African Republic and not to the vast hinterland of northern Chad.
The acute shortage of money in Chad has led other countries as well as the French in invest and offer aid. Kuwait began building these offices, but never completed them. Though there are modern houses in N'Djamena, the country remains one of the poorest in the world. The Chinese provided the money for these administrative buildings in the city centre.
FROLINAT guerrillas receive backing from the Libyan Jamahiriyah government. The Libyan Embassy in N'Djamena is still open despite this involvement in the war. Libya is a co-signatory with Niger and Sudan, of the short-lived ceasefire agreement signed in March between the Chad government and FROLINAT forces.
The ceasefire ended when FROLINAT began to push towards the capital in April. General Malloum requested military aid from France, and 1,500 French troops are now stationed in Chad. Earlier this month French forces drove FROLINAT forces from the town of Ati, 180 miles (300 kilometres) north east of N'Djamena. FROLINAT claim the presence of French troops contravenes the conditions of the ceasefire. France's involvement in Chad was one of the issues raised during the Paris summit meeting on Africa earlier this month between West Germany, Britain, Belgium, France and the United States.