Civil War: Chad (1966-1979)

David Cunningham. Civil Wars of the World: Major Conflicts since World War II. Editor: Karl DeRouen Jr. & Uk Heo. Volume 1, ABC-CLIO, 2007.


Chad, located in north central Africa, has been one of the most conflict-torn countries in the world over the last forty years. Chad became independent in 1960 and was immersed in a bloody civil war only six years later. The country has been in civil war, with brief breaks, for nearly forty years. The focus of this chapter is the first phase of that civil war, which began in 1966 and lasted until 1979. The chapter describes the conflict and attempts to explain why the conflict broke out when it did, why it lasted so long, and why it could not be resolved through negotiated settlement. First, however, a brief description of the demography, political history, and economics of independent Chad is given. This discussion will help to frame the analysis of the dynamics of the Chadian civil war.

Country Background

Although Chad is the fifth-largest country in Africa, it has a small population (approximately 5 million people) clustered primarily in the southern part of the country, where the climate is more favorable and resources are more abundant. The population of Chad is ethnically and linguistically diverse, with approximately 200 ethnic groups and more than 100 languages. The population can be broadly separated into northerners, who tend to be Muslim and Arab, and southerners, who tend to practice Christianity or indigenous religions and are racially African (Azevedo 1998).

Chad became a colony of France in the late nineteenth century and gained independence in 1960. In the precolonial period, northerners were dominant in Chad, and this dominance continued throughout most of the colonial period. Upon independence, however, a single-party government was formed, led by François Tombalbaye, a southerner (Tombalbaye later changed his first name to Ngarta). Although the government included a mix of people from northern and southern Chad and was fairly evenly balanced between Muslims and non-Muslims, the principal governmental officials were southern, and the government was perceived as southern dominated.

The postindependence constitution created a separation of powers between three separate branches of government; however, Tombalbaye proved to have what amounted to dictatorial power to enact his agenda. Although Chad did have elections in the early 1960s, Tombalbaye was the only candidate on the ballot, and the system was completely undemocratic. In elections in 1967, Tombalbaye received 93 percent of the votes.

The government of Chad remained autocratic throughout the 1966-1979 civil war. In the 1970s, Tombalbaye faced opposition from a growing number of fronts, including those within his own government and the military. In response to this opposition, Tombalbaye undertook numerous purges of the military and other security forces, which only served to heighten resentment against him. On April 13, 1975, members of the Chadian gendarmerie, reacting to a purge of their forces that had included the arrest of their leader, assassinated Tomalbaye in a coup d’état. His government was replaced by a military government led by General Malloum. Malloum ruled Chad through the end of the conflict in 1979, when a peace accord created a Transitional Government of National Union and set a timetable for elections. These elections were never held, however, and the country quickly returned to civil war.

At the time of independence, Chad was one of the poorer countries in the world. It had an unfavorable climate, few educated or trained individuals, and basically no economic infrastructure. Most of the population was engaged in subsistence farming and pastoral cultivation of livestock. Compounding these difficult starting conditions, mismanagement by the government limited any economic growth that could have occurred in the postindependence period. The final straw for the Chadian economy was the civil war that broke out in 1966. Much of the country was immersed in conflict, and the economy was devastated. The combination of government mismanagement and civil war eliminated any progress and in fact meant that the economy was worse off in the 1970s than it had been in 1960. By the 1980s, the World Bank ranked Chad as one of the five poorest nations in the world (Collelo 1990).

Conflict Background

The 1966-1979 war in Chad was just the first in a string of civil wars that have afflicted that country for the last forty years. The conflict does not fit easily into a single category, as multiple dynamics were present in the fighting. The Chadian civil war certainly had an ethnic element, as the primary combatants were a government generally dominated by southerners and a set of insurgent groups led by northerners. As the conflict wore on, however, the ethnic or ideological aspects of the struggle became less important. Instead, the violence was driven primarily by conflict between the leaders of various factions who tried to consolidate their control over as much of the country as they could.

The conflict had a strong external dimension as well. France supported the government militarily throughout much of the conflict, and Libya and other regional states provided varying degrees of support to different insurgent groups. The internal actors in the conflict were generally poorly organized and ineffective. The insurgents were beset by fractionalization and almost completely unable to unite; by the end of the war, at least eleven different factions were fighting under the banner of the National Liberation Front (FROLINAT). The Chadian Armed Forces (FAT), meanwhile, were small, very ineffective, and unorganized, and performed poorly on the battlefield. The Correlates of War project estimates that the FAT ranged in size from 1,000 to 5,000 troops over the course of the war (Singer 1987), a number probably equivalent to the total number of insurgents participating in the conflict.

Despite the general disorganization of the various internal actors, the conflict had devastating consequences for the civilian population. It is estimated that more than 5,000 people died in battle (Lacina and Gleditsch 2005), and the number of civilian casualties was certainly higher. Additionally, at least 11,000 refugees were created. These direct human costs were compounded by economic destruction, which made even worse off a country that had begun as one of the poorest in the world.

With the exception of the creation of refugees, the conflict in Chad had little effect on its neighbors. Chad shared a border with Sudan, which was involved in a war over similar issues although with the opposite composition (in Sudan, a northern, Islamic-dominated government faced an insurgency led by a southern Christian-African group). However, despite these commonalities, the two conflicts stayed largely separate.

The Insurgents

Identifying the rebels in the Chad conflict is difficult because the main insurgent organization, FROLINAT, was incredibly fractionalized throughout the war. These various factions fought under different names and were themselves afflicted by leadership struggles across the course of the conflict. This section focuses on the main factions and on the insurgent leaders who had a role throughout much of the conflict.

FROLINAT was formed in exile in 1966. At the beginning it was led by Ibrahim Abacha, although he was killed in 1968. Throughout much of the organization’s operation, the political wing of FROLINAT was led by Dr. Abba Siddick, a former minister in the Tombalbaye government who served as the international voice of the organization (Africa Confidential 1977).

Sources: Doyle and Sambanis 2000, Gleditsch 2002, Lacina and Gleditsch 2004, Marshall and Jaggers 2002.
Dates: 1966 to 1979
Casualties: 5,727
Regime type prior to war: -9 (Polity 2 variable in Polity 4 data, ranging from -10 to 10)
Regime type after war: 0 (no government)
GDP/capita year war began: US $1198 (real GDP per capita in 1996 US dollars)
GDP/capita 5 years after war: US $859 (real GDP per capita in 1996 US dollars)
Insurgents: FROLINAT (National Liberation Front)—divided into various factions; FAN
(Armed Forces of the North), FAP (Popular Armed Forces)
Issue: Tax policy, dominance of southerners in government, ethnicity/religion
Rebel funding: Some support from Libya, Sudan, other countries
Role of geography: Rebels operated in vast, unpopulated regions of north.
Role of resources: Libya annexed the Aouzou Strip, which was rumored to have uranium; no other role of resources in the conflict.
Immediate outcome: Peace agreement, which created a Government of National Union
Outcome after 5 years: Renewed warfare
Role of UN: Very little role
Role of regional organization: Regional states, led by Nigeria, helped facilitate negotiations.
Refugees: 11,500
Prospects for peace: Very low
Table 1: Civil War in Chad

Within Chad, FROLINAT was initially divided into three separate “field armies.” The First Army operated in the southeast and had the closest links to Abba Siddick. The Volcan Force of the First Army was based in northeastern Chad and was led by General Baglani. The Second Army operated in Tibesti (in northern Chad) and was led by Hissen Habré. Habré would become an important figure in the later stages of this civil war.

Although each of these field armies was nominally under the command of Siddick’s political organization, they operated with a large degree of autonomy. As the war dragged on, divisions between these field armies increased, and leadership struggles within them led to the emergence of new factions. In considering the mid- to late 1970s, it is more appropriate to treat these groups as separate insurgent organizations rather than as factions within one overarching group. At that stage in the conflict, there were at least four factions of FROLINAT fighting against the government.

The First Army of FROLINAT stayed loyal to Siddick throughout the conflict but was largely ineffective on the battlefield. Azevedo (1998) reports that the First Army had about 2,000 troops from 1969 to 1972 but that it was primarily a loose coalition of guerrilla organizations rather than a coherent fighting force. This loose coalition was unable to accomplish much militarily.

The Volcan Force, meanwhile, was made up of Arab fighters who had rejected Siddick’s leadership. The Volcan Army remained independent until Baglani’s death in 1977, at which point it began negotiating with the Second Army (now led by Gukuni Woddeye) to form a united front.

In 1976, Gukuni Woddeye became leader of the Second Army after removing Habré. The Second Army, also referred to as the Popular Armed Forces (FAP), was largely ineffective on the battlefield until it could coordinate actions with the Volcan Force beginning in 1977.

Habré, meanwhile, took some 300 troops with him, and they began operating under the name Armed Forces of the North (FAN) in the eastern part of the country with support from Sudan. Over the next few years, FAN was able to achieve substantial victories against the weak Chadian Armed Forces, and by 1979 the group had grown to 1,500. In 1978, the president of Chad, General Malloum, felt increasing pressure both internally and externally to try to reach some deal with the rebels, and he incorporated Habré into his government as prime minister.

The Third Army was led by Aboubakar Abderahmane and was based in Karem Province in western Chad. Abderahmane received support from Nigeria, but the Third Army was unable to accomplish much militarily.

Although each of these insurgent groups was militarily weak and generally unorganized, they were able to operate in Chad primarily owing to three separate factors: the complete ineptitude of the FAT, the large area of the country that was out of the control of the government, and limited funding from external patrons, primarily Libya. Libya’s role in the Chadian conflict is complex, however, and that state should not be seen solely as a patron of antigovernment forces. Rather, Libya’s primary goal in Chad was to secure control of the Aozou Strip, a part of Chad claimed by Libya that contained uranium. Libya alternated between providing funding to the various insurgent groups and fighting against them. The role of Libya (and other external actors) in the conflict is discussed in more detail following.


The geography of Chad was a major factor that allowed these insurgent groups to organize; however, geography played a different role than that commonly identified in theories of civil war. Typically, scholars who write about terrain and conflict identify heavily mountainous or forested terrain as providing an opportunity for rebels to organize outside the reach of the state. However, Fearon and Laitin (2003) identify Chad as only 8.5 percent mountainous, and the country has virtually no forest cover. Buhaug and Lujala (2004) have collected data on the terrain of that region of each country in which the civil war was active. They identify the Chadian “conflict zone” as 6 percent mountainous and only 2 percent forested.

In the Chadian civil war, it was not mountains or forest cover that allowed the rebels to organize outside the reach of the state. Rather, it was the fact that large areas of Chad’s northern desert and Sahelian regions are unpopulated. Ninety percent of Chad’s population lives in 10 percent of the country, clustered in the south where climate and economic resources are more favorable. It was in these largely unpopulated regions of Chad that the rebel groups were able to organize and operate outside the army’s reach.


The main tactic used by the various factions of FROLINAT throughout the Chadian civil war was guerrilla warfare. The groups operated in vast areas of the country that were outside the control of the central government, and they consolidated their control over that territory through guerrilla tactics. Through the late 1960s and early 1970s, the insurgents gained control of increasing amounts of Chadian territory through these tactics, to the point that by the late 1970s the government’s control of the capital was threatened by insurgents.

The war in Chad between the government and the insurgents was a low-tech war. Neither the army nor the insurgents were well-equipped. What arms the FROLINAT factions had were provided primarily by their external patrons, which over the course of the fighting included the Central African Republic, Sudan, Egypt, Algeria, and Libya. This foreign support was crucial to their ability to sustain warfare. Lemarchand (1985, 244) writes that the insurgents “left to themselves stood little chance of survival” but that this foreign support allowed them to continue warfare.

As the war continued, FROLINAT used a new tactic to obtain weapons. In 1974, members of FROLINAT kidnapped West German and French nationals based in Chad and held them hostage for ransom. The French and West German governments negotiated directly with the hostages for their release and paid ransoms to obtain the freedom of their nationals. FROLINAT then used this ransom to buy weapons to use in its insurgency

Causes of the War

The roots of rebellion were sown very early in Chad’s independent history. Political organizations led by northern elites opposed to President Tombalbaye’s single-party rule formed shortly after independence but were based primarily in other northern and central African capitals. Northern dissatisfaction with southern dominance of the government, therefore, can be seen as a major underlying cause of the war. However, for the first six years of independent rule, this dissatisfaction did not turn into violent conflict, and Chad stayed largely peaceful.

The spark that turned northern dissatisfaction into violent conflict came in the form of the government’s tax policy. In 1965, Tombalbaye issued a new tax on cattle (the main source of wealth for the pastoral and semipastoral populations of northern Chad) and increased other taxes. The increase in taxes led to a revolt in the northern Chadian town of Mangalme, during which ten governmental officials were killed. The government responded by killing approximately 500 members of the Nubu ethnic group, whose members were seen as responsible for the killing. The government response led to protests in other parts of northern Chad, and governmental reprisals continued to be incredibly brutal.

In response to these massacres, northern intellectuals gathered in Sudan on June 22, 1966, and formed the National Liberation Front. FROLINAT began a guerrilla insurgency based in the northern part of the country. The organization was almost immediately beset by fractionalization. FROLINAT became a loose coalition of factions opposed to the government, rather than a coherent insurgent force.

The response by government officials to the FROLINAT insurgency in the early days of the conflict served only to heighten northern resentment targeted against the government. Southerners who had been appointed prefects in northern provinces enacted anti-Muslim and anti-Arab legislation, such as levying fines on men who wore beards or turbans or on women who disrobed in public, as well as other unpopular legislation, such as requiring pastoral farmers to be sedentary. In response, some prefects were murdered, and northern support for the various antigovernment factions of FROLINAT grew.

Although the civil war began over tax policy, therefore, the main issue in the dispute that led to the FROLINAT insurgency was southern dominance of the government and repressive policies targeted against the northern population. The government’s response to the outbreak of conflict only served to heighten northern resentment, laying the foundation for further violent conflict. This cycle of escalation had led to a large-scale civil war by the end of the 1960s.

In the 1970s, the northern-versus-southern conflict continued to be fueled by the perception of antinorthern government policies. In the mid-1970s, Tombalbaye implemented a policy of authenticité, which involved changing colonial names to African names (he changed his first name from François to Ngarta) and required that civil servants undergo tribal ceremonies traditionally associated with southern Chadian culture. These policies were seen as continuing the government’s prosouthern position and prolonged the feelings of resentment among northerners.


Conflict Status

Although the civil war discussed in this article is listed as lasting from 1966 to 1979, it makes more sense to think of 1979 as a turning point in the war rather than as an actual end. By 1979, years of devastating warfare and foreign intervention had left Chad in a horrible state. Although for the first ten years the civil war was confined to the underpopulated areas of northern and eastern Chad, by the late 1970s full-scale fighting had broken out between forces loyal to General Malloum and Prime Minister Habré in N’Djamena. Azevedo (1998, 105) writes that by late 1979 Chad “was now divided into four nearly autonomous sections.” The FROLINAT factions controlled the north, the capital was nominally under the control of the central government, the south was controlled by militias from the Sara ethnic group and breakaway factions of the military, and the Aouzou strip of northern Chad had been occupied militarily and annexed by Libya.

Despite the long years of fighting, by the end of the 1970s it was clear that no one party could win the conflict militarily. Foreign intervention and favorable geography had allowed each party to avoid losing (see “Duration Tactics”), but they also prevented any individual group from winning. The conflict had been long and costly, and clearly no end was in sight.

In 1979, facing these terrible conditions, the various factions in Chad agreed to participate in negotiations. Given the extreme fractionalization of the conflict and the large number of leaders who wanted a role in deciding the fate of the state, peace talks proved very difficult. Several rounds of negotiations took place, beginning in February 1979 and continuing in Kano and Lagos, Nigeria, throughout the spring and summer. Finally, at talks in Lagos begun on August 19, 1979, all major factions to the Chadian conflict signed an agreement. The Lagos Accord had four major provisions: a cease-fire, the creation of a Transitional Government of National Union (GUNT), which would include representatives from all major factions, a demilitarized zone around N’Djamena, and the integration of the military. The GUNT was designed to govern the country for eighteen months, at which point it would be replaced by a government formed by free and fair democratic elections.

The Lagos Accord broke down almost immediately. Although the GUNT included all factions, there was general dissatisfaction with the large role played by Gukuni Woddeye (who was the president of the GUNT) and his followers. Gukuni and Habré (the defense minister) quickly clashed, and in March 1980 warfare broke out in N’Djamena between their factions. Other groups quickly returned to war as well, and by the end of 1980 the country was again in full-scale civil war.

The new phase of civil war in Chad has continued since 1980 with only brief breaks in the fighting. From 1980 to 1982, Habré’s forces, backed by France and other countries in the West, consolidated their control over much of Chad until on June 7, 1982, Habré took N’Djamena and became the president. Gukuni’s forces returned to warfare and were joined by a number of other antigovernment groups. Habre was overthrown in 1990, but the new government continued to face challenges from large numbers of insurgents. Throughout the 1990s and into the twenty-first century, the conflict in Chad has continued to be fractionalized, with many groups fighting to consolidate control of the state. A peace agreement signed in January 2002 again broke down almost immediately and, as of the summer of 2006, the conflict remains unresolved.

The 1966-1979 period of the Chadian civil war did represent a specific phase in the conflict. During that time period, a number of insurgent groups fighting under the banner of FROLINAT battled a Chadian government that actually functioned somewhat like a state. Since 1980, the Chadian conflict has been much more a multiparty conflict in which it is less clear whether a Chadian state exists at all. However, the 1966-1979 conflict should not be viewed as a separate conflict from the later phases of the civil war, because there does not appear to be anything special about the Lagos Accord reached in 1979. Throughout the conflict in Chad, a number of peace agreements have been reached, all of which broke down quickly. Rather than seeing the 1979 Lagos Accord as an unsuccessful transition from warfare, that agreement is better viewed as the ending of one phase of conflict in an almost forty-year-long civil war that began in 1966 and continues today.

Duration Tactics

The civil war in Chad was very long. Even viewed as a separate civil war, the 1966-1979 conflict was thirteen years long. If the conflict is viewed as ongoing since 1966, then the duration of warfare is over four decades. A number of different factors have made the conflict resistant to resolution, through either military victory or negotiated settlement, and therefore of longer duration. The primary factors were the geography of the country, the role of external actors in providing sanctuary and support to rebel groups, and the multiparty nature of the conflict.

The role of geography in allowing the rebels to organize to start their insurgency was discussed above. Geography had a major impact on the duration of the war as well. The fact that insurgent groups could operate largely outside the reach of the state meant that they were able to remain militarily viable much longer than they otherwise could have. Geography to a large extent overcame problems of fractionalization, small fighting forces, and a lack of sophisticated weaponry that plagued the various factions of FROLINAT throughout much of the conflict.

External involvement was another major reason that the conflict lasted as long as it did. In particular, two separate effects of external involvement can be identified. First, external actors such as France and Libya provided direct military assistance to the government and rebels respectively, preventing either side from being defeated by the other. The importance of this type of external involvement can be seen in the period from 1975 to 1978, when General Malloum ordered French troops out of Chad (see sidebar, “The Breakdown of the Chad-France Alliance”). When French troops no longer supported the Chadian army, the rebels made the largest gains of the war, and the Malloum government faced its greatest threat, leading Malloum eventually to ask France to send in troops again.

The second role of external actors was to provide sanctuary for the FROLINAT factions. Many regional states allowed the insurgents to set up bases inside their territories, and this gave the factions a base of operations completely outside the scope of the Chadian state. Salehyan (2005) argues that foreign bases have a major effect on duration because they allow weak rebels to operate out of reach of the state. The effect of foreign bases, then, compounded the effects of geography, allowing the insurgents to operate largely beyond reach of the state.

Finally, the Chadian conflict was prolonged by the multiparty nature of the civil war. From the early stages of the war, FROLINAT was beset by fractionalization, and by the mid-1970s these separate factions operated as autonomous insurgent organizations rather than as separate factions within one organization. Cunningham (2006) argues that multiparty conflicts are significantly more resistant to resolution through negotiation and therefore of longer duration. The case of Chad supports this approach, as the multiparty nature of the conflict made negotiating an integrated government more difficult and was the major factor leading to the breakdown of the Lagos Accord in 1980.

Geography, external intervention, and the multiparty nature of the conflict all led to the long duration of the Chadian conflict. These factors made it more difficult for one side to win militarily, creating more barriers to a negotiated agreement and leading to the breakdown of the peace agreement reached in 1979.

External Military Intervention

As discussed above, external actors played a large role in the Chadian conflict. The dominant external actor throughout the conflict was France, which had a military agreement with the Tombalbaye government following independence. In 1968, France honored that agreement and dispatched troops to the country to battle the FROLINAT-led insurgency. This intervention gave the government the upper hand in the war, a position they retained until 1975, when General Malloum ordered French troops to leave the country following a dispute over France’s negotiating directly with FROLINAT to free French hostages. Malloum’s decision proved disastrous for the military position of the government, and in 1978, at Malloum’s request, the French returned. France retained a military presence in Chad well into the 1980s.

After France, the largest external role in the Chadian civil war was played by Libya. With the exception of providing some small support to FROLINAT, Libya stayed out of the conflict until Colonel Muammar Kadhafi came to power in 1969. Kadhafi had visions of Arab dominance of northern Africa and of a pan-Islamic federation that would include countries such as Chad. When Kadhafi came to power, he began to provide high levels of support to FROLINAT. Relations between Chad and Libya improved in the mid-1970s when Chad agreed to cut diplomatic ties with Israel and, paradoxically, when Libya annexed a part of Chad called the Aouzou Strip. That annexation led some of the rebel groups, such as that led by Hissen Habré, to reject Libyan support. As the civil war continued, however, the relationship between Libya and Chad deteriorated again, and Libya continued to support Chadian insurgents, although relations between Habré and Kadhafi remained strained.

France and Libya had the most direct involvement in Chad and were the main external participants in the 1966-1979 phase of the conflict. Other regional states participated as well, primarily by providing sanctuaries to Chad’s insurgent groups. As the war moved into the 1980s, the external dimension increased, particularly once Libya stepped up its involvement in the conflict in 1983. The United States, which viewed Kadhafi’s regime as a major threat to its foreign policy, became involved on the side of the Chadian government less out of an interest in the specific elements of that conflict than to stop Kadhafi from accomplishing his goals in the region. Additionally, as the 1980s wore on, other African states became involved in attempting to resolve the conflict but met with little success.

External states played a significant role in the Chadian conflict, and the civil war in Chad would have played out much differently had there been no external involvement. In a sense, Libya’s and France’s military involvement cancelled each other out, as both supported opposing sides. Each intervention allowed a largely unorganized and ineffective military force (the FAT and the FROLINAT) to survive and organize until it was better able to wage war.

Conflict Management Efforts

Although the Chadian conflict experienced a high level of external involvement from its outbreak, there was basically no international effort at conflict management until 1979. In the late 1970s, France began to pressure the government of Chad to end the rebellion by integrating the rebels into the government, but this pressure did not develop into any kind of internationally organized negotiation process.

By 1979, however, it was clear to other states in the region that the Chadian state was in danger of collapsing completely. Neighboring states pressured the government and the FROLINAT factions to participate in a series of negotiations held in Nigeria in 1979. Four negotiating sessions were held: two meetings in Kano, Nigeria, in March and April and two further sessions in Lagos, Nigeria, in May and August. The second meeting in Lagos resulted in a peace agreement signed by all the major factions, which provided for the Transitional Government of National Union.

As part of the regional peace process, Nigeria sent peacekeepers to N’Djamena to monitor implementation of a cease-fire agreement. However, the government of Chad did not see Nigeria as unbiased, because at the first negotiations in Lagos, Nigeria (along with all other bordering states) had threatened to impose an economic boycott on Chad if the government did not negotiate. In retaliation, the government ordered the peacekeepers out of the country on June 1, 1979 (Keesing’s Contemporary Archives 1980, February).

At the August 1979 meeting that led to the Lagos Accord, Chad’s neighbors agreed to deploy an inter-African force to implement the peace agreement. This force was never fully deployed. In 1980, Congolese troops were sent to Chad; however, they were very disorganized and completely unable to stop the violence once the conflict reignited. In 1981, a multinational force made up of troops from Nigeria, Senegal, and Zaire was deployed to Chad, but again the force was unable to stop the fighting, and in 1982 the force withdrew as the conflict heated up and the state collapsed into full-scale civil war.

Regionally led conflict management efforts in Chad proved completely ineffective in sustainably resolving the conflict. There was basically no conflict management process for the first dozen years of the conflict, and when negotiations were organized by neighboring states in 1979, they were done so in a way that the Chadian government did not view as impartial. The major failing of the international effort was that it promised to deploy a peacekeeping mission to enforce the cease-fire and, later, the peace agreement, but it did not follow through by deploying a significant mission. Walter (2002) argues that it is virtually impossible for actors in civil war to implement a peace agreement in the absence of an international guarantee to monitor and enforce the terms of the agreement. In Chad, regional states made a guarantee, but the failure to follow through on it was a major hindrance to successful resolution of the conflict. It is unclear whether a robust international mission could have succeeded, but the international conflict management effort as it was configured was a complete failure.


The Chadian civil war of 1966-1979 was very destructive. More than 5,000 people lost their lives, more than 11,000 were driven from the country as refugees, the economy was ruined, and despite a brief break in fighting following the Lagos Accords in late 1979, the conflict has continued for decades. The civil war has been difficult to resolve, in part because of the extreme internal divisions within Chad and the geography of the country, which predispose it to warfare; however, the actions of international actors have rendered the conflict even more resistant to resolution.

First, various northern and central African states provided sanctuary to different factions of FROLINAT, leading to the further fractionalization of the organization. This fractionalization was a major hindrance to negotiations because it became more difficult to find an agreement that all sides could support.

Second, external states such as France and Libya intervened militarily to help their respective sides win. The effect of these interventions, however, was not to help either side win but rather to prevent both from losing. At the same time, neither state put pressure on its allies to negotiate until late in the conflict.

Third, when negotiations were undertaken, it was difficult to find an unbiased mediator that did not have a direct interest in the conflict. Nigeria and the other regional states were perceived by the Chadian government as opposed to its interests. The United States was completely opposed to Libya and could not be impartial. The lack of an unbiased negotiation process hindered the ability of the parties to find a mutually satisfactory peace.

Finally, once the parties did reach an agreement, the regional African states failed to deliver on their promise to deploy a robust peacekeeping force to enforce the agreement. This failure opened the door for further conflict; indeed, civil war returned to the capital within a matter of months.

The Chadian civil war can be seen as a complete failure of conflict management efforts on the part of international actors. Admittedly, many of the actions taken by states such as Libya, Sudan, and France were not designed to manage the conflict at all; however, even actions that were so intended failed utterly as well.

In a sense, then, the Chadian civil war is a textbook example of how not to respond to an internal conflict. Obviously, there is no way to know how the conflict would have proceeded in the absence of international interference. It does not seem too difficult to conclude, however, that the conflict was longer, more destructive, and more prone to recurrence because of the international dimension.