Tombalbaye Era, 1960-75

Tombalbaye Era, 1960-75

Tombalbaye faced a task of considerable magnitude when Chad became a sovereign state. 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 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 thirteenth century's Dabbalemi or the sixteenth 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: Policies and Methods

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 Lisette from his own party, 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 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 Muslims rioted in N'Djamena in September 1963 following the arbitrary arrests of three Muslim leaders, the government reacted swiftly and repressively. 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.

Tombalbaye's Governance: Policies and Methods

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 Lisette from his own party, 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 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 Muslims rioted in N'Djamena in September 1963 following the arbitrary arrests of three Muslim leaders, the government reacted swiftly and repressively. 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.

Fall of the Tombalbaye Government

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 Muammaral Qadhaafi. Tomabalbaye severed relations with Libya and invited anti-Qadhaafi elements to establish bases in Chad. In retaliation, Qadhaafi 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 CFA F23 billion 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--OCAMM), a moderate alliance of French-speaking African states.

Tombalbaye's strategy to create difficulties for FROLINAT was successful. When Qadhaafi 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--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 FortArchambault 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 cottonplanting 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 wellorganized 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 mutiny.

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