Chad Fall of the Tombalbaye Government
Source: The Library of Congress Country Studies
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 (for value of the CFA franc--see Glossary) 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 (see Classical African Religions , ch. 2). 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.
Data as of December 1988
NOTE: The information regarding Chad on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Chad Fall of the Tombalbaye Government information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Chad Fall of the Tombalbaye Government should be addressed to the Library of Congress.