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France’s Wars in Chad: Military Intervention and Decolonization in Africa
 9781108771610, 2020012889, 2020012890, 9781108488679, 9781108738620

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France’s Wars in Chad

Examining the continuous French military interventions in Chad during the two decades after its independence, this study demonstrates how France’s successful counterinsurgency efforts to protect the regime of François Tombalbaye would ultimately weaken the Chadian state and encourage Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi to intervene. In covering the subsequent French efforts to counter Libyan ambitions and the rise to power of Hissène Habré, one of postcolonial Africa’s most brutal dictators, Nathaniel K. Powell demonstrates that French strategies aiming to prevent the collapse of authoritarian regimes had the opposite effect, exacerbating violent conflicts and foreign interventions in Chad and further afield. Based on extensive archival research to trace the causes, course, and impact of French interventions in Chad, this study offers insights and lessons for current intervener’s – including France – fighting a ‘war on terrorism’ in the Sahel whose strategies and impact parallel those of France in the 1960s–1980s. Nathaniel K. Powell is an Honorary Researcher with the Centre for War and Diplomacy at Lancaster University. He holds a PhD in International History and Politics from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID), Geneva.

african studies series The African Studies series, founded in 1968, is a prestigious series of monographs, general surveys, and textbooks on Africa covering history, political science, anthropology, economics, and ecological and environmental issues. The series seeks to publish work by senior scholars as well as the best new research. Editorial Board: David Anderson, The University of Warwick Catherine Boone, The London School of Economics and Political Science Carolyn Brown, Rutgers University, New Jersey Christopher Clapham, University of Cambridge Michael Gomez, New York University Richard Roberts, Stanford University, California David Robinson, Michigan State University Leonardo A. Villalón, University of Florida Other titles in the series are listed at the back of the book.

France’s Wars in Chad Military Intervention and Decolonization in Africa

nathaniel k. powell Lancaster University

University Printing House, Cambridge CB2 8BS, United Kingdom One Liberty Plaza, 20th Floor, New York, NY 10006, USA 477 Williamstown Road, Port Melbourne, VIC 3207, Australia 314–321, 3rd Floor, Plot 3, Splendor Forum, Jasola District Centre, New Delhi – 110025, India 79 Anson Road, #06–04/06, Singapore 079906 Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning, and research at the highest international levels of excellence. DOI: 10.1017/9781108771610 © Nathaniel K. Powell 2021 This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2021 A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Powell, Nathaniel Kinsey, author. Title: France’s wars in Chad : military intervention and decolonization in Africa / Nathaniel Kinsey Powell. Other titles: Military intervention and decolonization in Africa Description: New York : Cambridge University Press, [2020] | Series: African studies series | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2020012889 (print) | LCCN 2020012890 (ebook) | ISBN 9781108488679 (hardback) | ISBN 9781108738620 (paperback) | ISBN 9781108771610 (epub) Subjects: LCSH: France–Relations–Chad. | Chad–Relations–France. | Chad–History, Military. | Central African Republic–History. | Decolonization–Chad. Classification: LCC DT546.463.F8 P69 2020 (print) | LCC DT546.463.F8 (ebook) | DDC 967.4304–dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020012889 LC ebook record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020012890 ISBN 978-1-108-48867-9 Hardback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

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France’s Wars in Chad

Examining the continuous French military interventions in Chad during the two decades after its independence, this study demonstrates how France’s successful counterinsurgency efforts to protect the regime of François Tombalbaye would ultimately weaken the Chadian state and encourage Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi to intervene. In covering the subsequent French efforts to counter Libyan ambitions and the rise to power of Hissène Habré, one of postcolonial Africa’s most brutal dictators, Nathaniel K. Powell demonstrates that French strategies aiming to prevent the collapse of authoritarian regimes had the opposite effect, exacerbating violent conflicts and foreign interventions in Chad and further afield. Based on extensive archival research to trace the causes, course, and impact of French interventions in Chad, this study offers insights and lessons for current intervener’s – including France – fighting a ‘war on terrorism’ in the Sahel whose strategies and impact parallel those of France in the 1960s–1980s. Nathaniel K. Powell is an Honorary Researcher with the Centre for War and Diplomacy at Lancaster University. He holds a PhD in International History and Politics from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID), Geneva.

african studies series The African Studies series, founded in 1968, is a prestigious series of monographs, general surveys, and textbooks on Africa covering history, political science, anthropology, economics, and ecological and environmental issues. The series seeks to publish work by senior scholars as well as the best new research. Editorial Board: David Anderson, The University of Warwick Catherine Boone, The London School of Economics and Political Science Carolyn Brown, Rutgers University, New Jersey Christopher Clapham, University of Cambridge Michael Gomez, New York University Richard Roberts, Stanford University, California David Robinson, Michigan State University Leonardo A. Villalón, University of Florida Other titles in the series are listed at the back of the book.

France’s Wars in Chad Military Intervention and Decolonization in Africa

nathaniel k. powell Lancaster University

University Printing House, Cambridge CB2 8BS, United Kingdom One Liberty Plaza, 20th Floor, New York, NY 10006, USA 477 Williamstown Road, Port Melbourne, VIC 3207, Australia 314–321, 3rd Floor, Plot 3, Splendor Forum, Jasola District Centre, New Delhi – 110025, India 79 Anson Road, #06–04/06, Singapore 079906 Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning, and research at the highest international levels of excellence. DOI: 10.1017/9781108771610 © Nathaniel K. Powell 2021 This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2021 A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Powell, Nathaniel Kinsey, author. Title: France’s wars in Chad : military intervention and decolonization in Africa / Nathaniel Kinsey Powell. Other titles: Military intervention and decolonization in Africa Description: New York : Cambridge University Press, [2020] | Series: African studies series | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2020012889 (print) | LCCN 2020012890 (ebook) | ISBN 9781108488679 (hardback) | ISBN 9781108738620 (paperback) | ISBN 9781108771610 (epub) Subjects: LCSH: France–Relations–Chad. | Chad–Relations–France. | Chad–History, Military. | Central African Republic–History. | Decolonization–Chad. Classification: LCC DT546.463.F8 P69 2020 (print) | LCC DT546.463.F8 (ebook) | DDC 967.4304–dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020012889 LC ebook record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020012890 ISBN 978-1-108-48867-9 Hardback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

To Zenobia

Maps

1 Regional map 2 Map of Chad 3 Operation Tacaud

page xv 23 150

ix

Acknowledgments

This book has, in fits and starts, been a work in progress for more than a decade. It is thrilling to finally see it in print. It would not have been possible without the hospitality, support, and guidance of all my friends from my years in Rochester, Geneva, Goma, New York, and now London. At the risk of forgetting someone these include, in no particular order whatsoever, Bernhard Blumenau, Lisa Komar, Jaci Eisenberg, Nils Holmegaard, Sebastien Malo, James Cohen, Lorenza Russo, Deborah Buschor, Gabriel Real de Azúa, Charlotte Ducrot, Markus Rohner, Benjamin and Cyndi Frisch, Nhien and Tarcisio Reis, Vivek Shah, Emily Snyder, Colleen Coburn, Alex Cantor, Adam Bink, Eric Miller, Ginevra Cucinotta, Flladina Dibra, Mario Trutmann, Michael Kottmann, Aminata Kaloga, Benoît Poirier, Saul Butters, Ryan O’Neill, Laurent Pignot, Hussein Mehdi, Natasha Telepneva, Patrick Maxwell, and Mark Murphy. Together, they have kept me sane, happy, and healthy, and I can’t thank them enough for tolerating my eclectic historical interests. This project began as part of a case study in a doctoral dissertation at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. In that vein, I’d like to thank my former supervisor, Jussi Hanhimäki, for agreeing, despite uncertain prospects, to take me on as a student many years ago and for providing guidance and support throughout my years as a graduate student and beyond. I’d also like to thank my dissertation second reader, Gareth Austin, for his helpful advice and mentorship and for encouraging an interest in economic history. Sue Onslow also deserves my gratitude for graciously agreeing to serve as external reader for my dissertation and for introducing me to other scholars of the Cold War in Africa. Beyond them, I’d like to express my appreciation to the Graduate Institute’s Department of International History for providing a welcoming early home for my research. Additionally, Irina du Bois and the Fondation Pierre du

x

Acknowledgments

xi

Bois pour l’histoire du temps présent provided helpful moral and financial support. In France, this project could not have gotten off the ground without the help of archivists in Nantes, La Courneuve, Fontainebleau, and Pierrefitte-sur-Seine for helpfully finding documents I requested and suggesting other places where I might look. I am furthermore indebted to Jen Larson for finding me a nice apartment in Paris during my research. I would also like to thank Romain Esmenjaud for a fruitful exchange of archival documents on Chad and interesting discussions on France’s role there and elsewhere. Meanwhile, Marielle Debos has been a fountain of information, as well as generous with time, hospitality, and contacts. In Abuja, I would like to express my gratitude to Jacqueline Farris of the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation for allowing me access to General Yar’Adua’s personal papers, as well as for providing me with other material. As with any research project, this book has benefited enormously from discussions with other scholars in the field. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on one’s perspective), the still-nascent state of archival declassification – potentially made worse by recent decisions by the French Ministry of Defense – has meant that the history of postcolonial Franco-African relations remains a relatively small subfield. I am therefore thankful for exchanges with Tony Chafer, Gordon Cumming, Marco Wyss, Anna Konieczna, Frank Gerits, Riina Turtio, and Benedikt Erforth, who have been generous with their time and ideas. I would furthermore like to express my gratitude to the reviewers of the manuscript and their many invaluable comments and suggestions. The editorial team at Cambridge University Press has also been extremely helpful in guiding this manuscript along to publication, with a special thanks to Isabel Stein whose meticulous editing has considerably improved its readability. Most important, I am deeply thankful for my family. My parents, Susan and Walter Powell, have always encouraged me throughout my endeavors, even the unconventional ones. I would not be who I am today without them. My sister Sally, my brother-in-law Tim Price, and their rambunctious cats have provided plentiful doses of humor along the way. I’m especially grateful to Aviva, my wife and best friend. She has been a constant source of love and encouragement over the past decade. Her pathbreaking recent book, The Origins of

xii

Acknowledgments

International Counterterrorism, is an inspiration.1 She has been a precious sounding board, critic, and muse. We’ve shared countless adventures together, and I look forward to many, many more. Finally, I dedicate this book to the most recent addition to the family, our little empress, Zenobia. 1

And therefore it certainly deserves a citation: Aviva Guttmann, The Origins of International Counterterrorism: Switzerland at the Forefront of Crisis Negotiations, Multilateral Diplomacy, and Intelligence Cooperation (1969–1977) (Leiden: Brill, 2018).

Abbreviations

AML AMT ANI ANT BCSR BEAC BET BFCE CAE CAR CCER CCFAN CDR CIA compara3 CMIAP CSM CTS DAM DDF EMT EMFT FAN FAO

Auto-mitrailleuse légère (light armored vehicle) Assistance militaire technique Armée nationale intégrée Armée nationale tchadienne Bureau de coordination et de synthèse du renseignement (Chadian intelligence agency) Banque des Etats de l’Afrique centrale Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti region of Northern Chad Banque française du commerce extérieur The Central African Empire The Central African Republic Centre de coordination et d’exploitation du renseignement (Chadian intelligence agency) Conseil de commandement des Forces armées du Nord Conseil démocratique révolutionnaire Central Intelligence Agency 3rd Chadian Airborne Company Comité militaire inter-armées provisoire Conseil supérieur militaire Compagnies tchadiennes de sécurité Direction des affaires africaines et malgaches Documents Diplomatiques Françaises Etat-major tactique (tactical command) Etat-major franco-tchadien (Franco-Chadian Command) Forces armées du Nord Forces armées occidentales (Frolinat 3rd Army) xiii

xiv

FAP FAT FCMGT

List of Abbreviations

Forces armées populaires Forces armées tchadiennes Fonds des chargés de mission géographique au Tchad FLT Front de liberation du Tchad Frolinat Front de libération nationale du Tchad GUNT Gouvernement d’Union nationale de transition MAE Ministère des affaires etrangères (French Foreign Ministry) MPLT Mouvement populaire pour la libération du Tchad MRA Mission pour la réforme administrative OAU Organization of African Unity OCAM Organisation commune africaine et malgache PLR Poste de liaison et de renseignement PPT Parti progressiste tchadien (Chadian political party) 2nd REP 2nd Régiment étranger de parachutistes (of the French Foreign Legion) 3rd RIMa 3 Régiment d’infanterie de Marine (3rd Marine Infantry Regiment of French forces) SDECE Service de documentation extérieure et de contre-espionnage (French foreign intelligence agency) UDEAC Union douanière et économique de l’Afrique centrale (Central African Customs and Economic Union) UNT Union nationale tchadienne (Chadian political party)

0

500

0

100

L

ALGERIA

1000 200

I

1500

300

B

400

1000 km

500

Y

600 miles

A

EGYPT

Aozou

N I G E R

A

N

Faya-Largeau

C H A D Mao

Mongo

U

N’Djamena

D

Abéché

Lake Chad

S Kelo Moundou

M

E

R O O N

N IG E R IA

C

A

Sarh Doba

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CENTRAL AFRICAN EMPIRE) Bangui

Yaoundé

Map 1 Regional map

Z

A

I

R

E

|

Introduction

Shortly before midnight on August 10, 1960, the famous writer André Malraux stepped onto a balcony in front of a large crowd in FortLamy, the capital of the French colony of Chad. As French minister of culture, he had come as President Charles de Gaulle’s official representative to preside over the ceremonies marking the territory’s independence. While Malraux invoked Chad’s historical role as a launching pad for Free French Forces in the Second World War and the linked destiny of the two nations, the lights suddenly went out. A power shortage had plunged Fort-Lamy into darkness. Someone in Malraux’s entourage scrambled to find a flashlight so he could finish the speech and so François Tombalbaye, Chad’s leader, could read his.1 With this inauspicious beginning, independent Chad would soon embark on a tragic path leading to decades of violent conflict, foreign interventions, state collapse, and bloody dictatorship. As in many of France’s former colonies, Chad’s newfound independence was an ambiguous one. This book aims to trace the important French role in the downward spiral that gripped Chad from independence in 1960 to the rise of Hissène Habré’s dictatorship in 1982. In many respects, this should be viewed as a period of extended and incomplete decolonization as French actors remained heavily involved in the Chadian state and later strove to establish, restore, cajole, or impose political order in the country. Most visibly, this took the form of two major military interventions. Reluctantly ordered in the last weeks of de Gaulle’s presidency, the first lasted from 1969 to 1972. It rapidly took the form of a counterinsurgency effort dedicated to restoring state authority over a countryside in revolt over excessive taxation, authoritarian rule, ethnic 1

David Styan, “Chad’s Political Violence at 50: Bullets, Ballots and Bases,” in Tony Chafer and Alexander Keese, eds., Francophone Africa at Fifty (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013), p. 237.

1

2

Introduction

persecution, and political marginalization. While militarily successful, it failed to restore, or establish, the kinds of state legitimacy necessary to ensure peace. In other respects, it encouraged regime retrenchment and further rebellion. The second intervention, ordered by French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in early 1978, aimed to stop Libyan-backed rebels from seizing the country’s capital. Though initially successful, it contributed to the collapse of the Chadian state the next year. It ended ignominiously in April 1980 amidst a renewed civil war. This was soon followed by a Libyan military occupation. Through a torturous, confused, and partly successful combination of covert operations and diplomatic maneuvering, French officials contributed to getting Libyan forces out of the country, only to find themselves backing a fractious coalition government incapable of defending itself. This set the stage for seizure of power by Hissène Habré, one of postcolonial Africa’s worst dictators. This story is an important one. For historians of Franco-African relations, France’s interventions in Chad are critical for understanding the nature of France’s role in postcolonial Africa. These interventions aimed, above all else, to maintain French credibility as a guarantor of a stable political order favorable to pro-French African elites, thus maintaining France’s regional hegemony. This book attempts to address the question of whether these policies achieved their aims. Chad’s postcolonial experience with France also emphasizes the extent to which formal independence for many of France’s African colonies only represented an important step, rather than an end, to the process of decolonization. France’s massive presence in Chad’s economy, state, and security services in the 1960s illustrate this. Furthermore, the ways in which the French capacity to influence events declined over the first two postcolonial decades highlight the limits to French power. This book should also serve as a useful case study for scholars interested in civil wars and foreign interventions. Lenses of analysis focused on the causal role of state behavior and its relations with local actors are of particular importance in understanding Chad’s conflicts.2 Chad’s wars revolved around several major fault lines – including 2

For the emphasis on state actors, see: Paul D. Williams, War & Conflict in Africa (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016), p. 361.

Introduction

3

North/South, Muslims/non-Muslims, Francophones/Arabophones, pastoralists/farmers, as well as more localized ethnic divisions. The ways in which these fault lines emerged, hardened, or became central to various aspects of Chad’s conflicts were intimately tied to the behavior of the Chadian state and its French patron. Partly this resulted from the French colonial heritage, partly from the governance strategies employed by Chadian rulers, and partly by French policies, which encouraged regime retrenchment. Violence that might initially erupt in response to state abuses could take on more local tinges in the form of ethnic or even religious conflict. Much as the Chadian state could often mobilize French resources to fend off its enemies, local communities could mobilize state resources to both defend themselves and attack their enemies. The relationship, and frequent disconnect, between national-level cleavages and local ones constituted a major driver of violence and insecurity throughout the period covered here.3 While this account’s focus on France implies an elite-level analysis of Chad’s conflicts, readers should understand that they only constitute one key part of the story. Chad’s experience also furnishes a clear example of the interactive and often contradictory relationship among conflicts, foreign interventions, and state-building. As political scientist Sam Nolutshungu noted, Chad’s history and the weight of foreign intervenors in the evolution of its conflicts meant that the line between “internal” and “external” often blurred. This fuzziness profoundly affected the development of the Chadian state and its elites.4 In particular, Nolutshungu anticipated later theories of “extraversion” by several years. He argued that Chad’s politics were characterized by a “manipulation of dependence” in which both state and nonstate actors attempted to mobilize French support and resources for their own political projects.5 Throughout the two decades covered by this book, virtually every one of Chad’s armed factions would benefit from or seek French support at one point or 3 4

5

This phenomenon is hardly unique to Chad. See: Stathis N. Kalyvas, The Logic of Violence in Civil War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). Sam C. Nolutshungu, Limits of Anarchy: Intervention and State Formation in Chad (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1996), p. 15. Possibly due to his untimely death of cancer in 1997 and Chad’s relative obscurity in American academia, his work has not had the influence it deserves. Ibid., p. 14. For the most influential text on extraversion, see: Jean-François Bayart, “Africa in the World: A History of Extraversion,” African Affairs, Vol. 99, No. 395 (2000), pp. 217–267.

4

Introduction

another. Even when France was absent, it always weighed on the political calculus of Chadian faction leaders and elites. In part, this resulted from the inherent fluidity of alliances between and among the state and armed groups.6 This only intensified as the Chadian state began to collapse in the late 1970s. In this sense, Chad’s experience prefigured the kinds of conflicts parts of Africa would suffer in later decades. For instance, the period covered in this book marked the emergence of a fragmented territory controlled by a plethora of armed groups, most seeking control of the state. A number of contemporary observers described this scene in terms of “warlordism,” which had many parallels to later conflicts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among others.7 Chadian state collapse both partly resulted from and attracted foreign interventions, which prolonged civil war and profoundly shaped the nature of subsequent state-building. The history of France’s role in Chad provides a telling example of the ways in which foreign intervention aiming at stabilization and a negotiated political settlement can contribute to increased factional strife. It may also provide a relevant object lesson for policymakers today. In some limited respects, the recent history of Mali, and of the Sahel more broadly, parallels Chad’s misfortunes of the 1970s and 1980s.8 As in Chad, resources from Libya helped to upset the balance of power in Mali in 2012, turning a low-intensity conflict into a fullblown civil war that split the country into two. In both Chad and Mali, political tensions arising from the conflict weakened the ruling regime as well as the state, resulting in a coup d’état. In both cases, ransoms 6 7

8

See: Marielle Debos, Living by the Gun in Chad: Combatants, Impunity and State Formation (London: Zed Books, 2016). See: Robert Buijtenhuijs, Le Frolinat et les guerres civiles du Tchad: 1977–1984 (Paris: Karthala, 1987), p. 331, and Roger Charlton and Roy May, “Warlords and Militarism in Chad,” Review of African Political Economy, Vol. 16, No. 45/ 46 (1989), pp. 12–25. William Reno argues, however, that Chad’s case differed somewhat from later variants in that some leaders of armed groups derived part of their legitimacy as traditional leaders rather than having prewar links to state patronage networks. See: William Reno, Warfare in Independent Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 170–171. As Reno acknowledges, though, this was only partly the case. For France’s 2013 intervention in Mali, see: Christopher S. Chivvis, The French War on Al Qa’ida in Africa (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016); and Jean-Christophe Notin, La guerre de la France au Mali (Paris: Editions Tallandier, 2014).

Introduction

5

derived from kidnappings by rebel groups helped to finance their acquisition of weapons and patronage, allowing them to recruit and assert themselves more forcefully on the national stage. Also, both conflicts arose in part from political and economic imbalances between poorer communities in the North and a (relatively) wealthier and more educated southern elite, which dominated government. In both cases, northern combatants, many from pastoralist communities, benefited from high levels of mobility and vast strategic depth to mount successful offensives against southern-dominated governmental authorities. In both cases as well, the North-South dichotomy, while in some respects predating colonialism, derived its particular characteristics from a colonial reconfiguration of political organization and the imposition of new institutions. The effective conquest of the North of both countries by a collection of rebel movements engendered serious splits among rebels in both situations, threatening to complicate attempts at mediation and peacemaking. In both Chad and Mali, rebel advances southward triggered a major French intervention (1978 and 2013, respectively) in defense of the ailing and deficient southern government. In Chad, regional powers and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) attempted to mediate the conflict as well as organize military interventions. In Mali, the UN deployed a peacekeeping mission aimed at helping the reconstituted Malian government to stabilize the country. In Chad, a short-lived OAU Inter-African Peacekeeping Force charged with stabilization failed, due to a lack of resources and an ambiguous mandate. Today, the ongoing efforts of the “G5 Sahel,” comprising Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad, to effectively deploy a multilateral force to secure porous borderlands likewise suffers from funding uncertainties and an ill-defined mission.9 Meanwhile, in August 2014, the French operation in Mali, Opération Serval, merged with a 28-year-long French operation in Chad, Opération Épervier, along with additional elements and an expanded mandate to become Opération Barkhane. Unlike previous French interventions, Barkhane’s mandate extends throughout the G5 9

See: Nicolas Degrais, “Cinq ans après, une radioscopie du G5 Sahel: Des réformes nécessaires de l’architecture et du processus décisionnel,” Observatoire du monde arabo-musulman et du Sahel, March 2019. pp. 1–140, found at : https://www.frstrategie.org/web/documents/programmes/observatoire-dumonde-arabo-musulman-et-du-sahel/publications/201913.pdf.

6

Introduction

Sahelian countries. Responding to the persistence of various armed groups, the new operation’s official mission initially aimed to “support the armed forces of partner countries in the Sahel in their struggle against armed terrorist groups” and “contribute to preventing the reappearance of terrorist sanctuaries in the region.”10 France’s 1969–1972 intervention in Chad offers some insights into the kinds of obstacles to success that this mission may face. Like Barkhane, it aimed to support Chad’s army and government in their fight against a major insurgency. French counterinsurgency efforts combined military operations with efforts to reform the Chadian administration. It also armed and trained numerous ethnic militias to help contain and suppress the rebellion. While militarily successful, French investment in Tombalbaye’s regime and its empowerment of local chiefs contributed to longer-term instability. French protection meant that Tombalbaye no longer had much incentive to reach out to Chad’s marginalized communities, and the militia policy undermined efforts to reestablish state administration. It may also have contributed to high levels of local violence later in the decade. In many respects, Barkhane and the broader UN and international engagement in favor of the G5 states risk similar outcomes. The political elites of the countries at the core of the Sahel’s crises – Mali, Niger, and Chad – have benefited enormously from the resources and protection procured from the international community. This creates disincentives for these actors to push for the kinds of reforms and concessions necessary to provide sustainably stable futures for their peoples. Furthermore, French and broader Western dependence on Chadian strongman Idriss Déby for their policy goals may enable behaviors and practices that could undermine regional stability for years to come. A better understanding of previous French engagement in Chad can help to illustrate the dangers of just such a policy.11 This book also outlines the rise to power of Hissène Habré. Habré’s regime stands accused of killing some 40,000 people and imprisoning 10

11

French Defense Ministry, “Opération Barkhane,” found at: www.defense.gouv .fr/operations/operations/sahel/dossier-de-presentation-de-l-operationbarkhane/operation-barkhane, accessed 11.08.2014 (via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine – www.archive.org). See: Nathaniel K. Powell, “Battling Instability? The Recurring Logic of French Military Interventions in Africa,” African Security, Vol. 10, No. 1 (2017), pp. 47–72.

Approach

7

and torturing tens of thousands more. In May 2016, the Extraordinary African Chambers, an African Union–authorized special criminal tribunal established in Dakar, convicted Habré of crimes against humanity, torture, and war crimes. His sentence of life in prison was upheld on appeal the following year.12 As illustrated later in this book, Habré’s ruthless methods did not begin when he seized power in June 1982. Instead, he left a bloody trail behind him of executed prisoners, ethnic massacres, and indiscriminate urban warfare. French observers knew full well what kind of leader he would become, long before he consolidated his control over the country.

Approach This book is written as an unabashedly narrative history. I find this approach useful for two reasons. First, outside of Chad, the country’s history of conflict and foreign interventions is an unfamiliar one to most audiences. This includes many academics, activists, and policymakers. Even in France this story is largely unknown beyond a small circle of soldiers, scholars, and activists. To date, there exist few archivally sourced studies of French policy in Chad’s various conflicts.13 This book represents a first effort to trace the French role in Chad’s first two postindependence decades. Second, and perhaps more important, this method presents the best way of emphasizing the role of contingency and individual agency in a wider context often (and rightly) understood as neocolonial.14 In 12 13

14

See: Celeste Hicks, The Trial of Hissène Habré: How the People of Chad Brought a Tyrant to Justice (London: Zed Books, 2018). To date, the most extensive work is Ahmat Yacoub’s short study of FrancoChadian relations in the 1960s. See: Ahmat Yacoub, Les Relations francotchadiennes dans les années soixante (Paris: Publibook, 2003). Marc DeVore has also published two articles analyzing France’s first intervention in Chad, based on military records. See: Marc R. DeVore, “Institutions, Organizational Culture, and Counterinsurgency Operations: Why Do States Fight Similar Insurgencies Differently?” Comparative Strategy, Vol. 32, No. 3 (2013), pp. 169–191; and “Preserving Power after Empire: The Credibility Trap and France’s Intervention in Chad, 1968–1972,” War in History, OnlineFirst; first published, Sept. 20, 2018, pp. 1–30. For a nuanced analysis of the early neocolonial relationship, see: Alexander Keese, “First Lessons in Neo-Colonialism: The Personalisation of Relations between African Politicians and French Officials in sub-Saharan Africa, 1956–66,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, Vol. 35, No. 4 (2007), pp. 593–613.

8

Introduction

particular, it helps to clarify why a neocolonial relationship predicated on maintaining a stable authoritarian postcolonial order failed so spectacularly in Chad. This requires an initial discussion of the relationship between structure and agency in the postcolonial Chadian context.15 Any analysis of postcolonial politics in most of France’s former African colonies must take into consideration the enormous weight of French power.16 In his classic 1951 article “La situation coloniale: approche théorique,” French anthropologist Georges Balandier took colonial ethnographers to task for ignoring the central role of colonial domination in shaping societies in colonial territories. He argued that, given the sheer power of foreign political and economic control, it made little sense to study colonized communities in isolation from their “colonial situation,” which had profound impacts on social structures, identities, and politics. Balandier also presciently suggested that this would remain true for postcolonial societies.17 Indeed, France’s presence in most of its former African colonies after independence was nothing short of pervasive. This included the maintenance of regional military commands and bases, powerful French counselors embedded in local executives, large numbers of French military advisors with command responsibilities in African militaries, French-staffed intelligence agencies, French-dominated common currency regimes, and French subsidies to African state budgets. This was neocolonialism in its purest form. It responded to several mutually reinforcing imperatives: maintaining France’s status as a global power, enhancing French independence within an otherwise bipolar Cold War environment, guaranteeing access to vital raw materials, and protecting certain economic interests. The plethora of African clients also provided supportive votes at the United Nations and diplomatic assistance in other international fora. 15

16 17

For a deeper discussion of this question in the context of contemporary French policy in Africa, see: Benedikt Erforth, Contemporary French Security Policy in Africa: On Ideas and Wars (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), pp. 25–50. For more on this, see: John Chipman, French Power in Africa (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989). Georges Balandier, “La situation coloniale: approche théorique,” Cahiers internationaux de la sociologie, Vol. 11 (1951), pp. 44–79. For a retrospective look at this theme, as well as an overview of the evolution of postcolonial studies in France, see: Marie-Claude Smouts (ed.), La situation postcoloniale: les postcolonial studies dans le débat français (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2007).

Approach

9

Above all perhaps, especially during de Gaulle’s presidency, it represented an important element of international prestige for a French political class scarred by a long run of defeats, stretching from the fall of France in 1940 to the losses of Indochina and Algeria. In practice, this meant that political stability became both a precondition for and aim of French policy on the continent. In some respects, it may have succeeded. A statistical analysis conducted by economists Paul Collier, Anke Hoeffler, and Dominic Rohner has suggested that from 1965 to 1999, former French colonies were only a third as likely as other comparable African countries to experience a civil war. They attributed this difference to the security guarantee that France provided to many of its former possessions.18 Reality was of course more complex, and “stability” is a relative term. French policymakers certainly saw instability as a constant threat from the beginning. From 1963 to 1975, for instance, 11 former French territories experienced 16 successful coups d’état.19 This did not compare favorably to the rest of the continent, which experienced 21 successful coups in 16 countries over the same period.20 The key French concern, though, generally remained the political attitudes of new regimes toward France and their commitment to preventing unwanted Communist, anticolonial, or even American influence from interfering with French prerogatives. With a few exceptions – most notably in Guinea, Congo-Brazzaville and Dahomey – French policymakers succeeded in protecting their own sphere of influence.21 A 1964 intervention to reverse a coup in Gabon bolstered French commitment in this regard. This signaled that France would protect its closest clients (especially in Gabon, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, and Senegal) from overthrow. 18

19

20 21

Paul Collier, Anke Hoeffler, and Dominic Rohner, “Beyond Greed and Grievance: Feasibility and Civil War,” Oxford Economic Papers, Vol. 61, No. 1 (2009), p. 15. MAE La Courneuve, DAM 1959–1979, Carton 298, “Tableau récapitulatif des coups d’états militaires en Afrique,” undated, 04.1975. The coups were: Togo (1963, 1967), Congo-Brazzaville (1963, 1968), Dahomey (1963, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1972), Central African Republic (1966), Haute-Volta (1966), Mali (1968), Madagascar (1972, 1974), Niger (1974), and Chad (1975). Ibid. The above document lists 23 coups, though two of these were unsuccessful (Ethiopia in 1960 and Ghana in 1967). See : Jean-Pierre Bat, La fabrique des “barbouzes”: Histoire des réseaux Foccart en Afrique (Paris: Nouveau Monde éditions, 2015).

10

Introduction

In Chad, however, the “Franco-African state” failed to hold together as the country slipped into a recurrent cycle of armed conflict. This raises the question of why Chad was the only French African client to experience insurgency, war, and state collapse on such a large scale in the early independence years.22 Addressing this question requires examining the ways in which conditions specific to Chad interacted with the broad and imposing field of French influence. This demands an attention to chronology and the relationships between key actors that a narrative approach is well-equipped to provide. Such an approach also allows for a meticulous analysis of the limits to French power, particularly in the strategies employed by various Chadians to maximize their autonomy from external constraints. The narrative approach is also useful for presenting a detailed case study of French military interventionism in Africa. From 1960, when most of its colonies won their independence, to the present day, France has intervened over fifty times on the continent.23 The most significant of these operations aimed to protect sitting regimes or political orders from disruption or overthrow. Chad has seen more of these interventions than any other country. This book provides a thorough accounting of France’s first two interventions there. The narrative approach here serves to underline the uncertainties and ambiguities behind French policymaking, the limits of its effectiveness, and its impact on Chad’s political trajectory. In that vein, this book aims to provide an archivally sourced account of French involvement in Chad’s growing conflicts following its independence in 1960. The most substantial set of sources comes from the French Foreign Ministry Archives and the wide and eclectic range of material found in the little-known files of the “chargés de missions géographiques” in the Cooperation Ministry, located in the French 22

23

Cameroon was the closest comparable case, with a major insurgency breaking out against the French colonial authorities in late 1957. Though the main rebellion was crushed by 1962, scattered remnants survived into the early 1970s despite ferocious French and Cameroonian state repression. See: Thomas Deltombe, Manuel Domergue, and Jacob Tatsitsa, Kamerun! Une guerre cachée aux origines de la Françafrique (1948–1971) (Paris: La Découverte, 2011). For a rough list, see Commission des Affaires Etrangères, “Engagement et diplomatie: quelle doctrine pour nos interventions militaires?” Assemblée Nationale, Rapport d’Information no. 2777, May 20, 2015, pp. 115–133; Also see: Bruno Charbonneau, France and the New Imperialism: Security Policy in Sub-Saharan Africa (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008).

Approach

11

National Archives. This is complemented by limited material, also in the French National Archives, from the less-accessible Archives du secrétariat général des Affaires africaines et malgaches et de la Communauté (1958–1974), generally referred to as the “Fonds Foccart” after Jacques Foccart, the man most responsible for French African policy during this time. Additionally, material from the personal papers of Nigerian General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua (brother of the future Nigerian president) from the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation in Abuja, Nigeria, help clarify aspects of the important Nigerian role in Chad’s conflicts. Finally, numerous documents from the online CREST database of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have contributed to this volume. This book largely focuses on the French dimension of Chad’s postcolonial conflicts. This is therefore not a history of postcolonial Chad. It could hardly be otherwise, since most of its source base comes from French record collections. Time limitations and financial constraints also meant I was unable to conduct research in Chad itself. That said, due to the lack of significant English-language coverage of Chadian history, the book attempts to provide as much necessary context as space allows for unfamiliar readers.24 It strives to emphasize the extent to which Chadian agency influenced French decision-making and affected outcomes. It also, where possible, outlines Chadian views of French behavior. Given the available Chadian written sources, though, this inevitably has an elite bias, and the book therefore cannot claim to present a “history from below.”25 24

25

For the most thorough accounts in English, see: J. Millard Burr and Robert O. Collins, Darfur: The Long Road to Disaster (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2008); and Nolutshungu, Limits of Anarchy (note 4 above). The former is a cleverly renamed version of their original Africa's Thirty Years War: Libya, Chad, and the Sudan, 1963–1993, updated to attract attention to the historical roots of Darfur’s most recent crises. While a compelling narrative that stresses regional dynamics, it contains numerous factual and chronological inaccuracies. Also, for a concise history of warfare in Chad from precolonial times to the 1990s, see the excellent book by Mario J. Azevedo, Roots of Violence: A History of War in Chad (London: Routledge, 1998). Notable Chadian firsthand accounts include: Ahmad Allam-Mi, Autour du Tchad en guerre: Tractations politiques et diplomatiques 1975–1990 (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2014); Al Hadj Garondé Djarma, Témoignage d’un militant du FROLINAT (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2003); Goukouni Weddeye, “Témoignage pour l’histoire du Tchad,” Entretiens avec Laurent Correau, Radio France Internationale, 2008; Moussa Medella Youssouf, Pour le Tchad: Récit au cœur de la révolution (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2015).

12

Introduction

Furthermore, while the book is principally concerned with French involvement in Chad, France was not the only foreign actor involved in the country. Regional developments also deeply affected events there. Readers will note that, as the book moves forward chronologically, more states get involved, culminating in a plethora of intervenors in the early 1980s. This partly explains why France was unable to impose itself in ways it had been able to before. In that vein, this book also looks to place Chad’s wars in their regional context and gives extended treatment to other states such as Libya, Nigeria, and the Central African Republic. For the politics of Chad’s various rebellions, in addition to the memoirs and recollections of several Chadian combatants and political leaders, this book has leaned heavily on the work of late Dutch anthropologist Robert Buijtenhuijs. Well-connected with numerous faction leaders and combatants, Buijtenhuijs wrote the most reliable and well-informed studies of Chad’s conflicts to date. His record of scholarship and knowledge of the Chadian political scene led to his invitation as the only foreign observer to Chad’s 1993 Sovereign National Conference. In particular, his 1978 study Le Frolinat et les révoltes populaires du Tchad 1965–1976 and his follow-up 1987 volume Le Frolinat et les guerres civiles du Tchad: 1977–1984 are indispensable introductions to the history of conflict in postcolonial Chad.26 This book argues that French involvement in Chad’s politics, in conjunction with regional dynamics, helped create the conditions for the collapse of a neocolonial order in the country. By 1980, and notwithstanding the presence of a major intervention force, French policymakers had no effective control over Chad’s politics. Partly this stemmed from a lack of consensus among French officials about how to stabilize the country. It also related to the ways in which the combined and conflicting interests of states bordering Chad, particularly Libya and Nigeria, made it difficult for French diplomacy to benefit from its “traditional” Francophone African allies in support of French objectives. Chad’s own political divisions and the limited authority of its central government also greatly complicated French ambitions. This translated 26

Robert Buijtenhuijs. Le Frolinat et les révoltes populaires du Tchad 1965–1976 (The Hague: Mouton, 1978); and Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 7 above.

Approach

13

into changing French attitudes toward different factions in the country’s conflicts. Such a policy often lacked coherence and clearly elaborated goals. This incoherence and changes in the character and nature of French commitment over time also contributed to the eventual collapse of the Chadian state and helped to reinforce the country’s political fragmentation. France’s long history in Chad neither began with independence in 1960, nor ended with Habré’s rise to power. However, the years covered by this volume effectively mark a period of decolonization that began, rather than ended, with formal independence in the country. While arguably this process remains ongoing in some ways, the late 1970s and early 1980s signaled the end of the “Franco-Chadian state” and a neocolonial order as it was initially conceived. It is impossible to know what would have happened in the absence of French involvement, military or otherwise. Historians tend to avoid counterfactuals, though any causal claim carries implicit assumptions about alternatives. Independent Chad inherited deep structural imbalances in political power from colonialism. French colonial rule also aggravated existing social cleavages and created new ones. These, combined with the imperatives of state-building in a landlocked, sparsely populated, and extremely poor country, would have made it unlikely that postcolonial Chad could have remained peaceful, even in the absence of a strong French presence. That said, the deep embeddedness of French actors within the Chadian state, military, and economy profoundly shaped the specific direction in which Chad’s conflicts developed. In many ways, the French presence helped to exacerbate them. This volume aims to explain how, and why.

|

1

“Experts in Decolonization”

The French empire in sub-Saharan Africa formally ended in 1960. That year, France’s remaining West African and Equatorial African possessions, as well as Madagascar, gained their independence. This resulted in part from the costs and political polarization generated by the Algerian War, combined with the rising power of African political elites. It also responded to global trends and shifting norms that called the legitimacy of colonialism into question. More immediately, it stemmed from an inability of French and African elites to agree on the organization and modalities of a “French community” linking semiautonomous African territories to the metropole. Although a central feature of the 1958 constitution inaugurating the French Fifth Republic, the edifice lasted less than two years.1 What followed, though, was more of an imperial restructuring than the end of empire. The transition was also very much a joint project between French and African elites. African leaders benefited politically and economically by maintaining close ties to France. French power and resources allowed them to consolidate their authority. In exchange, African elites would serve as crucial conduits of French influence.2 The new Franco-African “special relationship” was formalized through a variety of institutions and agreements. Crucially, this 1

2

This chapter is derived, in part, from: Nathaniel K. Powell, “Experts in Decolonization? French Statebuilding and Counterinsurgency in Chad, 1969–1972,” International History Review, Vol. 42, No. 2 (2020), pp. 318–335. For good English-language histories of decolonization in francophone Africa, see: Tony Chafer, The End of Empire in French West Africa: France’s Successful Decolonization? (Oxford: Berg, 2002); Frederick Cooper, Citizenship between Empire and Nation: Remaking France and French Africa, 1945–1960 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014); Elizabeth Schmidt, Cold War and Decolonization in Guinea, 1946–1958 (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2007); Martin Thomas, Fight or Flight: Britain, France, and Their Roads from Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

14

“Experts in Decolonization”

15

included the creation of the Le ministère de la Coopération (the Cooperation Ministry). Established in 1961, it aimed to maintain strong and quasi-exclusive ties between France and its former African colonies. In 1964, Foreign Minister Maurice Couve de Murville tellingly described “cooperation” in imperial terms as “the means for the colonial power to pursue the work of civilization and development, whose benefit is admitted wholeheartedly as soon as it was no longer imposed from the outside.”3 While the Cooperation Ministry, at times subsumed into the Foreign Ministry, dealt with economic and military assistance to France’s former colonies, the Foreign Ministry (often referred to by its Parisian address, the “Quai d’Orsay”) itself was only meant to handle more traditional “political” responsibilities. This included providing consular assistance to French citizens and day-to-day diplomatic relations with host countries. The role of other ministries involved in African affairs, particularly Defense and Finance, meant substantial bureaucratic infighting. Nonetheless, the Secrétariat général des Affaires africaines et malgaches served as the lynchpin for most Africa policy in Paris until its dissolution in 1974. Its director, Jacques Foccart, epitomized in the eyes of many the Franco-African relationship.4 While ministries squabbled over competencies, Foccart’s institution, attached directly to the Elysée Palace (the French presidency), dealt with political, economic, cultural, and security matters at the same time. His office served in a coordinating role, but also in many respects superseded ministerial mandates. Foccart’s close relationship with de Gaulle (1958–1969), his successor Georges Pompidou (1969–1974), and numerous African leaders meant he held disproportionate influence over Africa policy. Foccart would acquire a dark reputation as a puppet master of French neocolonialism. Though his power has often been exaggerated, his role in the use of mercenaries and covert operations in support of questionable regimes has contributed to this image.

3

4

Cited in: Frédéric Turpin, De Gaulle, Pompidou, et l’Afrique (1958–1974): Décoloniser et coopérer (Paris: Les Indes savantes, 2010), p. 64. Unless otherwise noted, all translations from French are mine. For Foccart’s life, see: Frédéric Turpin, Jacques Foccart: Dans l’ombre du pouvoir (Paris: CNRS Editions, 2015).

16

“Experts in Decolonization”

Foccart served as the agent of day-to-day relations between the French presidency and its African counterparts. In historian JeanPierre Bat’s analysis: De Gaulle and Foccart, who maintained an obvious intimacy with African leaders, had carefully prevented any excesses through the establishment of a rigorous protocol: the President would handle the official dimension of relations with “friends of France,” while Foccart would handle the unofficial side of these relations – at the risk, if need be, of serving as a scapegoat to protect the President.5

De Gaulle himself cared little about types of political regimes. What mattered was their impact on French interests.6 French policy at the time thus aimed to maintain stable pro-French political orders. Foccart later outlined this logic as a form of domino theory. He considered francophone Africa as a single edifice which could easily collapse if one of its component states fell victim to outside forces or internal subversion. Foccart viewed disorder as “contagious,” and prone to spread rapidly in the African context. Hence, regardless of the qualities of individual leaders or regimes, France was usually better off sustaining the status quo.7 Generally, this meant supporting highly personalized regimes with leaders who were largely unaccountable to their populations. This rested on a major intelligence presence aimed at stabilizing and protecting French clients, as well as on the threat of surgical military interventions to counter coup attempts against friendly leaders. As Chad’s conflicts escalated and it increasingly became prey to the ambitions of its neighbors in the late 1970s, French policymakers began to rationalize its importance as a strategic asset. Chad’s geographically central position meant it played a useful role in France’s military and security architecture in Africa. It also constituted a sort of buffer zone between France’s former colonies and Anglophone and Arabophone Africa. Furthermore, Chad’s status as the first colony to declare itself for Free France, and the role it played as a launching point 5 6 7

Jean-Pierre Bat, Le syndrome Foccart: La politique française en Afrique de 1959 à nos jours (Paris: Editions Gallimard, 2012), p. 373. Julian Jackson, A Certain Idea of France: The Life of Charles de Gaulle (London: Allen Lane, 2018), p. 756. Jacques Foccart, Foccart Parle: Entretiens avec Philippe Gaillard (Vol. 2) (Paris: Fayard, 1997), pp. 137–138.

A Franco-Chadian State

17

for the Free French Forces during the Second World War, afforded it a certain sentimental place within broader French officialdom.8 However, given its poverty and peripheral setting in the former empire, Chad was initially accorded little importance by Foccart and other French policymakers. Only the country’s chronic instability, gradually intensifying conflict, and the consequent commitment of French troops and prestige later led to an ideologically informed reimagining of Chad as a critical element of France’s African policy.9 As in many of its former colonies however, the French presence in the country immediately following its independence remained pervasive, despite its marginal status.

A Franco-Chadian State In independent Chad, French policy exerted its influence through several channels.10 On a formal level, as with many other former colonies, Chad and France had signed a military assistance accord and a mutual defense pact. This provided for French assistance in establishing a national army.11 It also included a secret convention providing for French assistance in the domestic “maintenance of order.” Accordingly, Chad could request direct French military participation in the repression of internal revolts. Under these circumstances, command of the Chadian military would pass directly under French control.12 8

9

10

11

12

For more on France’s African colonies in the Second World War, see: Eric T. Jennings, Free French Africa in World War II: The African Resistance (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015). For the ideological dimensions of French strategic thinking, see: Sam C. Nolutshungu, Limits of Anarchy: Intervention and State Formation in Chad (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia 1996), pp. 67–68. For the broader concept of a “Franco-African” state, see: Jean-Pierre Dozon, “L’Etat Franco-Africain,” Les Temps Modernes, Vol. 2002/4, No. 620–621 (2002), pp. 261–288. For more on the French role in building postcolonial African militaries, see: Riina Turtio, “Decolonization of the Means of Coercion: Building National Militaries in Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire and Upper Volta, 1958–1973,” Ph.D. Dissertation, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, 2016; and Riina Turtio, “Cooptation, Coercion and Political Authority: Foreign Assistance and Control of the Military in Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire and Upper Volta 1958–74,” International History Review, DOI: 10.1080/ 07075332.2019.1711144, Published online 09.01.2020. Archives Nationales, Versement 0019840224/1–21, FCMGT (Fonds des chargés de mission géographique au Tchad), Carton 6, A8/1 Mission militaire de

18

“Experts in Decolonization”

The French commitment to Chad’s president, François Tombalbaye, went beyond a formal agreement.13 The French embassy in Fort-Lamy kept a signed, undated letter from Tombalbaye requesting French protection should his personal safety come under threat. This constituted a promise of “automatic intervention” under extreme circumstances.14 France extended this kind of personal guarantee to several of its other African clients as well. Additionally, at independence, France maintained a large military presence in Chad. Although reduced from some 3,000 troops to 1,000 as part of a reorganization of France’s overseas presence in 1965, it served an important role in France’s overall security posture in Africa. Its central position made it easier for French forces to intervene in neighboring countries. Furthermore, it could, and would, serve as a source of support for the Chadian government if called upon.15 It also protected French citizens living Chad. In 1969 these numbered some 6,700.16 French personnel also permeated Chad’s security and intelligence apparatus. As part of its efforts to secure stable and friendly regimes in postcolonial Africa, France’s foreign intelligence agency, the Service de documentation extérieure et de contre-espionnage (SDECE) worked closely with African political elites to build local intelligence services. This process was supervised by Postes de liaison et de renseignement (PLRs) attached to African presidencies. PLRs were also charged with nonclandestine intelligence collection. The Chadian intelligence agency, the Bureau de coordination et de synthèse du renseignement (BCSR), started as a local extension of

13

14

15 16

coopération, “Note sur notre assistance militaire technique au Tchad,” 18.11.1974, p. 1. For a good overview of the internal dynamics of Tombalbaye’s regime, see: Bichara Idriss Haggar, Histoire politique du Tchad sous le régime du Président François Tombalbaye 1960–1975: Déjà le Tchad est mal parti! (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2007). Jacques Foccart, Le Général en mai: Journal de l’Élysée - II: 1968–1969 (Paris: Librairie Arthème Fayard/Jeune Afrique, 1998), diary entry for 04.10.1968, p. 374. Ultimately though, France did not hold up its end of the bargain. Pierre Dufour, La France au Tchad depuis 1969 (Boulogne-Billancourt: ETAI, 2009), p. 32. MAE (Ministère des affaires étrangères) La Courneuve, DAM (Direction des affaires africaines et malgaches) Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 13, telegram from Wibaux to Paris, “Remplacement de M. Roy,” 08.10.1969.

A Franco-Chadian State

19

SDECE, often relying on it for information and personnel.17 Created in mid-1962, it was originally subordinated to the Chadian army. At first, it consisted largely of French officers attached to Chadian prefects as “military advisors” with the aim of collecting intelligence for the regime and ensuring the political loyalty of senior government administrators. From December 1963 onward, its director was Captain Camille Gourvennec, a French artillery officer.18 Before long, French ambassador Guy de Commines felt strongly that the BCSR had outlived its usefulness. Chadian administrators resented having French eyes looking over their shoulders, and by mid-1964 its agents complained about government prefects cutting them out of local affairs. Other officers were removed and not replaced.19 While Commines saw this as a natural assertion of Chadian sovereignty, Gourvennec was fashioning a new role for the agency. Though still a serving French officer on a military assistance contract, Gourvennec quickly began earning Tombalbaye’s trust by helping uncover real or perceived threats to his regime. Within a few years, he became one of the most powerful, and feared, figures in Chad. Meanwhile, Tombalbaye grew suspicious of the PLR’s activities. As explained later, Tombalbaye’s dependence on France also bred paranoia about French motives, and fears that Foccart might attempt to replace him with a more pliable alternative. This culminated in 1967 when Tombalbaye – on information provided by Gourvennec – accused former PLR chief Captain Mallet of conspiring to overthrow the regime. In response, the head of SDECE’s Africa branch, Maurice Robert, flew to Fort-Lamy. After a heated encounter with Tombalbaye, he recommended closing the PLR station.20 In a report to Foccart, Robert asserted Mallet’s innocence, but noted that with the PLR gone, SDECE would have to focus on “clandestine collection for the exclusive benefit of France.”21 17 18

19 20 21

Bat, Syndrome Foccart, note 5 above, p. 189. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 15, Folder 1964, Note from Ambassador Guy de Commines to Foreign Minister Maurice Couve de Murville, “a/s. des Conseillers Militaires de Préfecture,” 30.06.1964. Ibid. For an imperfect recollection of the affair, see: Maurice Robert, “Ministre” de l’Afrique: Entretiens avec André Renault (Paris: Seuil, 2004), pp. 121–126. Archives Nationales, AG/5(F)/659. “Rapport de mission du commandant Maurice Robert à Fort-Lamy du 20 au 24 octobre 1967,” Conclusions, 31.10.1967 also cited in Jean-Pierre Bat, Les réseaux Foccart: L’homme des affaires secrètes (Paris: Nouveau Monde éditions, 2018), Kindle e-book, loc. 3392.

20

“Experts in Decolonization”

To accomplish this, Robert had little choice but to convince Gourvennec to work as SDECE’s main informant. Ultimately this placed Gourvennec in an extremely powerful position. His “success” in rooting out adversaries, combined with his status as a nonthreatening foreigner, commended him to Tombalbaye. Meanwhile, his position as France’s indispensable point of contact for intelligence on Tombalbaye’s regime also ensured influence over his French handlers. As Robert wrote to Foccart, “Captain Gourvennec’s privileged position must be protected, especially if the PLR has to go.”22 It was Gourvennec himself who helped compromise the PLR in the first place. With the PLR’s closure, the BCSR had become functionally autonomous from French intelligence.23 Gourvennec soon retired from the French army to maintain his position in Chad. In 1970, Tombalbaye formalized the BCSR’s independence, renaming it the Centre de coordination et d’exploitation du renseignement (CCER).24 Partly in response to its notorious brutality as the regime’s secret police, in early 1974 French authorities finally withdrew active-duty French personnel from the agency, though it remained staffed by a number of French contractors.25 France also maintained a large presence in Chad’s economy. After independence, Chad heavily depended upon France as an export market and as a source of imports. For instance, from 1967 to 1974, France accounted for between 30 and 50 percent of Chad’s imports, and 50 to 80 percent of its annual exports.26 French influence reached deep into the country’s limited export sector. Since the imposition of cotton cultivation on Chad’s southern populations in the late 1920s, cotton production had remained the mainstay of the country’s economy. Throughout the 1960s, cotton averaged between 70 and 80 percent of Chad’s exports, the rest consisting of cattle, beef, and leather goods.27 Cotton also represented Chad’s most important source of

22 24 25 26 27

23 Ibid. Bat, Syndrome Foccart, note 5 above, pp. 205–209. Bat, Syndrome Foccart, note 5 above, pp. 205–209. Pierre Claustre, L’affaire Claustre: Autopsie d’une prise d’otages (Paris: Editions Karthala, 1990), p. 110. Goni Ousman Abakar, “Le commerce extérieur du Tchad de 1960 à nos jours,” doctoral thesis, Université de Strasbourg, 2010, p. 34. Robert Buijtenhuijs, Le Frolinat et les révoltes populaires du Tchad 1965–1976 (The Hague: Mouton, 1978) p. 22.

A Franco-Chadian State

21

foreign exchange, though never enough to cover basic needs.28 Although small landholders dominated production (some 600,000 individual planters in 1974),29 French interests, largely in the form of the Société cotonnière franco-tchadienne, had exclusive rights to the purchase, ginning, transportation, and marketing of the cotton crop.30 Meanwhile, like many of France’s former colonies, Chad signed a comprehensive set of cooperation accords with France upon its independence. These accords allowed French nationals and firms to benefit from the same status accorded to Chadian citizens in terms of taxation and economic activity.31 At the same time, Chad’s membership in the French-backed CFA franc currency zone guaranteed freedom of capital flows between France and member states. The small size of Chad’s economy meant its government had little influence within the region’s central bank, the Banque des Etats de l’Afrique centrale (BEAC), contributing only one voting member out of the twelve on the Bank’s board.32 Thus, Chad’s government had virtually no control over its money supply and interest rates, while the BEAC severely limited available credit. Although this ensured price stability and restrained fiscal profligacy, the lack of constraints on capital transfers, combined with differences between international and domestic interest rates, deterred local savings and reinvestment of earnings in Chad.33 More cynical observers, such as the Chadian economist and former minister Gatta Gali Ngothé, suggested that the franc zone only served to “drain the wealth of the colonies toward the metropole through the banking system.”34 To partially compensate for this, and to maintain influence over the 28 29 30 31

32

33 34

Ulrich Stürzinger, “Tchad: ‘mise en valeur,’ coton et développement,” Revue Tiers Monde, Vol. 24, No. 95 (1983), p. 646. Buijtenhuijs, Les révoltes populaires, note 27 above, p. 25. Abakar, “Le commerce extérieur,” note 26 above, p. 38. “Convention d’établissement entre la République Française et la République du Tchad,” 11.08.1960. Found at : https://basedoc.diplomatie.gouv.fr/exl-php/ recherche/mae_internet___traites (accessed 09.05.2020). Article 34. “Statuts de la Banque des Etats de l’Afrique centrale,”appended to “Convention de Coopération Monétaire entre les Etats membres de la Banque des Etats de l’Afrique centrale (B.E.A.C.) et la République française,”signed on 23.11.1972, found at https://basedoc.diplomatie.gouv.fr/exl-php/recherche/ mae_internet___traites (accessed on 09.05.2020). World Bank, “Republic of Chad Economic Memorandum” 1977, p. 18. Gatta Gali Ngothé, Tchad: guerre civile et désagrégation de l’Etat (Paris: Présence africaine, 1985), p. 132.

22

“Experts in Decolonization”

regime, the French government frequently covered parts or all of Chad’s budget deficits with direct-subsidy payments.35 The enormous French presence easily lent itself to accusations of neocolonialism.36 Nevertheless, as illustrated by SDECE’s problems in Chad, this supremely unequal relationship did not easily translate into control. Relations between France and Tombalbaye’s regime rarely exhibited much warmth, and sometimes degenerated into outright hostility. At the same time, the overwhelming French presence in the country also enabled Tombalbaye and the Chadian ruling elite to conduct radically destabilizing policies, which ultimately drew in ever deeper French involvement.

The Road to Civil War The outbreak of civil war in Chad resulted from factors mostly linked to the growing heavy-handedness of the state. This in turn had deep roots in earlier French colonial governance. From their initial expansion into the Lake Chad basin in 1900 and until the 1920s, when most of the territory passed under civilian rule, French officials invested little in the colony’s economic development. Instead, metropolitan demands for financial self-sufficiency meant extortionate taxation and fierce repression. From 1906 until at least 1925, the Chadian territorial budget registered surpluses every year but one.37 The impact on the colony’s economy was drastic, leading to recession and at times exacerbating famine conditions. The early colonial regime thus taxed much and spent little, ensuring that Chad could become “the richest of the poorest colonies” off the backs of its people.38 Beginning in the 1920s, French administrators looked to make the colony more profitable. They concentrated most investment in infrastructure and schooling in the southern third of the colony. The people 35 36 37

38

World Bank, “Le Développement du Tchad: Possibilités et Limites,” Rapport Economique de la Banque Mondiale, 1974, p. 52. See notably: Anonymous, Tchad: une néo-colonie (Paris: Éd. Gît-leCoeur, 1972). See Table IV in: Raymond Gervais, “La plus riche des colonies pauvres: La Politique monétaire et fiscal de la France au Tchad 1900–1920,” Canadian Journal of African Studies/Revue Canadienne des Etudes Africains, Vol. 16, No. 1 (1981), p. 105. The only deficit year was 1914 during a famine, when the budget registered a shortfall of a mere 6,672.62 francs. Ibid., 106–111.

23

The Road to Civil War

L

I

B

Y A

Aozou

BORK OU -E N N E D I-TI B E S T I

N IG ER

Faya-Largeau Fada Koro Toro

C

H

LAC Bol Lake Chad

A

Salal

Mao

OUADDAÏ

Mangalmé

Bitkine

GU

(Fort Lamy)

BAGUIRMI

Massenya

Lai

Moundou

Doba

LOGONE ORIENTAL

CENTR

Map 2 Map of Chad

SALAMAT

Harazé Mangueigne

Korbol

M O Y E N - Kyabé Sarh

(Fort Archambault

CHARI

Koumra

Moïssala

AL

I AFR

Chad

I BL

C

BBI

KE

N C A M E R O O

Kelo

LOGONE OCC.

Am Timan

A

R

O - TANDJILE

Goz Beïda

Abou Deïa

E

Pala

Melfi

Bousso

Tine Guéréda

Am Dam Mongo

N’Djamena

MAY

D Biltine Abéché Adré

Djédaa Oum Hadjer

Ati

CHARI- Bokoro

Gélengdeng Bongor

B I LT I N E

B AT H A

Moussoro Massakory

NIGERIA

Arada

S U D A N

K AN E M

CA 0 0

N

RE

PU

100 50

200 100

300 150

200

400

500 km

250

300 miles

24

“Experts in Decolonization”

of this region, many from the broad collection of communities known as the Sara, would in some ways suffer the most from colonialism in the territory. They served as a major source of forced labor, most notoriously for railroad construction in Congo-Brazzaville, army conscription, and imposed cotton cultivation. The latter, constituting Chad’s only major export until significant oil drilling began in the 2000s, led colonial administrators to refer to this region as “useful Chad.”39 At the same time, most of the small number of Chadians educated in the colonial system were also Sara. This meant that southerners would dominate the government, state bureaucracy, and regional administrations of the entirety of independent Chad. These Sara elites and administrators, largely Christian or practicing local religions, had little in common with the rest of the country. Though ethnically heterogeneous and divided between nomadic, pastoralist, and sedentary communities, the population of the northern two-thirds of Chad was almost entirely Muslim. They also formed at least half of the country’s population of some three million people.40 Many of these communities belonged to previously powerful sultanates or confederations before the French conquest, and they resisted French colonial attempts at assimilation. Adding to this, the Sahel and the Sahara dominated the environment and climate in the North, and the French saw few profitable economic opportunities there. Apart from military operations to suppress rebellions and a few infrastructure projects, French colonizers did little for northern economic and political development. Hence, from the northern point of view, postcolonial Chad merely represented the replacement of one set of colonial overlords with another. Occasional racism and ambient disdain toward southern “slaves” – a holdover from a precolonial era when southern Chad was a major target for slave-raiding – exacerbated this feeling of alienation.

39

40

For the colonial origins of Sara identity formation, see: René Lemarchand, “The Politics of Sara Ethnicity: A Note on the Origins of the Civil War in Chad,” Cahiers d’études Africaines. Vol. 20, No. 80 (1980), pp. 449–471. Also see: Mario Azevedo, “The Human Price of Development: The Brazzaville Railroad and the Sara of Chad,” African Studies Review, Vol. 24, No. 1 (1981), pp. 1–19. Note that in common usage the “North” actually refers to most of the country’s territory.

The Road to Civil War

25

The main vehicle for southern political elites was the Parti progressiste tchadien (PPT).41 It was created in 1946 as a fully national party.42 Its early mobilizing slogan, “no more cotton, no more chiefs, no more taxes,” especially appealed to southerners, who suffered from all three. Quickly it become a party almost exclusively representing southern interests. Its apparent radicalism initially pushed French officials into supporting more conservative Muslim parties. This only changed with the approach of independence, as more radical northerners threatened French interests and the PPT moderated its social stance.43 The half decade following independence saw PPT leader François Tombalbaye solidify his personal control over the party. He began by outmaneuvering, exiling, arresting, or forcibly retiring potential rivals. Tombalbaye employed the same tactics against opposition leaders, particularly Muslim ones with constituencies in northern Chad. Then, in January 1962, he abolished all other political parties, transforming Chad into a single-party state. In 1963 he removed most taxgathering and customary justice powers from local chiefs. Though this conformed to the PPT’s early party line, it severely exacerbated tensions between North and South.44 While the French colonial administration had imposed a widely detested and abusive chiefly authority in southern Chad, local elites in much of the North often benefited from more legitimacy. In part, this related to the ways that French colonial officials had chosen to rule northern Chad through chiefs associated with precolonial polities such as the sultanates of Ouaddaï, Kanem, and Baguirmi. Also, given the lack of French investment and political interest in much of the North, these customary authorities were not associated with repressive state authority in the same way southern chiefs were.45

41

42 43 44 45

For a good overview of the internal dynamics of Tombalbaye’s regime, see: Haggar, Histoire politique du Tchad sous le régime du Président François Tombalbaye, note 13 above. Samuel Decalo, Historical Dictionary of Chad (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1997), 334–335. Christian Bouquet, Tchad: genèse d’un conflict (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1982), pp. 121–124. Mohamed Tétémadi Bangoura, Violence politique et conflits en Afrique: le cas du Tchad (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2005), pp. 128–133. Bouquet, Tchad, note 43 above, pp. 91–92.

26

“Experts in Decolonization”

This process culminated in a bloody incident in Fort-Lamy, on September 16, 1963. Police attempts to end a meeting of several major Muslim opposition figures led to a large-scale riot. Tombalbaye sent army and gendarmerie units, commanded by French officers, to suppress it and arrest the opposition leaders.46 The regime reported 19 dead and 20 injured, while Chadian opposition figures claimed that 100 people had died and 400 were wounded by the attack on the demonstrators.47 This act removed the last remnants of Tombalbaye’s formal opposition from the political scene, thus opening space for a younger generation of more radical militants. Meanwhile, the administration in the far northern Borkou-EnnediTibesti desert region known as the BET remained in French hands until 1965. Nonetheless, the unbalanced nature of political power quickly resulted in growing tensions. The replacement of French administrators by southern cadres with little or no knowledge of the cultures and languages of the North reinforced a broad sense of alienation from the state. A number of abuses quickly characterized the new government administration. In addition to his desire to solidify his power base, Tombalbaye’s regime faced serious fiscal constraints on state-building. Until 1964, French officials oversaw parts of the government’s tax administration, treasury, and budgeting offices. This imposed some fiscal discipline on the Chadian budget, preventing it from experiencing any deficits after 1958. While not optimal for economic development, it did restrain some of the gratuitous corruption that would later become the norm. The departure of these officials, or their transition into advisory roles in 1964, “served as a signal for a general run on the state treasury (embezzlement, scheming, influence peddling).”48 The first budget deficits appeared in 1965, and French officials worried that the budgeting process for 1966 would set the stage for later problems of fiscal sustainability.49

46 47 48

49

Jean-Pierre Bat, “Le rôle de la France après les indépendances: Jacques Foccart et la pax gallica,” Afrique contemporaine, Vol. 2010/3, No. 235 (2010), p. 46. Buijtenhuijs, Les révoltes populaires, note 27 above, p. 97. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1, “Confidentiel Tchad,” Note of unclear origin, probably from the Cooperation Ministry, “Situation générale dans la République du Tchad,”10.01.1966, p. 3. Ibid., p. 4.

Frolinat

27

The need to raise enough revenue to support the state apparatus and finance political patronage led Tombalbaye to raise taxes. He accompanied these tax increases in 1964 with a “national loan.” Chadians, both in the North and South, who already suffered from excessive taxation, often failed to understand why the taxman returned a second, or even third time for the “loan.” The high levels of corruption – half of the 1965–1966 loan disappeared before reaching government coffers – and recourse to brute force by tax collectors generated enormous resentment against the regime in the countryside.50 This culminated in the Mangalmé tax riots in October and November 1965. There, in Chad’s central Batha prefecture,51 simmering local complaints about administrative abuses and coercive taxation among the Moubi population erupted into a full-scale revolt. Several high-level officials visiting from Fort-Lamy were targeted and killed in the violence. The regime’s security forces responded with extreme brutality, killing some 500 people.52

Frolinat News of the riots and their repression traveled quickly. By early 1966, open revolt had spread to large swathes of Batha and Ouaddaï prefectures. In the Lake Fitri region in the west of Batha, clashes erupted between residents and government forces. French observers cited unconfirmed reports that the Chadian army, the Armée nationale tchadienne (ANT) had burned villages to the ground and had killed 250–400 people. Local witnesses recounted that security forces tied up villagers accused of tax evasion and beat them to death. A French report sardonically noted that while Chadian military operations near Lake Fitri cost 2 million francs CFA per day, they only collected 500,000 francs CFA in taxes.53 50 51 52

53

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 3, Rapport de fin de mission – Guy de Commines de Marsilly, 16.03.1968, p. 14. N.B. In 1969 Tombalbaye changed the prefectural boundaries and placed Mangalmé in neighboring Guéra prefecture, where it remains to this day. Decalo, Historical Dictionary, note 42 above, pp. 284–285. For a detailed account, see: Netcho Abbo, Mangalmé: La révolte des Moubi (St-Maur, France: Editions Sépia, 1996). FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1, “Confidentiel Tchad,” Note of unclear origin, probably from the Cooperation Ministry, “Situation générale dans la République du Tchad,”10.01.1966, pp. 1–2.

28

“Experts in Decolonization”

Government administrators refused to leave provincial and regional centers to visit their areas of responsibility for fear of attack. This meant less tax collection and further reduced the ability of the government to reestablish its authority. A look at the government’s budgeting for 1966 shows the rapid impact this had on the state. After a month and a half of painstaking efforts directed by Tombalbaye himself, a government commission finalized a balanced budget of 10.5 billion CFA francs. This quickly disintegrated in response to immediate demands for increased spending on the ANT, police, and intelligence services. Tombalbaye deliberately overvalued expected revenue and undervalued other necessary expenses to compensate. Furthermore, Tombalbaye’s French military advisors, particularly the director of his military cabinet, Lt. Colonel Georges Marcou, apparently pushed hard for large spending increases to the ANT. Defense spending in 1966, increased by over 1 billion CFA francs from 1965 levels, reaching over 31 percent of the entire budget.54 Some French officials found this worrisome, and not only for financial reasons. One French report noted: It is very likely that, once established in the budget, these expenses will be difficult to reduce; it is hard to see how we could send recruits who have signed long-term contracts back to their homes and put superfluous officers on half-pay.. . . If French military advisors have a share of responsibility in this, it is certain that one day France will be admonished for it.55

These words would prove prescient. Chadian defense spending remained at this level or higher throughout the following decade. As unrest in the countryside spread throughout central and eastern Chad, armed resistance diversified. In addition to local uprisings, largely unorganized and focused on immediate demands, some organization began to appear. El Hajj Issaka, one of the more notable rebel leaders, parlayed his prestige as a deposed customary chief and his deep knowledge of the countryside to unify several disparate uprisings in Dar Sila, southeast of Abéché, into a more coordinated force.56 Meanwhile, neighboring Sudan became a refuge for several Chadian opposition figures and movements. These could draw upon the large Chadian diaspora in the country, perhaps numbering up to a million 54 56

55 Ibid., pp. 5–6. Ibid., p. 6. Buijtenhuijs, Les révoltes populaires, note 27 above, pp. 109–110.

Frolinat

29

people.57 Many people had left Chad during, and partly because of, colonial rule. Tombalbaye’s repressive practices and his alienation of Chad’s Muslims, along with better economic opportunities in Sudan, also encouraged a substantial exodus. In 1965, Chadian security forces became the target of small-scale cross-border attacks from Darfur in Sudanese territory. The group responsible for these attacks was the Front de libération du Tchad (FLT). Despite its name and an ostensibly national political program, the FLT largely consisted of exiles from Ouaddaï and confined its activities to that prefecture. In mid-1966, though, at a conference held in Nyala in Darfur, some of its cadres joined with more radical militants from the Union nationale tchadienne (UNT), to form the Front de libération nationale tchadien, shortened to Frolinat.58 The vicissitudes of this armed group would soon play an important role in the evolution of Chad’s nascent civil war. Frolinat’s rather motley leadership came from northern Chad and were Muslim, though some of its cadres were resolutely secular, or even atheist in outlook. The organization aimed to draw on the large Chadian diaspora in Sudan and elsewhere in the Arab world. Its rather generic leftist political program, though not entirely well-attuned to social and economic realities in Chad, was designed to appeal to Arab socialist regimes and to sympathetic ears in the Eastern Bloc. Like many self-declared liberation movements at the time, Frolinat aimed to attract university students. Chadian students in Arab universities, for instance, had little hope of finding state employment back in Chad, where French remained the only officially recognized language. Hence, not only did Frolinat’s program call for the addition of Arabic as an official language of Chad, but it recruited some of its earliest and most enthusiastic adherents among Chadian university students in Cairo. In 1965, seven of these students acquired several months of military training in North Korea. In mid-1966, these “Koreans,” joined Frolinat’s young leader, Ibrahima Abatcha, in the Chadian interior. Abatcha, a charismatic man in his twenties, was a committed socialist from Fort-Lamy. He, along with his “Korean” colleagues, quickly 57 58

Ibid., pp. 87–88. This was apparently modified to the Front de libération nationale du Tchad in 1970. See: Ibid., p. 121.

30

“Experts in Decolonization”

spread out in central and eastern Chad to recruit fighters. They also aimed to link their organizational vanguard with the many uprisings taking place all over the countryside. One of Abatcha’s major successes involved the recruitment of El Hajj Issaka as his military chief.59 This linked Frolinat to a competent and respected local leader. Nevertheless, Frolinat’s links with Issaka exposed one of the organization’s underlying weaknesses: its cultural and ideological fragmentation. While Abatcha, the “Koreans,” and other young members of Frolinat’s leadership shared a common left-wing ideology of national liberation, this did not apply to Issaka, who held much more conservative social and religious views. Other important members of Frolinat’s external representation also did not share Abatcha’s socialist ideology. For instance, Mohammed El Baghalani, another major figure in the rebellion, had close ties to religiously conservative milieus. As Abatcha’s primary representative in Sudan, he looked to the conservative Gulf states for arms and money, rather than forwarding Abatcha’s appeals to Nasserist Egypt or to other Arab socialists. While successful in providing some resources to Abatcha’s forces in the interior, he would later contribute to ideological and personal splits within Frolinat.60 Regardless, by 1967, Frolinat managed to establish itself as the most important single element within Chad’s various uprisings. During that year, the rebels solidly implanted themselves in Ouaddaï, Batha, Salamat, and Guéra prefectures. They targeted government-appointed officials for assassination and ambushed ANT units. French reports describe them as resorting to “classic” guerrilla tactics, aiming to exploit Muslim resentment against Chadian “blacks” and to prevent the central government from collecting taxes.61 French officials became concerned that pressure on tax collection had begun to lead Tombalbaye in dangerous directions. The costs of the war effort had forced Tombalbaye to make severe budget cuts elsewhere. A note to de Gaulle prepared by Foccart’s office reported that these had led to a “semi-paralysis of the administrative 59 61

60 Ibid. p. 133. Ibid., pp. 127–128. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 1, DAM Note n.39, “Synthèse des évènements politiques dans les Etats africains et malgache pendant les mois de JUIN, JUILLET, AOUT et SEPTEMBRE (n. 6, 7, 8 et 9),” 26.10.1967, p. 48.

Rebellion in the BET

31

machinery.” Morale among administrators had dropped precipitously and prominent ministers had begun looking for jobs outside the country. Foccart’s office also worried that the Chadian president had begun dealing with disreputable businessmen in a quest for easy money.62 At the same time, Tombalbaye made moves to replace Sara administrators with Muslim officials to assuage local grievances. French observers also felt that efforts to improve army leadership and training had begun to have an impact. Within the Chadian army, though, the sizeable presence of French advisors holding officer ranks contributed to a growing sense of malaise among the Chadian officer corps.63 Personal and ethnic rivalries strengthened this feeling, but resentment at an overbearing French presence was not limited to the military and would undermine later French efforts. The evolution of the insurgency in the following year highlighted both the inadequacies of the Chadian security establishment and the limits to what French military assistance alone could realistically accomplish.

Rebellion in the BET In March 1968, a contingent of Gardes nomades, local auxiliaries of the Chadian military, mutinied in the far northern town of Aozou. After killing several soldiers, other rebels joined the fight. Soon, they managed to encircle and besiege the town. Although the outbreak of violence in Aozou surprised Tombalbaye’s regime, it in fact represented the culmination of a process of discrimination and marginalization of local populations going back to 1965. The very remoteness and sparse population of the vast BourkouEnnedi-Tibesti (BET) prefecture contributed to its exclusion from national politics. Data from 1957, for instance, suggested that this territory, covering the entire northern half of Chad, only contained 46,000 inhabitants out of the country’s population of 3 million.64 62 63

64

Archives Nationales, AG/5(F)/2027, Note à l’attention de Monsieur le Président de la République, “Audience du Président Tombalbaye,” 24.04.1967. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 1, DAM Note n.13, “Synthèse des évènements politiques dans les Etats africains et malgache pendant les mois de FEVRIER et MARS 1967 (n. 2 et 3),” 12.04.1967, p. 30. FCMGT, Carton 1, A2/1, Centre militaire d’information et de documentation sur l’outre mer, “Le Tchad, Données essentielles sur les ethnies,” undated, 1979, Table, “L’Aire Toubou.”

32

“Experts in Decolonization”

The BET’s population, largely made up of the nomadic and highly decentralized Tubu, lived in a harsh desert climate completely alien to officials of the newly independent Chadian government.65 Until 1965, French officers continued to staff the BET’s administration. Only then did Chadian military officials take over the region’s skeletal bureaucracy. This proved disastrous. First, while the French presence, dating from colonial times, had ended raiding and slavery among the Tubu, both of which played important roles in sustaining the local economy, it had replaced them with subsidized goods and local employment. This ended in 1965 with the arrival of Chadian officials. Second, these officials came from southern Chad and, unlike their French predecessors, had little or no cultural or linguistic familiarity with their new charges.66 In September 1965, a violent altercation between locals and soldiers in Bardaï, the administrative center of Tibesti, led to the death of a soldier. According to a 1968 report written by Captain Pierre Galopin, a French officer on detached duty as Gourvennec’s deputy in the BCSR, the Chadian authorities reacted ferociously. The ANT rounded up the entire population of the village, stripped them naked and mercilessly beat many people. Though they eventually released the women and children, soldiers continued to torture many of the men, leading to several deaths and permanent injuries. Following this, local officials imposed draconian regulations forbidding men to wear turbans, to export livestock, to gather together, or to possess edged weapons – all carrying crushing fines and prison time as punishment.67 According to Galopin, the event which irrevocably triggered armed revolt resulted from regime efforts to impose the cultivation of food crops in areas unsuited to farming in 1966. This represented an awkward attempt to “sedentarize” the population. The Tubu strongly resented these heavy-handed attempts to assert government authority. The Derdé, an important and widely respected religious figure and judge among the Téda clan of the Tubu in Tibesti, requested a delay. Government officials used this request as a pretext to attempt to arrest the Derdé and impose heavy fines on recalcitrant Tubu. Instead, in 65 66 67

See the classic study: Jean Chapelle, Nomades noirs du Sahara: les Toubous (Paris: Editions L’Harmattan, 1982). Buijtenhuijs, Les révoltes populaires, note 27 above, p.150. Report by (then) Captain Pierre Galopin, 04.05.1968, cited in Anonymous, Tchad: une néo-colonie, note 36, pp. 63–65.

Rebellion in the BET

33

December 1966 the Derdé fled to neighboring Libya, followed by over a thousand people (Tibesti’s total population numbered less than 10,000 at the time).68 Frolinat took advantage of this by sending Mahamat Ali Taher, one of its top leaders, to Libya to coax the Derdé into open revolt. According to Goukouni Weddeye, the Derdé’s son and future leader of the northern rebellion, Taher played a vital role in mobilizing exiled Tubu.69 After securing the agreement of the Derdé, Taher, making use of his knowledge of different Tubu dialects and using Islam as a rallying cry, managed to recruit enough Tubu youth to attempt an attack on the northern settlement of Aozou in early March 1968.70 These rebels, joining with the Garde nomade mutineers, could not capture the settlement, but managed to effectively surround it and prevent supplies from reaching its beleaguered garrison. Several efforts by Chadian forces based in Bardaï, some 70 kilometers further south, to relieve Aozou failed. The tactics used by the Tubu rebels impressed French observers. Commenting on a large-scale ambush of an ANT column in late July, French military intelligence noted the high level of organization and planning evident among rebel ranks. They also felt that the rebels’ decision to return wounded government troops to Bardaï exhibited both exceptional discipline and represented a finely calculated political tactic.71 French intelligence concluded that immediate rebel demands seemed limited to the replacement of the military administration with a civilian one and better representation in the Chadian parliament. However, they feared that prolonged conflict and the involvement of Frolinat cadres with the northern rebellion could transform it into a more serious threat to the regime if Tombalbaye did not manage to defuse the immediate situation through negotiations.72 Indeed, the state of the Chadian military made it difficult to seriously envisage any other solution. 68 69 70 71

72

Ibid., pp. 65–66. Goukouni Weddeye, “Témoignage pour l’histoire du Tchad,” Entretiens avec Laurent Correau, Radio France Internationale, 2008, p. 25. Ibid., pp. 26–27. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 3, Report from EtatMajor-2ème Bureau, Forces Françaises de l’Escale d’Afrique Centrale, “Bulletin de Renseignement Mensuel No. 8 Période du 15 Juillet au 10 Août 1968,” 21.08.1968, p.3. Ibid., pp. 4–6.

34

“Experts in Decolonization”

In 1968, the various components of Chad’s security forces generally suffered from a lack of resources, an undersized officer corps, and low morale. Rivalry between services exacerbated these problems. The gendarmerie remained the best trained of the regular military formations. Consisting of some 700 men, it was spread thinly and suffered from a chronic lack of working vehicles.73 The ANT, consisting of nearly 2,000 troops by mid-1969,74 was in far worse shape. Ninety percent of its soldiers came from southern Chad, and the country had no training facilities for its officer corps. Most of its officers had either formerly served as junior or noncommissioned officers (NCOs) in the French military or were French NCOs on detached service. A dearth of funds and widespread corruption within the officer corps meant that the rank and file rarely received their full pay. Instead, many made a living by extorting civilians. This was facilitated by the fact that Tombalbaye had deployed the entire army in the North to maintain order and combat the growing rebellion. Southern soldiers, some of whom went five years without leave to visit their families, felt little connection to local populations. In the context of a counterinsurgency campaign, they unsurprisingly acted as an occupying army.75 The Garde nationale et nomade tchadienne, nominally some 2,800 strong in mid-1969, served as an auxiliary formation to the army. Its Garde nomade component largely consisted of mobile units recruited locally in the North, under local commanders. Often though, these would prove politically unreliable, as several mutinies, as at Aozou, led to defections to various rebel groups. Some of its units also tended to act as the enforcement squad of abusive local officials.76 Regardless, their knowledge of the terrain and peoples in their areas of operations did at times prove indispensable to regime and French “pacification” efforts. The Compagnies tchadiennes de sécurité (CTS) were emblematic of Tombalbaye’s efforts to concentrate power. This well-equipped 73

74

75

Jackie Neau, L’intervention de la France dans le conflit tchadien, 1969–1975: une guerre révolutionnaire introuvable, un fiasco en position de force (Paris: Mémoires d’hommes, 2006), p. 43. FCMGT, Carton 6, A8/1, Mission militaire de coopération, “Note sur les forces de sécurité tchadiennes et sur notre assistance militaire au Tchad,” 17.02.1971, p.1. This figure was presumably somewhat lower in 1968. 76 Neau, L’intervention de la France, note 73 above, pp. 43–44. Ibid., p. 44.

French Deployment in the BET

35

praetorian guard of some 600 troops was trained and led by Israeli advisors. Composed entirely of ethnic Sara, the CTS’s primary function was to protect Tombalbaye. Although sparingly deployed in counterinsurgency operations, it became notorious for its repressive tactics.77 All told, the Chadian security forces proved incapable of defeating a well-led and organized adversary in the BET, despite the Tubu rebellion’s deficiencies in arms and equipment. Realizing his difficult position, in August 1968 Tombalbaye invoked the Franco-Chadian defense accords to request French support to break the siege of Aozou.

French Deployment in the BET Over the previous year, however, Franco-Chadian relations had suffered several setbacks that may have induced initial hesitation in Paris. Starting in late 1967, the regime began harassing French small business owners with fines and new taxes. It expelled several French citizens on what embassy officials saw as specious pretexts, and limited travel authorizations for French citizens in Chad. In early January 1968, Tombalbaye gave a speech denouncing, French citizens for conducting, “a series of actions contrary to the mission which was assigned to them.”78 French officials thought this related to Tombalbaye’s frustration at failing to win election that year to the presidency of the Organisation commune africaine et malgache (OCAM), an intergovernmental grouping of Francophone African states. He seemed to blame France for this failure, and his anti-French rhetoric and activities served as a form of retaliation.79 To make matters worse, at least from the French perspective, in February Tombalbaye announced his decision to join a new regional customs union linking Congo-Kinshasa, the Central African Republic (CAR), and Chad. Tombalbaye saw this as an alternative to the customs union linking him to former French colonies in central Africa (Union douanière et économique de l’Afrique centrale, 77 78

79

Ibid., p. 44. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 1, DAM Note n.13 “Synthèse des évènements politiques dans les Etats africains et malgache pendant les [sic] mois de janvier 1968 (n. 1),” 26.02.1968, pp. 55–56. Ibid.

36

“Experts in Decolonization”

UDEAC), which he accused of stinginess in giving Chad its rightful share of customs revenue.80 This action came at the instigation of Congo-Kinshasa’s leader, Joseph-Désiré Mobutu. At the time, many French policymakers viewed Mobutu as an American pawn. Consequently, as with many African projects counter to their interests, de Gaulle and Foccart primarily saw an American hand behind these maneuvers.81 Although no evidence exists to substantiate this paranoia, and much evidence to the contrary, it worried French policymakers, fearful about an American bid to undermine their interests on the continent.82 Though the new customs union was unrealistic as a viable alternative to UDEAC, Tombalbaye’s move fit a pattern common among France’s more dependent African clients, particularly his southern neighbor, Jean-Bedel Bokassa in the CAR. Although Tombalbaye’s actual calculations remain unknown, they did seem to follow a certain logic. Chad’s substantial economic, political, and military dependence upon France opened Tombalbaye to accusations of serving as a neocolonial stooge. At the same time, French largesse could not, or would not, suffice for realizing his broader political project. This consisted of both building a more centralized state and concentrating increasing power into his own hands. Publicly demonstrating a degree of political independence from France, in part through public accusations and manufactured crises, served an ideological purpose of asserting sovereignty. He also likely felt it risked little in terms of ultimate French security guarantees.83 Indeed, for all the tension in the Franco-Chadian relationship, de Gaulle responded relatively promptly to Tombalbaye’s plea for help. As Foccart had pointed out, France not only had a formal commitment to protect Tombalbaye’s regime, but France’s other African clients would watch the French response carefully. This made an intervention 80

81 82

83

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 1, DAM Note n. 23 “Synthèse des évènements politiques dans les Etats africains et malgache pendant les mois d’AVRIL et de MAI 1968,” 01.07.1968, pp. 40–41. Jacques Foccart, Foccart Parle: Entretiens avec Philippe Gaillard (Vol. 1) (Paris: Fayard, 1997), p. 292. Pierre-Michel Durand, L’Afrique et les relations franco-américaines des années soixante: aus origines de l’obsession américaine (Paris: Harmattan, 2007), p. 479. For Tombalbaye’s logic, see: Nolutshungu, Limits of Anarchy, note 9 above, p. 84.

French Deployment in the BET

37

necessary to maintain French credibility among African allies.84 De Gaulle also felt a need to reassert French power and authority, as the recent May 1968 student and worker uprisings in France had shaken elite African faith in French resolve. De Gaulle thus agreed, telling his chief Africa advisor that, “Obviously we have to respect our commitments. I agree to a favorable response to Tombalbaye’s request, and we have to help him overcome this deteriorating situation.”85 However, de Gaulle did not want to relieve Aozou using French troops. Instead he ordered the deployment of AD-4 Skyraider groundattack aircraft to the BET to provide air support to the Chadian army. He also sent transport aircraft for logistical support and to help resupply the Aozou garrison by parachute.86 The French deployment in late August and early September served its purpose. Although French troops deployed in support of their aviation, the ANT lifted the siege of Aozou by themselves, and without a fight.87 Tombalbaye wanted his forces to occupy Aozou as a prelude to negotiations with the Tubu rebels. Nevertheless, the settlement’s isolation and risks of more losses led the ANT units relieving the town to withdraw with its small garrison almost as soon as they arrived.88 Regardless, the French presence restored a certain balance of power in the BET. While the ANT now had French firepower behind it, the Tubu rebels had simply withdrawn into the Tibesti Mountains and their forces remained intact. In mid-September, Tombalbaye publicly condemned his army’s past abuses and called for negotiations. To lead them, he designated Gourvennec’s deputy, Pierre Galopin.89 De Gaulle had hoped that his rapid response would quickly settle the Aozou situation and help restore government authority to a troubled region. Above all though, he insisted, “There is no question, of course, of getting bogged down in this affair.”90 Unfortunately, the conditions created by this small intervention would help set the stage for deeper involvement. In part, this came about because of the precedent set by 84 85 87 88 89

90

Foccart, Le Général en mai, note 14 above. Diary entry for 25.08.1968, p. 319. 86 Ibid. Ibid., diary entry for 26–30.08.1968, p. 320. Dufour, La France au Tchad, note 15 above, p. 36. Foccart, Le Général en mai, note 14 above. Diary entry for 10.09.1968, p. 334. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 3, Report from EtatMajor-2ème Bureau, Forces Françaises de l’Escale d’Afrique Centrale, “Bulletin de Renseignement Mensuel No. 10 pour la période du 12 Septembre au 10 Octobre 1968,” 22.10.1968, pp. 3–5. Foccart, Le Général en mai, note 14 above, diary entry for 25.08.1968, p. 320.

38

“Experts in Decolonization”

the intervention itself. More important though, Tombalbaye’s negotiations, implemented by Galopin, would buy short-term peace at the expense of years of intractable conflict. Initially, Tombalbaye seemed interested in negotiations with all elements of the Tubu rebellion. Particularly, he attempted to open channels to rebels linked to the Derdé, whose sons played a prominent leadership role in the revolt. As French military intelligence pointed out, though, “the Tubu camp is far from being homogeneous and an uncontrolled faction, or one politically interested in the failure of the negotiations can, at any moment, create an incident and call everything back into question.”91 Intelligence officials did not yet feel that Frolinat had successfully joined the Tubu rebellion to those occurring in central and eastern Chad. Nevertheless, they feared that badly conducted negotiations could provoke a more serious threat.92 Galopin’s efforts lasted from September 1968 to March 1969. He played off divisions within the Téda, the Tubu clan in Tibesti. This meant exploiting existing tensions between the Derdé’s family and its rivals. Partly this revolved around the fact that the position of Derdé was not hereditary. Instead, it was supposed to rotate among three families in the noble Tomagra sub-clan. The Derdé Weddeye Kefedemi was elected to his position in 1938, following the death of his predecessor, Chahaï. Chahaï’s family and their allies had contested Weddeye’s accession, even to the point of attempting an assassination the day he took the position.93 The brutality of Chadian military rule in the BET had temporarily united the exiled Derdé’s faction with his rivals in 1968. By March 1969 though, Sougoumi Chahaïmi, the chief of the Bardaï canton and son of the former Derdé, and Chahaï Sidimi, a Tubu notable and head of the Garde nomade detachment that had mutinied in Aozou, reached an agreement with Tombalbaye’s regime. This included giving the Téda a seat in the National Assembly and ensured a Tubu would fill the post of sub-prefect in Bardaï. Furthermore, Tombalbaye agreed to

91

92

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 3, Report from EtatMajor-2ème Bureau, Forces Françaises de l’Escale d’Afrique Centrale, “Bulletin de Renseignement Mensuel No. 10 pour la période du 12 Septembre au 10 Octobre 1968,” 22.10.1968, p. 5. 93 Ibid. Buijtenhuijs, Les révoltes populaires, note 27, pp. 156–159.

Evolution of the Rebellion

39

subsidies for consumer goods, tax reductions, and investment in educational infrastructure.94 In return, the Tubu representatives pledged loyalty to the regime and agreed to help restore order to Tibesti. They also sent a letter to the Derdé threatening to strip him of his position if he refused to return from exile.95 This agreement, brokered by Galopin, represented a major success for Tombalbaye. At relatively little cost, the bulk of the Tibesti rebellion, consisting of several hundred fighters, effectively switched sides. Goukouni Weddeye later pointed to this moment as foundational in the history of the rebellion. Goukouni held Galopin personally responsible for the split among the Tubu. Certainly, some of his resentment stemmed from the deaths of several of his brothers, one of whom was later killed in a skirmish with his former Tubu allies.96 One should add, however, that a reading of French ambassador Fernand Wibaux’s account of the negotiations suggests Galopin did not bear sole responsibility. Rather, the Derdé’s adversaries seemed eager to accept Tombalbaye’s concessions, which effectively handed them power over Tibesti. Their willingness to sacrifice the Derdé for their own interests suggests they had used Galopin just as much as he had used them.97 In any event, this split among the Téda helped drive the Derdé’s faction, led by his sons, more closely into the arms of Frolinat. It also made them less amenable to peace talks. During the Tibesti negotiations, some 200 rebels began harassing government positions in neighboring Borkou. Mahamat Ali Taher played an important role in organizing the spread of the rebellion there. Later that year, the Tubu rebels would adopt the Frolinat label as its “2nd Army.” This signaled that the BET rebellion had begun to outstrip its purely local horizon. Galopin, and by extension the Chadian regime, had contributed to this by their shortsighted efforts at coopting the Tibesti insurgency.

Evolution of the Rebellion On February 11, 1968, Ibrahima Abatcha, Frolinat’s charismatic leader, was killed in an encounter with Chadian government forces in 94 95 97

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 13, telegram from Wibaux to Paris, No subject, undated, 17.03.1969. 96 Ibid. Goukouni Weddeye, “Témoignage,” note 69 above, pp. 30–33. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 13, telegram from Wibaux to Paris, No subject, undated, 17.03.1969.

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“Experts in Decolonization”

eastern Chad. Although destabilizing Frolinat’s internal politics, Abatcha’s death did little to stem the spread of revolt. Soon, El Hajj Issaka took formal command of Frolinat’s “1st Army.” In the short term, this meant that the rebellion remained in the hands of a competent and locally respected leadership. In August 1968, French embassy officials noted that the insurgency had exploited the rainy season to expand its territory. From roughly April to October vehicle transport was often difficult or impossible over long distances in Chad’s Sahelian belt, inhibiting major government troop movements. This allowed Frolinat and more localized armed factions to organize around Mongo in Guéra prefecture, and Bousso in Chari-Baguirmi. This brought unrest closer to the capital and the hitherto calm southern prefectures of “useful Chad.”98 Statistics reported by French military intelligence in September and October 1968 help clarify some aspects of the fighting. According these figures, from September 10 to October 10, 1968, Chadian security forces had engaged with rebels in five prefectures: Salamat, Ouadda¯ı, Guéra, Batha, and Chari-Baguirmi. Despite serious regime losses in several sharply fought engagements, real or presumed “HLL” (French reports often referred to rebels as “HLL” – short for hors-la-loi or “outlaws”) suffered the vast majority of the casualties. All told, in the five listed prefectures, 21 government soldiers from various branches lost their lives, and 55 were wounded. On the other hand, French figures listed rebel losses at some 218 dead, with only 7 wounded and some 20 captured. The real figure for both killed and wounded among the rebels was certainly higher, as body counts are often listed as estimates and government troops may have left rebel wounded behind. Regardless, the unusual disparity between dead and wounded or captured suggests indiscriminate levels of violence. French intelligence officials also felt the death toll included many unarmed civilians.99

98

99

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 1, DAM Note n. 29 “Synthèse des évènements politiques dans les Etats africains et malgache pendant les mois de JUIN et JUILLET 1968,” 14.08.1968, p. 42. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 3, Report from EtatMajor-2ème Bureau, Forces Françaises de l’Escale d’Afrique Centrale, “Bulletin de Renseignement Mensuel No. 10 pour la période du 12 Septembre au 10 Octobre 1968,” Annexe 2, 22.10.1968.

Evolution of the Rebellion

41

A breakdown of casualty reports suggests a brutal conflict. Rebels targeted village chiefs for assassination or kidnapping, sabotaged infrastructure, robbed and mutilated local merchants, and attacked villages accused of supporting the regime. Government forces were even worse. For instance, French intelligence reported an engagement in Batha prefecture in which one government soldier was killed and three were wounded. However, it listed 42 HLL dead, with a note suggesting that, since government forces did not recover any weapons, the number certainly included many civilians.100 The same French report mentions 50 executions – at least 25 of them public – of rebels and rebel “sympathizers” in various parts of Guéra prefecture during the month under review. In Ouaddaï, government forces also burned at least one village to the ground in reprisal for alleged sympathies with the rebellion.101 A comparison of French reports and later Frolinat testimony suggests that government violence also played a significant role in facilitating the spread of the rebellion. French intelligence officers lamented that the fighting in Chari-Baguirmi exemplified the ways that “minor and very limited incidents can, at any moment, cause serious difficulties.” They squarely laid the blame on the Chadian regime, which was guilty of “arbitrary administration, unjustified reprisals, and military abuses,” all of which engendered local hostility to the government.102 Frolinat grew by taking advantage of antistate violence, even as much of this remained outside of their control. For instance, in the village of Kindji, located in the Bokoro subprefecture of ChariBaguirmi, 200 kilometers east of Fort-Lamy, abusive government tax collection provoked a major uprising in September 1968. This represented a particularly serious threat to Tombablaye’s regime since the region was known as Fort-Lamy’s granary.103 Within a month, over a hundred civilians and fighters lay dead, along with 20 government troops. Harsh government reprisals 100 102

103

101 Ibid., p.1. Ibid., pp. 3–4. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 3, Report from EtatMajor-2ème Bureau, Forces Françaises de l’Escale d’Afrique Centrale, “Bulletin de Renseignement Mensuel No. 10 pour la période du 12 Septembreau 10 Octobre 1968,” p. 7. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 2, MRA Report, “Constat général effectué par la M.R.A. dans les préfectures visitées au cours de la période allant du 1 avril au 15 novembre 1969: Préfecture du ChariBaguirmi,” 01.12.1969, p. 2.

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“Experts in Decolonization”

provided fertile ground for Frolinat to expand into Chari-Baguirmi, where it previously had little presence.104 Within a few months, the regime had effectively lost control of the entire area around Bokoro. A year later, despite the presence of three companies of French troops, Bokoro yielded no taxes to the central government, and Frolinat had firmly entrenched itself in the region.105 In the meantime, Abatcha’s death left Frolinat’s leadership up for grabs as several top figures vied for control. After a year of political maneuvering, it formally fell into the hands of Dr. Abba Siddick in October 1969. The consolidation of his power came at the expense of several other influential Frolinat leaders. Most important among these, Baghalani found himself accused of graft. Siddick’s allies organized an investigation, found him guilty, and expelled him from the movement. Despite this, his Islamist views continued to carry some influence among rank and file Frolinat fighters. He also maintained a militia afterward on the Chadian-Sudanese border that occasionally clashed with Frolinat. He would later become an important Libyan client and rebel leader in the 1970s.106 Siddick’s partisans also moved to eliminate Issaka. Although by all accounts an effective commander, Issaka’s alleged tendency to favor Arab combatants from his own region and clashes with other Frolinat commanders inside and outside of Chad made it easy to engineer his removal from the military leadership, which occurred in June 1970. He was apparently later murdered in the context of organizational disputes in 1972.107 Issaka’s elimination would eventually do substantial 104

105

106 107

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 3, Report from EtatMajor-2ème Bureau, Forces Françaises de l’Escale d’Afrique Centrale, “Bulletin de Renseignement Mensuel No. 10 pour la période du 12 Septembre au 10 Octobre 1968,” “Annexe 4,” 22.10.1968, pp. 1–7; and Al Hadj Garondé Djarma, Témoignage d’un militant du FROLINAT (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2003), pp. 83–84. Djarma’s account, based on both government and Frolinat eyewitnesses, claims the regime had provoked attacks when it arrested and subsequently executed 13 recalcitrant village chiefs. The French report above makes no mention of this. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 2, MRA Report, “Constat général effectué par la M.R.A. dans les préfectures visitées au cours de la période allant du 1er avril au 15 novembre 1969: Préfecture du ChariBaguirmi,” 01.12.1969, p. 2. Buijtenhijs, Les révoltes populaires, note 27 above, pp. 194–195. Decalo, Historical Dictionary, note 42 above, pp. 230–231.

Evolution of the Rebellion

43

damage to Frolinat’s legitimacy. Meanwhile, though, it, combined with Baghalani’s expulsion, helped to consolidate Siddick’s formal control over the movement. Siddick, a surgeon and former high-ranking PPT official, had lived in self-imposed exile in France since 1960. Alienated by the excesses of Tombalbaye’s regime, he returned to politics in the mid-1960s and became an important spokesperson for Frolinat on the international stage. Nevertheless, as Frolinat’s leader, Siddick would never visit the maquis inside Chad. Instead, often based in Algiers or Tripoli, he attempted to raise the international profile of the organization, raise funds, and acquire arms.108 During the 1970s, after the French intervention had killed large numbers of Frolinat fighters, a split developed between Siddick and the forces in the interior. This meant that Siddick would gradually lose authority as his distance from Chad made him decreasingly relevant to events on the ground.109 In the short term, Siddick’s formal authority was generally accepted by fighters in Chad, even though the extent of his real power was limited by distance, resources, and means of communication. Meanwhile, the collapse of the central state administration in central and eastern Chad had intensified by early 1969. The rebellion’s impact on tax collection, combined with increased expenses on the military and other government projects meant the regime teetered on the brink of insolvency. Alof de Louvencourt, a French official sent to report on Chad’s finances, predicted a deficit of 3 billion francs, equal to 25 percent of the government’s budget. He accused the Chadian bureaucracy, particularly its regional representatives, of responsibility both for the spread of the rebellion and for the failure to collect taxes. He also argued that French authorities should replace engineers and other technical advisors, whose studies and recommendations often led to costly projects, with tax and financial counselors.110 Although ironic, given the ways tax collection had contributed to the outbreak of the rebellion in the first 108 109 110

For Siddick’s career, see: Buijtenhuijs, Les révoltes populaires, note 27 above, pp. 187–206. Robert Buijtenhuijs, Le Frolinat et les guerres civiles du Tchad: 1977–1984 (Paris: Karthala, 1987), p. 31. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 14, Mission Report from Inspecteur des finances, Alof de Louvencourt, “Rapport de mission au Tchad, 13–19 janvier 1969,” 20.01.1969.

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“Experts in Decolonization”

place, Louvencourt’s views would increasingly reflect those of other French observers. Cooperation Ministry officials worried that the growth of the rebellion now posed an existential threat to Tombalbaye’s regime. They had few illusions about the causes of the insurrection and the Chadian regime’s responsibility in provoking it: This evolution has resulted, at present, in the isolation of the capital, as well as of the administration and the national army. Now they are cut off from all contact with populations who are increasingly hostile toward them following a long list of abuses accompanied by blind and brutal repression. Since the Declaration of Independence [. . .] governmental, administrative, and military authorities have been completely disdainful towards the Islamized peoples of the North, East, and Center. They have implemented a policy of despotic segregation as well as a radical elimination of traditional elites in these regions.111

Their assessment concluded that a French intervention represented Tombalbaye’s “last chance” and, “everything suggests that in six months it will be too late to save [Tombalbaye’s regime] from collapse.”112

The French Intervention As the situation deteriorated, Tombalbaye became increasingly fearful that his past anti-French rhetoric might backfire. In February 1969 he sent a frantic note to Foccart, requesting a meeting. De Gaulle authorized the encounter but ordered Foccart to rebuke Tombalbaye for his personal attacks. He also wanted Foccart to make clear French displeasure at Tombalbaye’s recent anti-French positions. De Gaulle emphasized that “when you need people and you claim to be their friend, you don’t behave like that.”113 Later, de Gaulle asked Foccart to tell Tombalbaye that, given his situation, “his only safeguard, his only salvation, is to stick to us, to stick to France.” As long as Tombalbaye continued criticizing France 111

112 113

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 13, Note from le Secrétaire d’Etat aux Affaires Etrangères Chargé de la Coopération, “Situation au Tchad,” undated, March 1969, p.1. Ibid., p. 4. Foccart, Le Général en mai, note 14 above. Diary entry for 21.02.1969, p. 614. Ironically de Gaulle’s Western allies often thought the same about him.

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The French Intervention

in general, or Foccart in particular, he strengthened his adversaries, who felt able to act more openly against the regime. For de Gaulle, this lay “at the origin of his weakness.. . . Chad must remain what it was; it must remain a friend of France, it is its only chance.”114 When Foccart visited Fort-Lamy on March 5, 1969, Tombalbaye apologized profusely for his past rhetoric. He said that he now realized he could not “be on bad terms with Foccart and on good terms with General de Gaulle at the same time.”115 He also raised the issue of the rebellion and his precarious situation. He made exaggerated claims about Soviet subversion in neighboring states and said that the Soviet ambassador in Fort-Lamy had made contacts with Tombalbaye’s political opposition. Furthermore, he said he agreed with French criticisms of the government administration. He also criticized his security forces and their officer corps. He complained that often his troops refused to fight. Foccart, aghast at Tombalbaye’s failure to severely punish deserters, suggested that he take harsher measures lest soldiers defect to the rebellion. He told Tombalbaye, “Right now, your problem is a problem of authority.”116 The Chadian president painted a blunt picture. He described those caught up in the fighting as composed of three elements: “the rebels, who are rather lightly armed, but who are directed from outside Chad; bandits who head expeditions entirely for their own benefit and who, sometimes, fight the rebels; and finally, the population.”117 He described the populations in central and eastern Chad as remaining on the fence, unsure of which way to turn. Foccart raised the question of the Chadian military. He suggested its losses had rendered it even less effective by cutting into its morale. He cited numerous instances where comparatively well-armed troops fled from rebels or even from civilians armed with spears. For Foccart, the solution was better leadership. He also pointed out that Chadian security forces had an unfortunate tendency to surround suspect villages and shoot everyone. In Foccart’s view, this clearly generated enmity.118 Revealingly, Foccart likened Chadian counterinsurgency efforts to his experience in the French Resistance during the Second World War. 114 115 116 118

Ibid., diary entry for 04.03.1969, pp. 634–635. Ibid., diary entry for 05.03.1969, p. 635. Ibid., diary entry for 06.03.1969, pp. 638–639. Ibid.

117

Ibid., p. 640.

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“Experts in Decolonization”

He told Tombalbaye that during the war, he would encounter regions hostile to the Resistance because of the behavior of some of its members. In other areas of France, where the Resistance took care to reassure local populations about its intentions, it could count on their support.119 Though he was careful not to mention this rather awkward comparison to de Gaulle in his report, it effectively illustrated his views on both the causes of, and solution to, Tombalbaye’s problems. Tombalbaye followed up with a request for a substantial increase in French aid. Foccart brought this back to de Gaulle. The French president declared that, though he thought Tombalbaye “a bit crazy,” they should still “see what we can do with him, for him, for what he asks.” Foccart insisted though that simple material assistance would prove insufficient. He suggested that Tombalbaye “really needs a psychological boost from someone who can restore confidence to his army and put it in a position to play its role.”120 On March 10, Tombalbaye made a more urgent request for air support following a surprise attack on one of his gendarme units. This prompted de Gaulle to reflect on broader possibilities for French assistance. Even though Chadian provincial administrators were “incompetent and prevaricating” and Chad’s security forces were “disposed to pillage,” he could not “put French administrators everywhere.” Regarding Tombalbaye’s request for air support, de Gaulle felt “there is no way of solving this kind of problem by dropping bombs on peasants.” At most, he expressed willingness to allow French aircraft to conduct “intimidation flights, without opening fire.”121 Ultimately though, de Gaulle decided he had no other option but to prop up Tombalbaye’s shaky regime. In his estimation: There is no alternative to Tombalbaye. If he disappears, Chad would break into two or several pieces. It’s not impossible that the Russians would encourage this fragmentation process. There is only one solution: supervise the Chadian army with French officers like we used to do for nomad units. But, this presupposes, at the same time, a complete reorganization of the Chadian administration because it is unthinkable that we should provide Chad with an effective military instrument which could allow prefects to pressure the peasant populations.122 119 121 122

120 Ibid., pp. 640–641. Ibid., diary entry for 07.03.1969, p. 643. Ibid., diary entry for 10.03.1969, p. 646. Ibid., diary entry for 11.03.1969, p. 647.

The French Intervention

47

In practical terms, this would amount to the largest and most comprehensive French intervention since the Algerian war. The “package” offered on a take it or leave it basis, effectively amounted to a partial recolonization of Chad. The French effort would include two primary components, a civilian and a military mission. Though formally serving under the authority of Tombalbaye, the heads of both missions would have broad authority in their respective spheres. The civilian component, headed by former colonial governor Pierre Lami, would form a Mission pour la réforme administrative (MRA). As initially conceived, it aimed to place French advisors with Chadian prefects and sub-prefects in the areas most affected by rebellion. Though these advisors would not have direct administrative authority, they would monitor the activities of their Chadian charges, and would have veto power over their decisions. Furthermore, they would take responsibility for tax collection. As a corollary to this, Tombalbaye would have to agree to remove any officials judged guilty of abusing their authority toward local communities. Finally, the entire BET region would fall under French military administration as it had in the past.123 In addition to the MRA, de Gaulle ordered an expansion of the French Assistance militaire technique (AMT). This would include the creation of a unified command for all Chadian security forces under a French general, Michel Arnaud, who would serve as Tombalbaye’s chief “military advisor.” The AMT mission, comprising 42 officers and 127 NCOs, would receive an initial reinforcement of 30 more officers and 100 NCOs. The enlarged AMT would work to restructure Chad’s security forces, train troops, embed officers within operational units, and take command where necessary.124 Furthermore, de Gaulle ordered the reinforcement of French combat units already stationed in Chad. These consisted of one armored squadron and an infantry company. Several additional infantry companies would deploy to the country. This small force could, if called upon, intervene to support Chadian units. Its presence would also aim to have a “psychological effect,” asserting “the will of the French

123 124

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 13, “Note pour M. Lebel,” 13.03.1969, pp. 3–4. Ibid., p. 2.

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“Experts in Decolonization”

government to intervene in support of the Tombalbaye government.”125 None of this had yet leaked to Tombalbaye. French ambassador Fernand Wibaux reported that Tombalbaye began to worry that de Gaulle would not respond favorably to his requests for help. Wibaux himself felt that both Tombalbaye and more alarmist French officials had overstated the danger posed by the rebellion. For Wibaux, much of the reported rebel activity was simply “pure banditry.” In his analysis, the organized rebellion only consisted of a few hundred fighters, with most of their appeal stemming from government abuses. Hence, while Wibaux thought administrative reform essential, he also felt that French military assistance “should not meet excessive difficulties and the aid that we have to provide will doubtless be less significant than expected.”126 When Tombalbaye heard that Cooperation Minister Yvon Bourges127 would head the French delegation, he feared he might only obtain an increase in logistical assistance. He thus ordered his commanders to make plans under the assumption they would not receive French help.128 According to Wibaux, Tombalbaye greeted Bourges’ offer with relief, but also stupefaction at the extent of the proposed intervention. The Chadian leader worried it could induce “malevolent voices” within and outside the government to criticize the intervention as a return to colonial rule. While members of his government largely felt comfortable with the military component of French assistance, many feared that the administrative dimension threatened their prerogatives and positions.129

125

126

127

128

129

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 13, Cooperation Ministry Cabinet Memo, “Rétablissement de l’ordre au Tchad: Mesures militaires,” 14.03.1969, p. 2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 13, Note from Wibaux to Paris, “a/s. Mission à Fort-Lamy de M. le Secrétaire d’Etat aux Affaires Etrangères,” 21.03.1969, p.3. Technically at this time the Cooperation Ministry fell under the Foreign Ministry, and Bourges’ title was “Secrétaire d’Etat aux Affaires Etrangères chargé de la Coopération.” MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 13, Note from Wibaux to Paris, “a/s. Mission à Fort-Lamy de M. le Secrétaire d’Etat aux Affaires Etrangères,” 21.03.1969, p. 1. Ibid., pp. 1–3.

The MRA

49

The MRA In fact, Tombalbaye had already attempted to obtain Lami’s assistance in January 1969 to “reorganize his entire administration from the Presidential offices to canton and village chiefdoms, including the administrative machinery of ministerial departments, municipalities, and territorial administrations.”130 As Wibaux noted, though, to really do this he would need to launch an “administrative purge.” This would alienate a large portion of the political class, some of whom counted as Tombalbaye’s core constituency. Nonetheless, he felt that bringing Lami on board to head the MRA was an encouraging development, given his abilities and personality. For Wibaux, “our administrative action has become absolutely necessary to remodel structures and modify methods. It is the only condition for a sustainable rallying of populations [to the government side] who, impressed by our presence, will no longer accept anything else than a healthy and fair authority.”131 Lami seemed like a perfect choice for the job. He had a long and distinguished career of colonial service behind him. Following his studies at the Ecole colonial, he began as a territorial administrator in Chad in 1934. After the fall of France in 1940, he joined the Free French and in 1943 helped establish French political control over southern Libya.132 Following the war, he was posted to Indochina, where he served as a political advisor and prefect in the early stages of the conflict there, until returning to France in 1949. Over the years, he moved through the ranks of the Colonial Ministry to become Governor of Côte d’Ivoire in 1956 and later, of Senegal, where he presided over its transition to independence in 1960. Tombalbaye described him as a “governor of decolonization.” Following his formal retirement in 1966, his expertise led him to head small administrative reform efforts in Mali and Congo-Kinshasa before coming to Chad.133 Lami also had personal ties to Jacques Foccart as one of his frequent informers about political developments in Congo during his tenure there. His reports carried the name “Chronicles of the Later 130 132 133

131 Ibid., p. 6. Ibid. Jennings, Free French Africa, note 8 above, p. 133. AFP, “Deux hauts fonctionnaires français sont mis à la disposition de FortLamy pour étudier la réforme de l’administration,” in Le Monde, 24.04.1969.

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Empire,” a reference to the declining Roman Empire, which says much about both men’s views on postcolonial Africa.134 Lami arrived on April 1 and immediately met various Chadian and French officials. He toured the southern Mayo-Kebbi prefecture with its prefect to familiarize himself with Chadian territorial administration in a comparatively peaceful and prosperous district. At the same time, many Chadian officials vociferously protested his presence, claiming that the rebellion’s persistence was a military failure and had nothing to do with the civil administration. Several government officials even traveled to Mayo-Kebbi before Lami’s visit to warn people about French intentions.135 In a visit to Guéra prefecture, in central Chad, Lami began to assign civilian and gendarme advisors to local sub-prefects. Units of the French Foreign Legion had defeated groups of rebels around Mangalmé, the historic center of the revolt. However, much of the prefecture remained outside of government control.136 Lami met Chadian government and military officials as well as French officers to assess the situation there. At a meeting in Mongo on June 1, Guéra’s prefect, Seid Bauche, outlined his impression from his tour of the region. According to Bauche, before the French arrival, rebels threatened to assault the town. They had burned neighboring villages, displaced local communities, and caused famine. For Bauche, the French intervention in Mangalmé removed the immediate threat and restored some semblance of economic activity to the town and its immediate surroundings.137 In contrast, rebels controlled nearly all the Melfi sub-prefecture of southern Guéra, except for the town of Melfi itself. In other areas of Guéra, rebel exactions alienated some communities more than government policy had. In the canton of Baro, former soldiers and veterans of France’s colonial army had organized militias. Armed with little more 134 135 136

137

Bat, Le syndrome Foccart, note 5 above, 766n. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 2, Memo from Wibaux to Paris, “a/s. Activités de la Mission Civile française,” 23.05.1969, pp. 1–3. For an informative analysis of the local dynamics of conflict in the Guéra prefecture during the war, see: Mirjam de Bruijn and Han van Dijk, “The Multiple Experiences of Civil War in the Guéra Region of Chad, 1965–1990,” Sociologus, Vol. 57, No. 1 (2007), pp. 61–98. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 2, Report from Lami to Tombalbaye, “Tournée dans le GUERA,” 02.06.1969, p. 5.

51

De Gaulle Leaves the Scene

than spears, they managed to repel several rebel attacks against villages in the locality. Meanwhile other cantons, such as Niergui, seemed to have openly sided with rebel groups, as did the prefecture’s Arab population. Reading between the lines of Bauche’s account, it appears that ethnic and/or religious considerations may have played a role in local political alignments in response to, or because of, government and rebel activity.138 Captain Rondaye, the Chadian commander of the 5th Company of the ANT (the Chadian army only had one regiment, divided into several companies), and who had served in Guéra since April 1968, grouped the population into three categories: – in the towns, the inhabitants are loyal to the government and cooperate with security forces – in the periphery of urban centers, the population is neutral, this means they are sometimes favorable to our pacification efforts, and sometimes suspected of favoring the activities of the outlaws – finally, the rest of the population collaborates with the rebels, either willingly or by constraint. Thus to rally the neutrals and convince the reluctant, security forces, military or civilian, need to be present everywhere.139 His prescription, a rather universal one for counterinsurgents, also reflected Lami’s overall strategy for restoring state authority in the months ahead. Meanwhile, a combination of a bad harvest and the conflict meant that Mangalmé’s population, along with much of Guéra, suffered from massive food shortages. The onset of the rainy season made movement between towns nearly impossible, worsening the humanitarian situation. Lami felt that the most immediate priorities consisted in reinforcing the French military presence and providing food and seed assistance to affected communities.140

De Gaulle Leaves the Scene On April 28, 1969, Charles de Gaulle resigned from office following a failed referendum on government reform. As per the French Constitution, Alain Poher, the president of the French Senate, took 138

Ibid., pp. 5–8.

139

Ibid., p. 9.

140

Ibid., pp. 4–8.

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over the interim presidency while presidential elections were organized. Poher took the opportunity to run for the office as well. To mark his distance from the Gaullists, and perhaps in response to Foccart’s somewhat sinister reputation, he also asked Foccart to resign. Despite his initial advantage in the polls, on June 15 Poher lost in the second round of the election, to Georges Pompidou. Pompidou, de Gaulle’s long-serving former prime minister, represented a certain ideological and programmatic continuity with the recent past. After some initial hesitation, he reinstated Foccart to his former position. While this signaled Pompidou’s approach to Africa would differ little from his predecessor’s, he had a more skeptical view on France’s commitment to Chad. During a meeting on Chad held on July 24, Pompidou expressed his doubts about the French role. His new foreign minister, Maurice Schumann, shared these concerns, considering the intervention to represent an “unfortunate precedent.” In contrast, Defense Minister Michel Debré, who had served as de Gaulle’s first prime minister and last foreign minister, defended the intervention as a “moral tutelage” that France had a duty to exercise. While he could not realistically renege on de Gaulle’s commitment, Pompidou’s reluctance for the French mission led him to insist on limiting its duration. He declared: Our goal is not to pacify Chad. We must very clearly say to President Tombalbaye that it is his responsibility, and his alone, to pacify and administer Chad. We will give him our conditions. At a certain fixed date, Chad must have remade its army and its administration and at that moment, he must take affairs into his hands alone.141

To press this message on Tombalbaye and to take stock of the Chadian situation, Yvon Bourges, who remained at the head of the Cooperation Ministry, returned to Fort-Lamy. After consulting with French military and civilian officials there, he met Tombalbaye on July 26. After he informed Tombalbaye of Pompidou’s continued, though qualified, commitment, they discussed two pressing issues. First, relations between French military officials and their Chadian counterparts were rocky. Chadian officers resented the “perfectionist” French approach to training and organization, which seemed badly 141

Cited in: Turpin, De Gaulle, Pompidou, note 3 above, p. 213.

De Gaulle Leaves the Scene

53

adapted to local conditions. Furthermore, MRA advisors also encountered difficulties. Many Chadian officials resisted their presence. Also, their instructions and specific mandates remained unclear. Tombalbaye suggested bringing these issues to the government’s Defense Committee, which consisted of Chadian ministers, military officers, Wibaux, Lami, General Arnaud, and several other French and Chadian officials.142 On July 30, Bourges met with the committee and outlined the French position. He asserted that France could only help the regime address its problems, and not solve them itself. He also emphasized that the conflict had no purely military solution, and that French military assistance was time-limited. He complained that French officials had not received a warm welcome. Bourges explained that French authorities expected to be listened to, and they expected their Chadian allies to stick to plans that they had agreed upon.143 Regarding the MRA, Bourges reiterated his view that “under-administration” represented the fundamental cause of the conflict. He maintained that the MRA did not aim to replace Chadian officials, but to assist and advise them. Nonetheless, this required that Chadian authorities give their “complete adherence of hearts and minds.” He listed four roles that MRA advisors would fill: advising prefects and sub-prefects, monitoring Chadian officials in different administrations, organizing local militias, and exercising control over projects financed by French aid. Bourges demanded an immediate improvement in Chadian cooperation with French efforts to save the Chadian “nation.” He threatened that if the situation did not improve by the following October, France’s commitment to the regime might come to an end.144 The Chadians present at the meeting, including General Doumro, the Chadian army chief, could not outwardly protest the tone of Bourges’ lecture. Instead, they all expressed their firm desire to make things work, and said that they would ensure their subordinates would do the same. Tombalbaye condemned his territorial administration’s failure to cooperate with French efforts. He blamed his officials for 142 143 144

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 13, “Compte rendu de la réunion tripartite du 31 Juillet 1969,” 31.07.1969, p. 1. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 13, telegram from Wibaux to Paris, No subject, 30.07.1969, pp. 1–3. Ibid., pp. 4–5.

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having an inferiority complex, which prevented them from working with their French allies. He worried, though, about Bourges’ deadline for the military aspect of the intervention. He suggested that it was still too early to impose such a time limit and asked that the French government not make it public. Bourges agreed.145 Wibaux thought the meeting useful, since it forced Chad’s army chiefs and administration to make commitments to their French allies in Tombalbaye’s presence. He felt this could accelerate the implementation and improve the effectiveness of their advisory mission. Whatever else, Tombalbaye had put on a convincing enough performance for both Wibaux and Bourges. For Wibaux, the Chadian president’s sincerity “seemed obvious,” and, he observed, “in any case, right now he represents the only valid political authority in this country.”146 Bourges felt similarly. As he told his colleagues in Paris upon his return, “there is no other political solution in Chad than President Tombalbaye, who has revealed himself as a capable man who is perfectly conscious of the situation in his country and whose political base is far from being as fragile as some say.”147 The meeting also energized Lami. He felt it had forced Tombalbaye to impose himself on his subordinates, clearing the path for a more rigorous implementation of the MRA’s goals. In a late August report, he wrote that he now had “serious hopes” for the mission’s future. The meeting with Bourges finally prompted Tombalbaye to create a “charter” for the MRA outlining its specific mandate. This reiterated Bourges’ list, but added that Chadian prefects could delegate their authority to MRA advisors depending on the situation.148 It’s interesting that this “charter” did not incorporate some powers initially planned for the MRA when it was conceived in March 1969. Specifically, these included controls over taxation and veto power over local administrators. Nonetheless, with a clearer mandate, apparently full-throated support from Tombalbaye, and a weakened political opposition, Lami felt he could move forward. Lami also felt that Tombalbaye’s abilities and personality would facilitate the task. Ignoring the nine years in which Tombalbaye had 145 147 148

146 Ibid., p. 6. Ibid., p. 7. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 13, “Compte rendu de la réunion tripartite du 31 Juillet 1969,” 31.07.1969, p. 1. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 2, Note from Lami to MRA, “Perspectives d’action de la M.R.A.,” 28.08.1969, pp. 1– 4.

Lami’s Vision

55

played a central role in the state’s disintegration, he attributed the initial failure to get the MRA off the ground to Chadian officials’ opposition to Tombalbaye himself. In June, however, Tombalbaye “won” a national election with 93 percent of the vote. This provided, in Lami’s view, the necessary impetus to overcome mounting opposition within the PPT’s political bureau.149 French military intelligence – which also analyzed the Chadian political scene – seemed less sanguine about Tombalbaye’s electoral victory. They estimated that the Chadian president’s real vote share lay closer to 40–45 percent and suggested that, given growing disaffection among his supposedly solid Sara base, the percentage might have been lower still. In late July, rural youth strikers marched on the capital and were soon joined by large numbers of youth in Fort-Lamy’s outskirts, leading to substantial urban rioting. Similar protests and riots also occurred in the cities of Fort-Archambault, Moundou, and Bongor, all places with large Sara populations. This suggested that Tombalbaye’s style of rule and policies had alienated many within his own ethnic constituency.150 Meanwhile, in response to the wretched state of government finances, Tombalbaye intensified taxation in areas “pacified” by newly deployed French troops. French observers feared that putting the squeeze on poor populations so recently affected by fighting and restricted economic activities would prove counterproductive.151 All of this boded ill for Lami’s efforts to restructure the Chadian state.

Lami’s Vision For Lami, the creation of a Chadian nation remained the great task before Tombalbaye’s regime. This aimed to “inculcate a collective and national consciousness in populations who have always lived in their own particularisms.” It also meant struggling against “the centrifugal forces of tribalism,” which constituted the “exultant and superhuman task to which you [Tombalbaye] have attached yourself since

149 150

151

Ibid., p. 4. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 3, Report from EtatMajor-2ème Bureau, Délégation militaire au Tchad, “Bulletin de Renseignement Mensuel (période du 1er au 31 Juillet 1969),” 02.08.1969, pp. 1–2. Ibid., p. 3.

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1960.”152 Lami suggested that the conditions for this national consciousness already existed. True to the authoritarian playbook, which appealed to the Chadian leader, he listed these as: The establishment of a strong, centralized, and unitary state; a presidential regime which concentrates in your hands alone all powers of decision and arbitration; [. . .] the eminent role of the Party in the creation of a collective consciousness, a national mystique, and a Chadian patriotism; the choice of French as official language, which constitutes perhaps the surest means . . . of achieving the Chadian Nation.153

Lami thought that the annual conference of prefects, held in Fort-Lamy at the end of August, would provide a decisive forum in which he could finalize the MRA’s strategy with Tombalbaye in the presence of the country’s prefects. This would also facilitate his broader agenda by overcoming bureaucratic obstacles. Tombalbaye asked Lami to organize a session at the conference on territorial administration. He took this opportunity to comprehensively outline his philosophy on statebuilding and good government. He first passed around ethnographic surveys that he himself had conducted in the 1930s as a colonial official. This reflected his own interests, as he had made a name for himself in the colonial service in Chad as an ethnographer, and he spoke three Chadian languages.154 His surveys, he suggested, could serve as a model for good administrators, who should do their best to learn about the culture and history of the populations under their charge. Lami presented himself as an “expert in decolonization.” He explained that decolonization constituted “the heart of the problem” in Chad. According to this view, decolonization required “a sorting out and a choice” of different elements of the colonial administrative legacy. Importantly, though, this meant keeping those structures that corresponded to “a strong and unitary state,” especially the territorial division into prefectures, sub-prefectures, and their subordinate jurisdictions. Lami’s strategy for reestablishing state authority rested on 152

153 154

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 2, Report from Lami to Tombalbaye, “Conférence annuelle des Préfets,” “Création de la Nation Tchadienne. – Décolonisation et Révolution Culturelle. – Un cas concret: les “Kado” de Pala.” 12.07.1969, p. 1. Of course, this obsequious language was meant to flatter Tombalbaye. Ibid., p. 2. Gilbert Comte, “L’atout du Président,” Le Monde, 07.05.1970.

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57

three pillars. The first consisted of improving the capacity and responsiveness of Chadian administrators. The second involved restoring some political authority to local chiefs and sultans. The third involved the creation and expansion of local militias, or “groupes d’auto-défense.”155 The paradox resided in the fact that Tombalbaye’s regime had abolished chiefly authority precisely because it presented an obstacle to a centralizing and unitary state. Customary chiefs challenged the authority and legitimacy of government officials and competed with them for resources. Rather than pushing forward “decolonization,” reestablishing such an arrangement reproduced some of the basic elements of colonial authority. Furthermore, the creation of village militias might relieve pressure on government security services, but they could easily become instruments of local score-settling, or even the nuclei of renewed rebellion. Lami recommended a flexible policy. He strongly felt that powers allocated to chiefs or sultans should reflect local conditions and precedent.156 Tombalbaye charged the MRA with developing a plan for restoring powers to customary authorities without infringing on the principle of a unitary state. On paper, Lami and his colleagues squared the circle by giving chiefs and sultans control over tax collection, local justice, and maintaining “order.” Nevertheless, they remained formally “under the authority and under the general control” of the local prefects. Tombalbaye and the PPT’s political bureau adopted the new ordinance at the end of September 1969.157 At the same time, MRA officials began to organize local militias. The reestablished local chiefs would help accelerate this process. As noted earlier, some communities had already organized antirebel militias. Lami wanted these to become not only elements of a static defense, but also to take on an offensive character. This would leave “no rest and no respite for the outlaws.”158 MRA advisors would identify 155 156

157 158

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 2, Report from Lami to Tombalbaye, “Conférence Annuelle des Préfets,” 25.08.1969. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 2, Report from Lami to Tombalbaye, “Conférence des Préfets: Le problème de la chefferie coutumière,” 26.08.1969, p. 2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 2, Note from Wibaux to Paris, “a/s: Réforme de l’administration locale,” 28.09.1969. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 2, Note from Lami to MRA, “Perspectives d’action de la M.R.A.,” 28.08.1969, p. 8.

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villages based on their loyalty to the government, a desire to fight, and their geographical positions. On these criteria, MRA officials would then decide on the size, armament, and ammunition supply, and organize training and deployment of militia forces.159 To accomplish these goals and improve the MRA’s effectiveness in general, Lami asked the Cooperation Ministry for major staffing increases. In September 1969, the MRA consisted of around 30 agents. Lami wanted to more than double this number and extend the MRA presence throughout most of the country. Ministry officials baulked, and not only for reasons of cost. A note written in response to Lami’s request acerbically made a parallel between the MRA’s expansion and the concurrent expansion of the military mission. It noted that while counterinsurgency operations in Chad finally gave an otherwise underemployed French army something to do, Lami was basically trying to recolonize Chad. It suggested that not only should the French government rein in the army, but it should also force Lami to strictly adhere to the MRA’s original, more limited mission.160 Furthermore, and rather presciently, it questioned Lami’s plan to restore extensive powers to local chiefs. It suggested that while the logic of using chiefs to restore order was sound, in practice this was likely to be “brutal and bloody.” MRA personnel could not stand by as spectators in this kind of situation. In that case, Cooperation Ministry officials did not see the point in having an MRA presence in those localities at all, especially if the restoration of chiefs really did bring order to rebellious areas. Also, it seemed clear that restoring chiefly powers would in fact undermine the authority of official government representatives, rather than strengthening the power of a centralized state.161 In some respects, the devolution of state power to chiefs and the proliferation of local militias (53 existed in the central and eastern prefectures by early February 1970) represented the high point of Lami’s influence with Tombalbaye. While tracing the details remains 159

160

161

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 2, Memo from Lami to Tombalbaye, “Conférence annuelle des Préfets,” “Organsation de l’autodéfense,” 23.08.1969, p. 3 and Annex. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 2, Cooperation Ministry Note, “Déploiement et extension de la Mission de Réforme Administrative [sic] au Tchad,” 29.09.1969, p. 4. Ibid., pp. 5–6.

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difficult, relations between the two men deteriorated from the end of 1969 into early 1970. Partly this resulted from a lack of progress on the MRA’s original mandate to improve the capabilities of Chadian administrators. In a November report to Tombalbaye, Lami could not hide his frustration, writing: Not a week passes by in which we do not alert you [. . .] to various administrative insufficiencies [. . .] absenteeism of personnel in the technical services on the often-unjustified pretext of insecurity; clear cowardice on the part of various officers in the security forces, the intemperate zeal of this or that subprefect in collecting taxes among completely indigent populations. Unfortunately, these special reports usually do not lead to any decision from government authorities.162

As the months wore on, these problems and Tombalbaye’s inability or unwillingness to do something about them would become an increasingly sore point for Lami. Also, tensions had arisen between the MRA and the French army. General Cortadellas, who had replaced Arnaud in September 1969, increasingly wanted to bring MRA activities, particularly militias, under military control. This aimed to both ensure better coordination between the two elements of the French intervention and to increase his own importance in overall decision-making. Lami, on the other hand, wanted military efforts conducted in closer alignment with his own activities and priorities.163 By early 1970, Foccart openly reproached Lami in front of Wibaux for straying beyond his mandate. According to Foccart, Lami should focus solely on administrative reform, and not, “preoccupy himself with politics.”164 Soon, an irritated Lami wrote a letter to Paris requesting the full-scale replacement of Chadian administrators with French officials until the completion of a training program. Someone

162

163 164

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 2, Report from Lami to Tombalbaye, “Rapport sur les activités de la Mission pour la réforme administrative pendant la période du 1er Octobre au 15 novembre 1969,” 15.11.1969, p. 13. Colonel Michel Goya, La France en guerre au Tchad (1969–1972): La victoire oublié” (self-published, 2018), Kindle e-book. Jacques Foccart, Dans les bottes du général: Journal de l’Élysée - III: 1969–1971 (Paris: Librairie Arthème Fayard/Jeune Afrique, 1999), diary entry for 03.02.1970, pp. 220–221.

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leaked this to Tombalbaye, who promptly demanded his removal in April 1970.165 French officials in Paris were happy to comply. Shortly thereafter, the MRA’s mandate changed rather drastically. Ironically, while Lami’s departure ensured the MRA would take a backseat to the French military, its size and resources actually grew over the following months. Its new head, Henri Paillard, another former colonial official, refocused the mission toward a “policy of well-digging.” Rather than continuing rather fruitless efforts to overhaul the Chadian government administration, it would focus on providing material benefits to local communities and resources to administrators. Paillard would implement projects with an “immediate impact.” This included digging wells and building schools, health clinics, markets, and other needed infrastructure. Meanwhile, the MRA also subsidized and provided necessary material to local government administrators. All of this demanded a substantially increased budget and staff. By 1972, the MRA consisted of 68 people with a budget of nearly 10 million French francs. In practice though, this meant that less than a year after its creation, the MRA had morphed into something of a development agency and lost its earlier and more overtly political character.166 165 166

Pierre Claustre, L’affaire Claustre, note 25 above, p. 106. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/2, Note, “A/S: Evolution de la Mission de réforme administrative au Tchad,” 31.10.1974, p. 2.

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2

Operation Limousin

The initial French combat deployment to Chad in mid-April 1969 – later dubbed Operation Limousin – consisted of 390 troops from the 2e Régiment étranger de parachutistes (2nd REP) of the French Foreign Legion. The preliminary French effort focused on central and eastern Chad, as negotiations continued with elements of the Frolinat 2nd Army in the BET. These French troops established an Etat-major tactique (EMT, or tactical command), a battalion-strength unit, centered in Mongo in Guéra prefecture. There, they aimed to sweep rebel formations away from the larger towns of Mongo and Mangalmé and restore some semblance of government authority. Mangalmé, as the historic center of the rebellion, seemed particularly threatened by increasingly bold Frolinat offensives. On April 29, a French convoy carrying detachments of the 2nd REP and MRA officials 10 kilometers northwest of Mangalmé fell into a Frolinat ambush. According to Pierre Lami’s deputy, Lt. Colonel Lacroix, some 200 “bandits” had taken up position for the ambush, with another 100 unarmed men remaining behind to guard supplies. Among the former, only 40 carried small arms, with a single automatic weapon. Despite a skillfully sited and executed attack, French troops rapidly killed 12 fighters and wounded several others without taking casualties themselves. French aircraft then attacked the fleeing rebels, killing at least 50 of them, including their commander. Lacroix reported that the “precise and effective intervention of our aircraft was a very big surprise.” He gleefully noted the “psychological effect” of the air strikes on the local population, who seemed impressed to the point of exaggerating the number of dead.1 1

MAE La Courneuve, DAM (Direction des affaires africaines et malgaches) Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 2, Report from Colonel Lacroix, “Evolution de la situation chez les ‘bandits’ du 29 avril au 14 mai 1969 dans la sous-préfecture de Mangalmé,” 14.05.1969, p. 1. The quotation marks around “bandits” is a

61

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Operation Limousin

Furthermore, according to French intelligence and local rumor, the group that ambushed the legionnaires had meant to attack Mangalmé later that night. Their defeat and the arrival of the French army helped to allay local anxieties. Lacroix also felt that the impact of the fight and subsequent French deployments helped to disperse rebels operating north of the town.2 Despite an easy battlefield victory, it gradually became clear that the initial French deployment could not stem the growth of the rebellion. During the rainy season, French intelligence observed that the rebellion in central and eastern Chad exhibited a stronger level of organization and planning than previously thought. Frolinat cadres in different prefectures appeared to employ similar tactics, aiming to undermine the Chadian economy. This included obstructing and attacking road transportation and encouraging communities to avoid paying taxes to the regime. Rebel groups would launch or threaten reprisal action against villages that refused Frolinat directives.3 Although French military intelligence identified Abba Siddick and El Hajj Issaka as rebel leaders, they did not grasp the relationship between the two. They also did not have a clear picture of the command-and-control elements within the rebellion, or between the external Frolinat leadership and the organization within Chad itself. Nonetheless, it had become clear that the rebellion now employed similar behavior and tactics throughout the country. In August, Chadian president Tombalbaye, who had previously referred to rebels as “bandits,” now described the rebellion as a “subversive” movement.4 More worryingly for the French, these HLL (outlaws) had also begun to adapt their tactics to French military superiority. Rebels now avoided direct contact with Chadian security forces or French units, or broke contact as soon as fighting began against superior

2 3

4

possibly ironic reference to the fact that the Chadian regime continued to refer to the rebels that way. Ibid., pp. 1–2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 3, Report from EtatMajor-2ème Bureau, Délégation militaire au Tchad, “Bulletin de Renseignement Mensuel (période du 1er au 31 Juillet 1969),” 02.08.1969, p. 5. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 3, Report from EtatMajor-2ème Bureau, Délégation militaire au Tchad, “Bulletin de Renseignement Mensuel (période du 1er au 31 Août 1969),” 31.08.1969, p. 1.

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forces.5 Rebel groups tended to respect basic operational security. They guarded their campsites well, maintained silence at night, and did not light fires. They also became increasingly adept at taking cover from approaching aircraft.6 Local Frolinat leaders also became more selective in picking targets. They took more care in sparing civilian interests and property within their operational zones. Although they forbade cotton-growing and forced villagers to pull up cotton crops already planted in the few cotton-growing regions in which they operated, they strongly encouraged subsistence agriculture. This strategy aimed to sap the regime’s primary source of foreign exchange. It also aimed to appeal to communities who saw growing cotton as an imposition and an obstacle to food cultivation. French observers also noted with dismay that Frolinat seemed to exercise effective control over regions without maintaining a permanent armed presence. In practice, this meant that rebel leaders had established basic governance structures. In some areas communities referred disputes to rebel judges. Frolinat also organized civil registries and performed police duties. Consequently, villagers often refused to defend village or canton chiefs targeted by Frolinat. In many places, they also refused to furnish intelligence to Chadian security forces or French troops. In Mangalmé, for instance, the 2nd REP reported that it could exercise little control beyond a 20-kilometer radius outside the town.7 Additionally, Frolinat’s growing “doctrinal unity” seemed to spread to the 2nd Army in the BET. In Bourkou and Ennedi, rebels seized control of several oases far from government-held centers, from which they targeted local Gardes nomades by threatening their families and property. In Tibesti, French intelligence worried that the divided Tubu factions might reunite. This fed fears that if the BET rebellion made a coherent and coordinated linkage with Frolinat in central Chad, Tombalbaye’s position could become precarious.8 5 6

7

8

Ibid., pp. 1–3. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 3, Report from EtatMajor-2ème Bureau, Délégation militaire au Tchad, “Bulletin de Renseignement Mensuel (période du 1er au 30 November 1969),” 30.11.1969, p. 6. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 3, Report from EtatMajor-2ème Bureau, Délégation militaire au Tchad, “Bulletin de Renseignement Mensuel (période du 1er au 31 Août 1969),” 31.08.1969, pp. 1–3. Ibid., p. 5.

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It soon became clear that the extent of the rebellion and the parlous state of the Chadian army required a more robust French effort. On July 17, Foccart told the newly elected Pompidou that the Chadian situation “is more serious than we thought,” and that it required “increased means,” since the few hundred troops on the ground could do little in such a large country. Both he and Pompidou were wary about increased military engagement, however. Foccart warned about the inherent uncertainty of the situation since “we have a bad intelligence service.” He also worried that the army always tended to “darken the picture.” He complained that when things went well, the army leadership would brag about how they accomplished their mission despite immense difficulties. If things went badly, they would blame the politicians, claiming, “we warned you.”9 Pompidou shared Foccart’s concerns and, as illustrated earlier, held serious reservations about the French mission. He insisted that Foccart make it very clear to Tombalbaye that “it is obvious that we’re not doing this to recolonize Chad . . . we’re doing it to save it as well as him and what he represents. But, since we’re fighting the same fight, he has to follow the same line as us.”10 Regardless, Pompidou felt he had little choice but to increase the French troop presence. From mid-1969 until roughly April 1970, French forces gradually expanded to a peak level of 2,851 men. This number included the 1,000 troops deployed to Chad on a permanent basis, a level that had remained relatively constant since 1965. Many of those deployed were not frontline combat troops. They included the roughly 600 advisors in the military assistance mission, some of whom served in combat positions with the Chadian army, as well as over 700 air force personnel, and numerous troops serving in various support roles.11 The size of the French intervention force was thus extremely small, with a ratio of one French soldier per 1,000 square kilometers and per 9

10 11

Jacques Foccart, Dans les bottes du général, Journal de l’Élysée - III: 1969–1971 (Paris: Librairie Arthème Fayard/Jeune Afrique, 1999). Diary entry for 17.07.1969, p. 94. Ibid. p. 95. Marc R. DeVore, “Preserving Power after Empire: The Credibility Trap and France’s Intervention in Chad, 1968–1972,” War in History, OnlineFirst, First published: 20 Sept. 2018, p. 20; and Centre de Doctrine d’Emploi des Forces (CDEF). Répertoire typologique des opérations: Tome 2 Afrique (Paris: Ministère de la Défense, 2006), p. 12.

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2,000 Chadian citizens. It also represented something like 0.5 percent of existing French military strength. Although French military commanders constantly requested more resources, the force level remained small. Partly this related to a broader process of professionalizing France’s overseas intervention forces, as opposed to using conscripts, which filled the ranks of units based in France and Germany. Conscripts could serve overseas if they volunteered. However, after the first few months of the intervention, these volunteers were removed from their units in Chad. This aimed to avoid the inevitable domestic repercussions of draftees dying in a foreign war.12 Veterans would later complain bitterly that French media would sometimes shrug off the death of professional soldiers with qualifiers such as, “Families should be reassured, those who were killed were all volunteers.”13 Compounding this difficulty, the French government wanted the intervention to remain discreet. French officials made very few public statements about it. Initially, both Tombalbaye and French government spokespeople described MRA head Pierre Lami’s and French military chief Michel Arnaud’s arrival in Chad as little more than a two-man advisory mission.14 The French press remained largely in the dark about the extent of the intervention until later in the year. This partly changed in September as Le Monde journalist Jacques Isnard received authorization from the French defense ministry to visit Chad and report on the ongoing operation. Foccart came to regret this. Isnard’s comprehensive three-part report on Chad made clear the weaknesses of the Chadian regime, the extent of the rebellion, and the obstacles in overcoming both. Foccart was particularly incensed by the fact that General Arnaud himself seemed to be the main source for much of Isnard’s detailed military reporting. Although it already had been planned, Foccart demanded that Michel Debré, the French defense minister, accelerate Arnaud’s replacement by General Edouard Cortadellas.15 12 13

14 15

Col. Michel Goya, La France en guerre au Tchad (1969–1972): La victoire oublié (self-published, 2018), Kindle e-book. Jackie Neau, L’intervention de la France dans le conflit tchadien, 1969–1975: une guerre révolutionnaire introuvable, un fiasco en position de force (Paris: Mémoires d’hommes, 2006). p. 112. AFP, “Deux hauts fonctionnaires français sont mis à la disposition de Fort-Lamy pour étudier la réforme de l’administration,” in Le Monde, 24.04.1969. Foccart, Dans les bottes du général, note 9 above, diary entry for 23.09.1969, pp. 118–119. The article in question here is: Jacques Isnard, “Un pays déchiré I. – La rébellion s’organise,” Le Monde, 23.09.1969.

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Arnaud, had, in fact, become an increasing liability as the French intervention escalated. He initially had seemed like a good choice for the position of “Délégué militaire” (“military delegate” – a euphemism obscuring his role as commander of both French and Chadian forces). De Gaulle had initially passed up suggestions that General Marcel Bigeard, a high-profile general famous for his exploits in Indochina and Algeria, take command. Foccart feared that his presence would overly publicize the intervention. Arnaud, on the other hand, seemed more inconspicuous.16 Also, like Lami, he had a long experience in Chad. First stationed in the country in 1938, he later participated in Philippe Leclerc’s famous 1941 raid from Chad, which captured Kufra in Libya from the Italian army. He returned to Chad in the late 1950s, where he commanded troops at Faya-Largeau in the BET.17 Despite these advantages, Arnaud quickly clashed with Tombalbaye, with his civilian hierarchy (particularly Wibaux), and with his military subordinates. Partly this resulted from the fact that he technically fell under the purview of the Cooperation Ministry for his military assistance mission, and under the Defense Ministry for military operations. This led to contradictory directives from different bureaucracies with different objectives. Arnaud’s military strategy brought him into conflict with his own officers. Given the limited numbers of French troops, Arnaud looked to deploy the 2nd REP in a series of roaming search-and-destroy operations to destroy larger Frolinat formations in central and eastern Chad.18 A number of his subordinates objected to this strategy, accusing Arnaud of acting like a “firefighter who tries to extinguish, one-byone, fires that burst out all at the same time and can reignite the moment they are thought to be snuffed out, and without the means to do it.” In its place, these officers proposed a strategy which, to Isnard, seemed like a reconquest of Chad. It involved stationing units at the local administrative level to “intimidate the population” and

16

17 18

Marc R. DeVore, “Institutions, Organizational Culture, and Counterinsurgency Operations: Why Do States Fight Similar Insurgencies Differently?” Comparative Strategy, Vol. 32, No. 3 (2013), p. 181. AFP, “Deux hauts fonctionnaires français sont mis à la disposition de Fort-Lamy pour étudier la réforme de l’administration,” in Le Monde, 24.04.1969. DeVore, “Institutions, Organizational Culture, and Counterinsurgency Operations,” note 16 above, p. 181.

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enforce central government authority.19 Those advocating for harsher methods complained that Arnaud seemed to wage war “at the tips of his fingers and in white gloves [. . .] they find him soft.”20 In fact, Arnaud had originally pushed for a similar, though less overtly repressive, strategy as well. In his mind, while mobile French forces concentrated on defeating rebel groups, Chadian forces and local militias would guard villages and lines of communication. Unfortunately for Arnaud, Frolinat rebels began avoiding direct contact with French forces. This, combined with difficult conditions due to the rainy season, meant that French efforts produced few initial results. Additionally, Arnaud had no control over militia creation and management, as they fell under the auspices of the MRA and, more generally, local Chadian chiefs and administrators. Not only did this undermine Arnaud’s military effort, but he felt that many militias had become goon squads of local officials, thus driving more people into the rebellion. This led Arnaud into vocal disagreements with both Lami and Wibaux over the relationship between the intervention’s civilian and military components.21 Arnaud’s negative relationships extended to the Foreign Legion forces he commanded. He initially opposed the deployment of the Legion to Chad. As a fierce Gaullist, he held it in contempt for its role in the 1961 “General’s putsch” in Algeria. He felt that de Gaulle should have disbanded the entire institution.22 He feared that the Legion and its officer corps would bring a violent mentality born of the Algerian war to its counterinsurgency efforts. He also strongly opposed the bloody methods employed by Chadian security forces. This generated increasing tension with Chadian officers who preferred a “scorched earth” campaign against the rebellion. One Chadian minister who advocated this approach frequently referred to French forces as “an army of tourists.”23 In August, this culminated in an angry exchange between Arnaud and Tombalbaye, which devolved 19 20 21 22 23

Jacques Isnard, “III.-Le pari de la France,” Le Monde, 25.09.1969. René Backmann, “Les Chances des rebelles,” Nouvel observateur, 08.12.1969, p. 12. DeVore, “Institutions, Organizational Culture, and Counterinsurgency Operations,” note 16 above, p. 181. Pierre Dufour, La France au Tchad depuis 1969 (Boulogne-Billancourt: ETAI, 2009), p. 37n. Jacques Isnard, “III.-Le pari de la France,” note 19 above.

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into a shouting match. In a fit of anger, the Chadian president ordered Arnaud to massacre 15,000 Arabs in communities he accused of supporting the rebellion. Arnaud considered this outrageous and made it clear that he could never follow such an order. Wibaux asked Paris to replace Arnaud, since the latter clearly could not work with Tombalbaye or his counterparts in the MRA.24

A New Look The circumstances surrounding Arnaud’s ouster bred resentment within the French general officer corps. Briefly, Pompidou and the French high command had difficulties finding someone willing to replace him. Finally, at the end of September 1969, General Edouard Cortadellas took over as France’s “Délégué militaire.” Cortadellas had a long experience in counterinsurgency operations, having served in both Indochina and Algeria. Nearing retirement, he also had little to fear regarding possible career repercussions of a premature end to his mission.25 He would prove much more diplomatic than Arnaud. In substance, Cortadellas’ strategy differed little from his predecessor’s, though Paris never granted him as many troops as he felt he required. As reinforcements arrived, Cortadellas articulated a strategy based around the deployment of multiple EMTs (Etats-major tactiques, tactical commands) covering much of central and eastern Chad. Several companies of the 2nd REP and their Chadian ANT counterparts deployed in EMTs based in Mongo, Am-Timam, and Abéché. Meanwhile, a company of the 2nd REP and elements of the 6e Régiment interarmes d'outre-mer (6th RIAOM), based in FortLamy, constituted a general reserve. These units were to clear the central and eastern prefectures of major Frolinat formations while the MRA and local militias established themselves in newly secured areas. In the BET, Cortadellas deployed a platoon alongside several ANT companies, as negotiations proceeded with the 2nd Army.26 To facilitate Franco-Chadian military cooperation and to improve his control over operations, Cortadellas established an “Etat-major franco-tchadien” (Franco-Chadian Command, or EMFT) based in 24 25

DeVore, “Institutions, Organizational Culture, and Counterinsurgency Operations,” note 16 above, p. 181. 26 Ibid., p. 182. CDEF, Répertoire typologique, note 11 above, p. 15.

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Fort-Lamy. The EMFT aimed to coordinate logistics, intelligencegathering, operational planning, and management between and among French and Chadian units. Cortadellas complemented this structure with local joint-command centers placed within the EMTs. Although the EMFT was nominally meant to incorporate Chadians into the decision-making process and planning for military operations, only two Chadian officers actually served in the EMFT in Fort-Lamy.27 In early November, following the rainy season, Frolinat forces in central and eastern Chad launched what seemed like a coordinated offensive. After two weeks of successes against government outposts and isolated detachments, the combined Franco-Chadian response quickly reversed rebel gains.28 French forces benefited from enhanced mobility provided by transport helicopters. However, Cortadellas frequently demanded more. He complained to journalist René Backmann that a lack of helicopters and heavy transport aircraft prevented planned operations. He suggested that in the absence of troop increases, more aircraft would increase his effectiveness by “10 or 20 percent.”29 This lack of adequate air support partly stemmed from hard logistical obstacles. Since French authorities had not declared Chad an official theater of operations, the logistics management occurred at a peacetime tempo. This ensured shortages of vehicles, fuel, and equipment. Also, heavier equipment had to transit by sea from France to Cameroon, and then onward to Chad by road. This process could take weeks.30 Moreover Wibaux, and, by extension, Paris, strongly desired to limit the military aspect of the intervention, thus effectively capping Cortadellas’ resources. Despite these limitations, French forces inflicted catastrophic losses on Frolinat in late 1969 and early 1970. There were several reasons for this. The growth of local militias and newly empowered chiefly authorities affiliated with the government “liberated” a number of communities from rebel control or influence. The MRA provisionally armed 27 28

29 30

Neau, L’intervention de la France, note 13 above, p. 71. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 3, Report from EtatMajor-2ème Bureau, Délégation Militaire au Tchad, “Bulletin de Renseignements Mensuel, Période du 1er au 30 novembre 1968,” 30.11.1969. René Backmann, “Les Chances des rebelles,” Nouvel observateur, 08.12.1969, p. 13. CDEF, Répertoire typologique, note 11 above, pp. 13, 18–19.

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these militias with hunting rifles and MAS 36 bolt-action rifles.31 Ultimately 2,410 small arms would be provided to local militia forces, totaling nearly twenty times the number of firearms held by Frolinat rebels.32 Despite their outdated weaponry, this meant they were betterarmed than Frolinat formations. In turn, this may have encouraged increased local collaboration with government and French forces, thus cutting into Frolinat’s base. For instance, as early as November 1969, French military intelligence reported that some communities in ChariBaguirmi prefecture were less hesitant about interacting with Chadian security forces.33 At the same time, regional developments made it harder for Frolinat to resupply and rearm. Although the September 1969 overthrow of King Idriss in Libya would later have enormous repercussions for the Chadian rebellion, Frolinat’s immediate prospects for external support substantially diminished. By the end of 1969, the Sudanese government began to make a more concerted effort to prevent the transit of arms through its territory. In early 1970 French mediation also led to a reconciliation between Tombalbaye and Jean-Bedel Bokassa of the Central African Republic (CAR), after a sharp falling-out between the two leaders. Bokassa shut down the local Frolinat office in Bangui, arrested its representatives, and extradited them to Chad. Both events severely constrained the kinds of support Frolinat could hope to receive through or from Chad’s neighbors in the short term. Furthermore, Franco-Chadian military activity pushed larger Frolinat formations into more sparsely populated areas, making them more vulnerable. The availability, however limited, of helicopters, reconnaissance planes, and AD-4 ground-attack aircraft, made it much easier to locate, pursue, and attack Frolinat units. Due to their comparative lack of mobility, rebel groups found it hard to maintain their past strategy of avoiding combat with French troops. When combat did occur, French observers reported that Frolinat rebels fought ferociously, and often to the death. A November 1969 intelligence report 31

32 33

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 3, Report from EtatMajor-2ème Bureau, Délégation Militaire au Tchad, “Bulletin de Renseignements Mensuel, Période du 1er au 30 novembre 1969,” 30.11.1969, p. 1. DeVore, “Preserving Power After Empire,” note 11 above, p. 21. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 3, Report from EtatMajor-2ème Bureau, Délégation Militaire au Tchad, “Bulletin de Renseignements Mensuel, Période du 1er au 30 novembre 1969,” 30.11.1969, Annexe B11, p. 2.

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expressed surprise at this “fanatical attitude,” and suggested it indicated the powerful grip of Frolinat propaganda on “these simple people.”34 Far from representing a “fanatical” attitude though, rebel behavior responded to a certain logic. Frolinat’s biggest material weakness was its lack firearms and ammunition. French estimates from August 1969 suggested that the 1,970 rebels (an impossibly precise figure) under Frolinat command in central and eastern Chad possessed a mere 164 firearms. The picture looked even worse when one realizes this figure included Issaka’s personal entourage of 40 men, all of whom were armed. Thus, apart from Issaka’s band, less than one in 15 fighters possessed firearms. Additionally, these weapons were often of a mixed and eclectic quality, ranging from hunting rifles, Mausers, FN-49s, old MAS-36 rifles, to a few heavier machine guns such as the AA-52. Finding proper ammunition for each of these weapons in sufficient quantities remained a constant logistical headache, and individual combatants rarely carried more than 15 cartridges per gun. The remaining rebels mainly carried edged weapons such as spears, as well as bows and arrows.35 The few weapons in their possession gave them great value to rebel units. French reports recount how on multiple occasions many fighters would sacrifice themselves in frontal assaults with spearmen to prevent even single small arms from falling into enemy hands.36 Furthermore, fighters only seemed to fight to the death if cut off by Franco-Chadian forces, otherwise preferring flight against a better armed and organized adversary.37 Perhaps more important, few rebels felt they would survive capture anyhow, given the practices of the Chadian security forces. Even the French army, and particularly the Foreign Legion, hardly had an unblemished record in that regard, as examined later. Frolinat propaganda certainly exaggerated the brutality of their enemies, but they hardly invented these accusations out of thin air. 34 35

36 37

Ibid. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 3, Report from EtatMajor-2ème Bureau, Délégation Militaire au Tchad, “Bulletin de Renseignements Mensuel, Période du 1er au 31 Août 1969,” 31.08.1969, Annexe B11, pp. 5–6. Ibid. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 3, Report from EtatMajor-2ème Bureau, Délégation Militaire au Tchad, “Bulletin de Renseignements Mensuel, Période du 1er au 30 novembre 1968,” 30.11.1969, Annexe B11, p. 2.

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Hence, despite occasionally heavy fighting and fierce resistance, the French effort seemed to pay off. By early 1970, Frolinat had suffered significant casualties and began to disintegrate. This led Cortadellas to divide French forces into smaller roaming units charged with tracking down and defeating Frolinat remnants.38 Meanwhile, joint commands established under prefectural control began to function efficiently. Cortadellas wanted these local structures to give prefects command over police, gendarmerie, Garde nomade, and, when available, Compagnies tchadiennes de sécurite (CTS) units for basic security functions. He also placed French and Chadian army units at the disposal of the prefectural authorities if needed. This reorganization of security in the prefectures also had the effect of improving intelligence-gathering. Cortadellas hoped these kinds of structures, minus their French components, would become permanent fixtures of the Chadian administrative landscape.39 By July 1970, French military reports suggested that levels of violence in much of central and eastern Chad had declined to “peacetime levels.”40 Though an overstatement, this reflected the fact that the French intervention had effectively dismantled much of the Frolinat presence in those prefectures. In August, Foccart’s office reported to Pompidou that French organizational and logistical efforts had also improved Chadian army effectiveness. It noted that the rank and file of the Chadian army was “good” and its NCOs “generally honest,” though its officer corps remained “too often mediocre and drunk or dishonest.” Early assessments also suggested the militia strategy was working. Foccart’s secrétariat optimistically concluded, “in comparison to what it was eighteen months ago, the situation has significantly improved.”41 Events in the BET, however, would soon disrupt this rosy picture.

The War in the BET Initially, the rebellion in central and eastern Chad constituted the principal target of the French intervention. Galopin’s negotiations, 38 39 40 41

Neau, L’intervention de la France, note 13 above, p. 74. Pierre de Tonquédec, Face au Darfour (Panazol: Lavauzelle Graphic, 2010), pp. 25–26. DeVore, “Institutions, Organizational Culture, and Counterinsurgency Operations,” note 16 above, p. 182. Archives Nationales, AG/5(F)/2027, Note, “Audience du Président Tombalbaye, Président de la République du Tchad,” 25.08.1970, pp. 1–2.

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and the subsequent defection of part of the Téda clan in Tibesti to the government, made it seem the situation in the BET had been contained. General Arnaud had originally only deployed two infantry platoons in Bardaï and Zouar to reinforce the local Chadian army presence as a deterrent against a general offensive.42 Ambassador Wibaux, technically overseeing both the military and civilian components of the French intervention, felt that French efforts should concentrate on protecting “useful Chad.” This meant focusing resources in central and eastern Chad. Rebel control of the vast and barren desert of the BET did not particularly worry him.43 Furthermore in September 1969, a well-executed French assault on a rebel column northwest of Faya-Largeau, the capital of the BET, inflicted heavy casualties on elements of the Frolinat 2nd Army. During the fighting, French soldiers killed Mahamat Ali Taher, its nominal leader. Jacques Isnard reported in grisly detail how a wounded Taher cried out “I’m the leader!” presumably hoping to save his own life. Instead a legionnaire finished him off in cold blood.44 Whether or not this assault served as a catalyst, French advisors stationed in the BET soon secured large-scale defections from Tubu combatants. In Borkou, 159 rebels gave themselves up to the Chadian regime in November. French military intelligence related this to material incentives, a lack of supplies, and a need to defend their interests in certain palm groves threatened by other Tubu factions. Meanwhile, 60 more agreed to defect before internal conflicts broke up the group. In Ennedi, negotiations broke down as local rebel leaders disagreed over what course to take. These disputes, and the willingness of many Tubu rebels to negotiate, engendered optimism among French observers. A November 1969 intelligence report wryly noted that, “the political ideals of Frolinat appear to have been forgotten and particularisms seem to have taken over.”45 42 43 44 45

Neau, L’intervention de la France, note 13 above, p. 70. DeVore, “Institutions, Organizational Culture, and Counterinsurgency Operations,” note 16 above, p. 182. Jacques Isnard, “Un pays déchiré, note 15 above. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 3, Report from EtatMajor-2ème Bureau, Délégation Militaire au Tchad, “Bulletin de Renseignements Mensuel, Période du 1er au 30 novembre 1968,” 30.11.1969, Annexe B11, pp. 3–4.

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Meanwhile, negotiations began between Chadian authorities and the Derdé in Libya. These made little headway, largely due to tensions between the Derdé and the Tibesti faction of Tubu who had rallied to the government. Tombalbaye offered to give the Derdé customary justice and local police powers if he returned to Chad. The Derdé could not accept this without the removal of his rival Sougoumi Chahaïmi. As this would have simply provoked another rebellion, Tombalbaye refused.46 Later, some French officers would correctly note that their superiors had overestimated the Derdé’s influence over the Chadian Tubu. They also felt these early negotiations wasted time and that a more forceful French military action at this stage could have prevented later difficulties.47 In late 1969 and early 1970, though, the apparent weaknesses of the Tubu rebellion and its extreme distance from more populous and economically productive parts of the country meant that FrancoChadian resources were concentrated elsewhere. For these reasons, until late 1970, Cortadellas limited French military efforts in the BET. One important exception consisted of a clearing operation around Ounianga Kébir, a key way station on the route between Faya-Largeau and Kufra in southeastern Libya. This operation came at the insistence of Pierre Lami. Lami felt that Ounianga’s role as a regional commercial hub made government control a strategic necessity. On March 23, 1970, Cortadellas launched an attack on the settlement and its environs. Over the course of five days of intense fighting, French forces gained control, killing some 80 rebels with the loss of 5 French dead and 9 wounded.48 As the length of the operation illustrates, the Tubu rebels would prove more formidable adversaries to French forces than those in central and eastern Chad. Partly this had to do with a certain “warrior tradition,” which, though exaggerated by French journalists and military observers at the time, meant that most Tubu adult males had experience with firearms. Indeed, according to French intelligence,

46 47

48

Robert Buijtenhuijs, Le Frolinat et les révoltes populaires du Tchad 1965–1976 (The Hague: Mouton, 1978), pp. 230–231. Neau, L’intervention de la France, note 13 above, p. 117. Arguably, such an intervention might have also served as a renewed catalyst for Tubu unity against the invaders. Ibid., p. 74.

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among the estimated 400 or so rebels in the BET, nearly all possessed small arms of various types, though often older weapons.49 Also, unlike central and eastern Chad, where sedentary or semisedentary lifestyles clashed with the highly mobile and furtive demands of the insurgency, the nomadic Tubu did not have to radically change their living habits. Furthermore, the Tubu rebels were well adapted to life in the harsh desert climate, which otherwise reduced the combat effectiveness of both men and equipment among their adversaries.50 Until later in the year, though, the 2nd Army appeared relatively disorganized and posed little threat to the government. This changed in September when the Tubu rebellion mounted a coordinated offensive targeting several important government strongholds. French observers attributed this renewed bellicosity to a timely influx of several hundred well-armed and highly trained fighters from Libya. These Tubu combatants allegedly belonged to King Idriss’s personal guard unit before his overthrow in September 1969. Possibly at the instigation of the new Libyan strongman, Muammar Gaddafi, they joined the rebellion in Chad. Goukouni later claimed this assessment was largely false. According to him, the influx of fighters stemmed from a Libyan decree expelling Chadians from the country, and none of Idriss’s guard had joined the rebellion.51 Given the later dearth of modern weaponry among 2nd Army fighters, it also seems unlikely that the Tubu rebellion received any large consignments of better equipment. To this effect, Buijtenhuijs cites a letter from Goukouni, dated May 24, 1971, complaining about a serious lack of arms and supplies.52 Regardless, the attacks in September and October 1970 led to a temporary wave of panic among French and Chadian officials. This was amplified in the French press when, on October 11, an ambush of French troops near the oasis of Bedo, 100 kilometers north-northwest of Faya-Largeau, killed 12 French soldiers and wounded 15 others. This shocked public opinion in France. It brought loud criticism by opposition parties in the National Assembly led by François Mitterrand. This led government spokesman Leo Hamon to announce 49

50 52

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 3, Report from EtatMajor-2ème Bureau, Délégation Militaire au Tchad, “Bulletin de Renseignements Mensuel, Période du 1er au 31 Août 1969,” 31.08.1969, Annexe B11, p. 5. 51 Buijtenhuijs, Les révoltes populaires, note 46 above, p. 291. Ibid., p. 218. Ibid., p. 249.

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that French forces would withdraw from Chad the following year, though he emphasized this had already been planned.53 Mitterrand then peppered Hamon with questions about France’s ongoing war: Who is France fighting in Chad? Is it fighting against foreign aggression? In that case, where is that aggression coming from? From Sudan? No one says that. From Libya? It’s implied sometimes, but if the government thinks so, how does it justify arms sales to that country? If it’s a purely domestic affair, the 1960 agreement doesn’t apply. Second question: Why is France fighting in Chad? Uranium from the countries of that region, strategic interest, solidarity with African governments? Third question: what is the time limit? You said April 1971: now you’ve just said 1971.54

This raised awkward questions related to the nature of the defense accords linking France and Chad. As Le Monde journalist Gilbert Comte noted, helping Tombalbaye repress an insurgency did not fall within the remit of the published agreement. In criticizing government justifications, Comte wrote, “If there is no secret military pact between the Fifth Republic and Mr. Tombalbaye’s regime, the French intervention in Tibesti is based on a very liberal interpretation of the treaties.”55 What Comte did not know, or perhaps could not write, was that such a secret agreement did exist, as described earlier. Pompidou’s administration discovered that taking overt action to honor a secret agreement still required public legal justification. Hence, French government representatives such as Yvon Bourges or Foreign Minister Maurice Schumann frequently asserted the intervention responded to commitments made in existing agreements. It seemed clear to all who listened, though, that the intervention’s legal foundations were dubious. Otherwise, on account of its deliberately low profile and the lack of French conscripts on the ground, Operation Limousin faced few major obstacles in French domestic politics. The most dramatic incident occurred on the evening of November 13, 1969, when some 30 youths 53 54 55

“Les événements du Tchad: toutes nos forces seront rapatriées en 1971, affirme M. Léo Hamon,” Le Monde, 19.10.1970. Ibid. Gilbert Comte, “L’Intervention française au Tchad est-elle conforme à l’accord de 1960?,” Le Monde, 27.10.1970.

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vandalized and set fire to the first floor of the Chadian embassy in Paris. The French police described them as belonging to the Maoist “Gauche prolétarienne.” They attached a red flag to the building, and left graffiti slogans such as “Vive le FROLINA[T],” and “Stop French aggression.” The police also carefully noted that none of the activists appeared to be African.56 At any rate, the withdrawal announced by Hamon did not refer to the “normal” French garrison in the country, nor the hundreds of military advisors embedded within Chadian forces. Regardless, Tombalbaye vociferously objected to any public withdrawal calendar. He complained that it undermined pacification efforts. He also indicated that a withdrawal might force him to look for help elsewhere, in particular Nigeria, Congo-Leopoldville, or even the United States and Israel.57 In a November meeting with Tombalbaye, a Cooperation Ministry delegation insisted that although the formal withdrawal would be completed by July 1971, French troops would be replaced by an enhanced training mission, as well as continued logistical support. Though forced to accept the French decision, Tombalbaye feared that an increased French presence within the Chadian military establishment would meet firm resistance. He therefore insisted that both Cortadellas and Wibaux remain at their posts following the withdrawal.58 Meanwhile, given the gravity of the situation in the BET, Cortadellas decided to divert troops from the recently “pacified” prefectures to bring his forces to bear on the 2nd Army. Early efforts aimed to end the siege of a government garrison in Zouar. The garrison had suffered heavy casualties and resupply was difficult. The French relief operation secured the settlement by the end of October. During the fighting, Goukouni escaped, but lost two of his brothers, who were killed by French forces.59 In late November, Franco-Chadian troops near Fada in Ennedi annihilated a group of some 80 rebel combatants. The 56 57

58

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 13, Report from the Prefecture de Police (untitled), 14.11.1969. Archives Nationales, AG/5(F)/2044, Compte-rendu de mission au Tchad de M. Michel VAN GREVENYNGHE, Conseiller Technique au Cabinet de Secrétaire d’Etat auprès du Ministre des Affaires Etrangères, “Compte-rendu de Mission au Tchad – 7 au 14 novembre,” 18.11.1970, p. 3. 59 Ibid. Buijtenhuijs, Les révoltes populaires, note 46 above, p. 219.

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fighting in October and November proved bloody for the rebellion and effectively put an end to their offensive. The 2nd Army had lost some 150 dead and a dozen or so prisoners.60 Nonetheless, Cortadellas signaled to his superiors that he lacked the means to both continue the fight in the BET and maintain a sufficient presence in central and eastern Chad. He also now wanted to mount substantial offensive operations against the Tubu rebellion to destroy its largest organized elements. The November Cooperation Ministry mission came to a different conclusion. In its report to Paris, it emphasized political divisions among Tubu communities. It suggested a more limited approach, arguing, “it would suffice to hold the main palm groves and, through limited and targeted operations, to periodically break their strength.” The report argued that though military efforts would remain necessary, negotiations were essential.61 Wibaux concurred, arguing that Cortadellas should only conduct limited operations focused on driving the rebel leadership to the negotiating table.62 Ultimately, Pompidou sided with Wibaux, and only authorized Cortadellas to conduct a limited offensive in the BET. Begun on January 10, 1971, Operation Bison consisted of some 1,250 troops, 18 helicopters, and 8 aircraft.63 Cortadellas wanted to take advantage of French air supremacy to demonstrate that France could airlift troops to and operate in the most remote and inhospitable desert strongholds. Franco-Chadian forces also visited nearly every major palm grove in Bourkou and Tibesti.64 Despite their best efforts, Bison netted few successes and only one significant engagement. On January 21, intelligence from a local defector led French commanders to launch a large-scale heliborne assault on a rebel refuge near a rocky outcrop some 200 kilometers north of Faya-Largeau. After a full day of pounding from AD-4s, H-34 helicopters mounted with 20mm cannon (called “Pirates”), and 60 61

62 63

Ibid. Archives Nationales, AG/5(F)/2044, Compte-rendu de mission au Tchad de M. Michel VAN GREVENYNGHE, Conseiller Technique au Cabinet de Secrétaire d’Etat auprès du Ministre des Affaires Etrangères, “Compte-rendu de Mission au Tchad – 7 au 14 novembre,” 18.11.1970, p. 6. DeVore, “Institutions, Organizational Culture, and Counterinsurgency Operations,” note 16 above, p. 183. 64 Ibid. Neau, L’intervention de la France, note 13 above, p. 86.

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infantry assaults, 12 rebels lay dead, while 40 or so more escaped into the night. French troops on the other hand lost 2 killed, including Master Sergeant Bertrand Cortadellas, the son of the French commander.65 Apart from this incident, rebel combatants avoided direct contact with French forces. In early February, the Derdé indicated a willingness to reopen talks. Pompidou then overrode Cortadellas’ strong objections and ended the operation. Goukouni and his fighters took advantage of this respite to disperse. Fighting resumed in March after it became clear that nothing would come of negotiations. French forces again came up empty, with few battlefield successes to report. In two months of operations, Bison only “neutralized” 16 rebels out of an estimated 500, with most of these coming from the January operation.66 The only other important military operation in the BET took place in June. A pair of prisoners picked up by a French patrol near Bedo indicated that a group of 150 rebels had encamped some 40 kilometers north of the oasis, in the palm grove of Kouroudi. Some of them had apparently belonged to the group that had mounted the costly Bedo ambush the previous year. On June 18 heliborne French troops supported by AD-4s and attack helicopters assaulted the rebel position. At the cost of 3 dead and 7 wounded, French troops killed 42 rebel fighters and wounded 17 others, with the rest escaping overnight.67 The French transported the most seriously wounded rebels by helicopter for treatment and placed the rest in trucks to Bedo and FayaLargeau. Jackie Neau, then a lieutenant with the 6th Compagnie Parachutistes d’Infanterie de Marine (6th CPIMa), and a veteran of the Bedo ambush, noted that Libyans hired by the French to drive the trucks expressed astonishment that the French provided medical care to their prisoners.68 As discussed later, however, this was not always

65 66 67

68

Ibid., pp. 139–146. DeVore, “Institutions, Organizational Culture, and Counterinsurgency Operations,” note 16 above, p. 191 n.118. Documents Diplomatiques Françaises (DDF), 1971, Tome II, Document 58, telegram, M. Baldit, Chargé d’Affaires de France a.i. à Fort-Lamy, à M. Schumann, Ministre des Affaires Etrangères, “Réunion du comité de défense,” 04.10.1971, p. 174n. Neau gives slightly higher figures for Frolinat casualties. Neau, L’intervention de la France, note 13 above, pp. 147–155.

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the case. The behavior of French troops and their Chadian allies would later cause some controversy. Following this last round of fighting, French officials generally felt pleased with the situation in Chad. In a Defense Committee meeting on August 2, 1971, Cortadellas noted that overall violence in the country had declined. He also linked most of the ongoing violence to “acts of brigandage” rather than to political motivation. He reported that of 127 verified incidents in the previous four months, only 14 had a clearly discernable political agenda behind them. Furthermore, during that same period, according to Cortadellas, Franco-Chadian forces had killed 244 rebel combatants throughout the country and captured 155, in addition to 104 firearms. He suggested this had led to a large drop in rebel morale and increased the reluctance among the general populace to help them.69 This improved situation allowed Pompidou and his advisors to formally move forward with the troop withdrawal. In April 1971, several helicopters returned to France. This was followed in June by several companies of the 3rd RIMa (Marine Infantry Regiment).70 While this meant to signal a shift in France’s mission, actual troop numbers remained close to peak levels. At the end of 1971 the French embassy reported 1,859 French troops in the country in addition to 595 French military advisors serving with the Chadian military.71 The emphasis would now shift, however, to enhancing Chadian capacity to keep the rebellion at bay and build a more capable military.

“Chadification” Chad’s various security forces had all grown steadily over the previous years. From a combined force level of 6,610 personnel in May 1969, Chadian forces increased to some 8,300 by February 1971.72 French officers in the AMT, the military assistance mission, oversaw this 69

70 71 72

DDF, 1971, Tome II, Document 58, Telegram, M. Baldit, Chargé d’Affaires de France a.i. à Fort-Lamy, à M. Schumann, Ministre des Affaires Etrangères, “Réunion du comité de défense,” 04.08.1971, p. 174. Neau, L’intervention de la France, note 13 above, p. 89. Archives Nationales, AG/5(F)/2046, Note du Consulat Général de France, “Effectif et répartition de la colonie française au Tchad,” 31.12.1971. FCMGT, Carton 6, A8/1 Dossier “A.T. militaire,” Mission militaire de coopération, “Note sur les forces de sécurité tchadiennes et sur notre assistance militaire au Tchad,” 17.02.1971, p. 1.

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process. The French effort included two major components. The most immediately important consisted in the temporary replacement of many Chadian officers and NCOs by French advisors. An AMT report from early 1971 outlined this massive French role: Our personnel clearly hold all the key posts in the hierarchy of the General Staff and operational commands. They command EMTs, companies, platoons, and even squads. They alone compose the structure and main body of the logistical services, just as they run the Air Force. They [also] command and run the military schools and training centers.73

This aimed to streamline command-and-control, as well as increase combat effectiveness. It also meant to facilitate training as army numbers expanded, and to improve overall discipline. The second element of the military assistance mission consisted of training Chadian officers and NCOs. Chadian NCOs were sent to a training base in Moussoro, while officers were transferred to a newly established “Ecole des cadres” (officers’ school) in Fort-Lamy. French advisors particularly emphasized officer training, developing a threeyear curriculum for the Chadian officer corps.74 This presence generated some pushback. In October 1970, General Roger Couetdic, head of military assistance in the Cooperation Ministry, visited Chad to assess the assistance effort. While there, he distributed a questionnaire to French advisors on the attitudes of the Chadian officer corps toward the French mission (no thought was apparently given of asking the Chadians themselves). The results were discouraging; 75 percent of the officers and NCOs under French command only obeyed orders hesitantly or out of a sense of discipline. At the same time, French military advisors felt that only 17 percent of Chadian officers and NCOs could replace their French counterparts if the latter had to leave the country. Also, while Couetdic’s report estimated that only 7 percent of the Chadian officer corps strongly opposed the French intervention, feelings of resentment at the humiliation of foreign tutelage were widespread. Perhaps most worryingly, 56 percent of the Chadian officer corps felt that French-led efforts were insufficient and preferred more repressive military action. This led to fears among French officers that

73

Ibid., p. 6.

74

Ibid., p. 3.

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any major reduction in French forces could have highly destructive consequences on the ground.75 Meanwhile, the French-led expansion and reorganization of Chad’s military also carried a significant financial burden for Chad’s impoverished government. Although France picked up most of the training costs, Chad’s projected defense outlays for 1971 totaled 4.57 billion CFA francs, equivalent to 33.9 percent of its budget. While similar in relative terms to spending levels reached as early as 1966, it represented a 1.3 billion CFA francs increase over the earlier figure. Also, unlike the 1966 budget, this did not include intelligence funding. Furthermore, by now most of the money went to salaries, with less than 1.9 billion CFA francs spent on operations and routine activity. Meanwhile, the Chadian regime allocated no funding for investment in new equipment, nor for maintenance of its existing stock. Concerned AMT advisors also noted that the Chadian regime had insufficient resources to pay for ongoing operations.76 In practice, this meant that France would continue to cover costs. It also implied that the fiscal problems and limitations of the Chadian state – one of the primary causes of the conflict – persisted. In the short term, however, the French effort seemed to bear some fruit. By the end of 1971, the ANT had expanded to 12 companies, totaling some 2,700 troops. Tombalbaye’s praetorian guard, the CTS, had almost doubled in size to 1,000 troops, and the Garde nationale et nomade tchadienne had recruited over 500 personnel, reaching a nominal strength of over 3,300 men.77 More important, though, Chadian troops began to experience success on the battlefield. In September 1970, Commandant (Major) Pierre de Tonquédec took command of Chadian forces in Ouaddaï prefecture. Notwithstanding serious losses, Frolinat still maintained an important presence there. Based in Abéché, the region’s capital, Tonquédec’s

75 76

77

DDF, 1970, Tome II, Document 267, DAM Note, “Des cadres de l’armée tchadienne,” 09.12.1970, pp. 736–738. FCMGT, Carton 6, A8/1, Mission militaire de coopération, “Note sur les forces de sécurité tchadiennes et sur notre assistance militaire au Tchad,” 17.02.1971, p. 5. Due to high levels of corruption within the regime, it also seems likely that much of the money formally allocated for defense purposes went elsewhere. Ibid., p. 1. Four Chadian companies were trained in Zaire by Belgian instructors as part of an assistance offer made to Tombalbaye by Zaire’s leader, Joseph Mobutu.

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mission aimed to improve the capacity of Chadian troops under his command and use them to “pacify” Ouaddaï.78 Like his counterparts elsewhere in the country, Tonquédec found that logistics posed his biggest challenge. The territory he covered with his three Chadian companies stretched nearly 400 kilometers north to south, and 200 kilometers east to west. Temperatures could reach 55 degrees Celsius in the shade during the dry season. Practicable roads or paths for vehicles were limited and mostly impassible during the rainy season. This made it extremely difficult to rapidly follow up on intelligence of rebel activity. To make matters worse, the presence of the long border with the Sudanese province of Darfur meant that rebel groups had a ready refuge from Franco-Chadian pursuit. In the absence of good intelligence, border posts found it difficult to detect and deter infiltration. Captain Fruchard, commanding the 3rd Chadian Airborne Company (compara3) based in Adé along the Sudanese border, complained that trying to prevent infiltrations was like “being a goalkeeper taking penalty kicks.”79 Tonquédec tried to make the best of his meager resources. To improve intelligence, he made use of two platoons of horse-mounted Gardes nomades, largely recruited from the region, to scour the countryside for traces of rebel movements. As there was a lack of roads, these troops proved far more mobile over the open country than the motorized ANT companies, particularly during the rainy season. Beginning in March 1971, Cortadellas could afford to siphon off three helicopters to provide Tonquédec’s overstretched command with some air support and transport capabilities. This included an Alouette 2 as a flying command post, an H-34 in “Pirate” configuration to act as a ground-attack helicopter, and another H-34 as a troop transport. These helicopters, combined with further air support that Tonquédec could call in from Fort-Lamy, made it much easier to track down and attack rebels detected by his mounted troops.80 From November 1970 to April 1971, Tonquédec’s troops garnered impressive victories. The ANT and Gardes nomades under his command performed well in several engagements. By mid-1971, they had defeated all the major Frolinat formations operating in Ouaddaï, 78 80

Tonquédec, Face au Darfour, note 39 above, pp. 23–28. Ibid., pp. 61–64.

79

Ibid., p. 57.

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killing dozens and forcing the rest to disperse or take refuge in neighboring Sudan.81 Furthermore, Frolinat abuses, combined with a firmer ANT presence along the Sudanese border, led several local Dadjo communities to mobilize against the rebels.82 This went hand in hand with Tombalbaye’s efforts to promote political “reconciliation.” Stripped of administrative responsibilities, by the end of 1971 the MRA had built or repaired 150 wells and constructed 20 public buildings, mostly schools and clinics. The vast majority of these projects centered in Chad’s central and eastern prefectures and aimed to encourage local communities to support the government. Tombalbaye also took more overtly political measures, looking to win support. In April 1971 he abolished head and livestock taxes in Tibesti and released 120 prisoners – including captured rebels and political prisoners. The following month, he toured eight of the country’s prefectures, releasing a further 823 prisoners. On May 23, he reshuffled his cabinet, with Muslims occupying half of the new cabinet posts.83 These policies followed what seemed like a major propaganda coup. In January 1971, the regime concluded a peace agreement with the leadership of several hundred Moubi rebels around Mangalmé. Although representing only a fraction of Frolinat’s combatants, these Moubi had constituted the “historic” core of the rebellion. They had multiple reasons to defect. Years of constant war had seriously diminished sources of supply and made it increasingly difficult to live off the countryside. Furthermore, the proliferation of village militias in Guéra seriously constrained their range of action. Perhaps most important, the sidelining of Frolinat’s military commander, El Hajj Issaka, in favor of commanders externally imposed by a distant leadership, alienated many who were otherwise sympathetic to the rebellion. In late 1970, Tombalbaye opened negotiations with some of the Moubi leadership. This resulted in a rather generous deal. In exchange for laying down their weapons, Tombalbaye would release Moubi prisoners and pay reparations for crimes committed by Chadian security forces following the 1965 uprising. The Moubi would also gain a representative in the Parti progressiste tchadien (PPT) political bureau, which meant a source of patronage for the community. Tombalbaye 81 83

82 Ibid., pp. 53–71. Ibid., pp. 94–96. Buijtenhuijs, Les révoltes populaires, note 46 above, pp. 227–228.

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further promised to invest in building wells, clinics, and schools. Former rebel leaders were also elected local canton chiefs, and many former combatants joined local militias.84 Meanwhile, just as the military situation stabilized, a series of events beginning in August 1971 would foreshadow the troubles of the coming decade. That month, Ahmed Abdallah, former National Assembly deputy and longtime PPT activist, informed Tombalbaye that the interior minister, Mahamat Douba Alifa, was involved in a coup plot, possibly involving Libya and Frolinat. At the same time, he contacted French military intelligence with the same information.85 Douba Alifa was one of the pillars of Tombalbaye’s regime. As the powerful Muslim customary leader (Alifa) of Kanem, the prefecture north of Lake Chad, he had played an important role in keeping his territory free from Frolinat activity. He ruled Kanem, particularly its Mao subprefecture, with an iron fist, imposing what many viewed as excessive taxation. Multiple observers referred to him as a “feudal despot” of notorious cruelty. Despite – or perhaps because of – this, his region experienced little unrest at the height of the Frolinat rebellion.86 Tonquédec, who had transferred from Abéché to Fort-Lamy earlier in the month as Cortadellas’ chief of staff, had a front-row seat to the whole affair. According to him, Douba Alifa worried that Abdallah’s accusations would play well with Tombalbaye’s paranoia. He apparently had a ready ally in Camille Gourvennec, Tombalbaye’s feared security chief. According to Tonquédec, Gourvennec convinced Tombalbaye he could not afford to alienate the leader of Kanem, and instead should focus his wrath on Abdallah. Tombalbaye had Abdallah arrested. After torture at the hands of Douba Alifa himself, Abdallah died of a stab wound to the stomach.87 Publicly, Tombalbaye declared Abdallah had committed suicide shortly after his arrest, though he had revealed important information 84 86

87

85 Ibid., p. 229. Tonquédec, Face au Darfour, note 39 above, p. 100. See: Buijtenhuijs, Les révoltes populaires, note 46 above, pp. 409–411, and Samuel Decalo, Historical Dictionary of Chad (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1997), pp. 163–164. Buijtenhuijs speculates at length on the reasons for Frolinat’s lack of popularity there and suggests that local elites benefited from the status quo in ways they did not elsewhere. It also may have reflected EastWest tensions linked to the central and eastern constituencies of Frolinat. Tonquédec, Face au Darfour, note 39 above, p. 101.

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implicating a “great imperialist power” in fomenting a coup plot.88 He accused Abdallah of working for French intelligence. The Chadian leader claimed Abdallah “admitted” that Foccart had ordered Cortadellas to replace Tombalbaye. According to this version, Foccart arranged this coup attempt with Libya as part of a two-faced policy. In a note to Foccart, the head of the French police Cooperation Mission – which also functioned as an intelligence agency – wrote that Abdallah apparently gave names of ministers for a post-coup government, including Abdallah himself, but died before he could reveal the new president. He added that “as ridiculous and fantastical as it seems, this story is accepted as true by Chadian leaders.”89 Undeniably, French officials widely shared a low opinion of Tombalbaye. He certainly suspected this. For instance, a Quai memo described Tombalbaye as having, “an oversensitive, mistrustful, and willingly autocratic character.” It ascribed this to his background which, unlike many of France’s African clients, was not sufficiently “French”: Being neither a man of culture, nor veteran of the French army, and moreover never having experienced our parliamentary assemblies, President Tombalbaye does not have the deep knowledge of our country and its humanism which is characteristic of many of his colleagues.90

At the same time though, French officials, including Foccart, saw no viable alternative.91 It thus seems clear that France had no immediate plans to overthrow Tombalbaye. Foccart later strongly denied it, and Tonquédec recalled that Cortadellas was befuddled at the charge.92 Tonquédec speculated that Abdallah had simply implicated the French 88 89

90 91 92

Al Hadj Garondé Djarma, Témoignage d’un militant du FROLINAT (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2003), p. 87. Archives Nationales, AG/5(F)/2045, Note from Préfet – Directeur du Service de Coopération Technique Internationale de Police to Foccart, “Note concernant l’évolution des relations franco-tchadiennes: une certaine détérioration est notée sur place à cette égard,” 08.11.1971, p. 3. Archives Nationales, AG/5(F)/2027, DAM Note, “a/s. M. François Tombalbaye,” 21.08.1970, p. 2. Archives Nationales, AG/5(F)/2027, Note, “Audience du Président Tombalbaye, Président de la République du Tchad,” 25.08.1970, p. 2. Jacques Foccart. Foccart Parle: Entretiens avec Philippe Gaillard (Vol. 2) (Paris: Fayard, 1997), p. 140; and Tonquédec, Face au Darfour, note 39, pp. 101–102.

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in his confessions to provoke a confrontation which might have saved his life.93 The kernel of truth in Tombalbaye’s accusations, however, lay in the new and confusing Franco-Libyan relationship which, as the rest of this book illustrates, colored Chadian politics over the next decade and beyond. Just the previous year, in 1970, France and Libya signed a massive arms contract providing Tripoli with 110 Mirage fighter jets, along with spare parts, ammunition, and training and maintenance personnel.94 At the same time, Gaddafi had begun to provide lowlevels of support to Frolinat, and Libyan aid may have played a role in the 2nd Army’s 1970 offensive. From Tombalbaye’s perspective, French efforts to cozy up to Gaddafi seemed contrary to a policy aiming to stabilize Chad. While this was not the first mini-crisis in French relations with Tombalbaye, it almost became the last. At the end of August 1971, the Chadian president issued an order preventing Cortadellas from freely traveling around the country without authorization from the Interior Ministry (headed by Douba Alifa). Cortadellas reacted by temporarily halting all military operations. He also threatened Tombalbaye that he would return to France the moment the Chadian regime enforced the order, and said that French military assistance might end as well.95 When Wibaux approached Tombalbaye about it, he retracted his accusations against Cortadellas, but expressed suspicion of Foccart. Soon afterward, Tombalbaye summoned Cortadellas to a meeting. The French general grumbled to Tonquédec that French relations with Tombalbaye “will never be the same.” Fearing for his own safety, he gave orders to French troops in the capital to storm the presidential palace if he was away for more than two hours.96 Tombalbaye’s periodic spats with French officials led Pompidou on several occasions to consider ending French assistance. Government heavyweights, including Prime Minister Jacques Chaban-Delmas and Foreign Minister Maurice Schumann, also pushed in this direction. Nevertheless Foccart, seconded by Defense Minister Michel Débré, 93 94

95

Tonquédec, Face au Darfour, note 39, p. 101. See: SIPRI Arms Transfers Database at http://armstrade.sipri.org/armstrade/ page/trade_register.php, (accessed on 15.05.2013); and Claude Wauthier, Quatre Présidents et l’Afrique: de Gaulle, Pompidou, Giscard d’Estaing, Mitterrand (Paris: Seuil, 1995), p. 211. 96 Tonquédec, Face au Darfour, note 39 above, p. 102. Ibid., p. 102.

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strongly argued against taking such drastic actions. As noted above, Foccart felt France had little choice but to continue supporting Tombalbaye. Failure to do so, in his view, could undermine French credibility and the political order of the entire francophone African bloc. Foccart later attributed his success in persuading Pompidou to stay the course to the fact that Foccart, more than anyone, had suffered the most from Tombalbaye’s anti-French outbursts.97 Tombalbaye soon refocused his ire upon Libya. In response to Gaddafi’s alleged involvement in Abdallah’s “plot,” Tombalbaye broke relations with Tripoli. He also called upon Libyan dissidents to establish themselves in Chad and made extravagant claims on Libyan territory. In return, Gaddafi officially recognized Frolinat and invited its leadership to make Tripoli its headquarters. He also allowed Frolinat cadres to broadcast propaganda to Chad over Libyan radio.98 French officials later felt that Tombalbaye’s maneuver provided Gaddafi with a fine pretext for more overt interference in Chadian politics.99 He would soon take advantage of this. In August 1971, serious tensions erupted within Frolinat’s political bureau in Libya. Abba Siddick had convened a meeting in Kufra to establish a unified command structure linking Frolinat’s two “armies.” Despite conflicting accounts, it appears that Goukouni saw this as an effort to marginalize himself and other Tubu from the rebellion’s top echelons. Chadian university students in the Libyan city of Bayda demonstrated in support of Goukouni and the 2nd Army’s Tubu leadership. They also accused Siddick of pocketing contributions made by the Chadian expatriate community to Frolinat. Consequently, Gaddafi, responding to Siddick’s request, expelled hundreds of Tubu students and workers. In response, in October the 2nd Army’s leadership, supported by the Derdé, declared that Siddick no longer represented their movement.100 Goukouni then took some of Siddick’s supporters hostage in November to pressure Siddick into changing his attitude. Libyan troops intervened and Gaddafi imposed a “reconciliation” conference in Benghazi. When this failed, he imprisoned Goukouni, who was only 97 98 99 100

Foccart, Foccart Parle (Vol. 2), note 92 above, pp. 137–138. Decalo, Historical Dictionary, note 86 above, pp. 137–138; and Djarma, Témoignage, note 88 above, pp. 87–88. Tonquédec, Face au Darfour, note 39 above, p. 103. Buijtenhuijs, Les révoltes populaires, note 46 above, pp. 242–243.

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released in April 1972. Following a further Libyan mediation attempt, Goukouni and the 2nd Army formally declared their independence from Siddick’s command, though they kept the “Frolinat” label.101 Meanwhile, in late 1971, the young subprefect of Moussoro, Hissène Habré, offered his services to Siddick. Siddick apparently saw him as a threat, or a possible Chadian government agent, and refused to treat with him. Goukouni however saw him as a potentially useful asset and welcomed him with open arms. Habré originally came from Faya-Largeau and was one of the only Tubu to have received an education in France, with a law degree from Sciences Po. This, in addition to his exceptional organizational skills, had given him a ready position in the Chadian government administration. These qualities particularly appealed to Goukouni, who felt that a French-educated and capable man should play an important role in the rebellion.102 Habré’s ethnic origins also appealed to Goukouni. Habré was from the Annakaza subgroup of the Daza clan of Tubu. The Daza were numerically superior to Goukouni’s Téda clan in the BET, but were divided into numerous groups, nearly all of whom had antagonistic relations with the Téda. By bringing a notable Annakaza figure into the 2nd Army’s leadership, Goukouni may have felt he could solidify the 2nd Army’s control over the BET. In that vein, in October 1972, he convened a meeting of 2nd Army cadres and fighters to create the Conseil de commandement des Forces armées du Nord (the Command Council of the Northern Armed Forces, or CCFAN). In an intriguing move, he had the CCFAN confirm Habré as its president, while Goukouni remained military commander.103 In reality, a sort of dual-leadership emerged between the two men, which operated rather harmoniously for several years. In the meantime, as part of a broader African tour in January 1972, Pompidou made a brief visit to Fort-Lamy. Tombalbaye pulled out all the stops for the visit – possibly to make up for his earlier provocations. The roads leading from the airport were lined with tens of thousands of people, and thousands of men on horseback and on camels greeted the

101 102

103

Ibid., pp. 245–246. Goukouni Weddeye, “Témoignage pour l’histoire du Tchad,” Entretiens avec Laurent Correau, Radio France Internationale, 2008, pp. 41–52, found at : http://www1.rfi.fr/actufr/pages/001/page_348.asp. Ibid., pp. 47–48.

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French president. Perhaps overly encouraged by this welcome, Pompidou promised Tombalbaye continued French support in training Chadian security forces and contributing to the country’s economic development.104 The subtext of this visit, though, was to make it clear that in French eyes the Chadian situation had sufficiently stabilized to envision a further drawdown of French forces. Such optimism was premature. Broken diplomatic relations and Frolinat’s presence in Libya provided Gaddafi with an excellent opportunity to reignite conflict. In late 1971 and early 1972, heavily armed fighters trained in Libyan camps made their way through Sudanese territory into Ouaddaï. According to Tonquédec, their Libyan handlers divided them into two columns of roughly 200 combatants each. They brought with them a considerable supply of arms and ammunition, far outstripping the kinds of weapons Frolinat had previously employed. This included heavy machine guns, assault rifles, mortars, rocketpropelled grenades (RPGs), and mines. Their movements through Ouaddaï later suggested that they aimed to attack Mangalmé, or at least establish a base in the surrounding area.105 In early February 1972, French intelligence got wind of abnormal rebel movements and force concentrations around Mangalmé. Failures of the regime to abide by promises made the previous year meant the agreement between it and former Moubi rebels was on the brink of falling apart. Senior French officers worried that since the entire Chadian rebellion had originated with Moubi communities, the region required a robust show of force to stabilize the situation. With Cortadellas’ authorization, Tonquédec had already positioned a company of the 3rd RIMa, a company of the 6th CPIMa, three Garde nomade platoons, two Chadian paracommando platoons, and a helicopter detachment around Mangalmé.106 On February 15, French scouts reported they had spotted a large force of heavily armed rebels heading in the direction of Mangalmé through Ouaddaï. Three days later, Tonquédec attacked the rebels near Am Dagachi, in the Am Dam subprefecture in Ouaddaï. French forces routed the rebels, killing 49 of them and capturing 7. They also captured 60 small arms, including several heavy machine guns. The

104 105

Tonquédec, Face au Darfour, note 39 above, pp. 104–105. 106 Ibid., p. 108. Ibid., p. 109.

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only French casualties came from the crash of an unarmed Tripacer reconnaissance aircraft, which killed its three occupants.107 Just a few days later, on February 24, Tonquédec learned of the second rebel column, some 80 kilometers east of Am Dagachi. He immediately called for air support from AD-4s based in Fort-Lamy and used the H-34 “Pirate” attack helicopter at his disposal to hit the rebels. That night, survivors of the air attacks, combined with remnants from the previous fighting near Am Dagachi, fled over the Sudanese border. However, Libya’s involvement in arming and transiting Frolinat columns through Sudanese territory apparently provoked the Sudanese regime of Gaafar Nimeiry to respond with force. In a break with the past, Sudanese troops attacked and disarmed the rebels as they crossed the border, killing large numbers of them. Sudanese authorities also expelled numerous Chadian communities living in Darfur in retaliation. Many survivors of the two columns who did not make it into Sudan found themselves under attack by Arab Missirié pastoralists. Luring wayward combatants into a camp, hundreds of Missirié set upon the unsuspecting rebels, killing 80 and capturing 45 small arms. Even surprised, however, the well-armed rebels managed to inflict serious losses on the Missirié, who suffered some 40 dead and 30 wounded, some of whom were evacuated by French helicopters.108 Frolinat’s defeats did not translate into a total setback for Gaddafi. The disruptive threat he posed to central and eastern Chad’s fragile equilibrium may have led Tombalbaye to the negotiating table. Through the mediation efforts of Nigerien president Hamani Diori, and under French pressure, Tombalbaye and Gaddafi reconciled in April 1972. Although the precise details of the deal are difficult to establish, Gaddafi promised to end support for Frolinat. He also agreed to pay or loan a large sum of money to the Chadian government. In exchange, Tombalbaye agreed to break relations with Israel, one of Gaddafi’s eternal bugbears. More important, Tombalbaye also agreed to quietly accept Libyan claims to a large strip of territory extending as far as 150 kilometers south of Libya’s internationally recognized frontier.109 107

108

Ibid., p. 111. French sources disagree over whether it was shot down or crashed for other reasons. The initial investigation suggested it was an accident. Among the dead was Major Alain Le Pulloch, son of the former head of the French army, General Louis Le Pulloch. 109 Ibid., pp. 112–113. Decalo, Historical Dictionary, note 86, p. 267.

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The justification for these claims lay in the never-ratified 1935 Mussolini-Laval treaty awarding this territory to Italy’s Libyan possessions. This area, known as the “Aozou strip,” later became a major bone of contention in Chadian-Libyan relations.110 In 1973, though, Libyan troops occupied and annexed it without resistance.111 Tombalbaye was by then preoccupied with dangers lurking far closer to home. In early June 1972, a group of 15 Frolinat commandos entered the outskirts of Fort-Lamy from Nigeria, via neighboring Cameroon. They apparently aimed to assassinate unfriendly northern politicians and, if the circumstances permitted, to kill Tombalbaye himself. Unfortunately for the would-be assassins, one of their number revealed the plan, dubbed “Operation Askanit,” to government security services. Chadian police arrested and later executed most of the infiltrators. Intelligence gleaned from the prisoners also allowed them to dismantle Frolinat’s limited presence in Fort-Lamy, as well as in Abéché. Askanit, however, fed Tombalbaye’s worst fears about his personal security. He reacted by arresting hundreds of real or presumed opponents, signaling the end to a brief but possibly sincere “reconciliation” effort toward northern populations.112 By the end of August, French intelligence noted that overall rebel activity had fallen. Nonetheless, it indicated several worrying trends across the country. This included reports of some 1,200 Frolinat rebels spread out in central Chad and along the borders of Sudan and the CAR. These rebels were attempting to reestablish their presence and train with the weapons acquired from Libya. Five hundred rebels also remained in the BET, though Libya had apparently cut off most of its assistance following Gaddafi’s deal with Tombalbaye. French

110

111

112

For an in–depth discussion of Libyan policy in Chad and the rest of Africa during this time, see: Mary–Jane Deeb, Libya’s Foreign Policy in North Africa (Oxford: Westview Press, 1991); René Lemarchand, The Green and the Black: Qadhafi's Policies in Africa (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988); René Otayek, La politique africaine de la Libye: 1969–1985 (Paris: Karthala, 1986); and René Otayek, “La Libye face à la France au Tchad: qui perd gagne?,”Politique Africaine, Décembre 1984, No. 16 (1984), pp. 66–85. For more on the Aozou dispute, see: Mohamed Tétémadi Bangoura, Violence politique et conflits en Afrique: le cas du Tchad (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2005), pp. 240–248. Djarma, Témoignage, note 88 above, pp. 96–97.

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intelligence officials were also worried that Tombalbaye’s repressive policies could undermine French assistance.113 While this augured ill for the future, French officials viewed Frolinat’s recent defeats as a sign the immediate danger had passed. The withdrawal of French forces, already begun the previous year, continued apace. In September 1972, Cortadellas returned to France, and French participation in major combat operations formally ended. With Cortadellas’ departure, the French mission changed into one of logistical assistance and air support.114 The French presence remained pervasive, though. The moment France officially ended combat operations, the head of the French military assistance mission donned a Chadian uniform and became Tombalbaye’s official military advisor.115 Furthermore, France provided tens of millions of francs worth of military aid, which included weapons, munitions, equipment, and training. From 1960 to 1974, this totaled some 441 million French francs, not counting the costs of French military operations.116 Even in 1976, when French forces had left the country at the behest of the Chadian government, the French government spent 40 percent of its total annual military cooperation budget on Chad.117 At the same time, while the AMT advisors were reduced from a peak of some 600 in 1972 to 320 by the end of 1974, the total French military presence was substantial. As of November of that year, it still consisted of 1,850 personnel, mostly deployed in the capital (renamed N’Djamena in September 1973). This included 780 Air Force personnel, servicing 9 AD-10s, 5 Alouette II helicopters, and a dozen or so transport and reconnaissance aircraft.118 In a very real sense, the French intervention had not, in fact, come to an end. 113 114

115 116 117 118

Archives Nationales, AG/5(F)/2046, Intelligence report (origin unspecified), “A. Stabilité des états du 3 Juillet au 27 Août 72,” 27.08.1972, pp. 1–5. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1978, Carton 98/2 Notes de la direction, “Note A/S. Intervention militaire française au Tchad (Avril 1969– Septembre 1972),” 06.06.1978, p. 4. FCMGT, Carton 6, A8/1, Mission militaire de coopération, “Note sur notre assistance militaire technique au TCHAD,” 18.11.1974. Ibid. 2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1978, Carton 67, Note, “A/s. Le Tchad,” 01.04.1977, p. 7. FCMGT, Carton 6, A8/1, Mission militaire de coopération, “Note sur notre assistance militaire technique au TCHAD,” 20.02.1975, pp. 1–2 and Annexe.

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Partly this related to the obviously incomplete accomplishments of Operation Limousin. While the French had dealt a severe blow to Frolinat’s organization in central and eastern Chad, much of the BET remained outside government control. Cortadellas had shrugged this off, declaring that the BET was “inhabited by nomads who, even during colonial times, have never been controlled. I think we have to write them off and leave them to their rocks. We can never subdue them.”119 Meanwhile, even without a strongly entrenched Frolinat presence, chronic insecurity and low levels of violence continued to plague much of central and eastern Chad.120 The French army had saved Tombalbaye, but they had not saved Chad.

A Costly Victory In many ways, Frolinat’s own weaknesses account for its defeat more than Franco-Chadian military activity. Its leadership’s control over the rebellion was never strong. It never consistently succeeded in unifying diverse communities with predominantly local concerns into a coherent national movement. Partly this simply resulted from a lack of resources in money, supplies, and weapons. It also stemmed from overwhelming logistical obstacles such as a harsh climate, long distances, and lack of easy communications. This made it harder for leaders based outside the country to impose a broader organizational strategy onto local insurgents. Frolinat’s leadership struggles following Abatcha’s 1968 death also helped doom the movement as a cohesive entity. The expulsion of Baghalani led to his formation of a separate armed group based in Sudan, later named “l’Armée Volcan” (the Volcano Army). Abba Siddick’s quarrels with Goukouni led the Tubu rebellion to break from Frolinat. Furthermore, the ouster and subsequent murder of El Hajj Issaka also played an important role in undermining the rebellion’s strength. The mediocre level of outside assistance also meant that Frolinat combatants faced considerably harsher material constraints than their enemies. This, combined with an incapacity to enforce discipline on 119 120

Cited in Buijtenhuijs, Les révoltes populaires, note 46 above, p. 238. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/2, Note, “A/S: Evolution de la Mission de réforme administrative au Tchad,” 31.10.1974, p. 3.

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wayward rebel elements, led to atrocities, local score-settling, and the coercion of local populations for precious resources. As a result, Frolinat alienated important communities who otherwise might have shared their grievances. Frolinat’s behavior in central and eastern Chad seems to have left its mark for years afterward. In his memoirs, Frolinat veteran Garondé Djarma recounts an incident in early 1977 in which he and a small group of rebels passed through a village near Mongo in central Chad. Unbeknownst to the village leaders, Djarma shared their mother tongue, Kenga. Though welcoming Djarma’s party as liberators in dialectical Arabic, the village chief complained to others in the village in Kenga that “guys like these, instead of growing food for themselves, move from place to place to eat the meals of other people.” Another villager likened Frolinat’s activities to “banditry.” Later, Djarma encountered a Fulani herder who complained that the government “demands taxes, whereas you, the ‘little government,’ want meat. You’ve killed our sheep. You have neither seized power, nor have you decided to stay and grow your own food. ‘Little government,’ since you’ve started this trouble of yours, there are two groups who suffer: the Fulani because of their sheep, and the elephants because of their tusks.”121 The Missirié Arab pastoralists were early victims of Frolinat exactions. As noted before, these communities helped defeat the February 1972 Frolinat offensive. Earlier, though, many Missirié and other Arabs in central and eastern Chad fought on the side of the rebellion. This changed in 1970 as Abba Siddick consolidated his control over Frolinat’s leadership. The ouster of Baghalani and, perhaps more important, Issaka’s demotion and eventual death, undermined Chadian Arab confidence in the rebellion (both men were Arabs). Furthermore, Frolinat’s main constituencies in central and eastern Chad were sedentary communities who often clashed with Arab pastoralists. Its efforts to administer these regions outside government control translated into repressive measures against pastoralists. The latter, then, needed little inducement to make the regime’s enemies their own.122 121 122

Djarma, Témoignage, note 88 above, pp. 141–143. Frolinat rebels had taken to elephant poaching to sell ivory. Buijtenhuijs, Les révoltes populaires, note 46 above, pp. 403–406.

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Both Tombalbaye and French officials realized this. During his visit to Fort-Lamy, Pompidou promised to build a line of wells along the 13th parallel to supply pastoralists with adequate water for their annual migrations. This aimed to reduce tensions between pastoralist and sedentary communities. Ultimately, though, the Cooperation Ministry did not implement the plan. Its officials claimed it would interfere with ongoing projects elsewhere and said that it did not conform to ministerial norms. This broken promise would contribute to later diplomatic spats between Tombalbaye and French authorities.123 The cost and methods of the French intervention also deserve scrutiny. French losses amounted to 39 killed and 102 wounded.124 Threequarters of these occurred during the bloody and inconclusive fighting in the BET. Establishing the number of Chadian losses presents more difficulties. Buijtenhuijs later estimated that some 10,000 Chadians lost their lives during the 1969–1972 period, though without explaining his calculation.125 Official French figures help fill in some of the picture. As early as September 1969, the French army listed 983 rebels killed and 41 prisoners as a result of Franco-Chadian operations since the beginning of the year. Officially, 163 civilians also died in unspecified circumstances and 124 Chadian soldiers were killed in combat.126 The following year, Cortadellas listed 2,800 Frolinat rebels killed between 1969 and mid-1970, with 2,200 killed in 1969 alone.127 Later, an unpublished French military study gave a figure of 5,100 rebel casualties, including 3,800 killed for the entire 1969–1972 period. Meanwhile, Chadian security forces suffered 291 dead, 296 wounded, and 42 missing.128

123 124 125 126 127 128

Foccart, Foccart Parle (Vol. 2), note 92 above, pp. 144–145. CDEF, Répertoire typologique, note 18 above, p. 18. Robert Buijtenhuijs, Le Frolinat et les guerres civiles du Tchad: 1977–1984 (Paris: Karthala, 1987), p. 425. Jacques Isnard, “Un pays déchiré 1. – La rébellion s’organise,” Le Monde, 23.09.1969. P. R., “L’intervention des troupes françaises a contraint les rebelles à se réfugier dans l’attentisme,” Le Monde diplomatique, 07.1970. DeVore, “Institutions, Organizational Culture, and Counterinsurgency Operations,” note 16 above, p. 184; and Goya, La France en guerre au Tchad, note 12 above.

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Without knowing the exact number of Frolinat fighters, it remains difficult to evaluate these figures. An average of French and official Frolinat estimates suggest several thousand combatants served in rebel ranks during this period, with only several hundred present at any time in the BET.129 Given that most Frolinat “fighters” did not possess firearms because of chronic shortages, it seems reasonable to conclude that many of those killed either had no means to fight, or were in fact civilians in Frolinat-controlled areas. Also, as in many insurgencies, the exact definition of a combatant was a fluid one. It seems evident that most killing occurred during the first wave of Franco-Chadian operations from 1969 to early 1970 in central and eastern Chad. Despite heavy fighting, the sparse population of the BET would have meant smaller absolute numbers of casualties there. However, if one includes secondary causes of deaths linked to the conflict, such as population displacement, famine, and disease, Buijtenhuijs’ figure might approximate reality. In the BET for instance, numerous air strikes killed civilians and destroyed the livelihoods of local families. Colonel Jean Chapelle, a former French colonial prefect and scholar of the BET region, as well as advisor to the Chadian government until 1974, severely criticized the French intervention in the BET, writing, “These battles were tough [. . .] they were accompanied by unnecessary destruction of palm groves and herds. One wonders what meaning France gave to a fight that had no other reason than to support an absurd regime.”130 Goukouni later explained his own attitude and that of his men: “Who did what, we didn’t know. We attributed the responsibility for all the damage to the French forces, since it was they who led the operations. Innocent civilians were killed in several battles.”131 The war had a traumatic impact on local memory. For instance, eyewitness accounts in the Gouro palm grove in Ennedi told of French aircraft dropping napalm to deny Tubu rebels easy physical cover and to attack their sources of supply. Among the Téda living in the region near Gouro, the year 1969 is referred to as “Ounianga wouni,” or the 129 130

131

Buijtenhuijs, Les révoltes populaires, note 46 above, pp. 166–167. Also see the 1969 French military intelligence reports examined above. Jean Chapelle, Nomades noirs du Sahara: les Toubous (Paris: Editions L’Harmattan, 1982), p. 414, also cited in Pierre Claustre, L’affaire Claustre: Autopsie d’une prise d’otages (Paris: Editions Karthala, 1990), p. 104. Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 102 above, p. 36.

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year that the nearby villages of Ounianga burned to the ground.132 Pierre Claustre, who spent several years in contact with the northern rebellion in the mid-1970s, attempting to free his wife from captivity, and later as a hostage himself (see the next chapter), wrote that FrancoChadian military operations had left deep emotional and psychological scars among the Tubu.133 French officers involved in these operations later strongly denied they had committed any crimes. Cortadellas gave very strict instructions forbidding violent behavior toward civilians. He was very aware of the Foreign Legion’s well-publicized and comparatively recent history of torture in the Algerian War and was a vocal critic of those methods.134 At the same time, French veterans of the BET fighting forcefully rejected accusations, proffered by Frolinat, that they had poisoned or destroyed wells and burnt down palm groves.135 Cortadellas was particularly sensitive to negative portrayals. He complained about media rumors alleging French brutality, particularly involving the 2nd REP. This included a September 1970 interview with a former German legionnaire, Hans Joachim Faust, in Stern, where he described numerous forms of torture allegedly practiced by the Legion and their Chadian partners.136 Similar rumors appeared in Le Nouvel Observateur the following month. In a brief letter to the editor, a French soldier at the end of his service related a few anecdotes he heard from comrades returning from Chad. These included allegations of rape, torture, massacres, and the killing of prisoners.137 Even the New York Times, which barely covered France’s war in Chad, published two photos – without an accompanying story – of a legionnaire kicking a dying youth who had attacked him with a spear. The caption quotes the soldier as muttering “Imbecile . . . it was your fault.”138

132 133 134 135 136 137 138

Jean-Pierre Bat, “Gouro: la guerre du Tchad vue du Nord (1968–1973),” Africa4: Regards croisé sur l’Afrique blog, Libération, 26.10.2016. Claustre, L’affaire Claustre, note 130 above, p. 107. Tonquédec, Face au Darfour, note 39 above, pp. 26–28. Neau, L’intervention de la France, note 13 above, p. 110. Stern, 09.1970 – cited in Anonymous, Tchad: une néo-colonie (Paris: Éd. Gît-le-Coeur, 1972), pp. 125–126. J. P. C., “Retour du Tchad,” Le Nouvel Observateur, 26.10.1970, p. 6. “Spear against Guns: An African Rebel Dies in the Fight against the FrenchBacked Chad Government,”New York Times, 17.02.1970, p. 3.

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Cortadellas thought the negative coverage was entirely dishonest, particularly the Stern article.139 Interestingly, accounts posted to a 2nd REP online veterans’ forum many years later seem to confirm some of the rumors. This includes a first-hand account of one of Faust’s comrades, who also claimed the Legion frequently used torture to gather intelligence.140 Cortadellas also noted with dismay that many of his officers and NCOs made frequent comparisons between the war in Chad and the war in Algeria. While that was a natural instinct for these men, Cortadellas insisted – perhaps too much – that the war in Chad bore no resemblance to the Algerian conflict. He forcefully asserted that helping an independent state suppress a rebellion was “entirely different than the struggle of a colonized people for independence.”141 To that end, he asked his senior officers to ensure they and their subordinates avoided using terminology associated with the Algerian war, such as “bilan,” “katiba,” or “fellouze.”142 Given the immense distances involved (the BET is the size of France), French aviation played a primordial role in the fighting. The deployment of H-34 helicopters and AD-4 Skyraider ground-attack aircraft allowed the French command to launch devastating attacks on several oases that served as rebel bases. Since the 2nd Army lacked antiaircraft capabilities, French pilots could attack with impunity.143 During Cortadellas’s offensive against Ounianga Kébir in March 1970, intense French air assaults on rebels taking cover in palm groves sparked serious fires.144 French troops present on the ground also later reported the use of napalm.145 It is likely that these and related French air attacks on rebel supply centers – usually located around wells or palm groves – also caused civilian casualties. 139 140

141 142 143 144

145

Tonquédec, Face au Darfour, note 39 above, pp. 26–27. “Guerre du Tchad 1969–1970 2eme Etranger de Parachutistes (sic),” Date unknown, found at http://archive.is/rDMup#selection-1689.0-1689.54 (consulted on 15.06.2017), and originally posted at http://www.2emerep.com/ tchad-opex-2rep.html. Tonquédec, Face au Darfour, note 39 above, p. 28. Ibid. Roughly translated, these referred respectively to body counts, rebel units, and rebel combatants. CDEF, Répertoire typologique, note 18 above, pp. 13–18. Arnaud Delalande, “Appui-feu au Tchad 1968–1975,” Puissance Aérienne blog, 08.11.2013, found at: http://airpower.over-blog.com/2013/10/appui-feuau-tchad-1968-1975.html (consulted 14.06.2017). Goya, La France en guerre au Tchad, note 12 above.

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Indeed, a later French Defense Ministry overview of Operation Limousin tellingly notes, “The number of combat actions [“actions de feu”] conducted over the totality of the territory, the BET in particular, and the extent of the means deployed, are reminiscent of the operations in Algeria.”146 Clearly Cortadellas’ efforts to stamp out references to the Algerian War did not succeed. Such references, however, well illustrate the sheer ferocity of the fighting. Allegations of French misconduct deeply bothered Cortadellas long after his mission ended. For obvious reasons, Frolinat made extravagant claims of French crimes. For Cortadellas and other French officers, the French press often seemed to irresponsibly and uncritically pass these claims on to their audiences. Several times in the years following the intervention, Cortadellas wrote to defend the honor of the French army. In August 1972, Le Monde Diplomatique published an interview with Abba Siddick, who claimed he owned a keychain stolen from Cortadellas’ residence in Fort-Lamy, which was attached to an amputated ear of a Frolinat combatant. Cortadellas wrote an angry letter in response, which the newspaper published the following month. In it, the French general vehemently denied the accusation (which the editors agreed was probably ridiculous). He also claimed accusations of French misconduct in Chad relayed by the French press hurt the morale of the army. He asserted: Respect for property and people, civic-mindedness, aid to the population, alternatives offered to rebels to lay down their arms without fear of punishment rather than continuing a fight – an offer which thousands benefited from – medical care for all wounded, in short a spirit of charity was the guiding force of all my directives, of all my orders, of all the personal supervision which I tirelessly exercised on the ground.147

Several years later, Cortadellas wrote to Le Monde to complain about its careless references to French troops burning palm groves. He explained that all the fighting in the BET occurred in the desert, and not inside the region’s palm groves. He also claimed that French forces only entered palm groves to “distribute honey and condensed milk and to provide medical care.”148 146 147 148

CDEF, Répertoire typologique, note 18 above, p. 19. “Le général Cortadellas nous écrit,” Le Monde Diplomatique, 09.1972. “Une lettre du général Cortadellas,” Le Monde, 27.04.1978.

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As the narrative above makes clear, this last claim was demonstrably false. Several major engagements took place in palm groves such as Gouro or Bedo, and many palm groves did not simply burn down by themselves. Also, since Cortadellas commanded Chadian security forces and French advisors commanded many of its units – at times down to the squad level – the French army certainly carried some moral responsibility for crimes committed by their Chadian partners. Cortadellas was aware of this and insisted that French behavior must be exemplary.149 Uneasiness about the intervention pervaded the French military. Although his account praises French bravery and resourcefulness, Tonquédec admits that many soldiers and officers serving in Chad had “the feeling of engaging in a shameful and inadmissible operation.”150 Both during and after Operation Limousin, the intervention was badly viewed within the French officer corps. It took a while for troops killed in Chad to receive the honor “Mort pour la France” (Died for France), entitling them to certain burial rights paid for by the state and public benefits for their families. Acts of bravery could only be awarded the “Croix de la valeur militaire” rather than the more prestigious and more appropriate “Croix de guerre des Théatres d’opérations extérieurs.”151 Even Cortadellas had a hard time defending the intervention’s legitimacy. He drew a distinction between the French effort to restore government authority and the defense of the regime. As he prepared to leave Chad at the end of August 1972, he noted in an interview that although the remaining French forces could intervene in specific circumstances at the request of Chadian authorities, intervention would not be “automatic.” He added, “without a doubt, the French army would not intervene in case of elections or a palace revolution.152 For Cortadellas at least, protecting Tombalbaye himself was no longer in the cards. Politically, Operation Limousin’s only “positive” outcome was that it bought time for Tombalbaye. The French effort suppressed Frolinat’s control over much of central and eastern Chad and removed an immediate and potentially existential threat to Tombalbaye’s regime. 149 151 152

150 Tonquédec, Face au Darfour, note 39 above, p. 26. Ibid., p. 9. Goya, La France en guerre au Tchad, note 12 above. “L'Armée française n’interviendrait pas en cas de révolution de palais, déclare le général Cortadellas,” Le Monde, 01.09.1972.

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Nevertheless, it could not address the rebellion’s underlying causes, nor put an end to a level of violence that would, by the mid-1970s become endemic. Tombalbaye’s tepid and temporary efforts to coopt Muslim and other opposition elites hardly sufficed to address Chad’s deeper political and economic tensions. Moreover, by signaling their commitment to Tombalbaye’s survival, French policymakers enabled his worst instincts. French diplomats, for instance, noted that Tombalbaye exploited the French intervention to jail opposition figures.153 He also halted all tentative paths to reforming his regime, knowing full well that the rebellion no longer threatened his political survival. At the same time, and as before, dependency bred resentment. Combined with declining health, alcoholism, and growing paranoia, Tombalbaye’s rule became increasingly erratic as he lashed out at his enemies, real or imagined. In March 1973, perhaps fearing political fallout from his close ties with Paris, he sanctioned a quasi-official propaganda campaign against France.154 The government arrested several French residents on charges of “neocolonialism.” The official press denounced “the maneuvers of Paris Chadophobes,” and again took aim at Jacques Foccart.155 That same year, influenced by his friend Zairian dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, Tombalbaye inaugurated a campaign of “authenticity,” or “Tchaditude” (Chadness), aimed at purifying Chadian culture from polluting foreign influences, particularly French. As Mobutu did in Zaire, Tombalbaye changed the name of several cities and towns to more “authentically” African names. Fort-Lamy thus became N’Djamena, the southern city of Fort Archambault became Sarh. Like Mobutu, he also changed his own name and became “N’Garta” Tombalbaye and banned the use of Christian and Western first names in the country.156 This “cultural revolution” included the imposition of a brutal stylized version of the Sara “yondo” initiation rites on southern civil servants, Christians, and Western-educated elites. It involved torture 153

154 155

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 1, DAM Note, “Synthèse des évènements politiques dans les Etats africains et malgache pendant les mois d’AVRIL et de MAI 1969,” undated, p. 40. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1978, Carton 90, “Note A/S: les relations franco-tchadiennes,” 01.03.1976 p. 2. 156 Ibid. Decalo, Historical Dictionary, note 86 above, p. 141.

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and ritual humiliation, often generating harsh physical and mental trauma among its participants. Tombalbaye forced thousands of people, including hundreds of government officials, to undergo the experience. For the latter, their jobs depended on participation. Yondo also functioned as a cover for the murders of troublesome priests, missionaries, and intellectuals.157 Many observers attributed the bizarre brutality of these rites to the influence of Tombalbaye’s Haitian advisor and physician, Dr. André Vixamar.158 However, the initial idea of generalizing yondo may have come from Pierre Lami. In August 1969, he suggested to Tombalbaye that “traditional” beliefs and rituals, particularly yondo, could serve as authoritative moral supports to a regime based on power relayed through “customary” leaders.159 Regardless, yondo and its associated policies served to alienate an increasing proportion of the southern elite, Tombalbaye’s most important constituency. In a violent statement of his refusal to brook any opposition from this quarter, Tombalbaye’s regime organized the assassination of Dr. Outel Bono in Paris. Bono was a popular figure among southern intellectuals, students, urban youth, and parts of the diaspora. His vocal criticism of Tombalbaye’s regime landed him several spells in prison. These bolstered his status among those looking for a third way between the regime and armed opposition. In 1972, he exiled himself to Paris, and began to organize an opposition party.160 On August 26, 1973, an assassin shot him twice in the head as he entered his car on Rue de la Roquette. The Paris police did not identify the assassin, a former French policeman named Claude Bocquel, until late 1977. According to the story they pieced together, he had served as a bodyguard and close advisor to CAR leader Jean-Bedel Bokassa. In 1969, he helped the latter establish Frolinat training camps near the Chadian border during Bokassa’s intense feud with Tombalbaye. When French intelligence discovered these camps, Bocquel became a political liability for Bokassa, who expelled him the following year. On his flight’s layover 157 159

160

158 Ibid., p. 445. Ibid., p. 439. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1959–1969, Carton 2, Memo from Lami to Tombalbaye, “Conférence annuelle des Préfets,” “L’Administrateur tchadien face aux problèmes des langues, des ethnies, du tribalisme et des structures de la société traditionnelle,” 24.08.1969, p. 3. Decalo, Historical Dictionary, note 86 above, pp. 99–100.

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in Fort-Lamy, Tombalbaye’s intelligence chief, Camille Gourvennec, arrested him. After a rough interrogation by Gourvennec and Galopin, Bocquel not only confessed his Frolinat contacts, but agreed to work for the CCER (Centre de coordination et d’exploitation du renseignement, the Chadian intelligence agency). Three years later, he was ordered to kill Outel Bono.161 Despite clear evidence for Gourvennec’s involvement, questions remain over the extent to which Foccart or the SDECE (the French foreign intelligence agency) knew of the plot. Certainly, Bono’s spectacular murder, in broad daylight on a Parisian street, sent a clear message that Tombalbaye’s opponents could not expect safety abroad. Whether or not French authorities had prior knowledge of the assassination, they would get implicated by association. Given Tombalbaye’s persistent paranoia about French intentions, he may have suspected that Foccart saw Bono as a viable option for replacing him. While Bono’s leftist politics made this unlikely, it did speak to Tombalbaye’s deep fear of a non-Frolinat alternative to his own leadership. As Pascal Airault and Jean-Pierre Bat note in their analysis of the assassination, Bono’s death may have ended hope of a nonviolent alternative to Tombalbaye’s regime.162 Meanwhile, by April 1974, the Quai d’Orsay felt it could replace its ambassador to Chad, Fernand Wibaux. Due to Tombalbaye’s vacillating policy toward France, Wibaux had stayed longer than planned. Thus, on the eve of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing’s election, FrancoChadian relations were characterized by Tombalbaye’s dependence upon France, as well as a chafing resentment at the need for such a relationship. 161 162

Pascal Airault and Jean-Pierre Bat, Françafrique: Opérations secrètes et affaires d’Etat (Paris: Tallandier, 2016), pp. 65–72. Ibid., p. 74.

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3

The Claustre Affair

On April 2, 1974, President Georges Pompidou died after a long struggle with a rare blood cancer. Alain Poher, the president of the French Senate, again took over the interim presidency while new elections were organized.1 On May 19, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing defeated François Mitterrand in the second round of the presidential election. Giscard led a center-right coalition of non-Gaullist political parties, appealing to an electorate tired of Gaullism but fearful of Mitterrand and the left. At 48 years old, Giscard’s relative youth also helped him project a more modern image of leadership, which appealed to many voters. In fact he had long experience in government, serving as finance minister from 1962 to 1966, and again from 1969 until becoming president in 1974.2 Giscard was no stranger to African affairs. His family had deep roots in the French colonial and postcolonial economy. His grandfather and father were major shareholders in the Compagnie forestière de SanghaOubangui, one of the infamous colonial concessionary firms operating out of what is now the Central African Republic.3 His father had also held significant shares and sat on the boards of several companies with financial and banking interests in the French empire. Giscard’s cousin, François Giscard d’Estaing became president of the Banque centrale des Etats de l’Afrique équatoriale et du Cameroun in 1959. Ten years later he briefly served as an economic advisor to Chadian president Tombalbaye, and soon thereafter became director of the Banque 1 2

3

This time, though, he was no longer a candidate. For Giscard’s life and presidency, see: Jean Bothorel, Un si jeune Président (Paris: B. Grasset, 1995). For a brief survey of French politics during this time, see: JeanJacques Becker, Histoire politique de la France depuis 1945 (Paris: Colin, 2003), pp. 164–184. Geraldine Faes and Stephen Smith, Bokassa 1er, un empereur français (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 2000), p. 16. For a history of these concessionary companies in French Equatorial Africa, see Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch, Le Congo au temps des grandes compagnies concessionnaires, 1898–1930 (Paris: Mouton, 1972).

105

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française du commerce extérieur (BFCE), which helped finance French exports to Africa.4 Another cousin, Philippe Giscard d’Estaing, headed the French telecommunications giant Thomson-CSF, which had substantial African ambitions. Giscard’s memoirs serve as an interesting window into his views on Africa and on France’s relationship with the continent. Algerian independence left a bitter taste with him. While he had agreed with de Gaulle’s efforts to end the war, he later noted that, “Deep down, I never resigned myself to the French departure from Algeria.”5 Giscard saw French colonialism as a positive development in African history. He wrote about it in glowing terms, characterizing French colonization as: A colonization which left behind neither rancor, nor antagonism, which was characterized by a very limited level of economic exploitation, and which allowed the meeting of two civilizations who felt themselves totally different, curious to discover one another, and humanly compatible.6

On many occasions, he professed his love of Africa and Africans. In his memoirs, he declared, “I love Africa. The Africans, I believe, know it.”7 Giscard’s views reflected a romanticized and paternalistic vision of France’s role on the continent. His accounts of state visits are filled with picturesque descriptions. For instance, in March 1975, Giscard made his first official visit to Africa, visiting the Central African Republic on the occasion of the annual Franco-African Summit. He later wrote of his fascination with the public displays of welcome put on by Bokassa’s regime. He excitedly described dancing crowds that “breathed and sweated African authenticity.” He recalled that he particularly appreciated the groups of Pygmies brought to the celebration, writing that, “I had long dreamed of seeing Pygmies.”8 Upon assuming office, Giscard removed Jacques Foccart, director of the Secrétariat général des affaires africains et malgache, and dissolved his controversial Secrétariat. In its place, he named René Journiac as a “technical advisor” on African affairs. Instead of the large Secrétariat,

4 5 6

Faes and Smith, Bokassa, note 3 above, p. 16. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, Le Pouvoir et la Vie (Paris: Le Livre de Poche, 1988), p. 361. 7 8 Ibid., p. 344. Ibid., p. 587. Some apparently did not. Ibid., p. 610.

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Journiac only managed a staff of two assistants.9 A former magistrate who had served in France’s African colonies, Journiac had been Foccart’s deputy from 1967 onward. Now Giscard’s closest advisor on African affairs, he would serve as the president’s personal representative and envoy to African leaders. He also shared his boss’s reductionist views of the continent. For instance, in early 1976, Journiac told American officials it was important to understand that “black Africans react emotionally and base their policy on passions.”10 Journiac would become a major player throughout most of Giscard’s term. In addition to an apparent break with past practice, this change in structure also fitted Giscard’s penchant for more personal involvement in foreign relations, especially in Africa. The Secrétariat’s dissolution also made bureaucratic sense, given the number of officials, institutions, and ministries with overlapping responsibilities in African affairs. While this eliminated an object of interdepartmental jealousy, the move also had a deeper significance. Giscard’s decision meant the loss of a crucial component in FrancoAfrican diplomacy. He did not allow Journiac to play the same role Foccart had perfected. Instead Giscard placed himself in the “role of an interface between the public and private spheres.”11 Although Journiac conducted numerous missions on Giscard’s behalf, he never had Foccart’s stature or autonomy, meaning that Giscard himself would have to play Foccart’s role. Hence, in case of a serious crisis, no one could sacrifice himself and take the fall for the president. This vulnerability ultimately helped to sink Giscard’s presidency.12 Nevertheless, Giscard relied heavily upon Journiac for advice. He knew many African leaders personally and did not suffer from Foccart’s sinister reputation. Journiac’s untimely death in a plane crash on February 6, 1980, following a mission in Chad, would hit Giscard deeply. At Foccart’s suggestion, he appointed another one of Foccart’s former protégés, Martin Kirsch, to take his place. Kirsch, however, lacked Journiac’s contacts and was never able to establish the kinds of 9 10

11

Jean-Pierre Bat, Le syndrome Foccart: La politique française en Afrique de 1959 à nos jours (Paris: Editions Gallimard, 2012), p. 360 and 774n. National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) Access to Archival Databases (henceforth AAD), US Department of State, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973–1979. Telegram from US Embassy Paris to Washington, Subject: Angola, 05.01.1976, p. 4. Document number: 1976PARIS00150. 12 Ibid, p. 373. Ibid.

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relationships that policymaking.13

The Claustre Affair

helped

grease

the

wheels

of

Giscard’s

A Kidnapping Meanwhile, Goukouni Weddeye and Hissène Habré took advantage of the interregnum in French politics to attempt to reenergize a flagging rebellion. On the night of April 21, 1974, Habré stormed the remote garrison at Bardaï in Tibesti with a small group of armed men.14 Defecting Gardes nomades assisted the rebels in the capture of Marc Combe, a French MRA official, and Françoise Claustre, a French archaeologist. Another group surrounded the house of Dr. Christoph Staewen, a West German doctor who provided medical treatment to residents in the vicinity. That evening, Staewen and his wife, Elfriede, had invited the Chadian garrison commander and his deputy for dinner. As the officers left the house and saw the rebel detachment, at least one of them drew his sidearm. The rebels opened fire, killing them both. Stray bullets hit Elfriede Staewen, who died on the spot. Within minutes, Habré’s men, with the three hostages in tow, loaded up three Land Rovers found on the site with fuel and supplies, as well as Combe’s radio. The local garrison responded to the sound of gunfire and tried to pursue, but in the darkness of the desert, it was already too late.15 In N’Djamena, the newly renamed Fort-Lamy, Françoise Claustre’s husband, Pierre, learned of what happened just hours after the event. Pierre Claustre also happened to head the MRA. Having access to an agency airplane, he flew to Faya-Largeau, the BET’s administrative capital. There, he hoped to move on to Bardaï to learn more. On April 22, he made radio contact with Combe, who simply explained that Mrs. Staewen had died, and contact would resume the next day. The following morning, the Forces armées du Nord (FAN) broadcast a 13 14

15

Samy Cohen, La monarchie nucléaire: les coulisses de la politique étrangère sous la Ve République (Paris: Hachette, 1986), pp. 73–74. For an abbreviated version of parts of this chapter, see: Nathaniel K. Powell, “The Claustre Affair: A Hostage Crisis, France, and Civil War in Chad, 1974–1977,” in Jussi M. Hanhimäki and Bernhard Blumenau, eds., An International History of Terrorism: Western and Non-Western Experiences (Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2013). Pierre Claustre, L’affaire Claustre: Autopsie d’une prise d’otages (Paris: Editions Karthala, 1990), pp. 16–17.

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communiqué affirming that they had three prisoners in their possession, and said that, “During the shooting, Madame Staewen died. The Armed Revolutionary Forces deeply regret this tragedy, due to the disordered fire of enemy forces, and address their deep regrets to the German people and to the family of the deceased.”16 Over the next weeks, Claustre was the only French official in contact with the kidnappers. Partly, this resulted from the timing of the kidnapping, occurring just days after former ambassador Fernand Wibaux had left the country. Raphaël Touze, Wibaux’s replacement as ambassador, would not arrive until April 27. Furthermore, for several weeks, until Giscard settled into the Elysée, French authorities lacked a central policymaking anchor. This did not stop Tombalbaye from acting. The existing French troop presence provided his regime with logistical support and air transport to far-flung government posts. Tombalbaye ordered a reinforcement of the Bardaï garrison. However, both Claustre and the Chadian prefect in Faya-Largeau felt strongly that the rebels might execute the hostages in response to military actions. Thus, Luc Baldit, the French chargé d’affaires, ordered a halt to the operation.17 The French instead flew the troops to Faya-Largeau.18 Baldit then received instructions from Paris that under no circumstances should he authorize support for military operations that could put the hostages’ lives in danger. Baldit was also told to warn Tombalbaye that such actions would have “such an impact on French public opinion that President Tombalbaye should be made to understand in advance all of the consequences.”19 Regardless, two days later Chadian paratroopers dropped onto Bardaï using Chadian aircraft. Baldit had to quickly reassure Paris that no French planes had participated in the operation.20 In early May, two West German envoys arrived to begin negotiations for Christoph Staewen’s release. French authorities also designated a high-level Cooperation Ministry official, Robert Puissant, as 16 17 18 19 20

FCMGT Carton 2, A4/1/3, telegram from Baldit to Paris, 23.04.1974, p. 2. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, telegram from Baldit to Paris, 23.04.1974, p. 2. Ibid., p. 3. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, telegram from DAM to Baldit, “Coup de main à Bardaï,” 23.04.1974, p. 2. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, telegram from Baldit to Paris, “Coup de main à Bardaï,” 25.04.1974, p. 1.

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lead negotiator. While awaiting Puissant’s arrival, Franz Wallner, one of the German envoys, joined Pierre Claustre in Bardaï. On May 10, Habré informed them of the conditions for freeing the hostages. He demanded the release of 32 political prisoners in N’Djamena, publication of a FAN political manifesto, and an “indemnity” for the property of local populations, particularly for the villages, palm groves, crops, and goods which Habré claimed French and Chadian forces had destroyed during Operation Limousin.21 These demands placed French officials in an uncomfortable position. Touze feared they would lead the Germans to negotiate separately. Since the negotiations occurred over the French radio network, Touze could monitor its progress. He noted that Wallner had twice asked the rebels their conditions for Staewen’s separate release.22 Also, by conditioning the hostage release on that of prisoners held by the Chadian government, the FAN drove a wedge between the French and Chadian authorities. Releasing potentially dangerous political prisoners to placate French opinion did not sit well with Tombalbaye. French policymakers wanted to carefully avoid appearing to threaten the Chadian government’s authority. Several Chadian officials, including the prefect of the BET, also urged Tombalbaye to ban direct contacts between the rebels and foreign envoys.23 This attitude would force the French to negotiate on two fronts.24 Both Claustre and Wallner wanted face-to-face talks with the rebels. They feared that the CCER, the feared Chadian intelligence agency headed by Camille Gourvennec, could monitor their radio communications and felt that discussions should take place under more discreet circumstances.25 Given that the French Embassy had no problem listening to negotiations over the radio, these fears seemed justified.26

21 22 23 24 25 26

Claustre, L’affaire Claustre, note 15 above, p. 62. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, telegram from Touze to Paris, “Affaire de Bardaï,” 13.05.1974, p. 1. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, telegram from Touze to Paris, “Affaire de Bardaï,” 13.05.1974, p. 2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1978, Carton 90, “Note A/S: les relations franco-tchadiennes,” 01.03.1976, p. 3. Claustre, L’affaire Claustre, note 15 above, p. 67. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, telegram from Touze to Paris, “Affaire de Bardaï,” 13.05.1974, p. 1.

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At this point, though, the Germans had decided upon separate negotiations.27 On May 14, Touze and Puissant met West German diplomats in N’Djamena to discuss the talks. The Germans explained that, while willing to coordinate with the French, they would negotiate separately as long as the rebels maintained their demand for a prisoner release, since this could not concern the German government.28 The Germans had already offered to broadcast a FAN manifesto over Deutsche Welle for three days in French and Arabic. Wallner also told Habré that Germany would agree to provide financial indemnities of 50 million CFA francs for the burned villages.29 Habré appeared to accept this offer in principle.30 In the course of their meeting with Touze and Puissant, the Germans expressed their desire to keep any hostage release, particularly that of Staewen, secret from Chadian authorities. To that end, they planned to fly out from Bardaï directly to Tunis, before the Tombalbaye regime could react.31 The broadcast of antigovernment manifestos over German radio, as well as the delivery of a large payment to the FAN, could only infuriate Chadian officials. However, the ultimate consequences did not seem to trouble West German policymakers. Wallner explained that even if Tombalbaye got upset, “his realism and the attraction of the Deutschmark will quickly push him to renew relations with Bonn.”32 Meanwhile, the French pressured Tombalbaye to consent to a prisoner release. Puissant insisted that this issue represented a purely Chadian affair and expressed fears that governmental inaction would lead to the failure of the negotiations.33 Tombalbaye refused to budge, although he seemed willing to accept the fulfillment of the other two conditions posed by the rebels.34 27 28 29

30 32 33 34

Ibid. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, telegram no. 389/392 from Touze to Paris, 15.05.1974, p. 2. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, telegram from Touze to Paris, “Affaire de Bardaï,” 13.05.1974, p. 1. A bit odd since the Germans had had nothing to do with Limousin. 31 Ibid., p. 1. Ibid., p. 2. Claustre, L’affaire Claustre, note 15 above, p. 56. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, telegram from Touze to Paris, “Affaire de Bardaï,” 15.05.1974, p. 2. Ibid.

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On May 18, Puissant, along with Claustre and Wallner, met Habré in the village of Zoui, twelve kilometers east of Bardaï. Habré presented the French with a demand for 1 billion CFA, equal to 20 million French francs, along with the other conditions described above.35 The next day, the delegation again drove to Zoui, where Wallner officially accepted Habré’s conditions for Staewen’s release.36 Two days later, the negotiators returned to Zoui, where the Germans hoped to finalize the deal. According to Claustre, during the meeting Puissant threatened Habré that if he killed any hostages, “terrible retribution will befall the people of Tibesti.”37 Indeed, on May 26, Chadian troops in Bardaï took revenge on the families of the Gardes nomades who had deserted to the rebellion the night of the kidnapping. They burned their huts without letting them save their belongings. The wind carried the fire throughout the commercial quarter, and even threatened the German scientific base where Claustre was staying. In the evening, the garrison commander ordered the palm grove burned to the ground. The fire lasted for several days. The Chadian sub-prefect, with tears in his eyes, lamented to Claustre, “They’re insane, how can the people not hate them?”38 The situation became worrisome for the French. The rebels would soon release Staewen under circumstances that could provoke the Tombalbaye’s fury. French policymakers increased pressure on him to release the political prisoners demanded by Habré. Tombalbaye initially proved responsive and gave assurances that he would release prisoners to help end the hostage crisis.39 Instead of a prisoner release, Tombalbaye gave an extremely inflammatory speech on June 2. After vaguely indicating he would give amnesty to “all who were led astray by the lies of those in Frolinat,” he flipped Habré’s demand on its head. Only if Habré released his hostages would the government now consider a prisoner release. Tombalbaye also went one step further, and threatened Habré’s family. He declared that Habré should now know that “his family, his brothers of the Anakaza tribe are now guarantors of his hostages [. . .] the security of the family and brothers of Hissène Habré now only 35 37 39

36 Claustre, L’affaire Claustre, note 15 above, pp. 76–78. Ibid., pp. 80–81. 38 Ibid., p. 83. Ibid., p. 85. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, telegram from Touze to Paris, “De l’Affaire de Bardaï,” 15.06.1974 p. 2.

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depends on him.”40 Chadian forces imprisoned sixty of Habré’s relatives, including his mother and son.41 They also burned down the palm grove of Kirdimi.42 Claustre received word from one of his MRA subordinates that the prisoners were even carried aboard French transport aircraft.43 Ten days later, Habré finally released Staewen in exchange for 4 million French francs and the broadcast of a FAN manifesto over Deutsche Welle. West German officials evacuated Staewen to Libya via Land Rover to avoid problems with the Chadian authorities.44 That same day, the German ambassador, Werner Seldis, met an unhappy Tombalbaye. To avoid a major diplomatic crisis, Seldis promised Tombalbaye the unlimited use of two Luftwaffe Transall transport aircraft for three weeks to provide relief for areas of Chad affected by drought.45 This did not assuage the Chadian president. On June 12, the government officially broke diplomatic relations with West Germany. The official government communiqué also made vague accusations against Pierre Claustre, implying he had tried to make a separate and secret deal with Habré.46 The Chadian authorities declared Claustre, who had already returned to France, persona non grata.47 On June 13, Touze met Tombalbaye and argued that his recent actions played into the hands of the rebellion. Touze suggested he open a dialogue with different elements of the opposition.48 Touze warned, prophetically as it turned out, that the rebels and their sympathizers probably hoped the hostage crisis would seriously damage Franco40

41 42 43 44 45 46

47 48

FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, note from Touze to Paris, “a/s: Affaire de BARDAÏ,” 05.06.1974, “La Position du Conseil exécutif du M.N.R.C.S. sur les événements de Bardaï,” p. 5. Claustre, L’affaire Claustre, note 15 above, p. 83. Al Hadj Garondé Djarma, Temoignage d’un militant du FROLINAT (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2003), p. 124. Claustre, L’affaire Claustre, note 15 above, p. 93. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, telegram from Touze to Paris, “De l’Affaire de Bardaï,” 12.06.1974, p. 1. Ibid., p. 2. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, note from Touze to Paris, “a/s: Affaire de BARDAÏ. Rupture par le Tchad de ses relations avec la R.F.A,” 17.06.1974, “Communiqué du Conseil exécutif du M.N.R.C.S. diffusé dans la soirée du 12 June 1974,” pp. 3–5. Claustre, L’affaire Claustre, note 15 above, p. 114. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, telegram from Touze to Paris, “De l’Affaire de Bardaï,” 15.06.1974, p. 1.

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Chadian relations. Tombalbaye responded that he understood the dangers. He felt the rebels really aimed to isolate him from all possible political alliances, including with the French, by forcing him to move ever closer toward open identification with the South.49 They then discussed a new plan. At Tombalbaye’s request, the French named now-Commandant (Major) Pierre Galopin to accompany their consul general, Georges Estrade, in the renewed negotiations with Habré.50

Galopin’s Mission The choice of Galopin provoked controversy. Upon Staewen’s arrival in Libya, he warned French embassy officials there: Hissène Habré considers the Chadian president to be “scum” and does not seem inclined to discuss [anything] with him, nor even with Commandant Galopin, who Habré describes with an equivalent adjective and whom he considers an enemy since he holds him responsible for the division of the Tubu.51

Claustre also warned French authorities that the choice of Galopin could result in serious problems for the negotiations. He suspected Tombalbaye had asked for Galopin at Gourvennec’s instigation.52 As noted earlier, Galopin had played an important role in Chadian intelligence as Gourvennec’s deputy in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Goukouni nurtured a special grudge against Galopin. He accused Galopin of responsibility for sowing division amongst the Tubu.53 As outlined earlier, Galopin had led the negotiations which, in 1969, resulted in the defection of a substantial part of the rebellion in the BET. Goukouni’s elder brother died during a firefight against a unit led by one of his erstwhile allies.54 Strangely though, Galopin seemed to 49 50

51 52 53

54

Ibid., p. 2. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, Dossier, “Documents et notes trouvés dans la valise du Cdt Pierre GALOPIN le 18.2.76 (qu’il parait inopportun de restituer à sa famille),” telegram from DAM to N’Djamena Embassy, “Otages de Bardaï,” 12.06.1974, p. 1. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, telegram from Tripoli Embassy to Paris, “Affaire de Bardaï,” 19.06.1974, p. 2. Claustre, L’affaire Claustre, note 15 above, pp. 112–113. Goukouni Weddeye, “Témoignage pour l’histoire du Tchad,” Entretiens avec Laurent Correau, Radio France Internationale, 2008, pp. 18–19, found at : http://www1.rfi.fr/actufr/pages/001/page_348.asp. Ibid., p. 19.

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think Goukouni held him in some esteem from their contacts several years earlier.55 Galopin was also personally close to Gourvennec. A letter in the French Embassy archives attests to this. Gourvennec mentioned that his family often spoke fondly of Galopin, and the letter indicates a great deal of warmth between the two officers.56 Galopin’s history of services to the Chadian regime in general, and Gourvennec in particular, probably explains Tombalbaye’s desire to see him as a negotiator. Tombalbaye, for good reasons, feared a deal outside of Chadian government auspices. Galopin could allay these fears since Gourvennec trusted him completely. This way the Chadian government could remain informed of the negotiations. This did not escape the Quai d’Orsay. Its instructions to the embassy in N’Djamena demanded that Galopin remain only accountable to French authorities, not to the Chadian government.57 Furthermore, the instructions noted that Staewen’s release, and Tombalbaye’s decision to arrest Habré’s family, had changed the situation. Now Chadian regime cooperation had become essential. Touze had orders to make it clear to Tombalbaye that: Given all the sacrifices of various kinds that France has made and continues to make for Chad, French opinion would not understand if French hostages remained in captivity in his country through his fault. Monsieur Tombalbaye should not underestimate the consequences of our disappointment on this point.58

These pressures may have had an effect. During Touze’s discussions with Tombalbaye, the Chadian president reiterated a willingness to release Habré’s family in exchange for the hostages. After the hostages’ release, he would promise to free political prisoners, although he did 55

56

57

58

FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, “Mémorandum sur l’affaire des otages du Bardaï (Tchad),” 12.05.1975, p. 4; also see: Claustre, L’affaire Claustre, note 15 above, p. 110. MAE Nantes N’djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, Dossier “Documents et notes trouvés dans la valise du Cdt Pierre GALOPIN le 18.2.76 (qu’il parait inopportun de restituer à sa famille),” handwritten note from Camille Gourvennec to Pierre Galopin, 04.07.1974, p. 2. MAE Nantes N’djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, Dossier “Documents et notes trouvés dans la valise du Cdt Pierre GALOPIN le 18.2.76 (qu’il parait inopportun de restituer à sa famille),” telegram from DAM to N’Djamena Embassy, “Otages de Bardaï,” 12.06.1974, p. 1. Ibid., p. 2.

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not specify which ones.59 Tombalbaye also agreed to France paying a ransom, as well as broadcasting a communiqué. According to Touze, Tombalbaye even thought a ransom payment could reinforce divisions among the rebels by encouraging infighting over the spoils.60 As events would soon demonstrate though, Galopin’s mission would show that any new attempt to divide the rebels could backfire disastrously. Galopin and Estrade spent the following days and weeks shuttling back and forth between Bardaï and N’Djamena, awaiting Habré’s agreement to resume negotiations. In the meantime, they reported that Bardaï’s entire Tubu population had fled and joined the rebellion. Only small and marginalized ethnic communities remained in the village.61 This resulted from the recent destruction of the palm grove by the Chadian army. Finally, in early July, Habré agreed to meet and they had a first face-to-face encounter. Touze saw this as a confirmation that, despite fears to the contrary, Habré agreed to accept Galopin as a negotiator.62 Estrade and Galopin received authorization to agree to a broadcast of a FAN communiqué, as well as a ransom payment, although they did not have the authority to settle upon an amount.63 Matters came to a head on August 4. In the course of the meeting between the rebels and the French negotiators, Habré seized Galopin and added him to his hostage pool.64 Habré later told a horrified French negotiator, Martial Laurens, that the FAN had, “decided for a while to apprehend Commandant Galopin due to his activities against the Tubu. With France, ‘having presented him to us in wrapping paper’ it would have been stupid not to seize the opportunity.”65

59 60 61 62 63

64 65

FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, telegram from Touze to Paris, “De l’Affaire de Bardaï,” 15.06.1974, p. 2. Ibid. p. 2. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, telegram from Touze to Paris, “De l’Affaire de Bardaï,” 22.06.1974, p. 1. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, telegram from Touze to Paris, “Otages de Bardaï,” 06.07.1974. p. 1. MAE Nantes N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, Dossier “Documents et notes trouvés dans la valise du Cdt Pierre GALOPIN le 18.2.76 (qu’il parait inopportun de restituer à sa famille),” telegram from DAM to N’djamena Embassy, “Otages de Bardaï,” 12.06.1974, p. 2. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, “Mémorandum sur l’affaire des otages du Bardaï (Tchad),” 12.05.1975, p. 4. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, “Compte Rendu de la mission effectuée à BARDAÏ du 30 September au 3 October 1974,” by Martial Laurens, p. 7.

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Pierre Claustre, who would have numerous contacts with the rebel leadership, wrote that Galopin had fallen into a trap. According to his version, the FAN had organized Galopin’s August 4 meeting with Habré’s second-in-command, Adoum Togoï, to prove that Galopin’s real mission aimed at dividing the rebels as he had done in the past.66 Thierry Desjardins, a reporter from Le Figaro who spent time with the rebellion in early 1975, also reported this version of events.67 Goukouni, though not present at Galopin’s arrest, later recalled that Habré and others present accused Galopin of making contact with some of the former Gardes nomades to get them to return to the government side.68 Goukouni added that though he could not confirm the accuracy of Habré’s accusations, he would have arrested Galopin anyway, due to his past misdeeds.69 French records lend weight to Habré’s version. Gourvennec’s letter to Galopin, mentioned earlier, asked Galopin to gather information on the state of the rebellion. Habré’s position puzzled Gourvennec, and he wanted to understand how Habré had managed to rise to a leadership position in Tibesti, given his lack of a local constituency there. Gourvennec also wondered about Goukouni’s relationship with Habré. Then, Gourvennec referred to a possible return of Bardaï’s inhabitants who had fled to the rebellion following the Chadian army’s reprisals, as well as a return of the Gardes nomades who had defected to the rebels: “For the return of the inhabitants and guards to Bardaï – for the former, no problem – for the latter, they should be disarmed and detained while waiting to be brought to N’Djamena where their case will be studied by my agency.”70 The Chadian government and French intelligence had evidence of dissension within rebel ranks, particularly among the former Gardes nomades who had defected during the April kidnapping operation.71 Thus, as Gourvennec’s note suggests, Galopin’s mission aimed both at 66 67 68 70

71

Claustre, L’affaire Claustre, note 15 above, p. 118. Thierry Desjardins, Avec les otages du Tchad (Paris: Presses de la Cité, 1975), p. 88. 69 Goukouni, “Témoignage,”note 53 above, p. 60. Ibid. MAE Nantes N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, Dossier “Documents et notes trouvés dans la valise du Cdt Pierre GALOPIN le 18.2.76 (qu’il parait inopportun de restituer à sa famille),” handwritten note from Camille Gourvennec to Pierre Galopin, 04.07.1974, pp. 1–2. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, telegram from Baldit to Paris, “Affaire de Bardaï,” 17.07.1974, p. 1.

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intelligence-gathering and facilitating the re-defection of the Gardes nomades, who would probably not have appreciated getting disarmed and shipped off to N’Djamena for interrogation. Historians Pascal Airault and Jean-Pierre Bat have advanced another theory, namely that Galopin volunteered to become a hostage to infiltrate the FAN. According to this view, he would have used his status as a hostage to repeat his 1969 feat of dividing the rebellion.72 Whatever the truth of the matter, with Galopin’s capture, the stakes increased. Now the rebels demanded arms as well. Goukouni felt Galopin’s arrest represented an enormous boon for the rebellion. A lack of substantial weaponry and munitions constituted the FAN’s most serious handicap. Since Galopin had extremely close ties with both Gourvennec and Tombalbaye, the rebels now felt they held a valuable bargaining chip: We thought that Tombalbaye would feel obligated to give us anything we’d ask in exchange for Galopin in order to rescue his friend. Even the list of weapons that we demanded from the government was prepared by Galopin himself [. . .] He knew the kinds of weapons that would be useful for our struggle, so it was he who wrote the list. We copied it and sent it off.73

After Galopin’s capture, the FAN broke off contact for several weeks. Only on August 31 did they present their formal demand for arms. Of the one billion francs CFA (20 million French francs) they had asked for, they now wanted 600 million of this to take the form of weapons deliveries.74 Galopin’s arrest added a sense of urgency to the negotiations, both for French officials and for Tombalbaye. The Chadian president suggested a joint military operation to punish Habré and free the hostages. His French interlocutors immediately rejected this proposal, explaining that it posed too much of a risk.75 In late September, Robert Toulemon, Cooperation Minister Pierre Abelin’s chief of staff, visited N’Djamena to pressure Tombalbaye to agree to Habré’s conditions, minus the arms deliveries. The Chadian president agreed to a French 72 73 74 75

Pascal Airault and Jean-Pierre Bat, Françafrique: Opérations secrètes et affaires d’Etat (Paris: Tallandier, 2016). p. 78. Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 53 above, p. 60. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, “Mémorandum sur l’affaire des otages du Bardaï (Tchad),” 12.05.1975, p. 4. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, Note from Touze to Paris, “a/s: Déroulement de l’affaire de BARDAI,” 14.11.1974, p. 1.

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proposal that would supply the rebels with a variety of nonmilitary goods in lieu of arms. Tombalbaye also provided 500 million CFA francs to the negotiating team for the ransom.76 The negotiations made little headway. Martial Laurens, the French Embassy’s First Secretary, replaced Estrade as the official envoy. Laurens described the series of meetings between September 30 and October 3 as consisting little more than “on the one hand ‘we want weapons and ammunition,’ and on the other hand, ‘France rejects this condition.”77 In a troubling move, Habré now declared that the rebels had decided to separate Galopin’s case from that of the two other hostages. Furthermore, Habré promised that Galopin would face trial as an “international spy,” adding, “He’ll receive the punishment he deserves and which, moreover, he meted out to the Chadians.”78 Laurens protested that Galopin had no defense counsel and that France would never recognize a revolutionary tribunal lacking judicial guarantees. Habré mockingly replied that the FAN did not intend to bring in lawyers from France.79 He also refused to budge on the issue of arms deliveries. Laurens asked why he could not simply buy weapons on the black market with the ransom money since “arms dealers and vultures are always on the lookout for these kinds of transactions.” Habré admitted that it was not as easy or straightforward as it seemed.80 Though Habré already had 4 million francs provided by the Germans, he had yet to find a way to buy weaponry. As these talks ended, Pierre Claustre, in France on an enforced leave of absence, made his way alone to Chad via Libya. Touze feared that his presence with the rebels would complicate negotiations.81 Claustre risked joining Habré’s growing ranks of hostages, and Touze felt his presence could provoke renewed mistrust from Tombalbaye. On October 4, French Foreign Ministry officials tried to pressure Libyan authorities to prevent Claustre’s passage through to Tibesti.82 By this time though, Claustre had already crossed the border. 76 77 78 81 82

FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, “Compte-rendu de ma mission à N’Djamena,” by Robert Toulemon, 30.09.1974, pp. 1–2. FCMGT, Carton 2, “Compte Rendu de la mission effectuée à BARDAÏ du 30 Septembre au 3 Octobre 1974,” by Martial Laurens, p. 3. 79 80 Ibid., p. 4. Ibid., p. 5. Ibid., p. 8. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, Note from Touze to Paris, “a/s: Déroulement de l’affaire de BARDAI,” 14.11.1974, p. 4. Ibid.

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Claustre’s presence actually had a positive impact on negotiations. As talks resumed by radio in late October and early November, Habré remained inflexible. He hinted, however, that the return of Puissant, or another envoy from Paris, rather than an Embassy official, could bring the rebels to compromise.83 Pierre Claustre convinced Habré and Goukouni to modify the form of their demands.84 They agreed, and requested that he pass the message on to Paris, which he reached on November 24. The proposals that Claustre and the FAN agreed to involved the liberation of Combe, followed by Françoise Claustre. In exchange for each, the rebels would receive a third of the ransom money and the release of ten political prisoners from Tombalbaye’s jails.85 To force the matter, on December 10, the rebels announced they would execute Galopin if the French refused to name a high-level envoy. Two days later, Robert Puissant, again named special envoy, arrived in Bardaï.86 By early January 1975, Puissant and Habré agreed on the conditions originally proposed by Claustre. In lieu of the ransom, however, the rebels would receive, for each hostage, 2 Land Rovers, 2.5 tons of food, 2 radios, 100 uniforms, and 2,000 liters of gasoline.87 This time it was Tombalbaye who refused. Only if the FAN released Galopin first would he agree to go along. Giscard sent a personal message demanding Tombalbaye conform to the conditions, regardless of which hostage the rebels released first. The Chadian president refused to budge, claiming, according to his sources, that Galopin suffered from mistreatment.88 The negotiations thus stalled once again, with the French unable to satisfy both of their interlocutors at the same time. Eventually, as the FAN’s position had clearly not improved, Habré announced they would execute Galopin on April 4 if the French did not agree to deliver weapons.89 At this point, the FAN’s material situation appeared daunting. In a report to Paris, Touze noted that rebel attacks in the entire country had fallen from 134 in 1973 to only 34 in 1974. Furthermore, the rebels 83 84 86 87

FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, Note from Touze to Paris, “a/s: Déroulement de l’affaire de BARDAI,” 14.11.1974, p. 8. 85 Claustre, L’affaire Claustre, note 15 above, p. 173. Ibid. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, “Mémorandum sur l’affaire des otages du Bardaï (Tchad),” 12.05.1975, p. 5. 88 89 Ibid., p. 6. Ibid. Ibid. p. 7.

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had lost nearly 200 fighters in the last six months of 1974, versus 15 deaths for the Chadian military. Additionally, Touze claimed, in the whole of 1974, the rebellion had only captured one heavy and six light weapons from the Chadian army. Touze concluded that the rebels, though far from being completely “pacified,” no longer seemed to gain ground.90 Even if Touze exaggerated rebel difficulties – insecurity and violence remained rampant in central and eastern Chad – this context helps to explain the circumstances surrounding Galopin’s execution. According to Claustre’s rebel interlocutors, Habré waited for ten hours on the appointed day. When no French negotiator arrived from Bardaï, he ordered Galopin’s execution. Habré apparently did not stick around for the event.91 Goukouni gave a different version. According to him, the rebels did not intend to execute Galopin that day. However, Goukouni claimed that on April 4, they received a mysterious message from Bardaï. He did not know whether it came from the French or the Chadian garrison, but it threatened, “Free Galopin, [and] you’ll have nothing. If you don’t free him, you ragheads [loqueteux] will be decimated.”92 Goukouni, Habré, and the rest of the FAN leadership saw this as an imminent threat, and resolved to kill Galopin. Goukouni also said that, despite Galopin’s request for a firing squad, they decided to hang him. He claimed that both he and Habré were present for the execution. Even more than 30 years later, Goukouni did not regret it, asserting that he could never forgive Galopin for his crimes.93 While no archival evidence supports Goukouni’s version, Touze provides a hint in his diaries. On the night of April 3, he sent a message to Estrade and Laurens in Bardaï, ordering them to remind Habré, “of the very serious consequences of his threat.”94 Habré’s treatment of Galopin had apparently traumatized Estrade, his co-negotiator from the previous year, and Laurens had little respect for the FAN.95 Perhaps they had sent the threatening message.

90 91 92 94 95

FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, Note from Touze to Paris, “a/s: Evolution de la rébellion,” 04.02.1975, p. 2. Claustre, L’affaire Claustre, note 15 above, p. 253. 93 Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 53 above, pp. 60–61. Ibid., p. 62. R. L. Touze, 370 jours d’un Ambassadeur au Tchad (Paris: Editions FranceEmpire, 1989), p. 364. Ibid., p. 157.

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Regime Change in N’Djamena Habré’s threats provoked panic among French officials. On April 1, following a second trip to Tibesti, Claustre met Puissant in his Paris office. To a stunned Claustre, Puissant asked if he could procure weapons for the FAN by finding an arms dealer.96 After Claustre found some possibilities, Puissant then asked him to return to Tibesti and inform Habré that Puissant “would make some propositions which should satisfy him.”97 When Puissant, accompanied by Estrade, met Habré on April 12, at Zoui, Claustre had already arrived, in the company of Le Figaro journalist Thierry Desjardins. Habré confirmed that the rebels had in fact executed Galopin. This surprised the French negotiators, as they had received indications from Chadian government sources that Galopin remained alive.98 After returning to Bardaï for instructions, they came back to Habré, now proposing 10 million francs, 4 million of which would take the form of nonmilitary material.99 This money had been set aside out of the previous year’s military cooperation budget for just such a purpose.100 Puissant also indicated that Claustre could help Habré contact an arms dealer. This turn of events satisfied Habré and Goukouni, and the atmosphere surrounding the negotiations seemed to change.101 The next day, however, on April 13, 1975, high-ranking Chadian military officers overthrew Tombalbaye in a coup d’état. Several Chadian units, aided by the defection of the presidential guard, besieged Tombalbaye’s villa. Tombalbaye died in the ensuing firefight, along with his wife.102 Over the next few days, the officers leading the coup, including several recently freed from prison, formed the Conseil supérieur militaire (CSM) as the new governing entity.103 The new

96 98 99 100 101 102 103

97 Claustre, L’affaire Claustre, note 15 above, pp. 223–224. Ibid., p. 227. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, “Mémorandum sur l’affaire des otages du Bardaï (Tchad),” 12.05.1975, p. 7. Claustre, L’affaire Claustre, note 15 above, p. 243. FCMGT, Carton 6, A8/1, Mission militaire de coopération, “Note sur notre assistance militaire technique au TCHAD,” 20.02.1975, p. 3n. Claustre, L’affaire Claustre, note 15 above, p. 243. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/4, telegram from Touze to Paris, “Coup d’état de N’Djamena,” 14.04.1975, p. 2. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/4, note from Touze to Paris, “a/s: Après le coup d’Etat du 13 avril,” 22.04.1975, p. 4.

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president, General Félix Malloum, had actually been on Habré’s list of prisoners to be freed in exchange for the hostages. One of the triggers for the coup lay in an escape attempt by members of Habré’s family, still detained by the regime. On the evening of April 2, two of Habré’s relatives stole automatic weapons from their guards and tried to break out of prison. The escapees wounded two French mercenaries and a French police advisor in the process.104 Although the escapees were recaptured shortly afterward, this event served as a pretext for Tombalbaye to purge his security apparatus. He immediately arrested three high-ranking officers in the army and gendarmerie.105 On April 5, Tombalbaye made several accusations against the military and prepared to arrest more senior officers.106 This incited the officer corps to react and take down the regime. Later accounts imply French complicity with the coup plotters, if not direct support. Several observations support this conclusion. First, Chadian units began their descent on the capital two days before the coup. With French military advisors probably stationed among these units, the French Embassy and the French military command would likely have had some degree of foreknowledge. Second, Tombalbaye’s successor regime retained Camille Gourvennec at his post. As he was one of the most prominent individuals in Tombalbaye’s regime, it seems unlikely that the coup plotters would have kept him on board without his complicity. It also seems unlikely that he would have acted without the foreknowledge of the French government.107 Regardless, French forces stationed in N’Djamena certainly did not intervene. The French command in N’Djamena received a telegram from the Defense Ministry stating: First/ Regarding the events happening in N’Djamena you should take no initiative of a military nature other than to ensure the safety of your troops. [. . .] You should collect as much information as possible on the evolution of the situation and transmit it immediately. [. . .] The only situation when you 104 105 106 107

FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, telegram from Touze to Paris, “Garde à vous du Général N’Djogo et de deux officiers supérieurs tchadiens,” 03.04.1974, p. 1. Ibid. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/4, note from Touze to Paris, “a/s: Après le coup d’Etat du 13 avril,” 22.04.1975, p. 3. Nelly Mouric, “La politique tchadienne de la France sous Valéry Giscard d’Estaing: Vers la prise en compte de la rébellion,” Politique Africaine, Décembre 1984, No. 16 (1984), p. 88.

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should intervene militarily is at the request of the French Ambassador in order to protect the Embassy.108

While nothing proves French involvement, this telegram demonstrates an explicit order, possibly coming from the Elysée itself, not to interfere. That said, the Chadian coup plotters, all from the higher echelons of the military and police, had plenty of reasons to overthrow Tombalbaye without outside instigation. Tombalbaye’s “cultural revolution” alienated an important section of the southern elite. The yondo initiation rites especially played a major role in generating both popular and elite discontent and provided fertile ground for plots aiming at Tombalbaye’s downfall. In the event, Touze claimed in his diaries that the coup came as a complete surprise to him. Gourvennec also denied any knowledge about its preparation. Gourvennec had requested protection in the Embassy, which Touze accorded, before smuggling him out to the French base during the night.109 Embassy records also suggest French officials, or at least their diplomatic representatives in N’Djamena, acted as little more than spectators. Richard Dwyer, the acting chief of mission at the American Embassy, later recalled an encounter with his neighbor, a French colonel in military intelligence. According to Dwyer, as the fighting raged around Tombalbaye’s nearby residence, he asked if the French were behind the coup. The colonel responded, “If we are, I don’t know about it.” Then, General Odingar, the Chadian army chief, drove up and asked the French colonel point blank, “Which way do I jump?” The French officer replied, “I don’t know, but jump one way or another.”110 Odingar then quickly took command of the attack against Tombalbaye. Soon after taking power, the CSM made statements reassuring their French interlocutors. It arrested few members of the former regime, and openly declared its desire for national reconciliation. Malloum 108 109 110

MAE Nantes N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, telegram from Chef d’EtatMajor des Armées to N’Djamena, 13.4.1975 (emphasis added). Touze, 370 jours, note 94 above, p. 381. Interview with Richard A. Dwyer, July 12 1990, Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, Library of Congress, p. 32. Found at: https://www.adst.org/OH%20TOCs/Dwyer,%20Richard% 20A.toc.pdf (accessed 27.05.2020).

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called on the different Frolinat factions to return to the fold. Habré remained deaf to these overtures. However, since the new regime released most political prisoners, Habré removed that condition from his list of demands.111 In May 1975, French policymakers named another official to close the deal with Habré. Stéphane Hessel, former resistance fighter and Buchenwald survivor, and now high-level official in the Cooperation Ministry, became the lead French negotiator. On May 22, though, the situation changed again. Marc Combe, the MRA official and hostage whom the rebels had used as a chauffeur and vehicle mechanic, took advantage of his privileged position and escaped in a Land Rover. As Françoise Claustre was the only hostage remaining, Hessel would offer less than initially promised for her release. In a meeting with Malloum, Hessel explained his instructions: a 4 million franc ransom, as well as a variety of nonmilitary goods.112 By June, Malloum had agreed to these conditions.113 After several attempts, Hessel finally met Habré and Goukouni on July 14. Hessel told them that France would pay a ransom and provide supplies, Land Rovers, and radio equipment. Under no circumstances, though, could France provide weapons. Again, the negotiations stalled, as neither Habré nor Goukouni would back down. Then Hessel played his trump card. He told them that Pierre Claustre himself had acquired weapons and, at that very moment, was delivering them in a chartered DC-4 aircraft to the rebel stronghold at Yebi-Bou.114 The rebel attitude changed immediately, and discussions began on the modalities of the prisoner release. Hessel even gave them his Land Rover, so they could rapidly reach Yebi-Bou to verify the weapons delivery. Hessel shook hands with Habré and Goukouni, and they reached an agreement. On August 1, Hessel would deliver the ransom and bring Françoise Claustre to freedom. Upon arrival in N’Djamena, Hessel held a press conference announcing the imminent liberation of Françoise Claustre.115

111 112 113 114

FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, “Mémorandum sur l’affaire des otages du Bardaï (Tchad),” 12.05.1975, p. 8. Stéphane Hessel, Danse avec le siècle (Paris: Seuil, 1997), p. 208. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1978, Carton 90, “Note A/S: les relations franco-tchadiennes,” 01.03.1976, p. 4. 115 Hessel, Dance avec le siècle, note 112 above, p. 210. Ibid.

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Meanwhile, Pierre Claustre had returned to France to arrange matters with potential arms dealers. Habré and Goukouni had threatened Combe’s life if Claustre’s mission failed.116 Taking this threat seriously since Combe had not yet escaped, Claustre returned to Chad in less than three weeks, this time with a DC-3 aircraft to carry the German ransom money out of Chad to buy weapons. He brought with him the famous French documentary filmmaker, Raymond Depardon, and photographer Marie-Laure de Decker, who wanted to make a documentary on the events in Chad. Not only would Depardon defray some costs, but Claustre also felt publicity could help his case.117 Goukouni gave Claustre one million francs in order to procure weapons. Claustre then chartered a DC-4 that would fly to Ghana to buy rifles. From there, it would deliver the weapons to Yebi-Bou. Unfortunately, this plan ended disastrously. The arms his providers delivered lacked ammunition and consisted of light submachine guns good for combat at close quarters, but not for the kind of fighting engaged in by the FAN.118 Furthermore, the value of the arms was far less than the one million francs given to Claustre. This infuriated the FAN leadership. On the return journey, the aircraft, which also now carried the French journalists, had to make a forced landing in Niger. The Nigerien authorities, discovering its mission, impounded the plane and deported its passengers. They also seized the film and recording equipment belonging to Depardon and de Decker. Given the public nature of such an action, the Chadian government quickly learned of the failed mission, thus confirming their worst fears about French duplicity.119 On July 24, the CSM strictly forbade the French from further direct contacts with the FAN. Instead, they announced that any solution to the hostage situation would occur under the auspices of a general political settlement. French policymakers, seeing little choice in the 116 117

118

119

Claustre, L’affaire Claustre, note 15 above, p. 260. Ibid., p. 274. For some of de Decker’s photography of FAN combatants, see: Marie-Laure de Decker and Ornella Tondini, Pour le Tchad (Paris: Le Sycomore, 1978). Ibid., p. 310. The “arms dealers” and pilots may have been SDECE operatives; see: Roger Faligot, Jean Guisnel, and Rémi Kauffer, Histoire politique des services secrets français: De la Seconde Guerre mondiale à nos jours (Paris: La Découverte, 2013), Kindle e-book. Claustre, L’affaire Claustre, note 15 above, pp. 314–315.

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matter, agreed. To this end, French diplomats worked with the CSM to facilitate the return of the Derdé to Chad.120 The Derdé had spent the previous nine years in exile in Libya. The French now hoped his return would have a substantial impact on the rebellion. Touze dismissed the opinions of “a few ethnologists or specialists of the Tubu and of Tibesti who deny that the Derdé has any importance.”121 The Derdé’s return had little effect, however. At the end of August, the rebels announced they would execute Françoise Claustre if the French did not pay the ransom agreed upon with Hessel by September 23.122 Meanwhile, Pierre Claustre had returned yet again to Tibesti in the company of Depardon. The latter recorded an interview with Françoise Claustre, whose broadcast would soon push the French government into action. On August 22, though, as Depardon headed back to France, the rebels retained Pierre Claustre as a hostage. They accused him of responsibility for providing defective weapons, of losing FAN money in the process, and of working for French intelligence.123 On September 10, 1975, the French television station TF1 broadcast Depardon’s moving interview with Françoise Claustre. It provoked a public outcry, which encouraged French authorities to act. On September 25, after several days of negotiations, a French Transall aircraft landed and delivered 4 million francs to the FAN.124 Several days later, according to Pierre Claustre, up to sixteen different French aircraft dropped clothing, blankets, shoes, and food.125 Such an enormous demonstration did not pass by the CSM unnoticed. Furious, the CSM accused French authorities of violating Chadian sovereignty by authorizing or tolerating arms deliveries, as well as “subversive” activities by its citizens in the rebel zone.126 On September 27, Malloum gave French forces one month to evacuate the Chad. At the same time, the CSM demanded a renegotiation of the 120 121 122 123 125 126

FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, Dépêche d’actualité, from Touze to Paris, “a/s: du retour du Derdé des Toubous,” 18.08.1975, pp. 1–2. Ibid., p. 1. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1978, Carton 90, “Note A/S: les relations franco-tchadiennes,” 01.03.1976, p. 6. 124 Claustre, L’affaire Claustre, note 15 above, pp. 330–334. Ibid., p. 348. Ibid., pp. 351–352. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1978, Carton 90, “Note A/S: les relations franco-tchadiennes,” 01.03.1976, p. 6.

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cooperation agreements between the two countries.127 Furthermore, the CSM denounced the defense accord that had linked France to Chad since 1960.128 On October 28, as the last French forces left Chad, government army units launched a major attack against Zoui, the oasis and village east of Bardaï where many of the negotiations had taken place. Touze noted that French mercenaries piloting Chadian aircraft observed fires burning around the oasis.129 Claustre later claimed the Chadian army killed sixty of its inhabitants in cold blood.130 If the CSM wanted to encourage national reconciliation, its tactics certainly did not help. Franco-Chadian talks stalled until December when the French replaced Touze with a new ambassador, Louis Dallier. Through the mediation of Gabonese president Omar Bongo, French and Chadian emissaries agreed to begin negotiations on a new set of cooperation accords.131 In early March 1976, French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac visited N’Djamena to sign the new agreements. In some respects, particularly in the security domain, these accords represented a significant change in the character of Franco-Chadian relations. The old defense agreement was replaced by a military assistance accord that provided for French military equipment and training personnel, but no permanent French troop presence.132 Furthermore, Article 4 of the new military assistance agreement states that French military advisors could not “in any case directly participate in the execution of war operations, nor in the reestablishment of order or legality.”133 This represented a change of great importance by formally 127 128 129 130 131 132

133

Ibid., p. 6. FCMGT, Carton 6, A8/1, Mission militaire de coopération, “Note sur notre assistance militaire technique au TCHAD,” 31.12.1975. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/3, telegram Touze to Paris, “D’une opération des Forces armées tchadiennes sur la palmeraie de Zoui,” 29.10.1975, p. 1. Claustre, L’affaire Claustre, note 15 above, p. 362. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1978, Carton 90, “Note A/S: les relations franco-tchadiennes,” 01.03.1976, pp. 6–7. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1978, Carton 90, “Voyage du Premier ministre au Tchad 5–6 Mars 1976,” “Accord de coopération militaire technique.” “Accord de coopération militaire technique entre le gouvernement de la République Française et le gouvernement de la République du Tchad, signé à N’Djaména les 6 mars et 19 juin 1976,” found at https://www.legifrance.gouv .fr/jo_pdf.do?id=JPDF3004197800001919&pageCourante=01930, consulted on 25.07.2018. It remains formally in effect today.

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reducing the Chadian state’s dependency on France for its security needs. Nonetheless, in the coming years both parties would ignore this clause. In his end of mission report, Dallier expressed resentment at what he perceived as Chadian ingratitude during the negotiations: The young ultra-nationalist N’Djamena bureaucrats, more imbued with power than trained by experience, are still marked by anti-French propaganda which was fashionable during President Tombalbaye’s regime. They did not facilitate dialogue, and, because of their intransigence, no new settlement or territorial agreement succeeded those which were denounced.134

Later in the same report, he summarized the CSM’s attitude as having “a nasty tendency to consider our aid as being due to them because of the role we played in bringing their country into the world. This didn’t stop them from seeing our aid, given the colonial past, as being entirely insufficient. At the same time, they don’t tolerate it well because it compensates too openly for their insufficiencies.”135 While Dallier’s observations say more about French attitudes than about anything else, they accurately highlighted the deeply ingrained structural tensions undergirding the Franco-Chadian relationship. Frustrated by their inability to resolve the “Claustre Affair” with the help of the CSM, French officials opened a Libyan back channel to pressure the rebel leadership instead. This would have fateful consequences.

The Libyan Back Door While the motivations and aims of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime remain difficult to elucidate, one can deduce at least two aspects of Libya’s policy in Chad at this time. First, Gaddafi intended to keep the Aozou Strip. To do this, he eventually needed an agreement from N’Djamena, formal or informal, to provide a modicum of legitimacy to his claims. This required a Chadian government not fundamentally opposed to Libyan aims. Second, for this and other reasons linked to Gaddafi’s visions of grandeur, Libyan policymakers wanted a universally 134 135

MAE Nantes Carton 3, “Rapport de fin de mission de l’Ambassadeur Dallier,” p. 3. Ibid., p. 37.

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acknowledged and permanent seat at the table in Chadian affairs, much as France enjoyed. In early 1976, the only serious opposition to Libya in northern Chad came from Hissène Habré and his allies within the FAN. Nonetheless, Libya served as an important FAN rear base. Furthermore, Frolinat, FAN’s formal umbrella organization, had its headquarters in Tripoli. As noted earlier, though, the FAN had decisively broken with Abba Siddick, the Frolinat secretary general. Thus, until 1975, the FAN received extremely limited Libyan support. This began to change in late 1975, when Libyan relations with Siddick started to deteriorate. According to Goukouni, Libyan intelligence began sending feelers to the FAN. In February 1976, they received Libyan envoys and sent emissaries of their own to Tripoli. In addition to providing a few weapons and other goods, the Libyans offered training for medics, drivers, and radio operators.136 However, Habré maintained his anti-Libyan enmity. He even refused a personal request from Gaddafi for a meeting in late May 1976. The FAN sent Goukouni instead. According to Goukouni, Gaddafi expressed a willingness to aid the rebellion, but also wanted the rebellion to free the Claustres via Libya.137 Libyan overtures soon led to divisions within the rebel leadership. At the end of June, a FAN detachment ambushed Libyan soldiers south of Aozou and took several prisoners. After difficult negotiations, and following Habré’s initial refusal, the FAN returned them to Libya.138 The FAN faced a difficult position, stuck between the government in N’Djamena and growing Libyan ambitions in the BET. Pulled between competing threats and options, tensions within the FAN leadership reached the breaking point. Habré, viscerally anti-Libyan, resented Libyan interference and wanted to fight against its occupation of the Aozou strip.139 Goukouni, on the other hand, felt that Frolinat could not handle a two-front war and should thus focus its efforts against the Chadian government.140 In September 1976, the FAN and other Frolinat factions held a coordination meeting at the Gouro oasis. The meeting soon turned 136 138 139 140

137 Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 53 above, pp. 64–65. Ibid., p. 65. Ibid., p. 66. Robert Buijtenhuijs, Le Frolinat et les guerres civiles du Tchad: 1977–1984 (Paris: Karthala, 1987), p. 32. Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 53 above, p. 67.

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into a clash of personalities, particularly between Goukouni and Habré. The gathering ended with Habré’s decision to leave Gouro and the FAN with his supporters, while keeping the FAN acronym for his own troops. Habré moved his forces out of Tibesti toward central Chad. Eventually, under heavy government assaults in mid1977, he crossed into Sudan’s Darfur region.141 With Habré out of the way, Goukouni could build a profitable relationship with Libya. However, Gaddafi continued to press for the Claustres’ release and would provide little assistance until then.142 By linking military assistance to freeing the hostages, Gaddafi signaled that Libya would henceforth become an indispensable interlocutor for anyone looking to make peace in northern Chad. In late 1976, the CSM received disturbing reports that the French had begun negotiations with the Libyans for the Claustres’ release. In early November, the Chadian ambassador in Paris met Giscard to clarify the French position. Giscard responded quite angrily that he resented Chadian suspicion, particularly given that he was probably Malloum’s “only and true friend.”143 He further explained that if he had wanted to give weapons to the Tubu, he would have already done it and the hostages would be free. He asserted, “we have never wanted to do that and we will not do that.”144 Until the very moment of the Claustres’ release in Libya, the French government continued to assure its Chadian protégés that it had not negotiated with the northern rebellion. On December 14, 1976, in response to Chadian suspicions, Dallier informed Chadian Foreign Minister Wadal Abdelkader Kamougué: The French government is not negotiating and will not negotiate the liberation of the Claustre couple with the rebellion. It only expects their liberation after a general settlement of the current prevailing situation in Tibesti and deeply wishes that the Chadian government’s efforts towards this end concludes as soon as possible.145 141 142 143

144 145

Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 139 above, p. 42. Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 53 above, p. 70. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, telegram from Georgy to Dallier, “Entretien de M. Djimé avec le président de la République française,” 12.11.1976, p. 1. Ibid. MAE Nantes N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, note from Dallier to the Chadian Foreign Minister, 14.12.1976.

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Though not technically a lie as France had not negotiated with the FAN since the expulsion of its troops from Chad, Dallier simply avoided mentioning the Libyan dimension. This kind of dissimulation could only have insulted Chadian authorities once the Claustres’ release became public. At the end of January 1977, Goukouni, now exclusively in charge of the Claustre situation, released the Claustres to the French Embassy in Tripoli. The French official statement announcing the Claustres’ freedom thanked the Chadian government for its assistance as well as its “agreement” with French negotiations with Libya. Of course, Chadian officials had not agreed to this at all. This infuriated Malloum and his government.146 Giscard’s letter to Malloum following the Claustres’ release tried to calm Malloum’s anger. Giscard wrote, “I am convinced that your tireless policy of national reconciliation, of contact, and of dialogue, as well as the climate of appeasement and hope [. . .] have powerfully contributed to this measure of wisdom and humanity [the liberation of the hostages].”147 This missive sounded insulting. Shortly afterward, the CSM publicly denounced France’s role in the Claustres’ liberation and its violations of Chadian sovereignty.148 Malloum sent Kamougué and the health minister, General Negue Djogo, as personal envoys to Paris to discuss the issue. Dallier informed Paris that they represented the “moderate” position within the CSM that wished to maintain friendly relations despite the Claustre debacle. Dallier warned Paris that the envoys would probably make the point that French efforts had brought Goukouni closer to Gaddafi, and thus more dependent upon Libyan influence. This seriously undermined the CSM’s own reconciliation attempts and, by extension, prospects for peace in the country.149 Goukouni later admitted he had begun testing the waters for a negotiated settlement with N’Djamena in 1976. He blamed the failure of these efforts on Malloum, who tried to exploit a situation in which “we were cornered between Libya and N’Djamena,” and demanded 146 147 148 149

MAE Nantes N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “A/S: Envoi à Paris de deux emissaires du chef de l’état,” 15.02.1977, p. 2. MAE Nantes N’Djamena Ambassade Carton 7, telegram from Géorgy to Dallier, “Libération de M. et MME. Françoise Claustre,” 31.01.1977. Mouric, “La politique tchadienne de la France,” note 107 above, p. 92. MAE Nantes N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “A/S: Envoi à Paris de deux émissaires du chef de l’état,” 15.02.1977, p. 2.

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too many concessions.150 A rapprochement with Libya would help break this deadlock. France had acted as the unwitting catalyst for this. In the meantime, the CSM took no steps to break relations with France. In Dallier’s words, this resulted from the simple fact that: Chad is in too much need of French assistance for its development, of our civilian aid workers for its services and schools, as well as our military technical advisors for its army, to push any expression of its anger too far. The CSM has put too much emphasis on restoring its good relations with France, in my opinion, to overly stiffen its behavior towards us.151

On February 3, 1977, Le Monde claimed that Libya had provided Goukouni with 5 million francs, 200 Kalashnikov assault rifles, and 100,000 rounds of ammunition in exchange for the Claustres.152 Goukouni later denied Le Monde’s claims, though he did admit to receiving massive amounts of Libyan assistance.153 He also noted that the decision to release the Claustres came as a result of Libya’s refusal to provide substantial assistance until he agreed to liberate the hostages.154 Dallier’s final mission report also suggests that French negotiations played a key role in Libyan pressure on the 2nd Army to release the Claustres.155 Furthermore, French intelligence reports from the first half of 1977 indicate Libyan participation in a massive rearmament of Goukouni’s forces.156 These reports, combined with Goukouni’s later affirmations that Libyan aid “changed the face of the war in Chad,” also hint that French efforts to free the Claustres indirectly opened a veritable Pandora’s Box on Chad’s northern frontier.157 150 151 152 153 155 156 157

Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 53 above, p. 67. MAE Nantes N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “A/S: Envoi à Paris de deux émissaires du chef de l’état,” 15.02.1977, p. 3. Paul Balta, “Le dénouement de l’affaire Claustre renforce l’influence de la Libye,” Le Monde, 03.02.1977. 154 Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 53 above, p. 71. Ibid. p. 63. MAE Nantes Carton 3, “Rapport de fin de mission de l’Ambassadeur Dallier,” p. 5. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/4, Fiche, “Libye-Tchad-Egypte-Soudan: -Le Tibesti prochain champ de bataille inter-africain?,” 15.02.1977, p. 1. Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 53 above, p. 71.

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4

The Empire Strikes Back French Intervention and Return to War

Libyan support for Goukouni Weddeye’s rebellion would soon disrupt the fragile equilibrium that had existed between the central government and the rebels. At the time of the Claustres’ release in January 1977, various Chadian rebel groups, still loosely grouped under the “Frolinat” label, remained divided ideologically, ethnically, and geographically across northern and eastern Chad. By this time, Abba Siddick’s distance from the ground and his reputedly authoritarian style had led to his marginalization as a real power broker. In May 1976, several members of his entourage, upset by his policies and personality, left him to meet members of the 1st Army in eastern Chad. These fighters, already disheartened by their situation and political representation, replaced their military leadership and effectively broke with Siddick.1 Goukouni and Habré’s forces had also operated autonomously from Siddick since 1972.2 Habré’s break with Goukouni occurred during a September 1976 meeting at Gouro. A number of factors relating to strategy and personality occasioned this split. It also partly resulted from Habré’s opposition to the presence of Mohammed El-Baghalani at the meeting. Baghalani, a former close associate of Ibrahima Abatcha, had also fallen out with Abba Siddick and had organized a rival rebel faction in eastern Chad called “l’armée Volcan.” This faction drew most of its support from minority Arab communities living in northern and eastern Chad. Other factions perceived it and Baghalani as having close ties with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, or at least representing Islamist tendencies.3 Habré 1 2 3

Robert Buijtenhuijs, Le Frolinat et les guerres civiles du Tchad: 1977–1984 (Paris: Karthala, 1987), p. 31. See: Goukouni Weddeye, “Témoignage pour l’histoire du Tchad,” Entretiens avec Laurent Correau, Radio France Internationale, 2008, pp. 41–46. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 1 above, pp. 29–30. Buijtenhuijs notes however that both Baghalani and the Muslim Brotherhood denied the connection.

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feared that Baghalani or his movement also had close ties to Gaddafi. Although their collaboration at this point remains unclear, the movement did eventually become a major conduit for Libyan assistance in the years following Baghalani’s mysterious death in a car crash in March 1977. Although Baghalani did not share the Libyan leader’s peculiar brand of Islamist politics, some of his subordinates certainly did.4 Furthermore, Habré may have seen the Volcan’s Arab ethnic constituency as potential material for Gaddafi to exploit through his panArab policies and ambitions. While Habré split from Goukouni, the latter made moves toward an alliance with Baghalani’s forces. The resulting formation, the Comité militaire inter-armées provisoire (CMIAP), did not bring their forces together under a single command, but did work as a coordination mechanism well into 1978.5 Thus, as Buijtenhuijs has observed, by the end of 1976 and the beginning of 1977, Frolinat was divided into five different factions. None of these numbered more than a few hundred active combatants: Abba Siddick, now based in Algiers; Goukouni’s forces in the BET, allied with Baghalani’s Volcan force in eastern Chad; the remnants of the 1st Army, in central and eastern Chad; and Habré’s Forces armées du Nord (FAN).6 Government forces controlled all the important urban centers, and the rebellion held large parts of the countryside in the North and East. In January 1977, a Quai (French Foreign Ministry) analysis observed that in the BET, “Currently a sort of peaceful coexistence characterizes the relations between government forces and the insurgents.”7 This balance, though, would soon change. As the Chadian scene endured a deceptive final period of relative calm, regional politics turned against Gaddafi. Tensions between Libya and Egypt had grown over the previous years. Gaddafi had adopted an increasingly hostile position toward Egypt after several of his attempts to create a union between the two countries failed. He was also incensed at Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s refusal to include him in war planning against Israel in advance of the 1973 war, as well as at Egypt’s later rapprochement with Tel-Aviv. Furthermore, Egypt began

4 7

5 6 Ibid. Ibid., p. 34. Ibid., p. 33–34. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1978, Carton 67, Note, “A/s. Le TCHAD,” 20.01.1977, p. 4.

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hosting Libyan opposition figures and allowed anti-Gaddafi broadcasts from its territory.8 At the same time, Libyan relations with Sudan degenerated into near war. Although Gaddafi initially had been close to Sudan’s ruling regime under President Gaafar Nimeiry, the latter’s apparent lack of total commitment to Arab unity, his successful peacemaking efforts with Sudan’s Christian South, and his close ties with Egypt provoked a strongly antagonistic attitude in Gaddafi. In July 1976, Gaddafi sponsored a coup attempt against Nimeiry. The attempt failed as it degenerated into bloody street fighting in Khartoum, costing the lives of over 1,000 people.9 This atmosphere provided the context for Chadian president Félix Malloum’s visit to Sudan and Egypt in January 1977. He signed several economic and cultural agreements with the Egyptian government. This represented an effort to counter Libyan influence by attracting the support of Gaddafi’s more powerful neighbor. Officials in Tripoli viewed this as an affront, and the Libyan media lambasted Malloum’s policy.10 Given the state of Egyptian-Libyan relations, Sadat was more than happy to accord attention to Malloum’s concerns. Indeed, in July 1977, the buildup of tensions resulted in the outbreak of a brief border war between Egypt and Libya, lasting several days. It cost the lives of hundreds of Egyptian and Libyan soldiers before Sadat unilaterally declared a cease-fire on July 25.11 In any event, by early 1977, French intelligence had indicated that growing Libyan aid to Goukouni presaged a coming offensive. Chadian authorities informed French officials that Goukouni had received substantial amounts of weapons and equipment from Libya. They even claimed (falsely) that the Soviets had delivered some of these weapons. In early January, they told their French interlocutors they 8 9 10

11

René Otayek, La politique africaine de la Libye: 1969–1985 (Paris: Karthala, 1986), pp. 32–40. “Sudan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia Form Mutual Defense Pact after Bloody Coup Attempt against Numiery[sic],” 1976, MERIP Reports, 50: pp. 23–24. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1978, Carton 90, telegram from Embassy Tripoli to Paris, “Les relations libyo-tchadiens et le voyage du président Malloum en Egypte,” 15.01.1977, p. 1. CIA FOIA Reading Room, CIA Weekly Review, 29.07.1977, p. 1. Found at https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/DOC_0000215142.pdf (consulted on 08.04.2017).

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feared a “generalized attack in the north of the country, particularly on [regional] centers of Fada, Bardaï, Zouar, and Ounianga.”12 These warnings led French intelligence officials to worry that: Libya is currently noticeably reinforcing the military potential of the Tubu in North-Tibesti with the intention of pinning down the Chadian army and creating favorable conditions for a Muslim president to take power in N’Djamena. Chadian authorities are informed of this situation and consider, moreover, the liberation of Madame Claustre as an anti-Chadian gesture from Libya, in response to the recent voyage of General Malloum to Cairo.13

French officials also became concerned that rebels had begun to infiltrate the Chadian capital to launch a series of antigovernment attacks.14 This fear became reality on the night of March 31–April 1, 1977, when a number of Chadian troops mutinied and attacked the Conseil supérieur militaire (CSM) headquarters in N’Djamena. After several hours of heavy fighting, the mutineers succumbed to a government counterattack. Some escaped and joined (or rejoined) the ranks of Goukouni’s rebellion in the North.15 These events, combined with the growing threat in the North, led a rattled CSM to call for talks with Goukouni, as well as with Libya, to settle the frontier dispute and Libya’s involvement in Chad’s festering civil war. To this end, in April the CSM declared its willingness to proceed with several Libyan-financed projects including a school in Faya-Largeau, a clinic in N’Djamena, and the construction of a new Libyan embassy.16 Nonetheless, neither the Libyans nor Goukouni responded to Malloum’s overtures for broader negotiations. In late April, at the Franco-African Summit in Dakar, Malloum accused Libya of obstructing possibilities for a negotiated settlement. He implored Giscard to pressure the Libyans to facilitate a meeting between Goukouni and CSM representatives. Giscard responded that 12 13

14 15 16

FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/4, Note de la Police Nationale, “Tchad-Libye-URSS – N’Djamena craint une offensive rebelle” 03.01.1977, p.1. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/4, Note de la Police Nationale, “Libye-Tchad-EgypteSoudan – Le Tibesti prochain champ de bataille inter-africain ?” 15.02.1977, p.1. See Chapter 3 re the Claustre Affair. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/4, Note de la Police Nationale, “La rébellion au TCHAD,” 14.01.1977, p. 1. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 1 above, p. 37. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/4, Note de la Police Nationale, “Tchad-Libye – N’Djamena prêt à négocier avec Tripoli et les rebelles tchadiens,” undated, April 1977.

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he would do his best, but that the Chadian government needed to show more “comprehension” toward their adversaries to reach a political settlement.17 Ultimately this effort went nowhere. On the night of June 20–21, Goukouni’s forces launched a major offensive against Chadian army garrisons in the North. Within a month, they had captured the entirety of Tibesti, including Bardaï, as well as substantial portions of Borkou prefecture.18 This success resulted, in part, from the large influx of Libyan weaponry. Based on captured documents, French intelligence put together a partial inventory: Libya has given the Tubu: – – – – – –

ten 12.7mm machine guns thirty F.M.s [automatic rifles] thirty 81mm and 82mm mortars ten anti-aircraft cannon several hundred Kalashnikov rifles Around 80 vehicles (FIAT trucks, Land Rovers, Toyotas).19

Additionally, the Chadian army captured several Soviet antitank missiles, a case of 82mm mortar shells, and explosives with Libyan markings.20 Goukouni himself later confirmed the importance of Libyan aid, stating: It allowed us to liberate the military garrisons of Bardaï, Zouar, and Kirdimi, although the latter two were evacuated by government forces in response to the imminent Frolinat threat. Libyan aid consisted of weaponry, above all Kalashnikovs, Belgian FN rifles, machine guns, mortars, even heavy 14.5mm and 12.7mm machine guns . . . including even SAM 7 missiles, etc. The introduction of the SAM 7 changed everything since aircraft could no longer intervene . . . there were also vehicles . . . even our automobile fleet changed.21

Failed Diplomacy The defeat of the Chadian army and the loss of territory came as a shock to the CSM. In early July they publicly accused Libya of 17 18 19 20 21

FCMGT, Carton 2, A3/8, Note from the Presidency, “Audience du Président Malloum, Dakar le 21 avril 1977 à 17h30,” 28.04.1977, p. 1. Ibid., p. 39. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/4, Note de la Police Nationale, “La rébellion tchadienne,” 08.07.1977, p. 2. Ibid. Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 2 above, p. 71. SAMs = surface-to-air missiles.

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aggression and asked the Organization of African Unity (OAU) at its Libreville Summit to address the question of Chadian sovereignty and the Aozou Strip.22 While the pan-African organization could not do much to help Malloum, the initiative at least forced Libya onto the diplomatic defensive. Libyan representatives at the meeting responded by denouncing the arbitrariness of colonial frontiers. French ambassador to Chad Louis Dallier thought this argument rather awkward, particularly at a meeting of an organization whose guiding principle was the inviolability of borders inherited from colonialism.23 Shortly after the summit, the Libyan chargé d’affaires in Paris met with Jean-Marie Soutou, French Foreign Minister Louis de Guiringaud’s chief of staff. The Libyan chargé accused France of inciting the Chadian government to make baseless accusations against Libya. He told Soutou that Libya considered the Aozou issue a legal one and was always willing to negotiate. Soutou responded that France had not “incited” Chad, but that French officials had given the same message to both their Chadian and Libyan interlocutors: that France desired the victory of no particular camp, but aimed for Chadian reconciliation. They had also asked other African leaders “to help the Chadian head of state in his moderation.”24 Despite rebel successes and the extent of Libyan assistance, Quai officials held an ambiguous view on a French response. They felt Malloum had not made enough of an effort to respond to Gaddafi’s overtures to negotiate over Aozou. Additionally, while worried about the rebellion, they noted, “it is clear that the enterprise of national reconciliation is a Chadian internal affair in which we do not have to directly intervene.”25 In this spirit, France and Libya needed to “join forces to try to bring about national reconciliation.”26 Despite clear Libyan support for the rebellion, French officials still had faith that Libyan and French interests coincided in the country. Thus, Quai 22 23 24 25 26

MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 7 pour la période du 1er au 31 Juillet 1977,” 01.08.1977, p. 12. Ibid. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1978, Carton 90, telegram from Paris to Tripoli Embassy, “Demarche du Chargé d’affaires de Libye,” 06.07.1977. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1978, Carton 90, Note, “a/s: Situation au Tchad et différend tchado-libyen,” 21.07.1977, p. 5. Ibid.

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officials noted, “with any intervention of French units being excluded, we consider that the solution to the crisis cannot be achieved through military actions, but that diplomatic action is obviously vital.”27 On July 23, Guy Georgy, the head of the Quai’s Africa desk (DAM),28 visited Chad to express this view to the CSM and pressure them into a more “conciliatory” attitude. This task proved difficult. Georgy told Malloum’s foreign minister Kamougué that France approved of the CSM’s reconciliation efforts and would support them, but the main responsibility lay with the Chadian government. On the dispute with Libya, though, Georgy said that France could constructively contribute to a settlement, given that both countries were “friends of France.” He told Kamougué that French authorities felt the Chadians had a “solid” case against Libya. Libya could not legally back its claims to the Aozou Strip, and its support of the rebellion was “blatant.” He promised to make this clear to Libyan Foreign Minister Ali Triki, during his upcoming visit to Paris.29 Georgy also exhorted Chadian authorities to publicly declare their desire to resolve their differences with Libya and lobby friendly African states to support the Chadian position in international fora. He urged the Chadians to compile a “white paper” with supporting documentation. The French would provide material support for this initiative.30 Kamougué confirmed to Georgy that the Chadians would do this. At the same time, he said that while the CSM was ready for negotiations with Goukouni, the Libyans continued to obstruct the CSM’s efforts to open a dialogue.31 In a meeting later in the day with Malloum, the Chadian president told Georgy that, in his opinion, negotiations would lead nowhere as long as Goukouni remained close to Gaddafi. He suggested the best thing would be to “kidnap Goukouni in Tibesti or in Libya and bring him to the table as a Tubu nationalist and not as a creature of Gaddafi.”32 He requested that France provide financial and military support against the rebellion since “currently the national army is too

27 29 30 32

28 Ibid., pp. 5–6. DAM, Direction des affaires africaines et malgaches. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1978, Carton 90, Note from Georgy, “A/s. Entretien avec le Colonel Kamougué,”26.07.1977, pp. 1–2. 31 Ibid., p. 2. Ibid., p. 2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1978, Carton 90, Note from Georgy, “A/s. Entretien avec le Général Malloum (23 July – 18h30)” 26.07.1977, p. 1.

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weak and the Libyans only understand force.”33 He also wanted France to use its military and economic ties to Libya to pressure Gaddafi to reduce his support to Goukouni. Furthermore, he insisted that French officials, who had thus far implicitly supported Chadian accusations against Libya, publicly declare their position in favor of Chad on the Aozou issue.34 A public statement that France recognized the boundary claimed by Chad would help to bolster the CSM’s case at the diplomatic level. After some delay, on August 6, the Elysée formally announced via a declaration made to Nigerian Foreign Minister General Joseph Garba that the only frontiers France recognized as legitimate were those of Chad at its independence on August 11, 1960. This included the entirety of the Aozou Strip.35 While the situation in the North remained static as Goukouni’s forces consolidated their gains, regrouped, and rearmed, the CSM decided on a bolder diplomatic strategy. Contrary to French complaints of inaction, throughout 1977 Malloum had begun quietly testing the possibility of bringing some rebel leaders back into the government fold. This began in January and May in talks with Abba Siddick, though these quickly failed to gain momentum. From the end of August through the middle of September, though, CSM representatives met with Hissène Habré in Khartoum.36 From the CSM’s perspective, its notional victory over Habré meant it could negotiate from a position of strength. Furthermore, the loss of northern territory and the threat posed by Libyan-supported rebels brought both the FAN and the CSM into a degree of political alignment. Malloum’s renewed anti-Libyan and nationalist rhetoric sat well with Habré, for whom Gaddafi represented the biggest threat to Chad. Egyptian and Sudanese pressure on the CSM to settle with Habré reinforced this concordance of views. These negotiations led to the signature of the Khartoum Accord, declaring the intention of both parties to fight together for a unified Chad against their “common enemy” and prevent “exterior forces” from occupying the country. The CSM made major concessions, including the creation of a provisional government incorporating 33 35 36

34 Ibid., p. 2. Ibid. FCMGT, Carton 2, A4/1/4, Circular telegram from Georgy, “Frontières entre le Tchad et la Libye,” 06.08.1977. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 1 above, p. 42.

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FAN representatives, general elections, a new constitution, and a reorganization of the army. For several months the agreement remained secret as the CSM attempted to encourage other rebel movements to sign. Unfortunately for Malloum, Goukouni rebuffed overtures, and no other rebel movement signed on.37 On January 17, 1978, the CSM and the FAN finalized the Khartoum Accord and made it public. The agreement stipulated a general amnesty and cease-fire, and the eventual establishment of a national unity government mandated to organize the election of a constituent assembly. Furthermore, the FAN would join a reorganized national army and police as well as the state’s administrative apparatus. The agreement left open the possibility for Goukouni and his allies to sign as well.38 At the same time, French intelligence received disturbing reports of growing Frolinat concentrations in Tibesti, as well as increased Libyan supplies of arms and vehicles to the rebellion. Ominously, on January 29 and 30, the rebels shot down two Chadian transport aircraft, a C-47 and a DC-4, in the former case killing the French crew. This signaled a serious escalation in rebel capabilities. Dallier reported that Frolinat’s apparent acquisition of surface-to-air missiles severely undermined the government’s ability to fight, since air power had represented the CSM’s most effective weapon against Frolinat to date.39 These incidents presaged a general offensive, which began the next day with an attack on Faya-Largeau, the capital of the BET. On February 5, Goukouni’s forces also laid siege to Fada, the most important town in Ennedi prefecture. To complicate matters, in mid-February, a series of attacks against gendarme and Gardes nomades posts in the Lake Chad region killed seven policemen and soldiers. The group carrying out the attacks, the self-declared Frolinat “3rd Army,” or the Forces armées occidentales (FAO), also kidnapped two tourists, one French and one Swiss, in midJanuary. Goukouni’s Frolinat formally denied that this “3rd Army” belonged to the movement and denounced the hostage-taking. This led Dallier to conclude that the group’s motives were “more of a criminal than political nature.” Although this group did not distinguish itself in 37 38 39

Ibid., pp. 42–44. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 1 pour la période du 1er au 31 janvier 1978,” 08.02.1978, p. 1. Ibid., p. 5.

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the 1978 fighting, its close relationship to certain elements of the Nigerian government gave it some weight in the peace negotiations the following year. Malloum reacted to Libya’s apparent role in arming and training the northern rebels by breaking diplomatic relations on February 6. Two days later, he instructed Kamougué to fly to New York to bring a formal complaint to the UN Security Council regarding Libya’s involvement with the rebel offensive, and its occupation of the Aozou Strip.40 On February 15, on his way to New York, Kamougué briefly stopped in Paris. There, he met Giscard and Giscard’s top military advisor, the Chef d’état-major particulier General Claude Vanbremeersch, to discuss the evolution of the Frolinat offensive. Giscard complained that the Chadian army had not followed French advice concerning the organization of their logistics chain. He also noted the CSM had rejected offers of French airlift capacity for resupply and transport of men and equipment. He added that the Chadians would have to help themselves if they were to benefit effectively from French assistance provided for by the cooperation accords.41 Giscard also wanted to know Chadian intentions regarding FayaLargeau, then under siege. Would the CSM decide to hold it, or evacuate? If they wanted to hold it, they would have to clear the town’s airstrip and defend it for resupply and reinforcements. If they planned to evacuate, they should try to break out, or negotiate a cease-fire allowing for a withdrawal. Giscard told Kamougué that France had already begun to send teams of officers and noncoms to help organize the defense of Abéché and the Moussoro-Ati line across central Chad. Kamougué told Giscard that the CSM wanted the French to provide air support. He asked the French to use napalm on Frolinat forces besieging Faya-Largeau. Vanbremeersch interjected and, according to the meeting minutes, explained to Kamougué, “the inanity of this solution.” Nonetheless, Kamougué told Giscard and Vanbremeersch the CSM intended to hold Faya-Largeau, “whatever the cost and to the last extremity.” Giscard suggested that French forces could help the garrison, but again requested the Chadians clear and hold the airstrip. 40 41

MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 2 pour la période du 1er au 28 février 1978,” 07.03.1978, p. 10. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 90, Note pour le ministre, “A/S. Entretien entre le Président de la République et le Colonel KAMOUGUE, Ministre des Affaires Etrangères du Tchad,” 15.02.1978, p. 1.

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More broadly, Giscard insisted that the CSM open direct talks with Gaddafi to reach a settlement with the rebellion. At the end of the meeting, Giscard called the head of the French military advisory mission in Chad, General Huguet, then in a meeting with Malloum. Giscard ordered Huguet to do “anything which isn’t stupid” to help the garrison in Faya-Largeau, including air resupply. Furthermore, he announced the deployment of several teams of advisors to organize the defense of Abéché in eastern Chad.42 That same day, Goukouni’s forces announced the fall of Fada to the rebels. Two days later, despite efforts to save Faya-Largeau, it fell as well. Frolinat announced its fall, and the surrender of its garrison the following day, February 18. This also marked the tenth anniversary of the death of Frolinat’s founder, Ibrahima Abatcha, whose name they had given to their offensive. Faya-Largeau was the last remaining government stronghold in the BET.43 The fighting, which led to the loss of the entirety of the BET from government control, hobbled the CSM’s military capacity. It not only demonstrated its military ineffectiveness, but also the insufficiency of French logistical assistance. French forces had attempted to resupply Faya-Largeau’s garrison by parachute. However, fears that rebels could shoot down aircraft with their portable SA-7 surface-to-air missiles meant that resupply aircraft flew at high altitudes. This resulted in supplies falling into zones controlled by rebel units.44 Dallier reported that the surrender of government garrisons, coupled with the capture of a relief column, resulted in some 2,000 Chadian soldiers falling into the hands of the rebellion as prisoners.45 Given that the entire Chadian military numbered less than 12,000 men, this represented a significant loss of manpower.46 On the diplomatic front, the CSM had slightly more success. The regime’s accusations against Libya at the UN Security Council induced Gaddafi, under pressure from other African states, to offer to 42 43 44 45 46

Ibid., pp. 2–3. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 2 pour la période du 1er au 28 février 1978,” 07.03.1978, p. 5. Ibid. Goukouni later seconded this assessment of the importance of SA-7s; see Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 2 above, p. 75. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 2 pour la période du 1er au 28 février 1978,” 07.03.1978, p. 5. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 1 above, p. 49.

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negotiate. Via Sudanese mediation, Malloum sent two envoys to Tripoli to meet the Libyan leader. On February 18, they agreed on a meeting between Malloum and Gaddafi in the Libyan town of Sebha. In exchange, the CSM agreed to withdraw its complaint at the United Nations. On February 23–24, the two leaders met and were joined by Nigerien president Seyni Kountché and Sudanese vice-president Abu al-Gasim Mohamed Ibrahim as mediators. Malloum and Gaddafi issued a joint communiqué reestablishing diplomatic relations and called for a meeting the following month between the CSM and rebel factions to negotiate a peace settlement.47 Meanwhile, the evolution of the rebellion led French officials to question their assumptions regarding Libya’s broader role. Shortly following the Sebha meeting, Goukouni declared his unwillingness to negotiate. This occasioned a debate in French policymaking circles about the nature of Libya’s relationship to the rebellion. Such intransigence in the face of Libyan demands to participate in negotiations seemed to indicate that Goukouni depended much less on his Libyan minders than previously thought. Perhaps this had to do with a renewed sense of independence resulting from control of more territory and a newly acquired stash of weaponry captured during the fighting.48 On the other hand, some French officials wondered if this masked a subtler Libyan strategy. By giving the impression he lacked control over the rebellion, Gaddafi could plausibly deny accusations, particularly by other African governments, of his involvement in Chad. This allowed him to retain credibility as a mediator while undermining the CSM’s authority.49 Goukouni later claimed the Libyan regime never controlled his movement. Gaddafi’s effort to impose negotiations upset their leadership. Also, following the fall of Faya-Largeau, various Frolinat factions had begun negotiations amongst themselves to (re)unify the movement. They felt that new negotiations with the Chadian government were premature. However, at Libyan insistence, Goukouni finally agreed to meet Malloum.50 47 48 49

MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 2 pour la période du 1er au 28 février 1978,” 07.03.1978, pp. 10–11. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 67, Draft Note, “a/s : Situation au Tchad,” 09.03.1978, pp. 1–2. 50 Ibid., p. 2. Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 2 above, p. 78.

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French observers placed much hope in the upcoming conference. Officials at the Quai worried about the incapacity of the Chadian army to withstand another offensive. They feared that even increased French aid would not suffice to hold the defensive line established after the fall of Faya-Largeau. With a military solution now seemingly unfeasible, a negotiated settlement represented the only opportunity for lasting peace.51 Although Malloum’s concomitant rapprochement with Habré pleased French authorities, Foreign Ministry officials understood that this only represented a small step on the road to national reconciliation. They feared that Malloum’s proclivities for buying off opponents could help undermine the process. They also criticized his decision to negotiate with Gaddafi as a stand-in interlocutor for Goukouni, rather than meet with the Frolinat leader himself.52 This contradicted Giscard’s earlier position, which was that the CSM should open a dialogue with Gaddafi to reach a political settlement. According to the same Quai officials, to gain the support of Chad’s neighbors, as well as signal its seriousness, the CSM would have to make public declarations pledging a reorganization of the state. They believed that this political program seemed “rather simple to define in its principal orientations.”53 Since Chad’s centralized state structure did not correspond to its large regional and cultural diversity, it was thus “vital to conceive of and to propose a new organization of the state which is modelled on the real country. The future of Chad, its independence, and its development are linked to the construction of a federal state.”54 As shown later, this thinking was not limited to the Quai. Later public declarations to this effect by French officials, notably by Giscard himself, would actually serve to alienate potential allies and undermine French credibility among neighboring states and rebel groups. In the eyes of many Chadians and observers in neighboring countries, federalism meant secession, an unacceptable outcome for neighboring states and for most of Chad’s armed groups. Between March 12 and 16, 1978, various Frolinat factions met at Faya-Largeau to organize a united front against N’Djamena. The 51 52

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 67, Draft Note, “a/s: Situation au Tchad,” 09.03.1978, p. 3. 53 54 Ibid. Ibid. Ibid.

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factions present, the Frolinat 1st and 2nd Armies, along with l’armée Volcan, agreed to unify their forces under Goukouni’s formal leadership.55 Buijtenhuijs later called this reconciliation a “facade,” noting that, according to his sources in the rebellion, it alienated many combatants in the 1st Army and l’armée Volcan.56 Nonetheless, this new formation, the Forces armées populaires (FAP), became the umbrella organization representing the rebellion during the upcoming negotiations with the CSM. On March 23, the CSM delegation, led by its vice-president, Colonel Djimé Ngakinar, met Goukouni in Sebha. The meeting, again presided by the Sudanese vice-president, immediately ran into problems. The FAP demanded as a precondition for further negotiations that the CSM expel all French advisors from the country.57 This was clearly unacceptable, as it would have left the CSM extremely vulnerable to a renewed offensive. Gaddafi, however, pressured the participants to move their negotiations to Benghazi, where the CSM made sweeping concessions. In the Benghazi Accord, Djimé agreed to a country-wide cease-fire, full recognition of the FAP, freedom of circulation for all parties on Chadian territory, and a mixed Libyan-Nigerien military committee to travel the country “to account for the presence or absence of troops and foreign military bases.”58 The parties also agreed to a follow-up meeting in June in Tripoli to examine the progress made toward reconciliation, and to define the modalities of its implementation.59 French observers viewed these concessions as a disaster for the Chadian government. Dallier wrote that the Benghazi agreement not only gave Frolinat forces complete freedom of movement over Chadian territory, but also effectively implied that the CSM had renounced French military assistance. He concluded: It clearly appears that at Benghazi, Frolinat has forced the Chadian delegation to accept the totality of its demands. Also, having recognized Libya’s right to monitor the entirety of the Chadian military establishment, the 55 56 57 58 59

Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 2 above, p. 79. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 1 above, p. 50. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 3 pour la période du 1er au 31 mars 1978,” 05.04.1978, p. 4. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 3 pour la période du 1er au 31 mars 1978,” 05.04.1978, p. 9. Ibid.

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governmental delegation at Benghazi has agreed to a serious attack on the independence and sovereignty of their country, without any concessions from the rebellion.60

The Benghazi accords outraged French officials. Georgy cabled Dallier, telling him he must immediately inform Malloum that the CSM’s concessions were “incompatible with the continuation of our military assistance. There can be no question of letting our military assistance mission be inspected by an international commission created by an agreement that we are not party to.”61 In the event, Malloum did not seem pleased with the concessions made by his delegation. On April 1, he made Djimé give a press conference in which he declared that the Benghazi agreement did not, in any way, call into question French military assistance.62 Goukouni later claimed this meant the CSM had effectively denounced the accords, rendering them null and void.63 Nevertheless, the week following Djimé’s remarks, Malloum visited Khartoum, Tripoli, and Niamey to clarify to his various interlocutors that the French would stay, but that he had every intention of keeping the cease-fire agreement and preparing for the planned June meeting.64 One should note that, though the French and later observers found these concessions inexplicable, they did follow a certain logic. By appearing extremely flexible and willing to compromise, they shifted responsibility for a breakdown of the cease-fire onto the FAP. This provided a more substantial pretext for French intervention and support for the regime. By following this up with the integration of Habré’s FAN into a defensive line, and eventual institutionalization of the Khartoum accord, the CSM could reinforce perceptions of its flexibility and willingness to compromise, all the while improving its capacity to resist the FAP. Indeed, the cease-fire did not last long. On April 16, FAP columns overran a small government garrison in the town of Salal, 60 61 62 63 64

Ibid., p. 5. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, telegram from Paris to Dallier, “Accord de Sabha,” 30.03.1978, p. 2. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 4 pour la période du 1er au 30 avril 1978,” 09.05.1978, p. 5. Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 2 above, p. 79. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 4 pour la période du 1er au 30 avril 1978,” 09.05.1978, p. 2.

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450 kilometers north of N’Djamena. In eastern Chad, FAP forces also took the town of Arada. The FAP had sent several heavily armed units to Salal. French reports suggested they possessed the equivalent of five or six companies, armed with SA-7 missiles, 120mm mortars, recoilless rifles, radar, and more. Dallier felt that the character of the attack implied careful preparation. In his eyes, it was premeditated aggression, rather than one stemming from local initiative. It also demonstrated that the rebellion placed little faith in the Benghazi agreement.65 In response, the only fully constituted French combat unit in the country, a company of Auto-mitrailleuse légère (AML – light armor) from the Régiment d’infanterie & chars de marine (RICM), together with several Chadian units and teams of French military advisors, moved northwards toward Salal from their base in Moussoro. The rebels were well-armed and well-deployed. After three days of skirmishing, the Franco-Chadian troops were unable to take the town and the FAP shot down a Chadian Air Force AD-4 Skyraider groundattack aircraft with an SA-7. The French also lost two soldiers in the fighting.66 Contrary to accounts suggesting the French managed to retake Salal,67 the rebels in fact managed to hold their ground.68 Unlike events of the previous months though, the fighting at Salal provoked a significant French military response in the form of a much larger intervention force.

France Intervenes The policymaking details behind the French intervention remain somewhat unclear. As early as February, the seriousness of the military situation encouraged French officials to envisage military options. Giscard’s mid-February decision to dispatch advisory teams and logistical support represented the very beginning of what soon grew into a major military intervention, designated Opération Tacaud. What had changed in French official thinking since the previous year?

65 66 67 68

Ibid., p. 9. Pierre Dufour, La France au Tchad depuis 1969 (Boulogne-Billancourt: ETAI, 2009), p. 73. Ibid. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 4 pour la période du 1er au 30 avril 1978,” 09.05.1978, p. 9.

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The 1976 Franco-Chadian military assistance accords explicitly excluded any combat role for French forces. In 1977 French officials also seemed to widely share the belief that Chadian internal affairs represented a purely Chadian matter and that Libya could play a constructive role in peacemaking, despite the evidence of widespread support for Goukouni’s rebellion. Nonetheless, in early 1978 Giscard decided to intervene militarily to check the advance of the rebellion. Initially, Giscard’s decisions merely represented an intensification of the military assistance provided for by the military cooperation agreement. In February, he ordered the deployment of several groups of military advisors seconded from several French regiments to organize a defensive line across central Chad, focusing on the towns of Mongo, Moussoro, and Abéché.69 These groups, though small, played a crucial role in stiffening Chadian army defenses. Their mission consisted of training and reorganizing the local Chadian units, as well as planning the defense of the towns. During this first phase they had orders to avoid combat. In case their towns came under Frolinat attack, though, they had orders to fight alongside their Chadian allies, with priority given to defense of the nearest airstrip. In case the Chadian units collapsed, the French advisors had orders to “return to N’Djamena by your own means.”70 Now French policymakers saw the collapse of the Chadian army in the North as a major blow to the regime’s credibility and legitimacy.71 They also increasingly viewed the success of the offensive as a manifestation of a broader threat. Dallier wrote to Paris: The victory over the Chadian army by those who only two years ago were still small and sparse groups of weakly armed rebels, divided by internal quarrels and rival ambitions, brings to light the importance and effectiveness of the support that the Tripoli government has provided to them [. . .] This support testifies to two [Libyan] goals: to extend the Dar al-Islam to the heart of the African continent, and to impose a regime of their choice in N’Djamena [. . .] Behind the desired fall of the military regime in power since 69

70 71

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 101/1, Centre militaire d’information et de documentation sur l’outre-mer (CMIDOM), “L’Affaire tchadienne: Chronologie succincte des événements depuis l’indépendance: 1ère partie – de 1960 à 1978,” undated, 1979, p. 13. Dufour, La France au Tchad, note 66 above, p. 75. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 67, Draft Note, “a/s: Situation au Tchad,” 09.03.1978, p. 2.

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August 13 1975 [sic], it’s the French presence in Chad which is at the center of the problem and which Libya essentially aims at terminating and bringing its neighboring country into its sphere of influence.72

African leaders allied to France shared Dallier’s fears. According to Giscard, the rapid and resounding success of the Libyan-backed Frolinat prompted several African leaders to complain about French inaction. Giscard wrote that in part his decision to return to Chad came as a response to these pleas from African presidents who insisted to him over the telephone that France intervene: For them, it was a survival test. At the same time the Soviet Union weighed heavily in Africa. Its aircraft were making stopovers in Mali. President Carter didn’t raise a finger to prevent the arrival of Soviet advisors and Cuban mercenaries in Angola. If we let the Libyans advance in Chad without reacting, it would signal to Francophone heads of state that security only exists in one camp. They led me to understand that some of them were already preparing to draw conclusions.73

In the most comprehensive contemporary account of French decisionmaking, journalist Agnès Thivent wrote that Giscard had a major intervention in mind as soon as the February offensive began. According to Thivent, in early February Giscard sent General JeanLouis Delayen, one of Malloum’s former military advisors, to N’Djamena. He allegedly told Malloum that France would soon respond with enough military force, but that Malloum would have to buy time until the French legislative elections in mid-March. According to this account, Malloum’s Sebha meeting with Gaddafi stemmed from this injunction more than anything else. The advisors that Giscard sent in February and March to improve the Chadian army’s defensive capabilities thus represented the discreet beginning of a much larger planned deployment.74 In this vein, Malloum and French officials initially agreed to keep the French military presence as invisible as possible. As early as midMarch, Malloum complained to Dallier, “Despite my recommendations, 72 73 74

MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 2 pour la période du 1er au 28 février 1978,” 07.03.1978, pp. 1–2. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, Le Pouvoir et la Vie (Paris: Le Livre de Poche, 1988), p. 212. Agnès Thivent, “L’impossible mission de l’armée française,” Le Monde Diplomatique, 01.03.1980.

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elements of the French Military Assistance mission continue to abusively drive around the streets and N’Djamena airport aboard vehicles with French army license plates.”75 This posed a problem by threatening “the discreet character of the presence of these troops,” which aimed at avoiding “any talk that could discredit our respective states.”76 Dallier replied the next day, informing Malloum he had made arrangements so French troops in N’Djamena would only leave their base in civilian clothes, and that no vehicles with military markings would circulate in the city.77 Thivent also suggested that after the first round of the French legislative elections held on March 12, full combat-ready units began to arrive in the country.78 CSM officials feared that a victory of the French left, as polls had initially predicted, would hinder Giscard’s support for their regime.79 However, the unexpected victory of the two parliamentary right-wing parties in the second round on March 19 gave Giscard a majority and thus something of a mandate for his policies. Nevertheless, the timeline of the French deployment does not fully conform to this story. The first significant French unit to deploy, apart from the military advisors sent in February and the military instructors already stationed in the country, was the AML company described earlier. This arrived on March 1. The next batch of French units did not arrive until April 20, four days after the fall of Salal and more than a month after the legislative elections.80 Giscard later stated that the earlier deployment of the armored company originally aimed to protect the French expatriate population and to prepare for its possible evacuation.81 Less than two weeks after 75 76 77 78 79 80

81

MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, Letter from Malloum to Dallier, 14.03.1978. Ibid. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, Letter from Dallier to Malloum, 15.03.1978. Thivent, “L’impossible mission,” note 74 above. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 3 pour la période du 1er au 31 mars 1978,” 05.04.1978, p. 13. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 101/1, CMIDOM, “L’Affaire tchadienne: Chronologie succincte des événements depuis l’indépendance : 1ère partie – de 1960 à 1978,” undated, 1979, p. 14. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Zaïre 1975–1978, Carton 21, 21/2, “Réunion de presse du 14 juin 1978 à l’Elysée: Déclarations de M. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (extraits concernant la politique étrangère),” 15.06.1978, p. 17.

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the renewed FAP offensive, the French evacuated their expatriates from Abéché in eastern Chad to N’Djamena.82 Thus, it does seem that the protection of French expatriates played a role in French decisionmaking. However, the attack on Salal changed Giscard’s appreciation of the situation and triggered deployment of an expeditionary force. In a June press conference, Giscard outlined his decision-making process. According to him, the small number of French forces already deployed at the time of the Benghazi accords “had, as their mission, to ensure the stability of the region where they were, and the stability of the capital throughout the duration of the cease-fire.” The attacks on Salal and elsewhere in mid-April represented, in Giscard’s view, a violation of the cease-fire, and a move by the FAP “beyond the line covered by the accords and into the zone where government forces were deployed.”83 Thus, French action became necessary to maintain the status quo and to uphold the Benghazi agreement. Giscard tells a more dramatic, if not incompatible story, in his memoirs. He wrote that in mid-April his military advisors called him to an emergency meeting in the Elysée’s underground command center.84 They explained that advancing rebel columns were too strong for French forces to stop. The FAP units who took Salal possessed heavy weaponry, superior to those of local French forces. Their surface-to-air missiles made close air support impossible, and rebel antitank weapons were effective against French light armor. The high temperatures, clear skies, and flat terrain made the employment of helicopters problematic, and they presented ideal targets to FAP forces. His advisors, including General Huguet, the commander of French forces in Chad, told Giscard this meant French troops could not retake Salal. He added, “Sooner or later, the Libyans will continue their advance toward N’Djamena. No obstacle stands in their way.”85 Giscard asked about the French advisors sent to train Chadian forces and organize the defense of their positions. Huguet responded that training had not advanced enough to prepare Chadian forces to 82 83

84

MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, Letter from Dallier to Malloum, 12.02.1978. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Zaïre 1975–1978, Carton 21, 21/2, “Réunion de presse du 14 juin 1978 à l’Elysée: Déclarations de M. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (extraits concernant la politique étrangère),” 15.06.1978, p. 17. 85 Giscard, Le Pouvoir et la Vie, note 73 above, p. 213 Ibid. pp. 215–216.

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withstand a full-fledged assault. An impatient Giscard then asked what exactly the army required to stop the rebel advance. General Vanbremeersch, the head of Giscard’s personal military staff, then responded, “We have come to the conclusion, Mr. President, that it is impossible to defend N’Djamena. We request authorization to withdraw our forces from Chad.”86 According to Giscard, this request came as a shock. “The French beaten by the Libyans and the Tubu! I could never allow this.”87 He wondered what brought the military leadership to this conclusion: What happened? These military leaders are courageous. Two among them were deported [during the Second World War]. Was it the result of long frustrations linked to Indochina and Algeria and of the refusal of their political leadership to provide them with the means necessary for success? Still, I had given the order to respond to all their needs on the ground. Or perhaps they think that these African adventures divert the military from its greater task which they passionately dedicate themselves to: rebuilding our combat potential in Europe?88

Pierre de Tonquédec, who later commanded French forces in Chad, wrote that army officials also resented Malloum for the expulsion of French forces in 1975. Furthermore, ongoing French military reorganization efforts, based upon assumptions of a European war, encouraged hesitation on questions of foreign interventions.89 Giscard decided that the stakes in Chad were too high to simply abandon the French position there. Army Chief of Staff General Guy Méry told Giscard that the operation would require several thousand troops, as well as considerable time for their deployment, given the range limitations of the French C-160 Transall transport aircraft. He added that even this might not suffice to stop the rebel advance.90 For the French president, these apparent obstacles did not justify what he perceived as an abandonment of the country. It had also become a question of honor, fed by an active imagination. He described his reasoning in his memoirs:

86 89 90

87 88 Ibid., p. 217. Ibid. Ibid. Pierre de Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi: Opération Tacaud, Tchad 1978–1980 (Paris: Editions Soteca, 2012), p. 36. Giscard, Le pouvoir et la vie, note 73 above, p. 218.

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It wasn’t possible to abandon N’Djamena. It would have been a triumph for Gaddafi and a signal rout for the most threatened of our African partners. Also, it would have been inconceivable for France! The idea of seeing our last units climb up the ramps of our aircraft, leaving behind them dislocated hardware and their barracks, on the walls of which the last service orders would remain hanging. All of this seemed ignominious. Also, I didn’t believe it [the military’s warnings]: our units, if well-structured and commanded on the ground, would not be defeated by the Tubu!91

He thus ordered Defense Minister Yvon Bourges, along with his military chiefs, to do everything necessary to secure N’Djamena and prevent a rebel advance further south.92 The orders given to General Raoul Bredèche, who succeeded Huguet in early May since the latter was an Air Force officer, conformed to the spirit of the reasoning outlined in Giscard’s memoirs. Bredèche was to “break the momentum of victory among the rebels and restore confidence to N’Djamena.”93 Between April 20 and April 23, the lead elements of the main French intervention force arrived in the Chadian capital. This included infantry, AML, and artillery units.94 Over the next month, other ground and air units would arrive, bringing the number of French troops to over 2,500. Their arrival also corresponded with intensified diplomatic activity aiming to restrain the Libyan government from its role in the rebel advance. On April 22, French Foreign Minister Louis de Guiringaud met his Libyan counterpart, Ali Triki, in Paris. Guiringaud blamed Libya for its apparent complicity in violating the cease-fire agreement during the FAP’s attack on Salal. Although he promised not to make public accusations, he demanded an explanation. He told Triki that while France sympathized with the aspirations of northern Chadians and had no interest in maintaining the current governmental administration there, it could not allow the FAP to extend its “subversion” south and take power in N’Djamena. Guiringaud added that France not only considered the attack on Salal a violation of the Benghazi agreement, but also a broken promise on the part of Gaddafi, who had made 91 93 94

92 Ibid., p. 217. Ibid., p. 218. Cited in Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 89 above, p. 41. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 101/1, CMIDOM, “L’Affaire tchadienne: Chronologie succincte des événements depuis l’indépendance: 1ère partie – de 1960 à 1978,” undated, 1979, p. 14.

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commitments to French officials to restrain the rebels. Guiringaud threatened, “We would therefore be ready, against our will, to draw the necessary conclusions.”95 Triki evasively observed that both sides had blamed each other and that Goukouni’s forces could in any case circulate freely in Chadian territory in accordance with the Benghazi agreement. According to Triki, only a neutral observation force, such as the recently constituted joint military observation committee, could determine the status of the cease-fire. Triki blamed the CSM for obstructing the deployment of this committee and accused Malloum of planning to attack rebel positions.96 Triki also pleaded that Libya had tirelessly worked in favor of Chadian national reconciliation. He cited the improved tone of Frolinat radio broadcasts and asserted that Libya had ceased shipping arms to the rebellion since the Benghazi agreement.97 However, Triki warned that though Libya “scrupulously” respected its own commitments, it rejected any idea of a Chad divided between zones of French and Libyan influence. He told his French counterpart that Libya wanted a unified Chad and that, in any case, Libya had more “fraternal” ties with even the southern Chadians than France did. Instead, France should use its influence in N’Djamena to pressure the government to receive the joint military commission. Furthermore, he warned, if France reinforced the Chadian army, as well as its own military presence, Libya could no longer reject FAP requests for assistance. Guiringaud responded that the French could not refuse requests from the CSM while the FAP threatened to move southward.98 Meanwhile, Chadian authorities managed to add Sudanese representation to the Libyan-Nigerien military commission. They also altered its mandate to act as cease-fire observers rather than reporting on the location of French forces. The inclusion of the Sudanese, close to Habré and thus favorable to the CSM, neutralized the commission’s potential as a political threat. It also made it much more difficult for the FAP’s cease-fire violations to go unnoticed. This helped to impute the responsibility for the failure of the Benghazi Accord to the FAP.99 95

96 99

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Paris, “Entretien du ministre avec le Dr. Ali Trikki [sic], Ministre des Affaires Etrangères de la Jamariyha Libyenne,” 22.04.1978, p. 2. 97 98 Ibid., pp. 2–3. Ibid., p. 3. Ibid., p. 4. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 67, Note pour le Ministre, “a/s: Situation au Tchad,” 03.03.1978, p. 2.

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Indeed, as the military control commission arrived in N’Djamena on April 25, the Sudanese vice-president publicly condemned FAP’s ceasefire violation, as well as its refusal to allow the commission to carry out work in its territory. Hence the commission, whose presence French officials initially considered “incompatible” with their own military presence, helpfully handed the Chadian government the gift of a legitimate grievance.100 In the meantime, newly reinforced French forces renewed their attack on Salal alongside Chadian army units. The Franco-Chadian force, advancing from their base at Moussoro, spent April 25 skirmishing with Salal’s defenders, but deemed the position too strong to take.101 Partly this was due to the FAP’s heavy armament. Furthermore, French artillery bombardments were hampered by ammunition problems related to the extreme heat, as well as the incompatibility of certain French munitions with their mortars.102 After exchanging fire at long range with Salal’s garrison, the Franco-Chadian force withdrew. Captain Litique, commander of the French artillery battery deployed in support of the operation, later noted, “the goal was not to push the rebels out of Salal, but to stabilize the military situation to allow the continuation (or establishment) of contacts and political negotiations between the Chadian protagonists.”103 Dallier wrote that these attacks had inflicted losses on the FAP troops and signaled that French forces would block any move further south.104 Nonetheless, the French army’s repeated failures to take Salal illustrated the quality of FAP units. They managed to hold a fixed position against troops from one of the most advanced militaries in the world. This also hurt French troop morale and resulted in a French decision to send several Jaguar ground-attack aircraft to N’Djamena. From this point onward, French forces would undertake no major offensive action without close air support.105 100 101

102 104 105

Ibid., pp. 1–2. See the account of Captain Bernard Litique, in Yves Cadiou, “Opération Tacaud: Première Opex.” (January 2008), http://operationtacaud.wordpress .com (accessed on 25.07.2018), p. 75. Page numbers refer to a printed HTML version. 103 Ibid. Ibid., p. 74. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 4 pour la période du 1er au 30 avril 1978,” 09.05.1978, p. 9. Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 89 above, p. 39.

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Thivent suggests that one reason the French did not actually take Salal was because the Arabic version of the Benghazi accord placed it in FAP “territory.” This appeared in the French version of the agreement as a “free-circulation” clause. Although not mentioned specifically in any French documents, Giscard did allude to a “line covered by the accords” in a June press conference.106 He cited the violation of this “line” as a justification for the French intervention. Thus, unlike the 1969–1972 French intervention, Opération Tacaud had no mandate to defeat the rebellion or to conduct any kind of counterinsurgency operation. French forces had established a defensive line centered on Moussoro, Mongo, and Abéché (see Map 3). This aimed to prevent further FAP advances while allowing the Chadian army to reorganize. French forces would not conduct substantial offensive activity to the north of this line.107 At the end of April, the FAP refused the joint military commission access to their positions at Faya-Largeau, Arada, and Salal.108 On April 30, the FAP released a communiqué denouncing the Benghazi agreement as obsolete. It also vehemently criticized Sudanese participation in the commission, and especially its refusal to condemn the growing French military presence in the country.109 By mid-May, the bulk of the French expeditionary force had arrived. This included more Jaguar ground-attack aircraft and Puma attack helicopters.110 For months, Malloum had pleaded with Giscard to provide more substantial air support.111 This time the French president complied. Giscard later wrote fondly of the success of French air power. In imaginative prose, he described how he collected and admired post-strike reconnaissance photographs, noting: 106

107 108 109 110

111

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Zaïre 1975–1978, Carton 21, 21/2, “Réunion de presse du 14 juin 1978 à l’Elysée: Déclarations de M. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (extraits concernant la politique étrangère),” 15.06.1978, p. 17. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 67, Note pour le Ministre, “a/ : Situation au Tchad,” 03.05.1978, p. 2. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 5 pour la période du 1er au 31 mai 1978,” 05.06.1978, p. 1. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 1 above, p. 56. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 101/1, CMIDOM, “L’Affaire tchadienne: Chronologie succincte des événements depuis l’indépendance: 1ère partie – de 1960 à 1978,” undated, 1979, p. 14. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, telegram from Malloum to Dallier, no subject, 01.05.1978, and Letter from Malloum to Dallier, 03.05.1978.

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You can see Libyan trucks, abandoned by their drivers, and, next to them, projected onto the sand, the wings of the Jaguars. These weren’t state secrets: I carried them back with me to my private apartment where I kept them in my desk drawer so I could contemplate them, from time to time, as the Paris light, coming diagonally through the window after passing through the glass roof of the Grand Palais, and flying over the traffic congestion of the Champs-Elysée, would illuminate them over my shoulder and bring out the details in the images: Africa, cruel war, and success.112

This did not stop FAP elements from testing their luck. Perhaps emboldened by their apparent success at Salal, FAP units of l’armée Volcan under their new leader, Ahmat Acyl, seized the town of Ati on the night of May 18–19. Ati, if held, represented a significant strategic prize as it lay in the middle of the route between Abéché in the East and N’Djamena in the West. Nonetheless, they barely held the town for twenty-four hours. Receiving the news, French units posted in Mongo, some 150 kilometers to the south, organized a counterattack. Lt. Colonel Lhopitallier, on detached duty from the 2nd REP, had arrived in Mongo in early March with a small detachment of 25 men from the same regiment, as part of Giscard’s initial deployment of advisors. There they found Chadian units lacking proper equipment and in a state of total despair and disorganization.113 By mid-April, though, Lhopitallier began to feel that French instructors had made significant progress in training the Chadian units. At the same time, his command was reinforced by a company of the 3rd RIMa (Marine Infantry Regiment), and Puma helicopters. The improved readiness of the Chadian forces and the increased numbers of French troops meant that Lhopitallier could now engage in combat operations. In the early hours of May 19, ironically the same day the rest of his regiment would conduct a major airborne assault in Zaire, he began to move his troops toward Ati.114 Despite the unexpected nature of the Franco-Chadian counterattack, Ati’s defenders did not simply flee. The fighting was fierce, and the rebels held their ground. At one point, the French resorted to a bayonet charge across open terrain, singing as they took casualties.115 112 113 114

115

Giscard, Le Pouvoir et la Vie, note 73 above, p. 219. Dufour, La France au Tchad, note 66 above, p. 75. Ibid. For the 1978 French military intervention in Zaire, see: Nathaniel K. Powell, “The Cuba of the West? France’s Cold War in Zaïre, 1978–1979,” Journal of Cold War Studies, Vol. 18, No. 2 (2016), pp. 64–96. Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 89 above, pp. 43–44.

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Although Lhopitallier’s troops had air support in the form of Puma ground-attack helicopters and could call in airstrikes from Jaguars based in N’Djamena, they did not have enough troops or firepower to take the town that day. Fortunately for them, they did not have to renew their efforts. The rebels, having taken heavy losses, withdrew overnight. French forces suffered 2 killed, 10 wounded, and 12 cases of heat exhaustion.116 In addition, at least 4 Chadian soldiers were killed, and several wounded.117 However, the Volcan force lost 80 killed, and left a large quantity of weapons and equipment behind.118 The Battle of Ati was soon followed by an even more substantial setback for the FAP. At the end of May, French troops in Ati received intelligence that a formation of several hundred FAP fighters had concentrated at the oasis of Djedaa, 50 kilometers to the northeast. The local French commander, Lt. Colonel Hamel, requested authorization to attack. General Bredèche passed Hamel’s request to Paris, where it was initially refused. According to Tonquédec, the losses sustained in previous engagements and the ferocity of the previous fighting made the French General Staff hesitant about undertaking another offensive operation.119 Captain Yves Cadiou of the 3rd RIMa later wrote that when attack orders finally came, Hamel told his commanders, “the General agrees [to an attack.] I suppose he has authorization from Paris, but that’s not my problem.”120 In reality, the orders that Cadiou and his men received stipulated they should “disarm” the rebels, rather than explicitly ordering an assault.121 The attack, which began on the morning of May 31, was carried out according to plan. Despite advance warning, the FAP fighters who did not preemptively withdraw suffered near total annihilation at the hands of French infantry, armor, and artillery backed up by Jaguar airstrikes. Although the French suffered no casualties, the rebels did shoot down a Jaguar. The FAP lost some 150 dead and large amounts of weapons and equipment.122 Cadiou later sarcastically noted that

116 117 118 119 120 122

Dufour, La France au Tchad, note 66 above, p. 80. Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 89 above, p. 43. Dufour, La France au Tchad, note 66 above, p. 80. Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 89 above, p. 45. 121 Cadiou, “Opération Tacaud,” note 101 above, p. 24. Ibid. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 5 pour la période du 1er au 31 mai 1978,” 05.06.1978, pp. 8–9.

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“disarming” was “a nice word, but if those concerned don’t agree, you end up disarming a cemetery.”123 The French successes in Ati and Djedaa followed the FAP’s loss of the town of Guéréda in eastern Chad to Hissène Habré’s FAN earlier in the month. The FAN killed 28 FAP rebels, took 4 prisoners, and captured several light weapons.124 As negotiations moved apace for Habré’s integration into the Chadian government, his troops played an increasingly active role alongside government forces. By June, the French intervention had imposed a military equilibrium. For Giscard, the French cordon sanitaire, which effectively divided the North and South, created a balance of power of which he noted: I consider that the conditions are ripe for a political solution, because the objective of French policy is to allow for a proper political solution to be brought to the Chadian problem. Why do I say that the conditions are now ripe? First, it’s because from the point of view of the principal ethnic groups, everyone is in their home areas. In Tibesti, the inhabitants are at home. In Ennedi, they’re at home. In the South, they’re at home. There is thus no confrontation, and moreover there are no popular uprisings in any part of the country.125

Unsurprisingly, Giscard’s analysis was both premature and reductionist. While most Chadians were in fact “at home,” this had little bearing on the conditions needed for a durable peace. As subsequent events demonstrated, an externally imposed division of the country did nothing to alter the configurations of political imbalances and the fundamental substructure of power relations. It may in fact have made matters worse. 123 124 125

Cadiou, Opération Tacaud, note 101 above, p. 24. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 5 pour la période du 1er au 31 mai 1978,” 05.06.1978, p. 7. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Zaïre 1975–1978, Carton 21, 21/2, “Réunion de presse du 14 juin 1978 à l’Elysée: Déclarations de M. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (extraits concernant la politique étrangère),” 15.06.1978, p. 18.

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5

The Return of Habré

Meanwhile, rebel leaders Hissène Habré and Goukouni Weddeye made a final effort to reach a settlement themselves. According to Goukouni, in May 1978, before the attack on Ati, combatants from both movements pressured their respective leaderships to hammer out a deal. Goukouni claimed these combatants came from the region surrounding Oum-Chalouba, 200 kilometers north of Abéché. Not wishing to fight each other, these fighters threatened to defect to the other side if their leaders refused to meet. Goukouni wanted Habré to renounce the Khartoum Accord and jointly attack French forces in Abéché and Ati with the Forces armées populaires (FAP). Goukouni later claimed his movement was prepared to break with the Libyans to get Habré’s support. However, Habré apparently demanded the public execution of two Libyan soldiers accompanying Goukouni’s group to handle their SA-7s, to signal a credible commitment. Goukouni refused and Habré broke off negotiations.1 Soon afterwards, the Conseil supérieur militaire (CSM), the Chadian military council in power, renewed talks with the FAP in Tripoli. The Benghazi Accord, which Goukouni had denounced in April, called for another meeting in June, although this was postponed until early July. President Félix Malloum sent Chadian Foreign Minister Wadal Abedelkader Kamougué, a hard-liner, instead of Colonel Djimé Ngakinar, who had conceded too much back in March. The conference lasted a mere two days and ended in failure. The CSM blamed the FAP for its intransigent demands that French forces withdraw as a precondition for further negotiations. The FAP blamed the government’s “arrogance” and lack of a real desire for peace.2 1 2

Goukouni Weddeye, “Témoignage pour l’histoire du Tchad,” Entretiens avec Laurent Correau, Radio France Internationale, 2008, p. 81. Buijtenhuijs, Le Frolinat et les guerres civiles du Tchad: 1977–1984 (Paris: Karthala, 1987), p. 59.

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With the failure of the FAN-FAP and FAP-CSM discussions, negotiations proceeded apace between the CSM and Habré’s FAN (Forces armées du Nord) for the full implementation of the Khartoum Accords. Habré had provided valuable reinforcements in the Franco-Chadian efforts to hold their defensive line against FAP incursions. Malloum even asked the French to provide heavy weaponry to Habré’s forces in the East.3 Giscard granted his request. Nonetheless, many French officials still viewed Habré with suspicion. He had, after all, executed Pierre Galopin. Habré thus sought to reassure his French counterparts of his intentions and his political orientation. In early June, French Embassy officials met Ali Taher, one of Habré’s lieutenants, in N’Djamena. Taher had come to pick up weapons that Malloum promised to supply to the FAN. He told French officials they had nothing to fear from Habré’s movement; the FAN rejected Communism, and their self-declared “progressivism,” was nothing but “a label of convenience.” Furthermore, the FAN understood the vital role France played in Chad’s economy and wanted French influence in the country to continue. In this vein, he noted that current levels of French military assistance should increase to protect Chad from the Libyan “invasion.” He insisted that the failure of the Oum-Chalouba meeting between FAN and FAP representatives proved that Goukouni Weddeye was, “totally in Gaddafi’s hands.”4 This meeting was followed by one between French ambassador to Chad Louis Dallier and Habré in July. This marked the first time a high-level French representative had met Habré since the Claustre Affair. Habré insisted that his conflict with France belonged to the past, and reiterated Taher’s point that Libya represented the biggest threat to Chad. According to Habré, Frolinat no longer existed; instead it had become a pure Libyan proxy. FAP’s control of northern Chad simply masked its effective annexation by Libya. In Habré’s view, this, by itself, justified French military assistance. Furthermore, he asserted that Libya could never accept a political compromise. Such a deal would, he said, counter Libya’s principal goal of dominating Chad. In his view, Goukouni’s demand for French withdrawal from the 3 4

MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, Letter from Malloum to Dallier, No subject, 27.05.1978. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, Report of meeting with Ali Taher, 07.06.1978, p. 1. Note, the Ali Taher here is not Mahamat Ali Taher, killed in combat against French forces in 1969.

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country before any further negotiations confirmed this, proving that Gaddafi “wanted Chad delivered to him bound hand and foot.”5 Habré promised to move as rapidly as possible to form a national unity government with Malloum, now that most obstacles had been cleared. He repeated Ali Taher’s assertions that Chad needed France, asking, “Can one, in any case, disown one’s parents?” To attract French investments and encourage economic growth, Habré promised to promote a liberal economy. Furthermore, he said the Chadian government should encourage local management of local affairs. It was urgent to create as representative a government as possible to “give people, in all regions of Chad, of all confessions, of all political stripes, the certainty that they would now be equitably represented in the government.”6 Habré clearly knew how to speak to his French interlocutor, and Dallier was duly impressed. He told Habré that his aspirations “coincided with the views of the French government.” Dallier noted, though, that Habré seemed unaware that the arms he had recently received from Malloum had actually come from France. He also reported that the allotment received by Habré did not include the entire shipment sent to N’Djamena for that purpose.7 French assessments seconded Habré’s claims regarding Libyan influence over the FAP. French military intelligence suggested several hundred Libyan troops had reinforced FAP units in the BET. Libyan C-130 transport aircraft frequently landed at Faya-Largeau to deliver equipment. They had also deployed anti-aircraft missile batteries and radarguided anti-aircraft cannon to protect their air base. Libyan engineers began constructing roads linking major settlements, and improved airstrips. French observers saw this as a general effort to improve the FAP’s defensive positions in case of Franco-Chadian incursions. Nonetheless, the FAP did not seem to take any offensive action, especially after their defeat at Djedaa.8 Meanwhile, French efforts to retrain and reorganize the Chadian army had not progressed particularly well. Only Habré’s forces had 5 6 8

MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “A/S. Entretien avec Hissein [sic] Habré,” 13.07.1978, p. 2. 7 Ibid., pp. 2–3. Ibid., pp. 3–4. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, Fiche, Groupe Permanent d’Evaluation de Situations, “Evaluation de la situation au Tchad,” 27.07.1978, p. 1.

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played a significant role in containing the FAP advance, but even these were limited in strength.9 Also, after the failure of the Tripoli meeting, Malloum seemed determined to end all negotiations. French officials feared this would only reinforce the ongoing stalemate and solidify the de facto partition of the country. French military planners concluded though, that this made Operation Tacaud’s presence even more necessary, to counter increasing Libyan engagement.10 Malloum’s intransigence towards Libya led French military officials to urge Paris to pressure Malloum into reconsidering his position. Otherwise, in their view, the FAP and its Libyan allies “will have no other solution, in the end, than to attempt a spectacular action against our forces.”11 Two events, however, dramatically altered the balance of power on the ground. First, despite Habré’s assertions and French perceptions, Gaddafi’s control over the FAP was hardly absolute. In August 1978, Goukouni broke decisively with the Libyan leader, and the FAP itself split apart. Secondly, that same month, Habré entered the Chadian government as Malloum’s prime minister. The series of reverses suffered by FAP troops contributed to a crisis within the movement. The defeat at Ati and the losses sustained at Djedaa fell principally upon FAP units belonging to l’armée Volcan, commanded by Ahmat Acyl. Acyl, a Chadian Arab, was a former government administrator and deputy in the National Assembly. He had also served as one of Tombalbaye’s personal advisors. Following an aborted coup attempt against the CSM in 1975, he defected to the rebellion. After the death of Mohammed El-Baghalani in 1977, Acyl became a leading figure within the Volcan force, gradually displacing its nominal leader, Abdoulaye Adoum Dana, within the organization. Partly this had to do with Acyl’s closer ties to Libya. Gaddafi apparently viewed l’armée Volcan as his best ally within the FAP, particularly due to its Arab ethnic base.12 According to Goukouni, in early 1978 the FAP sent Acyl to Libya with orders to bring back recruits trained in camps near Sebha. He also received a significant quantity of heavy weapons, vehicles, and other equipment from the Libyans. Despite orders from the FAP’s military commander, Adoum Togoï, Acyl refused to integrate his newfound 9 11 12

10 Ibid., p. 2. Ibid., p. 3. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, Fiche, Groupe Permanent d’Evaluation de Situations, “Situation au Tchad,” 11.08.1978, p. 2. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 2 above, p. 57– 59.

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force into the FAP command structure and stated his desire to attack Ati. Togoï opposed this idea as too dangerous. The FAP’s “Revolutionary Council” decided Acyl should only do this if they managed to reach an agreement with Habré at Oum-Chalouba involving simultaneous attacks on CSM and French positions. Despite the failure at Oum-Chalouba, Acyl attacked Ati anyway, without authorization.13 Distrust and enmity widened when, during the fighting, other FAP units refused to come to Acyl’s aid, ostensibly for “tribal” reasons.14 His enormous losses in men and materiel provoked a strong reaction within the FAP leadership, some of whom wanted to put Acyl on trial. Acyl fell seriously ill, though, and Goukouni allowed him to return to Libya. Upon his arrival, Acyl publicly denounced the FAP and its leadership, particularly targeting its Tubu constituency.15 This burgeoning ethnically charged discourse within the rebellion would contribute enormously to its fragmentation. In August, the FAP definitively split apart. On August 12–13, and again from August 27–30, fighting broke out in Faya-Largeau between different factions within the movement. Despite contradictory accounts, it seems that fighters coalesced around ethnic identities. The tension within the FAP leadership surrounding Acyl’s independent actions reflected a deeper split among the combatants. Monique Brandily, a French researcher who visited the BET several months later, characterized the fighting as taking place between forces loyal to Acyl and everyone else within the movement. However, she also suggested that ideology played the determining role in FAP’s breakup. According to Brandily, the ethnic dimension simply served to mask deeper ideological questions linked to Acyl’s connections to Libya and his alleged adherence to the ideology promoted by Gaddafi and his Green Book.16 Goukouni later characterized the fighting as a struggle between Arabs and Tubu. He blamed Libya for plotting attacks against the Tubu in conjunction with Acyl, and claimed that the Libyans “incited

13 14 15 16

Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 1 above, p. 80. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 2 above, p. 59. Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 1 above, p. 81. Monique Brandily, “Le Tchad face nord 1978–1979,” Politique Africaine, No. 16, Décembre 1984, p. 59.

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all of the other fighters against those who were native to the BET.”17 Buijtenhuijs’ assessment, based on various FAP documents and interviews, seconds Goukouni’s. Libyan forces stationed in Faya-Largeau participated in the fighting on Acyl’s behalf and hastily retreated to Libya after Goukouni’s men reestablished control of the town. Acyl withdrew as well. Goukouni kept the FAP acronym, but it no longer represented a unified rebellion.18 In response Gaddafi broke ties with Goukouni and briefly closed the border. He also withdrew all his units from northern Chad outside the Aozou Strip.19 While this break with Libya would soon have major political consequences, in the meantime it demonstrated that Goukouni was hardly a Libyan pawn.

The Fundamental Charter The same month, Habré and the CSM reached a final settlement. The Fundamental Charter, signed on August 25, 1978, formally dissolved the CSM and created a provisional national-unity government charged with running the state and eventually organizing elections for a constituent assembly. On August 29, Malloum officially named Habré as his prime minister, and two days later he formed his government.20 One of Habré’s conditions for joining was the removal of Camille Gourvennec. Gourvennec had served the CSM much as he had with Tombalbaye, though in a less-influential role. In December 1978, not long after his return to France, police found him lying dead in a pool of blood in his Parisian apartment. Officially he died of a “hemorrhage” linked to throat cancer. Maurice Robert, his former SDECE handler, was convinced he was poisoned.21 Foccart, then out of office, implied foul play, remarking, “given all of the games that he played, he made a lot of enemies.”22 17 18 20 21 22

Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 1 above, p. 82. 19 Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 2 above, p. 74–78. Ibid. p. 77. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 8 pour la période du 1er au 31 août 1978,” 05.09.1978, pp. 6–8. Maurice Robert, “Ministre” de l’Afrique: Entretiens avec André Renault (Paris: Seuil, 2004), p. 128. Jacques Foccart, Foccart Parle: Entretiens avec Philippe Gaillard (Vol. 2) (Paris: Fayard, 1997), p. 296.

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In an interpretation that would seem ironic a few months later, Ambassador Dallier enthused that the new unity government “will mark, in the history of Chad, the end of an era [...] during which the southern populations, benefiting from their superiority in cadres, of their numerical strength, and the wealth of their soils, imposed their law on other components of the Chadian nation.”23 Furthermore, the FAP’s fragmentation, and Libya’s role in its split, reassured him that France made the right decision in intervening to stop their initial advance. He shuddered at the potential consequences of the intergroup clashes had they taken place in N’Djamena rather than in Faya-Largeau.24 Dallier’s sense of relief was premature. Less than six months later, the war would indeed come to the capital. Slowly, French observers saw signs of a newly deteriorating situation. Within weeks of the new government’s formation, both Habré and Malloum set the tone for a confrontational relationship. In a September 18 press conference, Malloum insisted on the “presidential” nature of the regime, implying that Habré’s authority as prime minister was ultimately subordinated to his own. On September 25, Habré gave a speech harshly criticizing the former CSM and its “aberrations.” He promised that “the cleaning broom will go wherever it needs to go,” and that his government would take necessary measures to deal with structures, as well as people, responsible for the disorder. He particularly singled out the Chadian Army as a case of “veritable degeneration.”25 Habré’s intimations and subtle threats did not pass unnoticed among former members of the CSM, and southern elites in general. Buijtenhuijs noted that these elites viewed Habré’s statements as a virtual declaration of war. Habré reinforced this impression by bursting into the Radio-Tchad studio and interrupting the Sara translation of his speech. He demanded the broadcasters read the Arabic translation first, since Arabic, and not Sara, was now an official language of the country.26 The growing lack of trust widened over the following weeks. By November, French observers had reduced the underlying 23 24 25 26

MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 8 pour la période du 1er au 31 août 1978,” 05.09.1978, pp. 6–8, p. 1. Ibid., p. 4. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 9 pour la période du 1er au 30 septembre 1978,” 03.10.1978, p. 5. Buijtenhuijs, La guerre civile, note 2 above, pp. 64–65.

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problem to “a yet more fundamental opposition, [Malloum] is trying to keep power, and [Habré] is trying to take it.”27 That same month, French military intelligence observed that Goukouni’s break with Libya and the FAP’s internal schism did not affect its control over the North. Contrary to Habré’s assertions that the FAP represented little else than a Libyan proxy, it seemed to have significant staying power of its own. Meanwhile, large numbers of fighters managed to infiltrate southwards to gather supplies in southern markets, to recruit, and even to collect (or extort) taxes. French officers complained they could not easily track these movements since they coincided with annual pastoralist migrations. French intelligence estimated that somewhere around 1,000 rebels, divided into smaller groups of 50–100 combatants, had begun to organize in central Chad. Despite the French presence along the N’Djamena-Abéché road, these groups maintained a significant level of insecurity along this route through small-scale attacks by the 1st Army. French military observers also noted with dismay that since the FAP’s April offensive, the government had made no attempt to reorganize the army and improve its exceedingly low combat effectiveness. This failure rendered French efforts to train individual Chadian units ineffective. Only Habré’s FAN represented a relatively well-trained and disciplined fighting force capable of countering the insurrection.28 This observation highlighted another problem: the balance of forces within the new unity government. The military superiority of the FAN units was counterbalanced by the numerical superiority of Chadian regular forces. By November, French military observers felt that, absent a political reconciliation, a breakup had become inevitable. In such a situation, either Habré would be forced back into armed rebellion and the situation would resemble the previous year, or the FAN would emerge triumphant against the Chadian regular army and provoke “a partition between the North and the South.”29 French observers saw a train wreck coming, but had no idea what to do about it. The situation at the end of 1978 seemed precarious. The growing presence of the FAO, or Frolinat 3rd Army, active near Lake Chad, 27

28

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, Fiche, Groupe Permanent d’Evaluation de Situations, “Evaluation de la Situation au Tchad,” 09.11.1978, p. 2. 29 Ibid., pp. 1–2. Ibid., p. 3.

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aggravated matters. This group, with rear bases in both Nigeria and Niger, comprised some 400–500 men, according to French estimates. They controlled a large area, including several islands on Lake Chad, and the region of Mao. They also threatened a CONOCO oil-drilling project in the area. The Chadian regular army had no more than a hundred men in the region, with the nearest reinforcements located 200 kilometers away at Moussoro and N’Djamena.30 The FAO represented disaffected FAP elements from Kanem, resentful at the movement’s alleged “ethnocentrism.” Most prominently this included Aboubakar Mahamat Abderahamane, who became the movement’s president. The FAO also quickly drew support from populations around Lake Chad. These communities lived on the borders between Chad, Nigeria, and Niger. They often lived at the mercy of border guards from all three states, who continually harassed cross-border lake traffic and trade. The FAO initially seemed like a solution to these problems. It also benefited from the defection of Chadians serving in the Nigerian army, as well as possible support from northern Nigerian political elites who wanted to influence the Chadian political scene.31 French observers, the Chadian government, and other Frolinat formations largely portrayed the FAO a band of outlaws. While this partly represented self-serving propaganda, the FAO’s activities would severely harm its reputation. Harsh material constraints, leadership divisions, and corruption often led to bloody score-settling within the organization, as well as, eventually, substantial abuses against civilians.32 Thus, by the end of 1978, one could count at least six different armed factions: Malloum’s faction within the provisional government, Habré’s FAN, Goukouni’s FAP in the BET, Acyl’s Volcan force taking refuge in Libya, remnants of the 1st Army launching small-scale attacks in central and eastern Chad, and the FAO. Additionally, two 30 31

32

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, Fiche, Groupe Permanent d’Evaluation de Situations, “Tchad,” 02.01.1979, p. 1. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 2 above, pp. 45–46; and Moussa Medella Youssouf, Pour le Tchad: Récit au cœur de la révolution (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2015), pp. 45–47. Medella, the organization’s future president, later admitted this, though principally blamed it on military chief Idriss Adoum Moustapha, see: Medella, Pour le Tchad, note 31 above, pp. 48–49.

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other “factions” maintained political alliances that would shift nearly as frequently as everyone else’s: France and Libya. Libya’s failed attempt to control Goukouni, and its relatively ineffective alliance with Acyl, belied Habré’s claims, widely believed by French observers, that Goukouni was a Libyan proxy. Although Gaddafi’s military assistance made Goukouni’s successes possible, the Libyan leader never managed to exercise the degree of political control he had hoped for. Monique Brandily, who spent several months with the FAP in late 1978 and early 1979 in the BET, confirmed this. She wrote that Habré hardly had a monopoly on anti-Libyan sentiment and that this feeling was widespread among the Tubu. Furthermore, the FAP managed to construct a reasonably effective administrative apparatus in the areas it controlled, despite lacking significant sources of revenue. Primary schools continued to function and hospitals in the larger urban areas remained open, though they lacked medications.33 Brandily also observed that the FAP scrupulously conformed to the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war. Red Cross personnel reported they had full access to all prisoners, none of whom were confined in close quarters or mistreated. They also tended to have access to better food than the FAP forces through supplies delivered under Red Cross auspices.34 One should note, though, that this obviated the FAP’s need to find food and supplies for its prisoners when it often had difficulties supplying itself. Goukouni’s break with Gaddafi may have also contributed to the growing tension between Malloum and Habré. Although Habré seems to have strongly desired power for himself, his biggest conflict with the FAP was their reliance on Libyan aid and their supposed subservience to Libyan aims. With this obstacle out of the way by late August, Malloum had to worry increasingly about a possible FAP-FAN rapprochement. The Fundamental Charter included provisions for adherence by other groups, and the FAP represented by far the most powerful of these. Its integration into the government would marginalize the former CSM in N’Djamena.35 Conversely, Habré had reason to worry about the same thing. Any rapprochement between Malloum and Goukouni could threaten 33 34 35

Monique Brandily, “Le Tchad face nord 1978–1979,” note 16 above, p. 49. Ibid., pp. 49–50. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, Fiche, Groupe Permanent d’Evaluation de Situations, “Tchad,” 02.01.1979, p. 2.

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Habré’s own position. In this context, he attempted to widen his base of support. Since the FAN represented a minority among northern Chadians, Habré shifted his discourse to emphasize his Muslim identity and the shared interests of Chadian Muslims. He enlisted several imams in N’Djamena to his cause and used Friday sermons to broadcast his message.36 At the same time, many Muslim religious elites remained either loyal to Malloum or attempted to maintain a degree of neutrality between the competing factions. This included the most important Muslim religious figure in the Chadian capital, Ibrahim Moussa, the imam of the Grand Mosque of N’Djamena.37 Nonetheless, Habré’s effort to introduce a religious dimension into his own political conflicts would have bloody consequences in the coming months. This power struggle took place in a context of near total economic and administrative stagnation. Christian Dutheil de La Rochère, director of the Quai’s West Africa division, noted during a visit that the state had practically ceased to function. In Abéché, government administrators refused to leave their offices and had no contact with the population. Schools had shut down in the region, except in the town itself, and the only health service available was a hospital in Abéché with two doctors. Supplies had also become problematic due to rebel attacks throughout the area. La Rochère wrote that the entirety of central Chad also suffered from these conditions.38 In N’Djamena, the situation was hardly better. Public transport ceased, infrastructure maintenance had stopped, and one of the two ferries on the Chari River linking N’Djamena to Cameroon and the rest of the world had sunk.39 Even in the South, where the state had historically more of a foothold because of the region’s dependence on cotton, conditions had visibly deteriorated. La Rochère observed that the lack of material and financial resources meant that local government could do little in the way of service provision. Smuggling was widespread, and locals suffered from high levels of official corruption.40

36 38

39

37 Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 2 above, p. 66. Ibid., pp. 66–67. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 67, “a/s: Compte-rendu de la mission de M. de La Rochère, Sous-Directeur à la DAM,” 24.01.1979, p. 2. 40 Ibid., p. 3. Ibid.

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These conditions both contributed to and resulted from a steep drop in tax revenue. By December 1978 this had fallen by well over two-thirds from the average intake. Government officials went unpaid, contributing to corruption and high levels of absenteeism. Although state dysfunction of this sort had a long history in parts of Chad, by the beginning of 1979, it had reached unprecedented levels.41

State Collapse The growing tension between Malloum and Habré reached a point of no return on February 12, 1979. In the previous days, Habré had called for a general strike. On the morning of February 12, striking students, principally northern Muslims at the Lycée Félix Eboué, clashed with others, mainly southerners, who refused to strike. It seems that FAN troops based at the nearby prime minister’s residence responded quickly, as did police officers loyal to Malloum. Gendarmerie forces stationed nearby, commanded by Kamougué, reacted as well, and soon the situation degenerated into street battles between FAN and Malloum loyalists. Habré’s forces, well-trained and disciplined, spread out in small groups throughout the city’s Muslim neighborhoods. Meanwhile, Chadian regular forces bombarded these neighborhoods with AD-4 Skyraider ground-attack aircraft and a Puma helicopter, piloted by French civilians contracted by the former CSM. By nightfall, Malloum’s forces managed to control the Chagoua Bridge in the eastern part of the city linking the capital to the South, as well as the center, west, and northwestern parts of N’Djamena. Overnight though, the gendarmes under Kamougué’s command inexplicably returned to their barracks. FAN units took advantage and advanced to the perimeter of the gendarmerie base near the European quarter. As dawn broke on February 13, the gendarme units, realizing their situation, responded with heavy fire directed towards the FAN positions.42 However, given the dispersed of the FAN deployment, this did little more than waste a great deal of 41 42

Ibid., pp. 3–4. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, Dossier, “Synthèse n. 2 pour la période du 1er février au 31 mars 1979,” undated, April 1979, pp. 9–10.

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ammunition.43 Locals and European expatriates living nearby were caught in the crossfire. Fighting also erupted in Abéché. On February 12, as the fighting began in N’Djamena, FAN forces attacked the regular army garrison. French forces stationed in the city had orders to maintain strict neutrality. This did not prevent them from suffering casualties in the crossfire, including one dead and several wounded. The fighting raged for over two days, but the FAN slowly overwhelmed their adversaries. Although some regular army soldiers found refuge in the French camp, the rest surrendered after taking heavy losses.44 Following the surrender, the FAN massacred its prisoners while French troops were unable, or unwilling, to stop them.45 The fighting in N’Djamena continued until February 15, when the French force commander, General Louis Forest – who had replaced Bredèche the previous November – brokered a provisional cease-fire. The next day, a Sudanese delegation arrived in N’Djamena to mediate a more durable arrangement. On February 19, after continued skirmishing and jockeying for position, the warring parties signed a more formal cease-fire accord. The week of fighting had immeasurable consequences. It helped crystallize ethnic, religious, and regional divisions in ways that previously had existed in more fluid and flexible forms. According to Bernard Lanne, the former French head of Chad’s Ecole nationale d’administration (National School of Administration), many southerners originally viewed Habré rather favorably. His proclaimed nationalism attracted southerners who saw in him a means of overcoming the North-South divide and of unifying the country. Nevertheless, Habré’s increasingly anti-southern discourse as prime minister, combined with his efforts to politicize his Muslim identity for his own ends, scared off potential southern supporters.46 The fighting in N’Djamena and Abéché sparked more violence in other parts of the country. Government officials with southern origins 43 44 45 46

Pierre de Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi: Opération Tacaud, Tchad 1978–1980 (Paris: Editions Soteca, 2012), p. 49. Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 43 above, p. 49–50. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, Dossier, “Synthèse n. 2 pour la période du 1er février au 31 mars 1979,” undated, April 1979, p. 13. Bernard Lanne, “Le sud du Tchad dans la guerre civile (1979–1980),” Politique Africaine, Septembre 1981, No. 3 (1981), p. 77.

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were killed systematically in several towns in central and eastern Chad. In Abéché itself, the FAN would hold southern teachers and nurses hostage for over two years. Violence against southerners sparked a massive exodus from N’Djamena across the Chari River to the South. The number of displaced may have numbered some 70,000–80,000 people.47 This was out of a total population estimated at 130,000.48 As he departed the city on February 25, Cooperation Ministry official Alain Charon wrote that N’Djamena “was almost emptied of Sara.”49 Local committees focusing on health care provision, food delivery, and self-defense sprung up to organize the flight. Many refugees, particularly the youth supposedly “returning” to their “places of origin,” had never actually lived in the South. For many of Chad’s southerners, the world they had known for nearly two decades had collapsed.50 Furthermore, the role French troops played in the fighting left many southerners feeling betrayed. The official French position was one of neutrality. However, this neutrality significantly benefited Habré’s forces. As the fighting broke out, the French withdrew their military advisors from Chadian regular army units. This contributed to their disorganization and made it more difficult to coordinate counterattacks. On February 13 General Forest prohibited Malloum’s small air force from renewing their attacks on FAN positions. Buijtenhuijs cites accounts suggesting this came after the entreaties of the imam of the Grand Mosque, Ibrahim Moussa. Apparently, he told Forest that if air attacks continued, the Muslim population would dump the corpses of civilian victims in front of the French Embassy.51 According to future force commander Pierre de Tonquédec, and Frolinat veteran Garondé Djarma, Forest’s decision came in response to threats from Habré against the expatriate population if the air attacks continued.52 Perhaps knowing Habré’s history with hostages, Forest took this

47 48 49 50 51 52

Ibid., pp.77–78. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1978, Carton 67, Note, “A/S. Le Tchad: aperçu géographique et historique,” 20.01.1977, p. 2. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/2/3bis, “Rapport d’Alain Charon sur les récents évènements du Tchad depuis le lundi 12 Février 1979,” undated, 02.1979, p. 2. Lanne, “Le sud du Tchad,” note 46 above, p. 80. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 2 above, p. 117. Al Hadj Garondé Djarma, Témoignage d’un militant du FROLINAT (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2003, p. 153; Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 43 above, p. 49.

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seriously. Regardless of French motives, to southerners, this looked like a deliberate French effort to assist Habré. On February 15, several officers in the Chadian army met with Forest and Dallier. They accused the French of favoring Habré and wanted an explanation for France’s lack of support for the regular army. They also demanded an immediate French intervention to enforce the cease-fire agreement, which Habré had not yet signed. If the French refused, they threatened to block the runway at N’Djamena’s airport and prevent expatriate evacuations.53 Though they never carried out this threat, southerners had other good reasons to fear the French military had stabbed them in the back. During the fighting in Abéché, the role of French forces came under heavy suspicion for their failure to prevent the FAN massacres of government soldiers. Djarma, who was in Abéché at the time, claimed he witnessed French forces providing material support to Habré’s units. He also recounted an interaction with a French soldier who told him they were supporting the FAN.54 In the previous months, many Chadian officials and French diplomats began to worry that French military personnel had developed a marked sympathy for the FAN and its leadership. Indeed, while insisting he had scrupulously maintained neutrality, even General Forest later admitted to Buijtenhuijs that he and most of his officers sympathized with the FAN. FAN’s strict military discipline and the competence of their leaders contrasted sharply with the government army.55 Cooperation Ministry officials shared these suspicions. Alain Charon asserted that, while the French army had acted in a completely neutral way, their known sympathies with the FAN had sharpened the distrust that Malloum and his faction felt towards France.56 Furthermore, confusion had arisen during the fighting over Forest’s and Dallier’s respective competencies, resulting in growing tension between the two men.57 Southern mistrust, and Forest’s real or 53 54 55 56 57

FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/3/2, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “A/S: Situation à N’Djamena,” 15.02.1979. Djarma, Témoignage, note 52 above, pp. 153–155. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 2 above, p. 116. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/2/3bis, “Rapport d’Alain Charon sur les récents évènements du Tchad depuis le lundi 12 Février 1979,” undated, 02.1979, p. 3. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 67, Note pour le Ministre, “Situation au Tchad,” 04.03.1979, p. 2.

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perceived penchant towards the FAN, would have devastating consequences in the months to come. Official French neutrality also enraged French civilians in the capital. Between February 15 and 20, French troops evacuated some 1,600 foreigners from N’Djamena, including 900 French nationals. During the first two days of fighting, though, French forces did not intervene on behalf of their citizens. The previous year, following a French military operation aiming, in part, to free European citizens in the Zairian city of Kolwezi, French staff officers visited the Chadian capital to develop contingency plans for a possible future evacuation. According to Christian Bouquet, a French academic working at the University of Chad (and later a wellknown Africanist scholar), the officers elaborated a very detailed plan allowing for a quick and effective intervention by the French army to extract expatriates. They divided the city into zones and compiled the locations of the homes of each expatriate family to facilitate a rapid evacuation. However, as events unfolded, neighborhood leaders contacted the Embassy and the French base. An Embassy official told Bouquet they would not attempt an evacuation until the fighting had ended, stating, “We don’t want to give Hissène Habré the impression, if he wins, that we’re defying him by evacuating our nationals.”58 After two days without assistance, Bouquet and others organized a 20-vehicle convoy carrying white flags, transporting around 100 people. Though this group made it to the French base, several French citizens were killed. To make matters worse, Cooperation Ministry officials told those who evacuated safely to Libreville they would have to reimburse the cost of their flights and cancel their work contracts. This led Jean-François Gibert, a teacher working in N’Djamena, to sarcastically observe that French aid workers apparently had a choice between “unemployment in France, or death in Chad.”59 He was killed shortly afterwards. Bouquet bitterly lamented: One should draw at least a tentative conclusion about the events in N’Djamena: the security of the French in Africa is an important card for French policy. When it seems useful to supplant another power, as in Zaire, 58 59

Christian Bouquet, “Tchad: une sanglante évacuation,” Le Nouvel Observateur, 02.04.1979, p. 46. Ibid., p. 47.

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it’s used as a motive to drop the Legion on Kolwezi. When the end of the crisis is unpredictable, as in Chad, while sufficient military means are already in position, losses of human lives are tolerated to maintain good relations with the regime that wins out of the fighting. French citizens living in Africa will now know this.60

Hissène Habré certainly appreciated the French stance. He roundly praised French forces for their neutrality and their contribution to the cease-fire arrangement. In a February 21 letter to Giscard, he expressed his “great appreciation for the position adopted by France during the armed conflict.”61 He also claimed to deeply regret that most of the French population had opted to leave N’Djamena.62 Needless to say, Habré’s high and public praise of French inaction also contributed, probably deliberately, to growing southern distrust of their French allies. Meanwhile, it seemed Malloum and the southern faction began preparing for another round of fighting. On February 24, Dallier met Malloum to discuss the situation. Malloum claimed the flight to the South represented a humanitarian operation to help southerners escape from neighborhoods controlled by the FAN who “terrorized” the population.63 Southern authorities coupled the flight to the South with a quasi-blockade of the capital from south of the Chari River. Vehicles carrying supplies to N’Djamena were stopped en route, and the ferry linking N’Djamena to Cameroon was halted. Dallier felt this represented an effort to signal the extent to which N’Djamena was dependent on southern wealth. He warned that this virtual threat of secession could dangerously increase “tribalist” sentiment and result in more intergroup violence.64 The cease-fire agreement did not establish any mechanism to resolve the conflict between Malloum and Habré’s factions. Sudan’s president Gafaar Nimeiry offered to host a peace conference, and hoped to use 60 61 62 63 64

Ibid. For his insightful later book on the origins of Chad’s conflicts, see: Christian Bouquet, Tchad: genèse d’un conflict (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1982). MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 2 pour la période du 1er février au 31 mars 1979,” undated, April 1979, p. 22. Ibid. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/3/3, telegram from Dallier, “A/S Entretien avec le Général Malloum,” 24.02.1979, p. 1. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/3/3, telegram from Dallier, “A/S: Situation à N’Djamena,” 25.02.1979, pp. 1–2.

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his position as the annual Chairman of the OAU to gather a broad African base of support for the effort. Other regional powers, especially Libya, objected strongly to Sudanese mediation. Libya’s foreign minister Ali Triki insisted the OAU had no right to intervene in a Chadian internal matter and emphasized that any peace process should conform to the framework agreed upon at Sebha/Benghazi, even though all the Chadian parties had denounced it. This unrealistic position confirmed, in the mind of the French ambassador to Libya, Jean-Pierre Cabouat, that recent events in Chad had seriously embarrassed Libyan authorities.65 To counter these objections, Giscard looked to organize an allfaction roundtable in N’Djamena to hammer out a settlement. He wanted cosponsors from neighboring governments, and offered to provide security for all the delegates.66 To this end, Giscard sent personal letters to Malloum and Habré, as well as the leaders of the three countries with most at stake in Chad – Nigeria, Libya, and Sudan – to propose their participation.67 Nonetheless, a competing Nigerian proposal to hold talks in Kano won the consent of the Chadian factions in N’Djamena. The Nigerians initially set March 5 as the meeting date.68 Meanwhile, a new element had entered the picture. On February 20, a small unit of FAP forces heading south from Salal entered N’Djamena. Their commander, Goukouni Guet (no relation to Goukouni Weddeye), presented letters to both Forest and Dallier. He claimed that before the fighting he had been in contact with Malloum and Habré to discuss “national reconciliation.” Now, he thanked the French for their role in arranging the cease-fire. He insisted he was on a reconciliation mission.69 He reached an agreement with Forest allowing a small number of FAP fighters to reach the outskirts of N’Djamena, although “no massive intrusion.”70 65 66 67 68 69 70

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Cabouat to Paris, “Tchad,” 21.02.1979. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/3/2, telegram from Georgy to African embassies, “Tchad,” 26.02.1979, pp. 1–2. For the letters, see FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/2/3bis, 26.02.1979. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/3/2, telegram from Embassy Nigeria to Paris, “Conférence de Kano,” 27.02.1979. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/3/3, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “A/S Goukouni Guet,” 24.02.1979, p. 2. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 2 above, p. 80.

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According to Goukouni Weddeye, this initiative did not originate from the FAP leadership. They had initially planned an offensive against both Malloum’s forces and the FAN if fighting broke out between them. However, a combination of the withdrawal of some FAN units south to Abéché and dissensions among FAP fighters who did not wish to wage war against fellow northerners prevented a general attack.71 Given that the bulk of Malloum’s forces lay behind the French defensive line, attacking Malloum had also become impossible. Instead, as Goukouni Guet made his way to N’Djamena, Habré reached out to the FAP in anticipation of further fighting.72 On March 3, Nigerian Colonel Sani Abacha, the future military dictator, arrived in N’Djamena to propose the deployment of an interposition force to monitor and enforce the cease-fire. Both Malloum and Habré’s factions accepted, and on March 6, an initial deployment of 85 Nigerian soldiers arrived in N’Djamena.73 Although the plan eventually aimed for the deployment of some 800–900 troops, this small unit could do little in the meantime but sit and wait. In any case, they had come too late to prevent a renewed outbreak of violence. Continued tensions resulted in low-level skirmishing in the first few days of the month. Malloum ordered his forces reinforced by air from Mongo, which the FAN interpreted as a cease-fire violation. The FAP then informed the French that this now meant they no longer considered themselves bound by their promise not to enter the capital in force.74 As N’Djamena erupted in fighting between Malloum and Habré’s forces, FAP units entered the city and joined the fighting on Habré’s side. Their combined forces managed to capture substantial portions of the capital. Goukouni Weddeye later claimed that FAP’s alliance with the FAN had little to do with sympathy for Habré, but rather with the desire to protect the city’s Muslim population.75 Partly this resulted from fears about the fate of Muslims living in southern communities. For instance, several days previously, Colonel Kamougué visited the southern city of Moundou, where he incited mass violence against local Muslims. The local imam claimed that 71 73 74 75

72 Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 1 above, pp. 86–87. Ibid. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/3/6, Fiche, Groupe Permanent d’Evaluation de Situations, “Situation points chauds le 8 mars 1979 matin,” 08.03.1979, p. 1. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/3/6, Fiche, Groupe Permanent d’Evaluation de Situations, “Situation points chauds matin,” 05.03.1979, p. 1. Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 1 above, p. 88.

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some 600 Muslims had been massacred.76 Europeans residing in the city confirmed to Dallier that hundreds had probably perished, including a massacre of Muslim nurses and patients in the city’s main hospital.77 In any event, while French forces may have legitimately claimed to have played a neutral role in the N’Djamena fighting, Forest’s curious decision to allow FAP forces to arrive in force decisively altered the balance of power. FAP fighters were equipped with heavy weaponry given to them by Libya before the breakdown of their alliance. This gave them a crucial edge over their southern opponents.78 By March 8, FAN and FAP units had gained control over most of the city, while forces loyal to Malloum began to collapse.79 The FAN-FAP offensive continued even as French and Nigerian military officials tried to mediate a new cease-fire. Dallier felt Habré wanted to take as much of the city as possible before the main Nigerian force arrived.80 Parallel to the fighting in N’Djamena, Ahmat Acyl’s Volcan force launched a surprise attack on Abéché on March 5. After Volcan’s split with the FAP, it maintained its close ties with Libya. Gaddafi provided it with heavy weapons and supplies. Acyl wanted to exploit the confusion reigning in N’Djamena to seize Abéché. In theory, the town could provide two major advantages. Its large airfield would make it easy to receive supplies and other forms of assistance from Libya. Furthermore, its extreme distance from N’Djamena made it more difficult for a major counterattack to materialize from that direction.81 Presumably, Acyl also assumed that French forces would not react, given their passivity in the face of the fighting between Malloum and Habré. Acyl assembled a force of some 800 men near Kufra in southern Libya. His troops were well supplied by their Libyan hosts, including 50 new jeeps and trucks, AK-47 assault rifles, heavy machine guns, 76 77 78 79 80 81

FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/3/6, Fiche, Groupe Permanent d’Evaluation de Situations, “Situation points chauds matin,” 05.03.1979, p. 1. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/3/3, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “A/S: Massacre des musulmans à Moundou,” 05.03.1979. Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 1 above, p. 88. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/3/6, Fiche, Groupe Permanent d’Evaluation de Situations, “Situation points chauds le 09 mars 1979 matin,” 09.03.1979, p. 1. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/3/6, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “A/S: Second réunion du cessez-le-feu,” 08.03.1979, p. 1. Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 43 above, p. 51.

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heavy mortars, 106mm recoilless rifles, and SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles. This force carried an additional 800 automatic rifles and ammunition for the badly supplied elements of the 1st Army active in eastern Chad. Acyl’s men made their way across 1,000 kilometers of desert, avoiding oases and other inhabited places to maximize secrecy. They arrived at Abéché undetected.82 As Volcan began its attack in the early afternoon of March 5, Lt. Colonel Hamel, the regional Tacaud commander, was meeting with his staff and Ali Taher, the local FAN intelligence chief. Ironically, they had met to discuss reports that a large rebel column had entered Chad from Libya several days previously, destination unknown. The eruption of gunfire gave a rapid answer to their questions. Although the attack came as a complete surprise, Hamel and his FAN counterparts reacted quickly. French artillery, armor, and helicopters ably defended the airstrip while FAN troops held the town. As the battle progressed, French units supported FAN counterattacks, and after several hours their combined forces routed the attackers.83 The latter left some 150 dead as they fled, as well as large quantities of equipment, while one French soldier was killed. Much of the remaining Volcan force was then cut to pieces by FAP units moving south in support of the FAN at Abéché.84 Although a clear military victory, French collaboration with the FAN only reinforced suspicions of French collusion with Habré. Pierre de Tonquédec, soon to become commander of French forces in Chad, later wrote that for Habré: The brotherhood of arms born out of combat conducted and won together with French troops would indisputably be an asset in his immediate relationship with Tacaud though it would, at the same time, contribute to progressively isolating him from other Chadian factions.85

The Abéché action also angered Gaddafi, who felt that the official neutrality the French had demonstrated in N’Djamena should have also applied in Abéché. His reaction sheds light on Libya’s immediate goal in the Chadian conflict: a place at the negotiating table for Ahmat Acyl. 82 84 85

83 Ibid. Ibid. pp. 51–53. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 2 pour la période du 1er février au 31 mars 1979,” undated, April 1979, p. 15. Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 43 above, p. 53.

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Three days after the fighting in Abéché, Gaddafi loudly condemned the French action in support of the FAN. In a speech, he accused the French, in connivance with the Egyptians, of launching an attack against the population of Abéché and killing dozens of Muslims.86 On March 10, the French ambassador met with Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Issa Baaba. He vigorously protested Gaddafi’s accusations and insisted that the French had acted, alongside the FAN, in self-defense. Issa responded that Acyl’s forces had no aggressive intentions towards the French, but that they simply wanted to “go back home.”87 In preventing their return, the French did not, in Issa’s view, contribute to a favorable peacemaking climate. Issa suggested that French forces should either abandon Abéché or allow Acyl’s forces to establish themselves there. This would give Acyl a solid basis from which to participate in the upcoming peace talks.88 Meanwhile, on March 10, the factions in N’Djamena finally agreed on a tenuous cease-fire, and their respective leaderships prepared to leave for Kano to begin peace negotiations. Much of N’Djamena lay in ruins. Dallier estimated 4,000 people had lost their lives over the previous month in the city. One mass grave in the capital contained 2,816 bodies.89 Buijtenhuijs cites estimates of between 10,000 and 20,000 dead for the entire country.90 86 87 88 89 90

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Cabouat to Paris, “Déclaration du colonel Gaddafi (Tchad).” 10.03.1979, p. 2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Cabouat to Paris, “Tchad,” 10.03.1979, p. 2. Ibid. p. 2. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 2 pour la période du 1er février au 31 mars 1979,” undated, April 1979, p. 4. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 2 above, p. 424.

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6

Nigeria Enters the Scene

Perhaps surprisingly, given Nigeria’s size, its border with Chad, and an oft-stated desire to play a leading role in African politics, the country’s leadership had not previously evinced a major interest in Chadian affairs. Before 1979, their involvement was limited to participation in a 1977 OAU commission briefly charged with examining the question of the Aozou Strip, and the limited and ambiguous support given to the Frolinat 3rd Army operating near Lake Chad. The appearance of this group on the scene in early 1978 seemed, to many observers at the time, as a Nigerian government effort to exert some influence on the conflict. Indeed, Nigerian officials negotiated the release of two European (one French, one Swiss) hostages held by the group later that year, without any participation from French or Swiss authorities. This may have indicated some Nigerian leverage over the group.1 Goukouni Weddeye, though, who had alternately clashed with and cooperated with the movement, later claimed the Nigerian government had never directly supported it, but had rather closed its eyes and tolerated its cross-border activities.2 As late as February 19 1979, as the first round of fighting in N’Djamena wound down, Yves Plattard, the French ambassador in Lagos, seemed puzzled by the apparent lack of official Nigerian interest in Chad. He wrote that the head of the Africa Desk in the Nigerian Foreign Ministry demonstrated “a stunning ignorance” of Chadian affairs. Plattard felt that he himself influenced the Nigerian decision to hold a peace conference.3 After a March 5 meeting with Nigerian President General Olusegun Obasanjo, Plattard reported that the Nigerian leader had marked his 1 2 3

Ibid., pp. 123–124. Goukouni Weddeye, “Témoignage pour l’histoire du Tchad,” Entretiens avec Laurent Correau, Radio France Internationale, 2008, p. 74. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 19751979, Carton 77, telegram from Plattard to Paris, “Tchad,” 19.02.1979, p. 2.

185

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appreciation for Plattard’s assistance in informing Nigerian officials about the Chadian situation and for the suggestions he had made to facilitate Nigeria’s role. According to Plattard, Obasanjo seemed flattered that France had solicited Nigeria’s assistance.4 In patronizing tones, the French ambassador gave himself plaudits for his apparently newfound position as advisor to the Nigerian government: The Nigerians that I’ve met in preparation for the conference seem, much like most leaders on this continent, to feel an immense need to be counseled, to attach themselves to those who can reason, who can bring concrete elements to the table, and who can analyze a situation and make suggestions. I am trying to be one of these people.5

Indeed, it seemed as if Franco-Nigerian cooperation in Chad heralded a new era in relations between the two countries. Ever since Nigerian independence in 1960, relations between France and Nigeria had often been tense, if not downright hostile. Throughout the 1960s, Charles de Gaulle and Jacques Foccart shared a strong antipathy towards Nigeria, whose population and economic potential was larger than all the states of Francophone West Africa combined. This sentiment was shared by key French allies on the continent, particularly Gabonese President Omar Bongo and Ivoirian leader, Félix Houphouët-Boigny. Nigerian authorities, on the other hand, saw France as a rival for regional influence, as well as a potential threat.6 This fear became reality during the 1967–1970 Nigerian Civil War, when France provided military support to the secessionist Biafran regime through intermediaries in Gabon and Côte d’Ivoire.7 Although tensions persisted, relations between the two countries gradually improved in the 1970s. Nigeria’s potential as a lucrative trade partner began to trump geopolitical fears. French diplomats actively encouraged increased French investment. Plattard, who served as ambassador in Nigeria from 1977 to 1982, was a very vocal advocate of closer ties between the two countries. During Giscard’s 4 5 6

7

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Plattard to Paris, “Entretien avec le chef de l’état,” 06.03.1979, pp. 1–2. Ibid. pp. 3–4. See: Daniel C. Bach, “Dynamique et contradictions dans la politique africaine de la France: les rapports avec le Nigeria (1960–1981),” Politique Africaine, No. 5, Mars 1982 (1982), pp. 47–74. For details, see: Jean-Pierre Bat, Le syndrome Foccart: La politique française en Afrique de 1959 à nos jours (Paris: Editions Gallimard, 2012), pp. 295–303.

Negotiations in Kano

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presidency, Nigeria became France’s largest trading partner in subSaharan Africa, reaching 22.3 percent of French trade with the continent. French exports to Nigeria doubled between 1975 and 1978, and Nigeria became France’s third-largest oil supplier during the same period, reaching 11 percent of French oil imports.8 More immediate geopolitical interests now brought France and Nigeria closer together. Both French and Nigerian policymakers had an interest in ending Chad’s seemingly chronic political instability. Up until 1978, though, Nigerian policymakers had tended to view Chad’s problems as a purely internal affair. Despite their common border on Lake Chad, most trade and transportation passed through Cameroon, and the two countries shared few common ethnic or linguistic linkages.9 Nevertheless, the ethnic, religious, and regional conflicts that threatened to provoke a partition of Chad evoked traumatic memories of the Biafran secession. Nigeria’s military authorities would not tolerate an analogous situation in a neighboring state. Hence, despite – or perhaps because of – their suspicions towards France, Nigerian policymakers concluded that Nigeria should now play a role as peacemaker.

Negotiations in Kano On March 1, the Nigerian government broadcast a communiqué praising “the peacekeeping role the French authorities in N’Djamena are now playing, a role which is essential and without which the number of lives lost and the level of damage to property would have been incalculably higher.”10 This public declaration of Nigerian support for the French role delighted French officials, who saw this as a good way to legitimize France’s role in Chad to a broader audience.11 It also effectively countered Libyan accusations to the contrary. Obasanjo even told Plattard he felt French policy had a positive impact in Africa and hoped it would continue its active role on the continent.12 8 9 10

11 12

Bach, “Dynamique et contradictions,” note 6 above, p. 64. Daniel C. Bach, “Le Nigeria et le Tchad,” Politique Africaine, No. 16, Décembre 1984 (1984), p. 125. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Plattard to Paris, “Action du Nigeria dans l’affaire du Tchad: Eloge du rôle de la France,” 01.03.1979, p. 3. Ibid., p. 1. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Plattard to Paris, “Entretien avec le chef de l’état,” 06.03.1979, p. 2.

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In this vein, he requested Plattard’s presence at Kano during the upcoming conference as a liaison with the French government.13 The Kano conference began on March 10. It included Chadian president Félix Malloum, Hissène Habré, Goukouni Weddeye, and Aboubakar Abderahmane, the leader of the 3rd Army, which had profited from the Malloum-Habré fighting to seize significant amounts of territory around Lake Chad. After four days of arduous negotiations in the presence of delegations from Libya, Niger, Sudan, Cameroon, and Nigeria, the parties reached a tentative agreement. In its broad outline, the Kano Accord, later referred to as “Kano I,” settled on a general cease-fire, the demilitarization of N’Djamena, and approved the Nigerian army deployment and its mission of maintaining order and protecting high-level personalities. Furthermore, all existing government institutions were to be dissolved. The factions committed to creating a provisional government in Chad by March 23, which would then select its own president. The Kano Accord also established a control commission composed of representatives from neighboring states and signatory factions to monitor the agreement.14 Both Malloum and Habré also agreed to resign their positions. Malloum did this quite grudgingly, under pressure from Chadian foreign minister Kamougué, who had fast become the strongest voice within the southern faction.15 On March 23, in N’Djamena, the two adversaries formally resigned and Goukouni Weddeye was sworn in as the head of the provisional government. That same day, Malloum left for self-imposed exile in Nigeria, permanently removing himself from the political scene.16 The new provisional government consisted of three northern factions, and the faction representing the South as the Forces armées tchadiennes (Chadian Armed Forces, or FAT) found itself for the first time in the minority. Just weeks before, the French army had been actively combating the FAP and the 3rd Army, newly renamed the 13 14 15

16

Ibid. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, “Accord de Kano sur la réconciliation nationale au Tchad.” Robert Buijtenhuijs, Le Frolinat et les guerres civiles du Tchad: 1977–1984 (Paris: Karthala, 1987), pp. 130–131, and Ahijdo’s account in MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, Letter from Dubois to Journiac, no subject, 20.03.1979, p. 2. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 2 pour la période du 1er février au 31 mars 1979,” undated, April 1979, p. 19.

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Mouvement populaire pour la libération du Tchad (MPLT). Now they welcomed both to N’Djamena with open arms, hoping the Kano Accord would augur an end to the civil war. This outcome pleased French officials in another respect. It responded to their interest in Chadian reconciliation with support from neighboring countries. This provided regional legitimacy for French influence in the country, and it would allow French troops to leave. Their Nigerian army replacements ensured the security vacuum would be filled by an “African force sympathetic to the West,” which also meant limiting Libyan influence.17 Quai officials felt they shared the same goals as their Nigerian counterparts, which were to “stop the decomposition of Chad and avoid the appearance of troubling elements in the region. They [the Nigerians] are aiming to apply the same method that we are advocating: that Africans come together to settle their own affairs free from external interventions, in short ‘Africa for Africans.’”18 Of particular importance to French policymakers was the fact that Kano I included no criticism of the French military presence, no demand for an immediate withdrawal, and “no demagogic reconciliation over our backs.”19 Rather, the agreement left it up to the future Chadian government to address the French military presence.20 This represented an implicit rebuff to Libya and its allied Chadian factions, who continually demanded an end to France’s military intervention. Nigerian Vice-President Shehu Musa Yar’Adua told Plattard that he had helped to deflect criticisms of the French role by asking participants not to discuss the question, since French forces did not at all constitute an obstacle to reconciliation and their presence was perfectly legal.21 Furthermore, according to Yar’Adua, French officials should view general Nigerian criticisms of foreign interventions on the continent as specifically directed against the Soviets and Cubans, and not against the French role in Chad.22 17 18 20 21 22

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, DAM Note, “A/S: Le Tchad, le Nigéria et la France,” 19.03.1979, p. 2. 19 Ibid. 1 Ibid. 3. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, “Accord de Kano sur la réconciliation nationale au Tchad,” Article 8. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Plattard to Paris, “Tchad,” 20.03.1979, p. 1. Ibid., p. 2.

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This newfound rapprochement with Nigeria thus seemed to bear fruit. DAM Director Guy Georgy said that Kano: may finally contribute to establishing a political link between France and the most important African power (one African out of five is Nigerian). Our economic positions in Nigeria are good, both for trade (almost the same level as our exports to Morocco) and for infrastructure investments. Our cultural influence grows rapidly in a country which wants to open itself to the francophone world. All of this is for a minimum “cost” if we compare it to neighboring countries. The only thing missing so far has been the political link that the Chadian affair may create.23

Soon, though, warning signs began to appear. Although present in Kano during the negotiations, Yves Plattard was not allowed to attend any of the sessions. Quai officials interpreted this stance as a rather paradoxical effort by Nigerian authorities to simultaneously distance themselves from France, while keeping Plattard close at hand to implicitly invoke French sanction for certain initiatives.24 However, this meant Plattard and other French observers had to rely on second- or third-hand accounts of the conference’s proceedings. On March 19, French ambassador to Cameroon Hubert Dubois met Cameroonian President Ahmadou Ahidjo to discuss the Chadian situation. Contrary to Yar’Adua’s assertions, Ahidjo claimed that at Kano, the Nigerians forcefully advocated a rapid withdrawal of French forces and attempted to “torpedo” French influence.25 Ahidjo strongly urged France to maintain troops in Chad and to prevent a Nigerian bid for hegemony in central Africa.26 While long-standing disputes between Cameroon and Nigeria may have encouraged Ahidjo to foment French suspicions, it soon became clear that French and Nigerian policymakers did not fully share the same objectives. Despite warning signs, the apparently warm relations with Nigeria, largely reinforced by an impression of common aims, contributed to a sense of optimism among French officials. This led Giscard to declare on March 20 that France would begin a progressive withdrawal from 23 24 25 26

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, DAM Note, “A/S: Le Tchad, le Nigéria et la France,” 19.03.1979, p. 4. Ibid., p. 2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, Letter from Dubois to Journiac, no subject, 20.03.1979, p. 1. Ibid., p. 3.

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Chad, in coordination with the new Chadian authorities.27 This decision alarmed Kano’s signatory factions. On March 29, Goukouni complained to French ambassador to Chad Louis Dallier that the French had not consulted the provisional government about the withdrawal. He cited the Kano Accord, which stipulated that the transitional authorities would determine its position on the future status of French forces. Until then he wanted France to maintain the status quo.28 At the end of the month, Habré and Goukouni independently sent envoys to Paris. Both met with Cooperation Minister Robert Galley and Deputy Foreign Minister Olivier Stirn. Habré’s envoy, Kerim Togoï, explained to Stirn why Habré opposed a withdrawal. First, only a French military presence could deter the ambitions of neighboring countries, particularly Libya and Nigeria. Second, the French army helped maintain a balance of power within Chad. He feared that without the French, Goukouni’s “Marxist” entourage might “maneuver” him into an antagonistic stance. Furthermore, the French presence reassured southerners, whose region would otherwise fall into disarray and threaten the fragile stability created after the Kano Accord. Finally, Togoï argued that a French retreat would prevent the return of French investment and aid workers.29 Goukouni’s representative, Adoum Kougou, expressed surprise that Giscard had made such a decision without consulting the new Chadian authorities.30 Additionally, both Habré and Goukouni had concerns about public statements made by French officials calling for a federal structure for Chad. As early as February 15, during the fighting in N’Djamena, Giscard declared in a press conference, “It is necessary to find a very decentralized, or even federal structure for the Chadian state, so that each of its communities can manage its own affairs.”31 Similar statements by other French officials, combined with the movement towards a de facto partition between North and South, led to a feeling among 27

28 29 30 31

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 101/1, CMIDOM, “L’Affaire tchadienne: Chronologie succincte: 2ème partie – de 1960 à 1978,” Année 1979, undated 1980, p. 4. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, Letter from Goukouni to Dallier, 29.03.1979. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, Note, “a/s: Emissaires tchadiens,” 29.03.1979, pp. 1–2. Ibid., p. 7. Cited in Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 15 above, p. 121.

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Habré, Goukouni, and their supporters that Chad’s very existence as a unitary state was in jeopardy. Togoï told Stirn that anything other than a centralized state would encourage anarchy and facilitate interventions by neighboring powers.32 To Galley, he voiced Habré’s apparent concern that the French idea of a “federal” option would result in a “balkanization” of the country, with its various prefectures becoming little more than satellites of other states.33 Kougou made the same point, adding that the word “federal” should be “exorcised” from the vocabulary of French policymakers, since it had a magical power to encourage secessionist tendencies in the South.34 Both the FAP and FAN leaderships strongly desired to continue Chad’s close association with France. Kougou succinctly argued: Our “militant” past allows us to say two things: that the situation has totally changed and that we must have a realistic approach; and that today Chad must not change its partner. Even though we denounced French policy in the past, we know that Chad needs the support and assistance of France and are convinced that our problems cannot be resolved without her.35

This may have seemed ironic to French policymakers, especially given that Goukouni had spent the previous decade fighting the French army and its local allies. Both Goukouni and Habré were also responsible for the kidnapping and execution of Pierre Galopin. In this case, Habré and Goukouni’s new pro-French attitude partly stemmed from perceptions that Libya posed a much greater threat to their hold on power. The Libyan threat, as well as Libya’s occupation of the Aozou Strip, emerged as a constant theme in FAP and FAN communications with French officials over the next several months. Furthermore, a federal structure implying a more autonomous South risked excluding the rest of Chad from the resources of the wealthiest part of the country. Ultimately, Chadian pressure persuaded Giscard to

32 33

34 35

MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, Note, “a/s: Emissaires tchadiens,” 29.03.1979, p. 2. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/2/3bis, “Ventilation du compte rendu des entretiens du ministre avec M. Kerim Togoï et MM. Maina Touka et Adoum Kougou,” 05.04.1979, p. 3. Ibid., p. 6. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, Note, “a/s: Emissaires tchadiens,” 29.03.1979, p. 6.

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postpone a full withdrawal until the complete formation of the provisional government.36 The Nigerian military presence constituted another worry for the two main northern factions. Habré complained that Nigerian forces, under Colonel Magoro, had effectively taken over N’Djamena and had even started issuing orders to the provisional authorities. The planned demilitarization of the capital would essentially, in his view, leave the new government powerless at the hands of the Nigerians.37 Togoï also expressed these fears in his conversation with Galley and explained that all the Chadian factions had begun to worry about Nigeria’s ultimate intentions.38 Throughout the next weeks, both the FAP and FAN would frequently complain about Nigerian troop behavior, often accusing them of various abuses, particularly pillaging local property. Dallier later wrote that the FAN and FAP leaders had exaggerated, perhaps to undermine Nigerian authority. After the first few days, when some Nigerian soldiers did mistreat local people, their leadership rapidly imposed discipline. Over the next few months, the 800 Nigerian soldiers, in Dallier’s words, “did honor to their country through their discipline, their appearance, the maintenance of their equipment, and their behavior.”39 On the other hand, their commander, Colonel Magoro, alienated local authorities and treated them, particularly the faction leaders, as if he ran an occupied city.40 In any event, the real or perceived nature of the Nigerian military presence served as a pretext for both FAN and FAP forces to remain in N’Djamena, despite Kano’s clauses demilitarizing the capital. FAT troops, on the other hand, left the city, reinforcing the general process of partition that seemed to afflict the country.41 36 37 38

39 40 41

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 67, Note pour le Ministre, “A/S: Situation au Tchad,” 08.05.1979, p. 1. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “A/S: Attitude des forces nigérianes,” 26.03.1979. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/2/3bis, “Ventilation du compte rendu des entretiens du ministre avec M. Kerim Togoï et MM. Maina Touka et Adoum Kougou,” 05.04.1979, p. 1. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “Troupes nigérianes,” 28.08.1979. Ibid. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 2 pour la période du 1er février au 31 mars 1979,” undated, April 1979, p. 20.

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Although the four factions present at Kano I had begun to form a provisional government, Nigerian authorities decided it should have a broader base to include other armed groups. Thus, on April 1 began a second conference in Kano, in which five other factions joined the four Kano I signatories. This effort to broaden the scope of the peace talks provoked stiff opposition from both Goukouni and Habré. Before the conference began they, along with Kamougué and Abderahmane, had agreed they would not negotiate with the other faction leaders, particularly those linked to Libya, such as the arméee Volcan leader Ahmat Acyl.42 Goukouni’s pretext was that the 1978 Frolinat decision to unify its forces behind him meant that the FAP alone represented the movement as a whole. Thus, he refused to recognize the legitimacy of any nonsignatory faction.43 Furthermore, some of the faction leaders represented little more than a handful of armed men. For instance Abba Siddick represented no more than himself, yet his Libyan allies, with apparent Nigerian acquiescence, had given him a seat at the table on equal standing with everyone else. Even the other factions present wrangled with each other over the extent of their representativeness. Both Acyl and Abdoulaye Adoum Dana disputed the appellation “Volcan” for their respective forces. Acyl conceded the argument and renamed his armed group the Conseil démocratique révolutionnaire (CDR). Though Adoum Dana managed to get recognition as the leader of the Volcan force, in reality he had become something of a “general without an army,” much like Siddick and Hadjéro Senoussi, a relatively unknown former Sudanese officer and Frolinat leader from the 1960s. Apart from Acyl then, only Mahamat Abba Seïd, the nominal leader of the ineffectual but still functioning 1st Army in eastern Chad, had any serious claim to armed forces backing his position at the negotiating table.44 These different faction heads wanted to sign the Kano agreement to participate in the formation of the new unity government. However, according to the agreement, new signatories had to receive recognition as legitimate “tendances” (movements) by the original signatory parties.45 Clearly neither Goukouni nor Habré would accept this dilution of their authority, particularly as it came under the auspices of 42 44 45

43 Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 2 above, p. 89. Ibid. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 15 above, p. 148. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, “Accord de Kano sur la réconciliation nationale au Tchad,” Article 9.

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Libya and Nigeria. The intransigence of the FAP and FAN leaders infuriated Nigerian officials, who began to see French authorities as partly responsible.46 This led Nigerian authorities, in collaboration with the Libyan delegation, to exclude Habré and Goukouni from the negotiations. Soon, Kamougué and Abderahmane yielded to Libyan and Nigerian pressure (or their own interests). They agreed to break their previous understanding with Habré and Goukouni and begin negotiations with the new “tendances.”47 President Ahidjo later claimed this represented a Nigerian and Libyan effort to exclude the FAP and FAN from the new transitional government. Since the FAP and FAN controlled N’Djamena, the new government would sit in the southern city of Moundou until the Chadian capital could be cleared. Ahidjo even claimed that Libyan officials had begun supplying weapons to southerners via the Central African Empire,48 an allegation that would later prove correct.49 In response, on the night of April 6–7, Habré and Goukouni hatched a plan that Dallier later described as “cleverly conceived and remarkably executed.”50 Claiming the Nigerians had placed them under house arrest, they smuggled out several envoys to make their way overland through Cameroon to N’Djamena. Once there, they informed the FAN and FAP military leadership of the situation. In response, on April 8 the FAP and FAN handed Colonel Magoro an ultimatum. Either he and his men would relinquish control of the airport and the ferry over the Chari River, or his troops would come under attack. These two locations were the Nigerians’ only sources of resupply and reinforcement. Given their material and numerical disadvantage, Magoro was forced to practically surrender control of the city. The Nigerian government was then informed that the survival of their 46 47 48 49

50

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Plattard to Paris, “Deuxième conférence de Kano,” 05.04.1979, p. 2. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 3 pour la période du 1er au 30 avril 1979,” 15.05.1979, p. 5. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, Letter from Dubois to Journiac, No subject, 19.04.1979, pp. 1–2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 101/1, CMIDOM, “L’Affaire tchadienne: Chronologie succincte: 2ème partie – de 1960 à 1978,” Année 1979, undated 1980, p. 5. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5,“Synthèse n. 3 pour la période du 1er au 30 avril 1979,” 15.05.1979, p. 6.

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troops depended on Habré and Goukouni’s release and a halt to the creation of a separate transitional government.51 Dallier later described this dramatic act as “what one could call a coup d’état, if the state still existed.”52 Nigerian officials were forced to acquiesce. Kano II thus ended in failure. Nevertheless, all the factions did agree to mandate a factfinding commission charged with examining the relative strength and positions of the various factions. This represented an effort to respond to charges by Habré and Goukouni that many of the “tendances” present at Kano II did not actually control any territory.53 Upon their return to N’Djamena, Habré and Goukouni were welcomed back as heroes by their supporters. On the other hand, the MPLT arrested its leader Abderahmane on arrival, accusing him of treason for switching sides. Held in prison for a time, he later escaped and made his way to Nigeria.54 Meanwhile, Nigerian officials were outraged by the threats to their troops. General Danjuma, the Nigerian Army chief of staff, and number three in the Nigerian regime, accused France of responsibility for what had happened. He told Plattard that Colonel Magoro had evidence of French support for FAN and FAP forces, and that this significantly undermined the Nigerian mission in the country. Moreover, Danjuma stated that any Chadian government that did not include all the other factions would be unacceptable.55 This fear had already begun to materialize. On April 17 the Kano I signatories agreed to form a provisional government on their own. This “N’Djamena Accord” followed most of the Kano I provisions. It consisted of an “Action Program” stipulating the creation of a unified army and the organization of elections. In the meantime, the factional 51 52 53 54

55

Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 42 above, pp. 90–92. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 3 pour la période du 1er au 30 avril 1979,” 15.05.1979, p. 6. Yar’Adua Papers, Folder 303.482, “Resumed Conference on the Chadian Crisis: Bagauda Lake Hotel, April 10, 1979,” Closing Remarks, 10.04.1979. p. 2. Contemporary French accounts say that he was brutally assassinated, but Goukouni claimed he escaped from prison. In any case, he was sufficiently alive to sign the Lagos Accord in August, 1979. See Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 2 above, p. 92, and Yar’Adua Papers, Folder 303.69, “Lagos Accord on National Reconciliation in Chad,” 18.08.1979. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Plattard to Paris, “Tchad,” 23.04.1979, pp. 2–3.

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leaderships began negotiating over the formation of a new Gouvernement d’union nationale de transition (GUNT), which aimed to maintain an appropriate “geopolitical balance.”56 Nonetheless, this “balance” was strongly mitigated by the fact that only one of the four factions, the FAT, “represented” the South. Kamougué signed on behalf of the FAT, despite his alignment with the Nigerian-Libyan position at Kano II. Unlike Abderahmane, though, he had the backing of his own movement and remained at its head. Shortly after signing, Kamougué left N’Djamena, ostensibly to rally southern opinion to the GUNT’s cause.57 However, the plane meant to carry him back to N’Djamena on April 23 arrived without him. Simultaneously, a Libyan aircraft landed in the southern city of Moundou. French, FAN, and FAP representatives all interpreted this as a sign Kamougué had chosen to switch sides. Dallier even qualified the move as “secessionist.”58 Kamougué’s “defection” only increased French worries about the GUNT’s legitimacy. Christian Dutheil de La Rochère, director of the Quai’s West Africa division, noted the country was “cut in two,” and observed that some southern elites began calling for secession.59 He warned that Libyan officials had also become interested in the South, where they saw an opportunity to support the southerners against the anti-Libyan forces of Goukouni and Habré.60 This raised the difficult question of what France could do. Tacaud’s original mission had now become somewhat superfluous. Although Libya still posed a threat via its support to Acyl’s forces, N’Djamena was no longer in danger. Instead French forces had let the FAP into the city, where they helped the FAN defeat the former government. The capital was ethnically cleansed, and the French had done nothing to prevent it. This obviously encouraged various actors, particularly in the South and in Nigeria, to accuse the French military of complicity with the northern rebels. 56 57 58 59 60

MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, “Accord de N’Djamena: Programme d’Action,” 17.04.1979, Article IV.1. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 3 pour la période du 1er au 30 avril 1979,” 15.05.1979, p. 9. Ibid. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, Note pour le Ministre, “a/s: Dégradation de la situation au Tchad,” 25.04.1979, pp. 1–2. Ibid. 2.

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In such a deteriorating political environment, what strategy should the French adopt? There was little agreement about this, and debates over Tacaud’s mission would characterize French decision-making over the following year. Despite Giscard’s March announcement of his intention to withdraw, the provisional Chadian government, dominated by the northern factions, had requested that Tacaud remain in place. La Rochère cautioned though that the provisional government created by the N’Djamena agreement represented little more than “a northern majority flanked by some non-representative southerners.”61 Any future government should have, in his view, more solid foundations. At the same time, it remained important to maintain good relations with the northern factions, particularly given the threat posed by Libyan ambitions. Nonetheless, France should not, in La Rochère’s view, repeat the mistake of the previous two decades of exclusively supporting a minority in power. In this vein, French officials needed to reestablish open communication with southern representatives. Southern elites had lost everything in N’Djamena and felt deeply betrayed by French “neutrality.” They also feared Tacaud would actively assist a northern attempt to conquer the South. La Rochère urged his superiors in the Quai and in the Elysée to remember that: We must not deceive ourselves, it’s in the South where the populations are the closest to us (religion, education, etc. . .), there lies Chad’s current wealth (cotton) and certainly oil as well. It’s also these populations which have the sympathy of our traditional friends, even the Muslim ones like Ahidjo or Kountché [the Nigerien president].62

La Rochère wrote that despite the rancor and the criticisms of those “who only know Africa through ideological prisms – which is the case with Libya or Nigeria,” all Chadians wished the French to remain in Chad, including militarily. No one else, in La Rochère’s view, could help the country stand on its feet again. He argued though that France must develop a coherent policy towards all the parties to the conflict. French officials should assure the northern factions of French support against Libyan intervention, and assure the southern factions that they would not have to fear a northern invasion. La Rochère concluded:

61

Ibid., p. 3.

62

Ibid., p. 4.

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Our interests command us to not lose hope and to persevere. Our action in Chad constitutes a test of our credibility in Africa. If we succeed in Chad, we will have strengthened the keystone of francophone Africa. A failure, on the other hand, would mean the onset of gangrene.63

While La Rochère’s proposals made some sense, the FAN-FAP coalition rested more on an immediate commonality of interests than any kind of long-term alliance. Furthermore, the ethnic composition of both movements, principally Tubu, only represented a fraction of the northern population, despite their military predominance. For instance, contemporary French estimates put the Chadian Tubu at only 120,000 people64 out of a total Chadian population of roughly 4 million.65 The presence of token southern representation could do little to widen the GUNT’s broader appeal. Thus even had French policymakers offered guarantees against Libya, it would not have mitigated internal tensions, a conflict that French officials had little power to significantly influence. Furthermore, the feeling among southern elites that France had betrayed them seriously hurt French credibility. This made it difficult for French officials to open any sort of substantial dialogue with southern leaders, much less make credible promises of support against northern aggression. In short, French policymakers had lost their ability to influence the situation long before they seemed to realize it themselves.

Indecision and Stalemate On April 29 the four N’Djamena factions, with General Djogo, the former Chadian Army chief of staff, taking the place of Kamougué as the nominal FAT representative, announced the composition of the GUNT. While all agreed that the newly created post of vice-president should go to the FAT, neither Habré nor Goukouni could readily accept the other as president. Thus while Djogo took Kamougué’s spot

63 64 65

Ibid., p. 5. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 67, Note, “Les Toubous” undated, September 1976, see attached table. World Bank, “Republic of Chad Economic Memorandum,” World Bank, West African Region, 1977, p. 1.

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as vice-president, the FAN and FAP found a compromise candidate for president in the person of Lol Mahamat Choua. Lol was unknown to most Chadians, and French observers knew little about him. Goukouni later claimed he had never heard of Lol before, but since he was not Hissène Habré, he accepted the idea.66 Although Lol belonged to the MPLT, he also had links to Habré since he headed the FAN’s civil administration in parts of N’Djamena during and after the February fighting.67 This may explain Habré’s acquiescence. Meanwhile, Habré became minister of defense, and Goukouni minister of the interior in the new government. Lol would become little more than a figurehead among competing personalities and factions. It was obvious from the beginning though that this was a peculiar kind of unity government. Since the February fighting and the mass evacuation of N’Djamena, the South had begun to organize its own autonomous administration. Civil servants and businessmen, as well as other elites, formed committees in each prefecture to assess the situation and attempt to maintain public services.68 On April 30, officials representing the five southern prefectures signed an open letter attacking the GUNT’s legitimacy, which, in their minds, violated the Kano accords. They had multiple grievances against the FAN and FAP. These included accusations they had not respected the cease-fire, they had not demilitarized the capital, they continued to broadcast their own propaganda over national radio, and they had not released their southern prisoners. Furthermore, their refusal to open the Kano Accord to other factions indicated, in the eyes of southern representatives, that the FAN and FAP leaderships had little interest in a final peace settlement. Additionally, FAN and FAP officials had systematically impeded the work of the commission established by Kano II to assess the importance of the nonsignatory factions. These grievances, combined with the impossibility for southerners to return to the capital in large numbers, due to the destruction and theft of much of their property and physical threats, led southern leaders to refuse to join the GUNT.69 66 67 68 69

Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 2 above, p. 92. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 15 above, p. 134. Bernard Lanne, “Le sud du Tchad dans la guerre civile (1979–1980),” Politique Africaine, Septembre 1981, No. 3 (1981), p. 81. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, “Mise au point des populations et cadres du sud du Tchad,” 30.04.1979.

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Habré’s presence in the new government also seriously concerned southern leaders. He was viewed as largely responsible for the massacres of southerners in N’Djamena and elsewhere. Moreover, the Kano I Accord required Habré to resign from office. His continued presence in government appeared to be a breach of faith. In light of the GUNT’s lack of legitimacy, southern cadres requested that a third conference, including all factions, be held to reach a more lasting and sustainable peace agreement.70 Despite this, French officials briefly greeted the GUNT positively. On May 2, Georgy wrote that it augured well for the future, although he still worried about its true level of representativeness.71 It had already become clear that the effective absence of the South undermined its legitimacy. Apart from Djogo and a handful of others, southern elites massively disassociated themselves from the GUNT. Most of Chad’s neighbors did as well. In addition to Nigeria and Libya, the governments of Sudan, Cameroon, and Niger hesitated to recognize the new entity.72 In reaction to the events in N’Djamena and the threats to their troops, in mid-April the Nigerian government imposed an embargo on Chad. Most importantly, this cut Chad off from 85 percent of its oil and gas imports.73 This embargo would, in the following months, cripple the country’s already failing economy. Colonel Magoro’s secretary told French ambassador to Chad Louis Dallier that the embargo not only aimed to put pressure on the GUNT, but also to punish the French for their supposed role in facilitating FAP and FAN moves against Nigerian forces.74 Fuel scarcity could affect the ability of French forces to effectively function. Dallier wrote that if the embargo did not soon end, “Tacaud units would be stuck on the ground and unable to move.”75 N’Djamena’s electric power plant would soon cease operations and the capital would lose access to water 70 71 72 73 74 75

Ibid. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 67, Note pour le Ministre, “a/s: Sur le Tchad,” 02.05.1979, p. 1. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 67, Note pour le Ministre, “A/S: Situation au Tchad,” 08.05.1979, p. 1. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 4 pour la période du 1er mai au 30 juin 1979,” 07.07.1979, p. 8. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “A/S: Arrêt des livraisons de carburant,” 04.05.1979. Ibid.

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and electricity. Already some industrial activity in the South shut down due to lack of fuel.76 As La Rochère foresaw, the local and regional political configuration placed France in a delicate position. Georgy noted the GUNT acted as the legitimate government and made continual requests for French logistical support. Djogo visited Paris, where he met high-level French officials, including Giscard himself. Georgy warned that all the other factions and interested countries would view any particularly responsive attitude towards the GUNT as clear evidence of support for the FAN-FAP coalition. On the other hand, any ambiguous relationship would, in his eyes, also favor Libyan propaganda and the nonsignatory factions.77 He asked Plattard to make it clear to his Nigerian interlocutors that France did not support any particular faction and still fully supported the Kano I Accord. At the same time it was impossible to ignore the fact that the FAP and FAN effectively controlled over two-thirds of Chadian territory, and all parties needed to take this into consideration. Georgy admitted, though, that French officials, at least in the Quai, knew that Habré presented an obstacle to peacemaking.78 On May 11, Plattard met Nigerian vice-president Yar’Adua and Colonel Magoro. Yar’Adua observed that Habré’s violation of the Kano Accord and his position of strength within the GUNT had met with no protest from French authorities. It seemed that French officials not only approved of Habré’s presence, but even provided him with supplies. The rapid formation of the GUNT in April also represented a sure indicator of French complicity. For Nigerian officials, Djogo’s visit to Paris and his subsequent meeting with Giscard confirmed this perception. Yar’Adua insisted that the French could no longer claim to maintain their support for Kano I while giving moral and material backing to Habré and his allies.79 While questions remain about the nature and extent of unofficial French relations, and even support, for Habré, French officials 76 77 78 79

Ibid. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Georgy to Plattard, “Gouvernement provisoire du Tchad,” 09.05.1979, p. 2. Ibid. p. 2–3. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Plattard to Paris, “Tchad – entretien avec le Général Yar’Adua,” 11.05.1979, pp. 2–3.

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themselves seemed unsure of their own position. On the one hand, and contrary to General Danjuma’s accusations of French complicity in FAN and FAP threats against Nigerian troops, Dallier and Forest both greatly feared the prospect of renewed fighting in the capital. On April 8, they both intervened energetically with the FAN and FAP military commanders to urge restraint as the two factions threatened Nigerian troops in the city. Dallier claimed to Paris that their coordinated efforts alone had averted a bloodbath.80 Nonetheless, Dallier shared Nigerian suspicions of the political orientation of the French army. He noted that the FAN had done everything to maintain good relations with General Forest and Tacaud. Habré also made no secret of this fact to outside observers, particularly the Nigerians.81 Dallier himself thought the good feeling was mutual. As the situation deteriorated in April, he became increasingly convinced that Forest’s behavior violated France’s claim to neutrality. In doing so, Forest helped sabotage Franco-Nigerian rapprochement by bringing Nigerian interests into line with Libya’s. In early May during one of Forest’s visits to France, Dallier wrote a letter to La Rochère outlining his complaints. This letter is worth citing at length as it illustrates the lack of coordination and coherence among French policymakers: Generals Bredèche and Forest can congratulate themselves on the success of their policy: Libya and Nigeria are now making common cause to throw us out of Chad! [. . .] If we want to get out of this quagmire, it is urgent, extremely urgent: 1) To not let Forest return to N’Djamena. Nigeria is right in accusing him of delivering N’Djamena to Hissène Habré, and of looking to expel the Neutral Force. The support he brings and the links that he and his officers have displayed with Hissène and the FAN have prevented Goukouni from reacting to Hissène and his clique’s relentless pursuit of power. You’ll get nothing from Nigeria as long as Forest commands Tacaud. You’ll have no rapprochement with the South as long as you don’t replace him. 2) To energetically intervene with [Nigerien president] Kountché and other heads of state to prevent them from falling into the Libyan-Nigerian basket and do not attend a third Kano conference at the beginning of 80 81

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “A/S: Déclarations du Général Danjuma,” 24.04.1979, p. 2. Ibid. 2.

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May. They would sanctify the division of Chad into two zones of influence, Libyan in the North, Nigerian in the South. If we lose time, Khaddafi [sic] and Obasanjo [..] will soon succeed. We will have nothing left to do but pack our bags.82

Indeed, the growing concordance of views between Lagos and Tripoli seemed ominous to French policymakers. Predictably, Libyan officials echoed Nigerian accusations. Following Kano II the Libyan foreign minister, Ali Triki, denounced French “connivance” with Habré’s forces. He also indicated a convergence of views between Libya and Nigeria and insisted on tripartite consultations on the Chadian issue. This surprised Jean-Pierre Cabouat, the French ambassador in Tripoli, since just the previous month the Libyans had expressed much hesitation over the increased Nigerian role in the country.83 French officials found the idea of an entente between Libyan and Nigerian authorities disturbing. One of the motivations for encouraging Nigerian participation in Chadian peacemaking was to minimize Libyan influence. Instead, the rapprochement between Nigeria and Libya helped isolate the French position in Chad. The variety of actors accusing the French army of undue partiality towards Habré seem to make a damning case that French efforts at reconciliation were undermined by its own military. Nonetheless, it is possible that to some extent this perception originated with Habré himself. From the outbreak of the February fighting, Forest did not actually meet with Habré until late April. His account of the meeting to Paris emphasized Habré’s insistence on the need for a continued French presence, as well as requests for logistical support to FAP forces in northern Chad to resist possible Libyan advances. Forest characterized Habré’s attitude as “very friendly and very relaxed – he was clearly looking to present himself as France’s best friend currently in 82

83

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, Handwritten note from Dallier to La Rochère, 06.05.1979. Also cited in Romain Esmenjaud, “L’Africanisation et l’appropriation africaine des opérations de paix: étude politique et historique à travers les missions africaines au Tchad (1979–1982), en République centrafricaine (1997 à nos jours) et au Darfour (2004 à nos jours),” Ph.D. Dissertation, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, 2012, p. 136. Many thanks go to Romain Esmenjaud for his help in deciphering Dallier’s difficult handwriting. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Cabouat to Paris, “Tchad,” 18.04.1979, pp. 2–3.

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Chad.”84 As this mimicked Habré’s public attitude, it seems likely that outside observers, including those within the French government, viewed relations as a bit too cozy. Additionally, at times and at more junior levels, FAN cooperation with Tacaud was quite close. Tonquédec’s later observations on the “brotherhood of arms” linking the French rank-and-file with FAN combatants, especially during the Abéché fighting, supports this view.85 Thus, while Forest may not have deliberately privileged the FAN, the visibly close relations between French troops and FAN combatants could only have reinforced rumors of higher-level collaboration. Nonetheless, deliberate support for Habré did not represent French policy at its highest echelons. Giscard’s controversial meeting with Djogo was in fact no more than a courtesy call. Djogo briefly outlined his views on the crisis, which included assurances that the GUNT would respect the Kano Accord and prepare the ground for future elections. Giscard merely repeated banalities on the altruistic nature of French assistance and its military presence in Chad, which was maintained, “only through friendship for the Chadian people.”86 Nonetheless, the reception of Djogo’s delegation by French officials at various levels sent mixed signals about the French position. For Yar’Adua, this meeting clearly indicated that France “no longer hesitated in hiding its sympathies.”87 The biggest problem for French diplomats and military officials was that Giscard’s policy of “neutrality” encountered the classic dilemma of neutrality in a civil war context: it tends to benefit one side over another. Georgy captured this quandary well when noting: The fundamental problem for France today is the following: in the eyes of almost all the protagonists – except the northerners, which reinforces the

84 85 86

87

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, telegram from Forest to Paris “Entretien avec Hissène Habré,” 21.04.1979. Pierre de Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi: Opération Tacaud, Tchad 1978–1980 (Paris: Editions Soteca, 2012), p. 54. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/2/3bis, “Compte-rendu de l’entretien entre M. le Président de la République et le Général Djogo, Vice-Président du Gouvernement Tchadien,” 11.05.1979, p. 2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Plattard to Paris, “Tchad – entretien avec le Général Yar’Adua,” 11.05.1979, p. 3.

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general feeling – our neutrality has turned into an active complicity in favor of Hissein Habré [sic]. Because of this, our policy today should only have one goal–: to escape ambiguity and actively favor a rebalancing in the country, without hiding behind an entirely theoretical attitude of neutrality which transforms our commitment in Chad into an extremely dangerous quagmire.88

Actively working towards such a “rebalancing,” though, had become extremely difficult, if not impossible. In early May 1979, the GUNT launched a military offensive against the South. On May 7, a combined force of FAP, FAN, and MPLT combatants occupied the southern town of Bongor in the Mayo-Kebbi prefecture. They aimed to cut off southern communications and supply routes through Cameroon. The movement of predominantly northern forces into the southern prefectures crystallized already strongly held anti-French sentiment. Many southerners suspected French forces of providing logistical support to facilitate the invasion. This led to threats against the still substantial numbers of French expatriates living in southern cities, particularly in Sarh and Moundou. Local commanders even briefly held several French aid workers hostage in Sarh before agreeing to their release.89 On May 10, southern elites, responding in part to the northern invasion, named Kamougué president of a “Comité permanent,” composed of ten members, charged with running the southern administration in the absence of a Chadian state.90 This newfound southern unity help stiffen the backbone of southern troops, who managed to repulse the northern invaders by the end of the month. Kamougué also received assistance from Libya in the form of the air transport of 200 of Acyl’s CDR combatants in support of southern operations.91 This followed Kamougué’s visit to Tripoli in early May where, according to French sources, Gaddafi promised arms and supplies to support his fight against the GUNT.92 88 89 90 91 92

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 67, Note pour le Ministre, “A/S: Situation au Tchad,” 15.05.1979, p. 4. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 4 pour la période du 1er mai au 30 juin 1979,” 07.07.1979, pp. 6–7. Lanne, “Le sud du Tchad,” note 68 above, pp. 81–82. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 4 pour la période du 1er mai au 30 juin 1979,” 07.07.1979, p. 7. Ibid., p. 18.

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On May 15, Forest extracted a promise from Habré not to renew his offensive in the South.93 Goukouni later claimed that the FAN abandonment of the GUNT mixed units contributed to their eventual defeat at the hands of Kamougué’s forces.94 Other factors such as the start of the rainy season, the unfamiliar climate, and improved cohesion among southern units also played a significant role in the GUNT setback.95 Some GUNT units were even pushed into Cameroon, where they were disarmed,96 though not before committing numerous abuses against various southern communities.97 This setback was compounded by the GUNT’s failure to secure outside recognition. General Djogo led a delegation to the FrancoAfrican Summit in Rwanda on May 21. After Rwandan authorities snubbed Djogo’s party, he only managed to contact Ivoirian President Houphouët-Boigny. Houphouët told Djogo that, at the instigation of Nigerien President Seyni Kountché, the conference decided to exclude Chad from its proceedings under the pretext that the GUNT had violated the Kano I Accord. Djogo’s delegation claimed that, given Kountché’s closeness to both Nigeria and Libya, this move must have come at their behest.98 Indeed, Nigerian and Libyan officials informed their French interlocutors they considered Chadian participation at the Franco-African Summit unacceptable.99 The growing French isolation on the Chadian issue contributed to their hesitation in pushing for some level of recognition for the GUNT at the conference. This infuriated Dallier, who also saw Libyan pressure behind the decision of the other Francophone states to refuse recognition. He wrote, “It would be

93 94 95 96 97 98 99

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, telegram from Forest to Paris, No subject, 15.05.1979. Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 2 above, p. 93. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 4 pour la période du 1er mai au 30 juin 1979,” 07.07.1979, p. 7. Lanne, “Le sud du Tchad,” note 68 above, p. 81. Goukouni later admitted this: see Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 2 above, p. 93. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 3, “Compte rendu sur le voyage de la délégation tchadienne à Kigali,” 23.05.1979, pp. 2–3. See: MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Plattard to Paris, “Tchad – entretien avec le Général Yar’Adua,” 11.05.1979, pp. 4–5, and Carton 77, telegram from Cabouat to Paris, “Tchad,” 16.05.1979, p. 1.

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imprudent to allow the current leaders of this country to turn towards other protectors [. . .] it seems indispensable to me to provide a tangible gesture of our desire to continue our cooperation.”100 The FAN’s ambiguous stance and French pressure for restraint in the South, combined with the GUNT’s exclusion from the Kigali conference, now led several FAP leaders to accuse the French of abandonment. Forest reported that FAP leaders had begun to openly speak of withdrawing from the GUNT and renewing their old alliance with Libya. Some even told their subordinates that, “they had made a mistake in not continuing the fight against the French.”101 Forest warned Paris that even if this represented a form of blackmail, French authorities should not take these threats lightly. He cautioned, “The current indecisiveness saps daily the remaining credit we have here – Chad could unify against us with the blessing of Lagos and Tripoli.”102 Despite the bad blood between General Forest and Dallier, both developed similar analyses of the French position. They both worried that French policy had alienated nearly all of Chad’s factions, as well as neighboring governments. While Dallier saw Forest’s alleged friendliness with the FAN as one of the root causes of this problem, he still advocated for more robust ties to the GUNT as a whole, a policy that in the eyes of observers from Libya and Nigeria, as well as those of the other Chadian factions, meant the same thing. This context of indecision marked the opening of a third conference, this time in Lagos. General Yar’Adua warned the French chargé in Lagos, Yves Robin, that this would be the last conference Nigeria would organize, and that it represented the “last chance” for a settlement.103 Yar’Adua again insisted that French authorities cease their apparent support for Habré. He explained that a high-level Nigerian mission in N’Djamena had returned convinced that both N’Djamena and the GUNT were under Habré’s effective control. He told Robin 100

101 102 103

FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/2/2, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “A/S: Conférence de Kigali,” undated, 05.1979, also cited in Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 85 above, p. 60. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, telegram from Forest to General Méry, “Attitude du Frolinat,” 23.05.1979. Ibid. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Robin to Paris, “Le Nigeria et le Tchad,” 24.05.1979, p. 1.

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that only French support could fully explain the FAN leader’s intransigence and refusal to compromise. Only a French decision to remove their support from Habré could bring him to reason. The Nigerian vice-president reminded Robin that it was France who had initially invited Nigeria to assist with peacemaking there. In response, Nigeria had put its credibility on the line, as well as military and financial commitments that its authorities could have used more fruitfully elsewhere. If the Lagos conference failed, Nigeria “would wash its hands of this affair.”104 According to Yar’Adua, most members of the Federal Military Government had begun to think that France had deliberately dragged Nigeria into Chad to undermine its regional authority, and he hoped that French officials would prove them wrong.105 The Lagos conference opened on May 25. As the GUNT factions refused to attend, it seemed clear from the beginning it would accomplish little. During the first two days, delegates from Chad’s neighboring countries met in closed sessions. Yar’Adua told the delegations that neither the fact-finding mission created under Kano II nor the Nigerian “neutral force” could fulfill their mandates. He repeated earlier accusations that the GUNT’s formation both violated Kano I and lacked broad-based legitimacy. Furthermore, he denounced the French “intrusion into the crisis, and the new dimension added to the situation by French support for the factions now in control of N’Djamena, particularly the Habré faction.”106 For Yar’Adua, the GUNT itself seemed paralyzed from within, as its president, Lol Mahamat Choua, “was only a cover for Habré, and he had no effective control of either the government or the Third Army.”107 Colonel Magoro then presented the delegations with his own reports pertaining to the Nigerian neutral force and the fact-finding mission. He accused the GUNT of deliberate efforts to undermine the force’s mission. GUNT forces had taken control of the airport and prevented Nigerian reinforcements from arriving. Magoro particularly pointed his finger at Habré as obstructing both the neutral force and the factfinding mission.108 104 106

107

105 Ibid., pp. 2–3. Ibid., p. 3. Yar’Adua Papers, Folder CHA 303.69, “Official Report on the Third Conference on the Situation in Chad Held in Lagos Nigeria, 25–27 May, 1979,” undated 1979, p. 4. 108 Ibid. Ibid., p. 5.

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The mission also accused Habré of impeding its work. Its official report, signed by all its commissioners from the participating states, Nigeria, Niger, Sudan, and Cameroon, noted that after spending 44 days in N’Djamena, and meeting with high-level GUNT officials at least seven times, it could not carry out its mandate. On one occasion, Lol and Djogo told the mission it could not visit Abéché because of “security problems.”109 In Magoro’s view, this merely confirmed the accuracy of claims by Acyl, Dana, and others that large amounts of territory actually did fall under their control.110 The following day, the non-GUNT factions (absent Kamougué’s representatives) met in the presence of the country delegations. In a joint communiqué, they stated their opposition to the GUNT and their intention to continue the war. They also “underlined the danger to peace and stability in Chad which the French intervention represented.”111 The conference ended on May 27 with a communiqué by the country delegations demanding the GUNT dissolve itself and open negotiations with all factions to form a new transitional authority. In an obvious barb aimed at France, the communiqué “noted with dismay the element of foreign involvement which had the effect of internationalising and further complicating an otherwise soluble domestic problem.”112 The Lagos participants issued an ultimatum, warning that if, “by the 25th of June, 1979, the various factions in Chad failed to reach an accommodation [. . .] the participating countries will no longer feel that they have any moral obligation to continue their search for a just and lasting solution of the problem of Chad.”113 This very public denunciation provided the perfect excuse for the GUNT to formally demand the evacuation of the Nigerian force. On May 31, the GUNT handed Magoro a letter accusing the Nigerians of 109 110

111

112 113

Yar’Adua Papers, Folder CHA 303.69, “Report of the Fact Finding Commission,” 26.05.1979, p. 3. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Plattard to Paris, “Tchad – entretien avec le Général Yar’Adua,” 11.05.1979, p. 4. Yar’Adua Papers, Folder CHA 303.69, “Official Report on the Third Conference on the Situation in Chad Held in Lagos Nigeria, 25–27 May, 1979,” undated 1979, p. 6. Yar’Adua Papers, Folder CHA 303.69, “Joint Communiqué,” 27.05.1979, p. 3. Ibid., pp. 3–4.

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behaving as an army of occupation and demonstrating an attitude incompatible with Chadian sovereignty. Particularly, the ongoing embargo demonstrated that the GUNT could no longer consider Nigeria an acceptable mediation partner.114 On June 4, without ceremony, the Nigerian forces flew out of Chad. Meanwhile the fuel situation had considerably worsened. Forced to import all its fuel through Cameroon, Chad suffered significant reductions in supply. Partly this related to fuel shortages in northern Cameroon, linked to the embargo and the poor state of infrastructure in the country. Fuel truck rotations from the coastal regions to the Chadian border and back took three weeks, and the Cameroonian railway could not handle significant traffic. This led the Cameroonian government to restrict exports into Chad, thus worsening the situation. French officials did manage, however, to obtain small shipments for their own forces.115 For this and reasons linked to the originally stated French desire to begin a general withdrawal, Forest informed the GUNT he would withdraw French forces from Abéché. In the days following the announcement, the FAN organized large protests against the French withdrawal.116 However, Habré got Forest to agree to leave behind large quantities of ammunition for the FAN units.117 On May 29, French troops withdrew from Abéché, leaving the locality to FAN forces. In the meantime, the Nigerian withdrawal paved the way for armed confrontation within the GUNT itself. Within days, a faction of the MPLT split off from the main group, reclaiming the movement’s former name, the Forces armées occidentales (FAO). This faction, led by Moussa Medella, received significant FAP support. Over the course of the previous weeks, FAP leadership cadres had become increasingly suspicious of the MPLT, whom they variously perceived as receiving support from both Nigeria and the FAN.118 After their arrival in the 114 115

116 117 118

FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/2/2, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “Force neutre,” 01.06.1979. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Dubois to Paris, “A/S: Ravitaillement en carburant du Tchad,” 29.05.1979, p. 1. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 4 pour la période du 1er mai au 30 juin 1979,” 07.07.1979, p. 20. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, telegram from Forest to Paris, “Entretien avec le Ministre de la Défense,” 20.05.1979. Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 42 above, p. 93.

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capital in March, they quickly gained a reputation for their mistreatment of local and foreign populations.119 They also demonstrated a marked hostility towards the FAP, and had apparently killed several FAP combatants.120 This factional split rapidly degenerated into street battles on June 12 pitting the FAP and their new FAO allies against the MPLT. This fighting resulted in at least 200 dead, and the N’Djamena MPLT faction was virtually annihilated.121 While Habré remained neutral in the fighting, Buijtenhuijs later spoke to French military personnel who admitted they had provided some “indirect” support to FAP units, as they had often had problems with the MPLT.122 Goukouni claimed that this purge originated among the lower ranks of the FAP and had not resulted from a decision at the top. He claimed he even tried to prevent the fighting, and also saved the life of President Lol, who technically represented the MPLT.123 After the fighting, Medella apparently asked Goukouni to incorporate his movement into the FAP. Goukouni refused, explaining that such a move would destroy the GUNT’s fragile unity, as it needed the façade of four separate factions for purposes of legitimacy.124 In the South, June also saw the gradual advance of Kamougué’s consolidated forces towards N’Djamena. By the end of the month, his troops were located a bare 100 kilometers south of the capital.125 In the North, the GUNT’s position also came under serious threat. Two well-equipped columns of over 600 men each, led by Acyl, entered Chad from Libya on June 25. Despite their material superiority, which included air support from Libyan Mirage fighter planes, Acyl’s units were once again cut to pieces, losing several hundred dead.126 Tonquédec later recounted that at Ounianga, a mere 119

120 121

122 124 125 126

see: MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 4 pour la période du 1er mai au 30 juin 1979,” 07.07.1979, p. 9, and Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 15 above, p. 146. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 15 above, p. 146. Ibid. In his memoirs, Medella only portrays this as an internal revolt against the MPLT’s military chief, Idriss Adoum Moustapha. See: Moussa Medella Youssouf, Pour le Tchad: Récit au cœur de la révolution (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2015), pp. 45–47. pp. 67–68. 123 Ibid. Goukouni, “Témoignage,”note 2 above, pp. 94–96. Ibid. pp. 95–96. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 4 pour la période du 1er mai au 30 juin 1979,” 07.07.1979, pp. 7–8. Ibid., pp. 11.

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13 FAP combatants held their positions against 150 of Acyl’s men.127 Despite this victory, the GUNT’s situation was deteriorating. Not only had it lost control of the South, but threats from Libya continued unabated while strains within the governing coalition itself had more than exposed its underlying fragility. Following the failure of the Lagos conference and the Nigerian retreat, the evolving situation again forced French policymakers to reassess their role in the country. Whereas Dallier, and Forest had both, despite personal disagreements, argued for a clearer French position on the GUNT, officials in the Foreign and Cooperation ministries now argued that France should reprise the role of mediator in place of failed regional efforts. In early June, officials from both ministries wrote a joint note proposing a renewal of France’s active role in peacemaking. In their view, neither northern nor southern factions had enough strength to impose themselves. The consequent stalemate and general exhaustion led many Chadians from different ethnic and political origins to push for dialogue and national reconciliation. At the same time, Nigerian involvement had utterly failed, and Libya’s interference only made a general settlement more difficult. Chad’s other neighbors had neither the means nor political will to play a substantial role. In the view of Quai and Cooperation officials, “The phase of looking for a solution by Africans themselves seems to have ended.”128 Consequently, the officials noted, “even the Chadians who have fought France for years are of the opinion” that France represented the “last chance for peace.” With this goal in mind, they advocated the organization of a round table away from the presence of neighboring powers who could negatively influence the proceedings. Meanwhile, French forces should help maintain basic infrastructure and services, particularly water and electricity. In addition to its humanitarian nature, it would also constitute an effective means of pressure on the GUNT to encourage a more conciliatory orientation.129 To this end, from June 10 to June 15, Georgy met the principal GUNT leaders, as well as Kamougué and other southern notables.130 127 128 129 130

Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 85 above, p. 63. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/2/3bis, DAM and Cooperation Ministry Note, “A/S du Tchad,” 06.06.1979, p. 1. Ibid, p. 2. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 4 pour la période du 1er mai au 30 juin 1979,” 07.07.1979, p. 21.

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He aimed to test the factional leaderships’ willingness to renew negotiations. GUNT leaders, as well as Kamougué, agreed in principle to a meeting including all the “tendances,” in which neighboring states would be admitted as simple observers. The meeting would look to reach a minimum consensus before a more formal and public conference to ratify the decisions and to define the modalities of the political transition.131 Contrary to the French prognostic, Chad’s neighbors did not share the opinion that African peacemaking efforts had reached a dead end. Despite Yar’Adua’s warning that the Lagos conference represented the “last chance” for regional peace efforts, in late June Nigerian president Obasanjo suggested another conference in the Nigerian capital. He also offered to lift the embargo if Chadian factions showed signs of cooperation. His suggestions came after consultations with Sudanese president Gafaar Nimeiry, and it was Sudanese officials who passed the message on to President Lol.132 Dallier reported that this offer surprised GUNT leaders. They had, along with Kamougué, already agreed to a conference among Chadians. Furthermore, the FAN, FAP, and southern leaderships had all previously rejected Lagos as well as Tripoli as possible locations for a new conference.133 Lol asked Dallier for advice on how to respond.134 Quai officials cabled Dallier to tell Lol that the Chadians could not really refuse the offer. Instead, they should make sure to request a date following the initial efforts to reach an internal consensus.135 In mid-July, La Rochère was quietly sent to Chad to contact various faction leaders, particularly Goukouni, Habré, and Kamougué. His mission aimed to convince them to meet in France before any major 131 132 133

134 135

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, telegram from Georgy to Dallier, “Perspectives de nouvelles négociations,” 26.06.1979, p. 1. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, telegram from Dallier to Georgy, “Conférence sur la réconciliation,” 29.06.1979. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “A/S: Proposition nigériane d’une nouvelle conférence,” 29.06.1979. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “A/S: Proposition nigériane,” 30.06.1979. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, telegram from La Rochère to Dallier, “Réponse du gouvernement tchadien au président Nimiery,” 30.06.1979, p. 2.

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conference to avoid the pitfalls of the kinds that public negotiations like Kano and Lagos had provoked. While not a substitute for a regional or “African” solution, it would form a basis for any future agreement.136 The GUNT factions quickly agreed, but southern leaders demurred. While Kamougué seemed favorable, the representatives of the Comité permanent objected to France as a meeting location. In their view, a meeting in France could provoke loud criticism within Africa, and a meeting in Chad would constitute a more politically acceptable option. While they preferred a meeting in the South, they also suggested the more centrally located town of Moussoro and requested that French forces provide security and transportation for the various delegations.137 French officials agreed to this proposal, although, rather than Moussoro, Dallier suggested Douguia, a former tourist hunting lodge situated 50 kilometers north of N’Djamena. French forces could easily secure this rather isolated site, and soon work began on rendering its buildings habitable.138 As the GUNT factions accepted the proposal, Kamougué again balked and insisted the meeting take place in Bongor, a southern city that the other factions were sure to reject.139 It quickly became clear that Kamougué had no interest in a preliminary meeting. Dallier soon received indications from the French Embassy in Tripoli that Kamougué had visited Libya on several occasions.140 Furthermore, French officials learned that the southern leader had met representatives of other non-GUNT factions, which seemed to explain his newfound intransigence.141 Meanwhile, during this period Kamougué’s forces had steadily advanced northwards towards N’Djamena. After defeating GUNT forces in June, Kamougué had, 136 137 138 139 140 141

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, DAM Note, “a/s: Mission à N’Djamena,” 10.07.1979, p. 3. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “A/S: Entretien avec le Colonel Kamougué,” 24.07.1979. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “A/S: Douguia,” 28.07.1979. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “Lieutenant-Colonel Kamougué,” 30.07.1979. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “Lieutenant-Colonel Kamougué,” 31.07.1979. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “Lieutenant-Colonel Kamougué,” 30.07.1979.

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by the end of July, established positions in Mandelia, a mere 55 kilometers south of the capital. This advance occurred with the active support of Acyl’s forces and with Libyan supplies.142 Meanwhile, Libyan pressure increased in the BET. Acyl’s columns had suffered serious losses at the end of June, and on July 6 FAP positions came under attack once again. One massive column consisting of some 1,900 men attacked Wour, around 100 kilometers west of Bardaï in northwestern Chad. Another, consisting of some 600 men, again attacked Ounianga-Kebir. These forces were supported by Libyan Mirage fighter jets, as well as Libyan armored units. At Wour, despite numerical inferiority, the FAP again won a major victory, killing some 200 men and capturing a large amount of equipment, including several artillery pieces and 300 small arms.143 The column attacking Ounianga-Kebir also suffered serious losses and was forced to retreat. Goukouni, who traveled north to take command, estimated the attacking columns had together lost between 500 and 600 men.144 These attacks clearly constituted, in the minds of the GUNT leadership, an external attack against Chad. No one could deny the presence of Libyan troops in the attacking columns. As Goukouni later sarcastically remarked, his “opponents don’t have their own tanks, they don’t have their own planes.”145 Despite GUNT entreaties, French forces remained stationary. Although Tacaud was originally mandated to protect the Chadian government against externally backed aggression, this time Giscard felt that the African diplomatic context made it impossible to act.146 Since no other country recognized the GUNT, any French effort to defend it, even against a foreign invasion, would further undermine French credibility and likely stop the peace process. While Goukouni’s military victories made such a decision unnecessary, it did highlight the delicate nature of France’s military presence. Instead, Giscard had to find other ways to deal with Libya. As early as February 1979, Anwar Sadat had approached Giscard for support 142 143 145 146

MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 5 pour la période du 1er au 31 juillet 1979,” 16.08.1979, pp. 6–7. 144 Ibid., p. 5. Ibid., p. 6. Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 2 above, p. 97. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, DAM Note, “a/s: Mission à N’Djamena,” 10.07.1979, p. 2.

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in a move against Gaddafi. Giscard informed Sadat that France would not let the Libyans take over Chad and would do anything necessary to prevent that from happening. Sadat told Giscard he had decided to attack Gaddafi, although he had not yet finished preparations. Meanwhile he wanted France to provide diplomatic support by helping to associate other Arab states, particularly Morocco, with his initiative. Giscard later wrote that he agreed to help, since “regime change in Libya would have been profitable for Egypt and for Africa. It would have prevented the bloody crisis that Chad was about to experience.”147 The following month, Sadat sent for Giscard’s advisor on African affairs, René Journiac, to discuss a possible Franco-Egyptian operation. Journiac secretly flew to meet Sadat in Ismailia and apparently, due to a broken-down automobile, had to hitchhike his way from the airport to the meeting. Sadat informed Journiac that he awaited a pretext to make a move. To help Sadat with his preparations, Giscard sent Colonel Alain Gaigneron de Marolles, the head of SDECE’s covert operations branch (the Service Action), to Egypt. Once there, Marolles attempted to organize a unity government in exile with former Libyan ministers who had taken refuge in Egypt.148 At the end of July, though, Sadat told Giscard that, due to American pressure, he would not go ahead.149 American officials were both unaware of Sadat’s precise plan and of his collaboration with the French. They worried, though, that an attack would undermine western support for Egypt and worsen Sadat’s diplomatic isolation in much of the Arab world. They also feared it could strengthen Gaddafi’s hold on power in case of failure.150 Although American pressure prevented a major operation, SDECE and Egyptian intelligence, the Mukhabarat, collaborated on a failed assassination plot against Gaddafi in Benghazi in September 1979. At the end of the year, Giscard still placed hopes in SDECE, allegedly 147

148 149 150

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, Le Pouvoir et la Vie (Paris: Le Livre de Poche, 1988), p. 181. Giscard places these conversations in February 1977, but the context of the talks, combined with later revelations make it clear the year was 1979. Pascal Airault and Jean-Pierre Bat, Françafrique: Opérations secrètes et affaires d’Etat (Paris: Tallandier, 2016), pp. 110–112. Giscard, Le Pouvoir et la Vie, note 147 above, p. 181. NARA AAD, Department of State, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973–1979. Telegram from US Embassy Cairo to US Embassy London, “Secretary’s Visit to Egypt: Checkist,” Document number: 1979CAIRO10634, 23.05.1979.

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telling Marolles, “I am charging you personally to overthrow Gaddafi.”151 Meanwhile, at the end of July, French authorities replaced General Forest with Colonel Pierre de Tonquédec as Tacaud’s commander. Many of the accusations of a French bias towards Habré had, rightly or wrongly, centered on Forest. Dallier himself had requested Forest’s removal. Officials in Paris finally decided that replacing him might help counter accusations of favoritism towards the FAN.152 Tonquédec had already served in Chad. Defense Ministry officials felt his familiarity with southern military officers and experience with the mostlysouthern former Chadian Army would facilitate the French role in the reconciliation process.153 Furthermore, downgrading the rank of Tacaud’s force commander to a colonel may have been a deliberate move to signal French discomfort with the GUNT’s questionable legitimacy. In the short term, the choice of Tonquédec did little to bring the North and South together for a preliminary meeting. In early August, Georgy and La Rochère returned to Chad to hammer out an agreement for a meeting before the upcoming Lagos conference.154 While the three major factions agreed in principle to opening such a meeting to “all” the other factions, they disagreed on who exactly should count as a faction. The role of General Djogo constituted a particular bone of contention between Kamougué and the GUNT. Kamougué refused to sit at the same table with him since, in his view, Djogo represented only himself. Goukouni told Dallier and La Rochère that Djogo’s “tendance” was no smaller than that of other rebel factions who Kamougué would accept as partners. He added that if Kamougué alone represented the South in negotiations, he would have the advantage of representing a united South against a fragmented North.155 Although Georgy and La Rochère failed in organizing a meeting in 151 152 153 154 155

Airault and Bat, Françafrique, note 148 above, pp. 111. Pierre Dufour, La France au Tchad depuis 1969 (Boulogne-Billancourt: ETAI, 2009), p. 89. Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 85 above, p. 93. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 6 pour la période du 1er au 31 août 1979,” 20.09.1979, p. 15. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 78, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “Réunion de Douggia,” 04.08.1979, p. 1.

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Douguia, Dallier felt their mission helped the various factions begin to understand each other’s positions. In that sense, it helped lay the groundwork for the upcoming Lagos conference.156 The second Lagos conference opened on August 13, 1979 and included representatives from 11 different Chadian factions. In addition to Chad’s neighbors, representatives from Liberia, Senegal, Congo-Brazzaville, and Benin also attended. Goukouni later explained that his decision to participate resulted in part from a serious deterioration of his relations with Habré. The latter had refused to help the FAP fend off the Libyan-backed attacks in June and July. This, combined with the defections of some FAP combatants to the FAN, led Goukouni and his supporters to believe Habré had begun to prepare a move for control of the capital. The FAP leadership concluded, “Whatever happens, Mahamat Abba [the head of the scattered 1st Army] and Acyl Ahmat are closer to us than Hissène Habré who is destroying us.”157 Perhaps feeling isolated, Habré also agreed to participate. After five days of negotiations, all 11 factions signed the Lagos II Accord. In its broad lines it differed little from Kano I. It demanded a demilitarized zone extending 100 kilometers from N’Djamena, the creation of an integrated army, inclusion of all the “tendances” in the transitional government, the establishment of a “neutral force,” and an observation commission to monitor the agreement. Furthermore, it charged the transitional government with organizing elections within 18 months.158 In addition, the Lagos conference named Goukouni as president and Kamougué as vice-president of the new GUNT. Its composition, including the distribution of ministerial portfolios, was left open to later negotiation. Lagos II also declared that the “neutral force” would consist of troops from countries that did not border Chad, and thus did not have clearly defined interests in the country.159 Additionally, and much to the chagrin of French policymakers, the accord stated: 156 157 158

159

MAE Nantes Carton 3, “Rapport de fin de mission de l’Ambassadeur Dallier,” p. 26. Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 2 above, p. 97. “Accords de Lagos sur la réconciliation nationale au Tchad,” reprinted in: Varsia Kovana, Précis des guerres et conflits au Tchad (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1994), pp. 102–105. Ibid., Article 1D.

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All the Chadian parties have unanimously recognized that the continued presence of French troops constitutes an obstacle to national reconciliation and prevents a peaceful solution to the Chadian problem. The Chadian parties have thus agreed that once formed, the GUNT must proceed with the evacuation of French troops.160

Partial Withdrawal This collective denunciation of the French presence triggered a quick response from Paris. On August 22, Tonquédec received orders from General Méry, the French Army Chief of Staff, to pull French troops out of Ati and Moussoro. He wanted this done as quickly as possible before the new transitional government could request a halt to the evacuation.161 As Méry predicted, it rapidly became clear that few of the Chadian factions actually favored a French withdrawal. On August 25, Ibrahim Moussa, the imam of the Grand Mosque of N’Djamena, told Dallier of his opposition to a French departure.162 On August 29, Goukouni wrote Dallier to formally request a halt to the French retreat which would, in his view, aggravate prevailing tensions. He explained that, since the GUNT had not officially been formed, the current authorities could not request a French withdrawal. Furthermore, pursuant to the Lagos Accord, the future GUNT should itself decide on a withdrawal timetable, rather than it being a unilateral French decision.163 In conversations with Dallier, representatives from the FAP, the FAN, and the FAO all claimed the Lagos clause on French forces came as a result of Nigerian and Libyan pressure. The main GUNT factions did not want to refuse to sign on this basis and thus be accused of sabotaging the negotiations.164 Even Kamougué suggested he thought a French retreat “premature.”165 160 162 163 164 165

161 Ibid., Article 7. Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 85 above, p. 74. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 6 pour la période du 1er au 31 août 1979,” 20.09.1979, p. 17. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 7, Letter from Goukouni to Dallier, 29.08.1979. See FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/2/3, telegrams from Dallier to Paris, 03.908.9.1979. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/2/3, Circular telegram from Georgy to French Africa Embassies, “Le Tchad et la France,” 07.09.1979, p. 4.

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President Ahidjo of Cameroon told French officials that the clause on French withdrawal came from the Nigerians, particularly General Yar’Adua. According to Ahidjo, the Nigerian military government wanted a major foreign policy success before leaving power in the hands of a democratically elected government in October. They thus put enormous pressure on Goukouni and Habré to yield on this point. Peter Onu, the Nigerian deputy secretary general of the OAU, also played a role in presenting the clause to the faction leaders, falsely claiming it was a resolution supported by the attending state parties. He then separately met with the heads of the state delegations and presented the same clause as a resolution of the Chadian factions.166 Ahidjo himself firmly stated his own opposition to a retreat, claiming, “If you leave, the country will be torn apart and given over to the appetites of Libya and others.”167 In any event, local conditions made withdrawal more difficult than initially foreseen. The evacuation order came in the middle of the rainy season, which made the roads almost impassable to most vehicular traffic and flooded smaller airstrips. Local civilian contractors charged with transporting heavy equipment exploited the situation and more than doubled their prices. Departing on August 26, the French troops leaving Ati took a week to reach N’Djamena. Moussoro also proved problematic, since FAN and FAT forces occupied different parts of the town. French officers stationed there feared that a precipitous withdrawal could trigger heavy fighting between the two sides. Tonquédec himself traveled to Moussoro to negotiate a peaceful withdrawal with both the FAT and FAN commanders.168 While successful in his mission, its very necessity testified to the lack of ambient trust and the persistence of factional tensions. If Lagos II had brought a temporary halt to fighting, nothing in its provisions addressed the more fundamental issues behind the conflict. Giscard presented his decision to evacuate central Chad as a reaction to the Lagos Accord’s declaration that French forces constituted an “obstacle” to national reconciliation. Such a declaration, Georgy wrote, put the French government in a position where, “vis-à-vis international opinion and, especially vis-à-vis African opinion, 166 167

FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/2/3, telegram from Pottier to Paris, “Audience avec le président: Situation au Tchad et retrait de nos troupes,” 04.09.1979, p. 2. 168 Ibid. p. 3. Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 85 above, p. 76.

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[France had] the obligation to confirm the withdrawal of its forces.”169 The precipitous withdrawal order also seemed motivated by the desire to publicly telegraph that Chad needed France more than France needed Chad. French officials were notably pessimistic about the Lagos Accord. Jean Sriber, the Cooperation Ministry’s chief of staff, noted that, “So far, no African country has been able to maintain a ‘national union’ type of government. We can thus express serious doubts on the chances of Chadian success.”170 However, whereas a French withdrawal would give free reign to score-settling among the factions, he felt that such a conflict was in fact “[a] necessary prelude to decant a political situation which doesn’t seem able, in the current state of things, to result in a power structure capable of governing.”171 Georgy seconded this pessimism, although not Sriber’s fatalism. For him, Lagos II left every Chadian faction with their ambitions intact and did nothing to address the deep-seated antagonisms between them, particularly between the North and South. In the days and weeks that followed Lagos, the projected demilitarization of the capital had not begun, nor did it seem likely that the “neutral force” would or could soon deploy. The delicate negotiations aimed at forming a second GUNT made little progress, and the future seemed bleak.172 Georgy also feared that a full French withdrawal would threaten the entire reconciliation process. He wrote: It would be unreasonable to introduce a supplementary destabilizing factor into the complex and dangerous situation currently prevailing in Chad by immediately proceeding with a complete withdrawal, given the stabilizing role of our troops who ensure the operation of civil services which benefit the population and whose presence contributes to preventing bloody clashes between rival factions.173

169 170

171 172 173

FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/2/3, Circular telegram from Georgy to French Africa Embassies, “Le Tchad et la France,” 07.09.1979, p. 3. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/2/3bis, Cooperation Ministry Note, “a/s: Premières observations concernant l’accord de Kano [sic] conclu entre les différentes tendances tchadiennes le 21 août 1979 [sic],” 23.08.1979, p. 3. Ibid. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/2/3, Circular telegram from Georgy to French Africa Embassies, “Le Tchad et la France,” 07.09.1979, p. 3. Ibid., p. 4.

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Shortly after Giscard ordered the beginning of a withdrawal, General Méry wrote to Tonquédec outlining his view that, “the Lagos accords settle nothing. A confusing situation may follow, which we would be better placed to handle from a single concentrated deployment in N’Djamena.”174 Thus, after the repeated Chadian entreaties, Giscard agreed to limit the French departure to a partial withdrawal until the “neutral force” deployed and until a new GUNT determined the status of French forces.175 Meanwhile, he followed Méry’s advice and ordered the remaining French troops to concentrate in N’Djamena.176 Despite French pessimism, during September it seemed as if tensions had begun to ease as momentum gradually built towards the formation of a new GUNT. On September 2, 1979, the Lagos signatories formed an “interim committee” including representatives of each “tendance” to run the government administration before the new GUNT’s formation. The Libyan threat also seemed to recede, as negotiations began between Tripoli and the interim committee on a prisoner exchange. Additionally, on September 5, Nigerian officials announced the end of their embargo.177 Preparations also began for the deployment of the “neutral force.” This force, under the aegis of the OAU, was to consist of contingents from Congo-Brazzaville, Benin, and Guinea. These three Francophone countries had more distant ties to France than other former colonies. Nevertheless, shortly after Lagos II, officials in Benin and Guinea began to vacillate on deployment planning. It quickly became clear that neither government particularly desired to send troops to Chad. On the other hand, the new president of Congo-Brazzaville, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, remained determined to contribute to the force, even if the Congolese deployed alone. After preparatory staff visits in midSeptember, Sassou-Nguesso made an unannounced visit to N’Djamena on September 23, along with a delegation of 75 people, including Congolese journalists and camera crews. There he met Goukouni and

174 175 176 177

Cited in Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 85 above, p. 74. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/2/3, Circular telegram from Georgy to French Africa Embassies, “Le Tchad et la France,” 07.09.1979, p. 4. Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 85 above, p. 77. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 7 pour la période du 1er au 30 septembre 1979,” 22.10.1979, pp. 1–3.

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mediated a brief meeting between the Chadian president and Kamougué to resolve disputes over the interim committee.178 As the Lagos signatories seemed to make progress towards a new GUNT, Louis Dallier’s mission as French ambassador to Chad came to an end. On September 17, he left the country.179 Just three days later, French troops landed in Bangui, the capital of the neighboring Central African Empire, to overthrow the regime of Emperor Jean-Bédel Bokassa. 178

Ibid. p. 10–11.

179

Ibid. p. 14

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The Decline and Fall of the Central African Empire

The late 1970s saw a marked uptick in French military interventionism in Africa. In January 1977 French mercenaries led an abortive attempt to overthrow a Marxist regime in Benin. Later that year and the next, French forces intervened in Mauritania against Western Saharan rebels threatening the regime’s economic base. Also, in 1977 and 1978 fears of Communist expansion led France to actively support Zairian dictator Mobutu Sese-Seko against invasions of rebels based in neighboring Angola. In May 1978, this took the form of an airborne assault against the rebel-held city of Kolwezi to secure Mobutu’s regime and save the lives of its European residents.1 Hence, the escalation of Chad’s civil war, and especially Libyan involvement, fit within a deeper perception, as articulated by Giscard, of a “general destabilization of security” in Africa.2 With Cuban and Soviet interventions in Angola and Ethiopia, the growth of liberation struggles in Southern Africa, and a perceived withdrawal of American interest in the continent, French policymakers feared a loss of French and broader Western influence and prestige. In this sense, Giscard’s military engagement in Chad and elsewhere responded to a wider crisis – or perceived crisis – of French hegemony on the continent. This sense of crisis partly explains why Giscard’s interventionism differed somewhat from that of his predecessors. His policies also stemmed from a faith in military solutions that neither de Gaulle nor Pompidou shared. His foreign minister, Louis de Guiringaud, best expressed this attitude at the end of 1979, proclaiming, “Africa is the 1

2

For more on Giscard’s interventionism, see: Robin Luckham, “French Militarism in Africa,” Review of African Political Economy, No. 24 (May–Aug., 1982), pp. 55–84; and Nathaniel K. Powell, “France’s African Wars, 1974–1981,” Ph. D. Dissertation, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, 2013. Pierre Lellouche and Dominique Moisi, “French Policy in Africa: A Lonely Battle against Destabilization,” International Security, Vol. 3, No. 1 (1979), p. 121.

225

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only continent which remains within France’s reach, within the range of its means. The only one where she can still, with 500 men, change the course of history.”3 As the next few chapters illustrate, this logic and its ultimate failure would eventually put an end to Giscard’s own presidency. To preserve its influence and restore a semblance of stability to its former empire in an increasingly complex geopolitical environment, France required reliable local allies. The least reliable of these was Emperor Jean-Bédel Bokassa of the Central African Empire. Until 1979, though, his unreliability posed little threat to French interests, and appeasement seemed the best strategy to maintain stability. However, Chad’s fragmentation and aggressive Libyan expansionism in 1978–1979 significantly increased the dangers that a mercurial Bokassa could pose to a French-friendly regional order. He had to go. In that vein, the French overthrow of Bokassa is worth outlining at some length. It represents perhaps the most emblematic event of Giscard’s Africa policy, if not of his presidency. In the aftermath of Bokassa’s fall, the affair became a political scandal when the French satirical newspaper Le Canard enchainé revealed that Giscard had received gifts of diamonds from Bokassa during various stays in the country. This “affaire de diamants” significantly contributed to Giscard’s electoral defeat in 1981. Thus, to a far greater extent than any other controversies surrounding French policy in Africa at the time, Operation Barracuda became highly imbricated with French domestic politics. This story is also critical for understanding the evolution of French involvement in Chad. The relationship between Bokassa and France paralleled Tombalbaye’s tumultuous relations with his French interlocutors before his ouster. This not only suggests structural similarities in the postcolonial links between economic and political dependency, but also the extent to which the French penchant for the strong man in power could generate unintended consequences. Furthermore, the odd Franco-Central African relationship, personified in the ties between Giscard and Bokassa, ultimately led to Bokassa’s overthrow and substantially undermined the French position in Chad. On the night of December 31–January 1, 1965–1966, Jean-Bédel Bokassa, the chief of staff of the Central African army, overthrew 3

“Giscard l’Africain,” L’Express, 15.12.1979.

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227

President David Dacko. Bokassa, a French army veteran, already had a reputation for instability, possibly related to the murder of his father by French colonial authorities and his mother’s subsequent suicide when he was a child.4 After the coup, it took Charles de Gaulle several months to accept Bokassa’s legitimacy. Nevertheless, Jacques Foccart finally convinced him to receive Bokassa at the Elysée in July 1966, as well as provide him with a C-47 transport aircraft as a goodwill gesture.5 It did not take long before Bokassa began asserting himself. Soon, he expelled a number of French expatriates and demanded the recall of the French ambassador, Jean Français, accusing him of homosexuality.6 Français later wrote that Bokassa had even tried to poison him, and he thus left the country in bad health at the end of 1966.7 The next French ambassador, Jean Herly, lasted for two and a half years. In mid-1969, Bokassa accused him of climbing a hill overlooking Bokassa’s main army base in order to spy on him.8 Soon, the Quai had to look hard to find people willing to represent France in Bangui. Albert de Schonen, France’s next ambassador, wrote that he had to receive assurances from his superiors confirming he would not suffer career repercussions should he encounter too many difficulties with Bokassa.9 Detailing just a few of Bokassa’s problems with France illustrates the broader picture. As noted earlier, in 1968 Mobutu persuaded both Bokassa and Tombalbaye to join a new customs union, breaking their connection to the existing customs arrangement with former French colonies. Bokassa hoped to gain privileged access to Congo’s seemingly vast wealth, especially in cheaper imports like cement. Furthermore, Mobutu offered 1 million dollars to both Tombalbaye and Bokassa, as well as further promises of economic aid.10 As with other occasions, 4 5 6 7 9 10

Geraldine Faes and Stephen Smith, Bokassa 1er, un empereur français (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 2000), p. 62. Ibid., p. 112. Jean Français, Le putsch de Bokassa: Histoire secrète (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2004), p. 103. 8 Ibid., p. 109. Faes and Smith, Bokassa, note 4 above, p. 118. Albert de Schonen, “Être ambassadeur à Bangui,” Le Monde, 21 Septembre, 1979. Pierre Michel Durand, L’Afrique et les relations franco-américaines des années soixante: Aux origines de l’obsession américaine (Paris: l’Harmattan, 2007), pp. 475–480.

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Bokassa knew that he could often jump at quick money without lasting consequences in French support for his regime. Foccart managed to diffuse the situation by November of that year. Bokassa had always demonstrated a fawning admiration for Charles de Gaulle. Indeed, de Gaulle and other French officials expressed frequent irritation that Bokassa referred to the French president as “Papa,” though this is a common form of address in much of central Africa.11 Foccart threatened to cancel Bokassa’s official visit to France the following year, an event that Foccart described as “his consecration, his ‘coronation’ – before the other one, which he had not yet dreamed of [. . .] it was infinitely more important to him [than the customs union with Mobutu and Tombalbaye].”12 Bokassa backed down on the customs union. Immediately thereafter, French Cooperation Minister Yvon Bourges flew to Bangui with a gift of a DC-4 aircraft.13 In August 1969, several months into Georges Pompidou’s presidency, Bokassa “converted” to socialism and expelled the French troops stationed in Bangui for his protection, as well as the French air squadron located there. Nevertheless, Pompidou agreed to a 2 million franc loan to help construct a law faculty. The following year, Bokassa traveled to eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, seeking economic aid. He publicly declared himself willing to accept the ideology of any state willing to subsidize the construction of a railroad linking his country to the Atlantic Ocean. Failing to attract support, however, Bokassa discarded his “socialism” as quickly as he had picked it up.14 For the rest of Pompidou’s term, relations remained relatively calm.15 Foccart later observed that Bokassa demonstrated enough realism to understand the ultimate necessity of good relations with France for the budgetary support needed to pay his army and government employees.16 Nevertheless, if he could exploit an opportunity to assert some autonomy from France while gaining material benefits at the same time, Bokassa would seize the occasion.

11 12 13 15

Faes and Smith, Bokassa, note 4 above, p. 113. Jacques Foccart, Foccart Parle: Entretiens avec Philippe Gaillaird (Vol. 1) (Paris: Fayard, 1997), p. 296. 14 Faes and Smith, Bokassa, note 4 above, p. 120. Ibid., p. 133. 16 Foccart, Foccart parle (Vol. 1), note 12 above, p. 212. Ibid.

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Pompidou’s death in April 1974 provided just such an opportunity. Shortly after his funeral, Bokassa nationalized a variety of French and other foreign holdings in the hydrocarbon industry, particularly those of the French company Total. He also seized the French bookstore in Bangui and closed the French consulate. Finally, to cap it all, on the day Giscard won the second round of the French presidential election, Bokassa promoted himself to the rank of field marshal. Giscard’s new administration quickly settled these affairs, though, by signing an important uranium contract with Bokassa’s regime.17 Like Tombalbaye, Bokassa seems to have understood all too well his dependence on France for his own survival. His otherwise inexplicable behavior of defying France makes sense in this context. Bokassa’s dilemma consisted in requiring French support for his survival but also needing to demonstrate a degree of independence from France to maintain his own legitimacy. Furthermore, despite the essential nature of French economic and financial support, it was never enough to cover all of the regime’s needs, contrived or otherwise. By the mid-1970s, after a decade and a half of independence, the Central African Republic (CAR) remained deeply dependent upon French external aid. For instance, in 1975, foreign aid represented 77.4 percent of its budget, with the French treasury contributing 52 percent of this figure.18 In 1977, French aid rose to 61 percent of foreign assistance, while 64 percent of the country’s exports, mostly consisting of cotton, coffee, tobacco, timber, and industrial diamonds, went to France.19 Giscard himself later recounted an awkward story, which illustrated this dependence. During a hunting trip to the eastern CAR, one of Giscard’s companions asked a local tending to their camp whom he would vote for as President of the CAR: Giscard or Bokassa. After protesting the stupidity of the question, the man responded, “Obviously for President Giscard. He’s the father! He’s the one who 17 18

19

Claude Wauthier, Quatre Présidents et l’Afrique: de Gaulle, Pompidou, Giscard d’Estaing, Mitterand (Paris: Seuil, 1995), pp. 301–303. Archives Nationales, Versement 19850149/1–25, Fonds des chargés de mission géographique pour la République Centrafricaine, 1961–1982 (henceforth FCMGRC), Carton 23, “Tableaux ‘aide française,’” “La coopération française et la Centrafrique,” undated, 1977, pp. 1–2. FCMGRC, Carton 24, Cooperation Ministry Note, “Sur la situation politique économique et financière de l’Empire centrafricaine,” 11.1978, pp. 3–7.

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gives aid to [the CAR].” Giscard commented that this represented a “a short summary of cooperation policy.”20 This economic dependence was paralleled in many respects by Bokassa’s own relationship with Giscard.

Bokassa and Giscard Giscard himself had an interesting, if not always easily decipherable, relationship with Bokassa. The two first met at the funeral of Charles de Gaulle in November 1970. Then finance minister, Giscard had the delicate mission of warning Bokassa about his advances to the Soviets and, doubtless, to convey to him that moving too far in this direction would have consequences. Giscard later reported that Bokassa seamlessly shifted from emotion to emotion like a good actor, all the while professing his love for France.21 Over the course of the next several years, Giscard got to know Bokassa better. As an avid big-game hunter, Giscard enjoyed traveling to Africa on hunting expeditions. The CAR had several game reserves that attracted the future French president. His first hunting expedition there, while still finance minister, attracted Bokassa’s attention. In December 1970, Bokassa invited Giscard to meet him after his hunting trip. In 1973, during another hunting trip in the country, Bokassa again invited him to Bangui. After a sumptuous dinner reception, Bokassa offered his guest some diamonds as “souvenirs.”22 This became the origin of the famous “diamond affair,” which would contribute to Giscard’s electoral defeat in 1981. Giscard’s relationship with Bokassa continued during his presidency. Shortly after his election, Bokassa demanded that Giscard visit him at his private chateau in Sologne in France. If Giscard refused, Bokassa threatened him with unspecified difficulties. Giscard acceded to the blackmail and paid Bokassa a visit, in which he promised to make CAR his first official overseas visit for the next Franco-African summit in Bangui.23

20 21

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, Le Pouvoir et la Vie (Paris: Le Livre de Poche, 1988), p. 615. 22 23 Ibid. p. 603. Ibid., pp. 603–606. Ibid., pp. 609–610.

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As Giscard arrived in Bangui in March 1975, he toasted Bokassa in glowing terms: Believe me, Mr. President for Life, my dear relative and friend, that France deeply feels solidarity towards the Central African Republic which has, under your leadership, committed itself to an in-depth effort to promote economic, cultural, and human development.24

Indeed, much of the official correspondence between the two men begins with greetings of “my dear relative” or “my cousin.”25 This level of intimacy, affected by both leaders for their own ends, went beyond the protocol typically observed between Giscard and other African leaders. The giants of the Franco-African family – Ivoirian president Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Senegalese president Léopold Sédar Senghor, and even Gabon’s president Omar Bongo – viewed Bokassa as a leader whose antics gave a negative image of the African ruling classes. They thus saw Giscard’s overtly obliging attitude towards him with some discomfort.26 Nonetheless, close friendship, affected or otherwise, did not prevent Bokassa from provoking continuous crises in the Franco–Central African relationship. In July 1975, shortly after the Franco-African Summit, Bokassa demanded emergency financial assistance for a country on the brink of bankruptcy. His costly projects, such as the construction of a large statue of himself in Bangui, as well as palace improvements, ran down the treasury. Paris demanded some measure of control over state expenses.27 However, Bokassa desperately needed money, so in 1976 he flew to Libya and converted to Islam.28 He created a Revolutionary Command Council in imitation of Gaddafi’s and received, in consequence, a significant amount of Libyan financial aid.29 The French embassy in Bangui reported that Bokassa had declared “there was only God and 24 25 26 27 28

29

Cited in Wauthier, Quatre Présidents, note 17 above, p. 302. The archives contain a substantial sampling of this correspondence. Jean-Pierre Bat, Le syndrome Foccard: La politique française en Afrique de 1959 à nos jours (Paris: Editions Gallimard, 2012), p. 372. Wauthier, Quatre Présidents, note 17 above, p. 303. MAE Nantes, Bangui Ambassade, Carton 12, Note from French Chargé d’affaires to Paris, “a/s: Conversion à l’Islam du Président BOKASSA,” 26.10.1976. Emmanuel Germain, La Centrafrique et Bokassa 1965–1979: Force et déclin d’un pouvoir personnel (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2000), p. 153.

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money, and that ideologies weren’t important, and as far as he was concerned, he was willing to adopt any which would benefit him.”30 True to form, several months later, Bokassa renounced his conversion in preparation for his plans to crown himself emperor. The coronation affair exemplifies the frequently absurd nature of French relations with Bokassa. On December 4, 1976, during the closing ceremony of Bokassa’s ruling party congress, party members were presented with a constitutional amendment declaring that “Field Marshal Jean-Bédel Bokassa is now proclaimed the first emperor [of CAR] and takes the name Emperor Bokassa 1st.”31 French observers recorded that the congress was only supposed to last two days, but continued for twenty-four. Some elements within the ruling party objected to Bokassa’s imperial pretentions and managed to extract constitutional concessions that, on paper at least, restored some democratic powers to an elected parliament and government.32 While preparations began for an official coronation, the new emperor seemed to retire from politics. He even moved his “court” to his farm complex in Berengo, 80 kilometers southeast of Bangui. Some saw this as a positive evolution in which real power shifted away from Bokassa. Robert Picquet, the French ambassador in Bangui, noted: As strong as his personality is, the master is no longer in Bangui, and that makes all the difference [. . .] the country has lived more than a decade in fear. Fear of prison, or worse yet; fear of expulsion and spoliation. It was the leaden cloak of Danté’s hell. And now, it seems to have lightened.33

The feeling that Bokassa’s gesture might signal the beginning of a certain political openness may have contributed to the French decision to help the new emperor finance and plan his upcoming coronation. This, however, is a charitable interpretation. By the middle of 1977, it had become clear that Bokassa’s withdrawal from the public sphere represented little more than a brief 30

31 32 33

MAE Nantes, Bangui Ambassade, Carton 12, Note from French Chargé d’affaires to Paris, “a/s: Conversion à l’Islam du Président BOKASSA,” 26.10.1976, p. 2. Cited in Bat, Le syndrome Foccart, note 26 above, pp. 374–375. FCMGRC, Carton 23, Note from Ambassador Robert Picquet to Paris, “a/s: Cent jours,” 17.03.1977, pp. 2–3. Ibid. p. 4.

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respite. He increasingly began interfering again in government decisions, and arrested opposition figures.34 He ordered his prime minister (and future CAR president) Ange-Félix Patassé to make the upcoming coronation, to be held on December 4, 1977, the government’s number one-priority. The government of the newly renamed Central African Empire desperately needed to find funding for the event. Bokassa hoped to invite some 3,000 guests, including the Pope. He thus turned to France for assistance in organizing the transport of material and help in getting loans.35 French authorities responded favorably, and Bokassa benefited from substantial public and private assistance from French sources. Giscard’s cousin, François Giscard d’Estaing, the director of the BFCE parastatal bank, and one of his business partners, Jean-Pierre Dupont, helped organize the logistics of the massive ceremony. It was designed to emulate Napoleon’s coronation as emperor.36 The overall cost of the event equaled the average amount of annual French aid to the country, and the French government covered some of these costs.37 For instance, the BFCE provided credits to the Central African authorities to finance 50 percent of its cash purchases of luxury items in France needed for the coronation.38 Additionally, COFACE, France’s state investment insurance agency, insured 15 million francs worth of contracts, including for the imperial crown and scepter, gold jewelry, eating utensils, military uniforms, porcelain, and art objects.39 Dupont himself also spent or loaned some 100 million francs for various facets of the coronation, including the construction of a throne, the purchase of crown jewels, and an imperial carriage. The Cooperation Ministry spent 4 million francs on the purchase and transport of 32 horses for the coronation parade, and the French Defense Ministry loaned 625 sabers for the event.40 The French Army took charge of the video footage of the coronation, creating a film as a gift for Bokassa. The latter was enthralled with its quality, 34 35 37 38 39 40

FCMGRC, Carton 23, Note from Picquet to Paris, “a/s: Vers la fin de l’entracte,” 16.06.1977, pp. 2–3. 36 Ibid., pp. 4–5. Faes and Smith, Bokassa, note 4 above, pp. 18–19. Wauthier, Quatre Présidents, note 17 above, p. 306. FCMGRC, Carton 24, Cooperation Ministry Note, “Problèmes divers liés aux dépenses du Couronnement,” undated, .09.1977, p. 1. Ibid. Annex “Commandes pour le couronnement pour lesquelles une garantie COFACE a été obtenue ou demandée.” Faes and Smith, Bokassa, note 4 above, p. 22–25.

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later calling it “not only an irreplaceable archival document, but also a remarkable work of art.”41 Ultimately Giscard, as well as the Pope, wisely decided not to attend the ceremony. Instead, René Journiac and Robert Galley represented the French delegation. The massive costs of the coronation, as well as its opulence, did come under attack from some French policymakers. Picquet himself, in detailing the elaborate preparation and planning, asked, “Is it not too much?”42 Cooperation Ministry officials also observed that the massive cost of the coronation had put enormous strains on the Empire’s finances.43 Despite this, Franco-Central African relations remained strong throughout the following year. In August, Giscard again undertook a hunting trip in the country, followed by a meeting with Bokassa in Bangui. The latter presented Giscard with a memorandum requesting substantially increased assistance. Journiac suggested acceding to most of the demands, which included requests for increased military assistance, salaries for public-sector workers, help meeting budgetary shortfalls, aid for administrative reform, and funding for infrastructure maintenance. Journiac noted that increased financial aid was particularly necessary since, he noted, “We can’t let the CAE [Central African Empire] collapse.”44 Within the Cooperation Ministry, though, officials felt less enthusiastic. In response to Giscard’s formal decision to agree to most of Bokassa’s demands, Galley’s chief of staff Jean Sriber told Journiac: The President’s instructions lead me to increase the department’s budget dedicated to the Central African Empire. However, one shouldn’t hide the fact that the results of our cooperation in this state have always been particularly disappointing because of the attitude of its public authorities.45

41 42 43 44 45

FCMGRC, Carton 23, Note from Picquet to Paris, “a/s: Film sur le couronnement,” 29.12.1978. FCMGRC, Carton 23, Note from Picquet to Paris, “a/s: N’est-ce pas trop?” 28.10.1977. FCMGRC, Carton 24, Cooperation Ministry Note, “Problèmes divers liés aux dépenses du Couronnement,” undated, 09.1977, p. 1. FCMGRC, Carton 25, Journiac’s notes on Bokassa’s Memorandum, 22.08.1978, p. 3. FCMGRC, Carton 25, Note from Sriber to Journiac, “Assistance technique à l’Empire centrafricaine,” 07.09.1978, p. 4.

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The events immediately leading up to the French break with Bokassa began in January 1979. Late the previous year, Bokassa proclaimed that all schoolchildren would henceforth wear school uniforms.46 Schools would refuse entry to students not wearing a uniform by January 1979. These uniforms were too costly for most parents. This directive alienated much of the population, already faced with a government ceaselessly looking for more ways to raise revenue at the expense of its citizens. On January 18, demonstrations of schoolchildren, mostly between the ages of thirteen and twenty, broke out in Bangui.47 These demonstrations not only aimed to change the law on uniforms, but also covered a wide range of pressing economic demands, such as the low minimum wage and unpaid salaries.48 Chanting slogans demanding the payment of scholarships and their parents’ salaries, around 2,000 students marched down l’Avenue Boganda. Because of his paranoia, Bokassa never issued his police forces with munitions except under exceptional circumstances, so the 200 or so police officers facing the protestors had few effective means of stopping them.49 Although they arrested some students who became isolated from the crowd, they could do little else. The following day, January 19, university students joined the protestors, although this time the government called in the army. The protests quickly turned violent, with riots breaking out and some pillaging taking place. The government began distributing ammunition, and some troops opened fire. However, many soldiers had not had previous weapons training and did not know how to properly load and fire their weapons. Some of them even fled. Workers and, in some cases, entire neighborhoods began joining the revolt. By evening though, Bokassa himself arrived from his palace at Berengo with his presidential guard, who were better armed and trained. He also brought in several armored vehicles from the army camp at Bouar, as well as machine guns. 46 47 48 49

Didier Bigo, Pouvoir et obéissance en Centrafrique (Paris: Editions Karthala, 1988), p. 193. Ibid. Bokassa later claimed that it was Prime Minister Henri Maïdou’s idea in the first place. Amnesty International. AFR 19/002/1979 – “Recent human rights violations in the Central African Empire,” 26.06.1979. Bigo, Pouvoir et obéissance, note 46 above, p. 194.

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That night, Bokassa’s own armed units mounted a ferocious repression in some neighborhoods of the city. Soldiers burst into bars and houses, shooting at everyone they found.50 The death toll proved horrendous, with witnesses describing corpses littering the streets in several different parts of Bangui. Amnesty International claimed that eyewitnesses counted between 400 and 500 dead, although later reports put the death toll significantly below that figure.51 Despite the level of violence, it received little attention in the international press. In the following days and months, Bokassa attempted to root out the presumed leaders of the demonstrations.52 Possibly the lack of strong international reaction to the massacres encouraged him to pursue his enemies.53 At the same time, he complied with some of the protesters’ demands by raising the minimum wage and giving government workers back pay owed to them. Nevertheless, his arrests of professors and student leaders provoked yet more unrest. Protests resumed on April 7. The following week, the university union called for a general strike. The army responded by occupying the university, and students, as well as younger children, fled to neighboring hills. On April 18, the army began conducting mass arrests. Soldiers pursued some of those who fled into surrounding neighborhoods, where they swept the area and stuffed as many students as they could find, many of them children, into army trucks to transport to prison. Soldiers put so many students in these trucks that “by the time the lorries reached the prison many detainees were already dead, having died either from their wounds or as a result of being crushed underneath the weight of other prisoners in the lorries.”54 Ngaragba Prison had an infamous reputation as the place where many of Bokassa’s political enemies were tortured or killed. The army sent many of the children arrested on April 18 there. Amnesty Intenational reported: When the prisoners taken to Ngaragba reached the prison, guards hurled stones at them, killing several. The survivors were forced to drag the dead 50 51 52 53 54

Ibid., pp. 195–198. Amnesty International. AFR 19/002/1979 – “Recent human rights violations in the Central African Empire,” 26.06.1979. Bigo, Pouvoir et obéissance, note 46 above, p. 199. Germain, La Centrafrique et Bokassa, note 29 above, p. 251. Amnesty International. AFR 19/002/1979 – “Recent human rights violations in the Central African Empire,” 26.06.1979.

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bodies out of the lorries; they were then taken to prison cells. [. . .]Although the cells measured only about two metres square, as many as 30 were crammed into each cell.[. . .] They were left without food or water in their stifling cells until the next day, by which time many were dead.55

Here reports surfaced that Bokassa himself showed up at the scene and personally participated in beatings and torture of individual children and students.56 These reports made it into the international press the following month, when Amnesty International issued a statement condemning human rights abuses in the Central African Empire.57 In May, France and its African allies held their annual FrancoAfrican summit in Kigali. Bokassa strenuously defended himself and denied the accuracy of Amnesty’s reports. He agreed to a multinational commission of inquiry consisting of five of the African states at the summit. Ominously, when asked how France would respond to a possible guilty verdict in the report, Giscard responded, “France will draw all of the conclusions that this report calls for.”58 Bokassa gave the commission relatively unhindered access to most of the places and people needed for the investigation.59 His meeting with the commissioners after their investigation even convinced him that the report would exonerate him. Leaks reported by various French newspapers confirmed that others held this sentiment as well.60 After three months of investigations, including a week in Bangui, the commission delivered its verdict in a 133-page document, with over 40 pages of annexes, including interviews with top officials and witnesses. The report concluded, contrary to Bokassa’s apparent expectations: During the month of January 1979, in Bangui, riots were atrociously repressed by security forces and in the month of April 1979, massacres of

55 57

58 59

60

56 Ibid. Bigo, Le pouvoir et l’obéissance, note 46 above, pp. 200–201. Amnesty International. AFR 19/001/1979 – “Amnesty International condemns merciless treatment of arrested children in Central African Empire,” 14.05.1979. Cited in Faes and Smith, Bokassa, note 4 above, p. 194. Amnesty International, AFR 19/004/1979 – Publication of International Commission of Inquiry’s Report on events in Bangui (Central African Empire), 28.08.1979. Faes and Smith, Bokassa, note 4 above, p. 197.

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some one hundred children were perpetrated under the orders of Emperor Bokassa and with his near-certain participation.61

A panel of experts selected by other African states explicitly accused Bokassa of participation in a crime. This seriously challenged Bokassa’s international and regional legitimacy and paved the way for his removal. On August 17, the day following the report’s publication, the Cooperation Ministry announced a cessation of assistance to the Central African Empire, except for humanitarian aid. Meanwhile the Elysée intensified preparations for Bokassa’s ouster.

Operation Barracuda According to Giscard, he as well as a number of African presidents saw the guilty verdict as a signal that Bokassa would have to leave power.62 Nonetheless, Bokassa’s embarrassingly public human rights record did not constitute the only reason behind the French decision to orchestrate his overthrow. Bokassa had always been known for his excesses, and his regime was no worse than some of France’s other African clients. Alexandre de Marenches, chief of France's foreign intelligence agency, the SDECE, later wrote that France: [Aimed to] ensure that the Libyans did not establish a position in the center of Africa. Gaddafi’s strategic thinking was to occupy Chad, then the Central African Empire, located just below it. From there, he would find himself in a strategic location – the equivalent of the Pratzen Heights, which played a central role in Napoleon’s planning for his maneuver at the Battle of Austerlitz [. . .] Such a victory would have been exploited in the direction of the Gulf of Guinea or towards the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea, giving support to communist Ethiopia. This would have completed Gaddafi’s master plan of placing most of the African continent under his influence.63

While Marenches’ explanation indicates that Bokassa was not alone in his unhealthy obsession with Napoleon, his view also represented those of other French policymakers. Marenches and the SDECE had 61

62 63

Cited in Amnesty International, AFR 19/004/1979 - Publication of International Commission of Inquiry's Report on events in Bangui (Central African Empire), 28.08.1979. Giscard, Le Pouvoir et la Vie, note 20 above, pp. 624–627. Alexandre de Marenches and Christine Ockrent, Dans le secret des princes (Paris: Stock, 1986) pp. 161–162.

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a reputation for hawkish interpretations of world politics, particularly in Africa. With the development of the conflict in Chad and the continuing Libyan presence in that country, the Central African Empire grew in strategic importance in French eyes. Libya’s open support for Kamougué in southern Chad and CDR leader Ahmat Acyl’s incursions in Chad’s North illustrated this threat. Giscard and Journiac shared these fears. Journiac would later tell Ahmad AllamMi, the Gouvernement d’union nationale de transition (GUNT) representative in Paris, that France had “closed the door” on Libyan efforts to use the CAE as a back door into Chad.64 Shortly before the International Commission released its damning report, Journiac warned Giscard that it could quickly provoke Bokassa to renew his former links with Gaddafi. The Libyan leader had already apparently sent envoys to Bangui.65 Giscard later wrote that Bokassa’s removal had indeed prevented a possible Libyan presence in the Central African Empire and claimed, “Otherwise we would have allowed [Libya] to militarily and politically blackmail us from the center of Africa, which would have risked endangering the stability of the whole.”66 Even before the report’s release, French officials began planning to replace Bokassa. In mid-July, Journiac met with Bokassa in Gabon and attempted to convince him to abdicate. The latter angrily refused, and even briefly threatened to beat Journiac with his cane.67 He also threatened the French expatriate community living in Bangui. On August 3, Pierre de Tonquédec, the commander of French troops in Chad, received urgent orders to prepare a force for the emergency evacuation of expatriates in Bangui. As it became clear that Bokassa’s threats would not be carried out, the operation was aborted. Nonetheless, on August 8, Colonel Bernard Degenne arrived in N’Djamena, charged with organizing an eventual intervention aimed at overthrowing the Central African emperor.68

64 65 67 68

Ahmad Allam-Mi, Autour du Tchad en guerre: Tractations politiques et diplomatiques 1975–1990 (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2014), p. 42. 66 Giscard, Le Pouvoir et la Vie, note 20 above, pp. 624–627. Ibid., p. 631. Maurice Robert, “Ministre” de l’Afrique: Entretiens avec André Renault (Paris: Seuil, 2004), p. 301. Pierre de Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi: Opération Tacaud, Tchad 1978–1980 (Paris: Editions Soteca, 2012). pp. 85–86.

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After the International Commission’s report became public, Giscard asked both Senegalese president Senghor and Gabonese president Omar Bongo for their opinions on Bokassa’s replacement. Both suggested former CAR president David Dacko, then living in Paris, whom Bokassa had overthrown 13 years previously. After some hesitation, Giscard agreed.69 Giscard could not simply send troops to Bangui and place Dacko in charge of the country. Dacko would have to “seize” power and make an official request for French protection to satisfy French requirements for an appropriate legal fiction.70 This resulted in a delicate situation, in which Dacko would technically have to arrive in Bangui and publicly request French military protection before French forces officially arrived in the country. For Dacko to get to Bangui in the first place, though, the French would have to transport him there and ensure his immediate safety. Marenches suggested using mercenaries to do this, but Giscard refused. Instead, this mission would be performed by a regular army unit attached to the SDECE as a special operations force.71 The best way to avoid resistance and achieve success meant waiting until Bokassa had left the country. As preparations moved forward, Tonquédec began to worry that the use of Chad as a base for the coup, codenamed Operation Barracuda, could have negative consequences on the French role in the country. He feared that using Chadian territory “would treat Chad’s independence with unacceptable casualness. Our good relations with Goukouni would not survive.”72 He passed these views on to Army Chief of Staff General Guy Méry. Tonquédec also told Méry that Gabon would be a preferable base for the operation. Initially Méry seemed to agree, telling Tonquédec in an August 25 cable, “It seems to me politically difficult for the operation to be launched from Chad.”73 On September 17, Journiac received news that Bokassa planned to make an official visit to Libya two days later. This represented the best opportunity for the French to act.74 The plan was for SDECE commandos, operating under the codename Opération Caban (short for CentrAfrique-BANgui), to secure Bangui’s airport and ensure Dacko’s 69 71 72 74

70 Giscard, Le Pouvoir et la Vie, note 20 above, pp. 624–627. Ibid. p. 626. Faes and Smith, Bokassa, note 4 above, p. 222. 73 Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 68 above, pp. 86–87. Ibid. p. 87. Giscard, Le Pouvoir et la Vie, note 20 above, p. 627.

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safe arrival.75 These troops had removed their uniform insignia to provide the French government with some degree of plausible deniability should the affair go sour.76 Dacko, whom SDECE officers had to cajole onto the aircraft before the flight, greatly feared for his personal safety. Thus, French operatives made him prerecord a radio address proclaiming Bokassa’s overthrow and requesting French assistance, in case he felt physically or emotionally incapable of doing it himself upon landing. Despite this, on the night of September 19, Dacko landed after French special forces secured the airport. The latter did this without firing a shot, partly by offering local troops to pay their salary arrears on the spot.77 Dacko delivered his message, and minutes later regular French troops landed and secured the most strategic points in Bangui. They also deployed to protect the expatriate community against potential unrest. The coup was bloodless.78 The SDECE had another mission as well. This aimed to identify the extent of the Libyan presence in the country, and, if necessary, to engage Libyan troops who might try to resist.79 In the event, nothing of the sort occurred. Nonetheless, seemingly confirming French fears, French commandos captured some 40 Libyan special forces operatives along with 5 machine gun–equipped Toyota pickup trucks, 60 Kalashnikov assault rifles, several heavy machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, all apparently recently supplied by Gaddafi.80 Upon hearing news of the coup from Libya’s foreign minister Ali Triki, Bokassa took the unusual decision to fly to France. He claimed that his French citizenship, awarded to him after his service in the French army, gave him the right to reside in French territory. Indeed, in 1973 the French Justice Ministry had informed the Quai that Bokassa was a French citizen. Bokassa had even framed this decision and hung it on his bedroom wall.81

75 76 77 78 79 80

Faes and Smith, Bokassa, note 4 above, p. 220. Patrick Pesnot and Monsieur X, Les dessous de la Françafrique (Paris, France: Nouveau Monde éditions, 2008), p. 148. Marenches, Dans le secret des princes, note 63 above. pp. 165–167. Faes and Smith, Bokassa, note 4 above, pp. 224–226. Bat, Le syndrome Foccart, note 26 above, p. 378. 81 Faes and Smith, Bokassa, note 4 above, pp. 225–226. Ibid., p. 236.

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After a great deal of embarrassment among senior French officials, particularly René Journiac, who had not expected such a move, Alain Peyrefitte, the French justice minister, called Bokassa’s citizenship “a joke” and declared the fallen emperor’s claims invalid. He would not be permitted to remain in France. Journiac finally managed to resolve the affair by persuading a reluctant Félix Houphouët-Boigny to offer Bokassa exile in Côte d’Ivoire. Thus ended the Central African Empire.82 Newspaper reports immediately following Bokassa’s overthrow tended to highlight his most violent tendencies, and sometimes reporters or their editors went to excessive lengths to sell their papers.83 This kind of reporting helped to legitimize the French government narrative about the need for Bokassa’s overthrow. However, it also raised uncomfortable public questions about the character and extent of French support for Bokassa in the preceding years, particularly the emperor’s relations with Giscard. These somewhat conflicting tendencies manifested themselves within the Socialist opposition. Socialist leader François Mitterrand called for the resignations of all those ministers and government officials involved in France’s close relationship with Bokassa, particularly regarding the coronation affair. At the same time, though, neither he, nor other opposition figures, condemned the principle of the intervention, nor its ultimate goal.84 Several weeks after Bokassa’s overthrow, the French investigative and satirical paper Le Canard enchaîné revealed that Giscard had previously received gifts of diamonds from Bokassa. It valued the diamond gifts at 1 million francs and accused Giscard of ordering special forces to Berengo to remove Bokassa’s personal archives, which included his correspondence with Giscard. Giscard’s initial refusal to refute the charges made the accusations seem more serious. In hindsight, it seems that the Canard had seriously overvalued the diamonds; as industrial diamonds they were only worth several thousand francs. Likewise, reports of the theft of archives had little basis in eyewitness accounts, and a number of journalists who visited Berengo following Bokassa’s ouster found his “archives” relatively intact, if disorganized. Instead it seems that SDECE personnel had collected 82 83 84

Ibid., p. 237. These included the now thoroughly debunked, though highly racialized, allegations concerning Bokassa’s cannibalism appearing in Paris-Match. Faes and Smith, Bokassa, note 4 above, p. 232.

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material relating to relations between Bokassa and Gaddafi. This, combined with souvenir-taking by soldiers and journalists, was later amplified in later reports into a mass theft of Bokassa’s documentation.85 The story of the diamonds became “the diamond affair” and persisted over the following months as an exiled Bokassa fed more stories of diamond gifts to the French press via the right-wing French journalist Roger Delpey.86 The scandal subsequently played an important role in contributing to Giscard’s close electoral defeat by François Mitterrand in May 1981. Thus, the diamonds became “poisoned gifts” in which the relationship between Bokassa and Giscard had evolved to the point where the downfall of one dragged down the other.

Barracuda’s Impact in Chad Giscard’s political future was not the only French casualty of the otherwise bloodless Opération Barracuda. The use of Chadian territory for Bokassa’s overthrow infuriated Goukouni. On September 23, he sent a letter to the French Embassy protesting “the use of Chadian national territory as a springboard for coups d’état in neighboring or distant countries”87 and threatened to “draw all the necessary conclusions from this unfriendly act.”88 As Ambassador Louis Dallier had already left the country, and a new ambassador would not arrive for over two weeks, Tonquédec had the responsibility of explaining the French actions to the Chadian leader. According to Tonquédec, an exasperated Goukouni complained because: Without telling me, and for weeks, France prepared a coup d’état on the soil of my country and conducted it with complete indifference to my reactions. The French army, which I had just requested to remain to help me facilitate Chadian reconciliation, is a coup d’état army. I now must learn to be wary of it!89

Bokassa’s overthrow dealt a serious blow to the confidence that several Chadian factions had placed in Opération Tacaud. If Giscard could overthrow a formerly close friend and ally, how could the Chadians 85 87 88

86 Ibid., pp. 241–286. Wauthier, Quatre Présidents, note 17 above, p. 313. MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 7 pour la période du 1er au 30 septembre 1979,” 22.10.1979, p. 15. 89 Ibid. Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 68 above, p. 88.

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trust French intentions? The use of French bases in Chad for Opération Barracuda, without authorization or even forewarning, represented in many respects another intolerable violation of Chadian sovereignty. As Goukouni had publicly defended the French presence after Lagos II, the French actions reflected poorly upon him. Tonquédec sympathized with Goukouni. He himself had tried to convince French authorities to launch the coup from Gabon. He later wrote that the French attitude towards Goukouni was insulting. France had acted as if Goukouni and the transitional authorities did not exist.90 This behavior was reflected in the attitude of the general in charge of Barracuda’s logistics, who told Tonquédec he would make no change in response to his requests, “whether or not that pleases Monsieur Goukouni!”91 Although Barracuda undermined Goukouni’s confidence in France, in the short term he needed French assistance in organizing the new GUNT. The Lagos II signatory factions had agreed on an interim governing arrangement, but it was urgent to form the new GUNT as soon as possible. With this in mind, he asked Tonquédec to secure Douguia again in preparation for a summit with all the Chadian factions. Tonquédec agreed, but even as French forces repaired and secured the site, Kamougué expressed reservations about attending a meeting there. Goukouni asked Tonquédec to travel to Moundou to reassure Kamougué of his personal safety and persuade him to attend.92 Tonquédec later wrote that this request placed him in a dilemma. A refusal would only compound the suspicions that Barracuda had already provoked. Still, he felt odd about helping the formation of a government whose first decision, according to Lagos II, would be to eject the French army from Chad. Furthermore, Kamougué still blamed France for the loss of N’Djamena and had previously threatened French expatriates. Hence, a trip to the South could incur a personal risk for Tonquédec. He nevertheless agreed to go and decided not to ask permission from General Méry, fearing the latter would almost certainly refuse.93 Fortunately for the French commander, after a stormy meeting with Kamougué and his subordinates in a packed aircraft hangar, the southern leader agreed to go to Douguia. 90

Ibid.

91

Ibid.

92

Ibid., p. 91–92.

93

Ibid., p. 92–94.

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On November 7, 1979, all the faction leaders, except Ahmat Acyl, who claimed illness but sent a representative, met at Douguia to hammer out an arrangement for the new GUNT. On November 11, after four days of discussions, 22 government ministries were divided among the 11 movements: 10 went to the South, where Kamougué and his FAT divided the posts, and 12 went to northern factions. Goukouni remained president and Kamougué vice-president, Acyl received the foreign ministry, Habré received the defense ministry, and Mahamat Saleh Ahmat, a loyal Habré partisan, received the finance ministry.94 For the first time in fifteen years, Chad had something of an inclusive government, and hope seemed to emerge after continuous civil war. Giscard quickly responded with a Cooperation Ministry mission to assess the country’s needs and develop an economic aid program. He promised Goukouni that France was willing to “support and help the GUNT to the best of its ability.”95 Nevertheless, Cooperation Ministry officials were skeptical. During the Douguia negotiations, Jean Sriber complained that Tacaud had lost its purpose. Instead, its units, based at the airport, no longer functioned as a deterrent to future outbreaks of violence. The “neutral force,” mandated by Lagos II in part to play this deterrent role, had thus far failed to materialize. Tacaud had transformed into a “passive presence which influences nothing and no one.”96 Sriber quipped that now Tacaud served “mainly as air traffic control and as a transport company at the disposal of Chadian political leaders.”97 He worried that the de facto North-South partition, political fragmentation, deadlock, and generalized insecurity would only worsen. For these reasons, he feared, “our aid initiatives in this disorder and administrative vacuum are derisory and even dangerous.”98 Guy Georgy, the head of the French Foreign Ministry Africa desk, suggested an “administrative commando” be created to restore basic functionality to the Chadian state apparatus over a six-month period.99 Sriber thought the idea interesting, but felt extremely pessimistic about its practicality. Cynically, he concluded, “When we know 94 95 96 97

MAE Nantes, N’Djamena Ambassade, Carton 5, “Synthèse n. 9 Période du 1er au 30 novembre 1979,” 10.12.1979, pp. 6–7. Ibid., p. 13. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/2/3bis, Cooperation Ministry Note, “A/S: Une solution pour le Tchad?” 09.11.1979, p.1. 98 99 Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. 2.

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that so-called African solutions don’t exclude some level of disorder, we have a right to question the usefulness of such a reasonable diversion.”100 Regardless, Giscard ordered the Cooperation Ministry to devise a substantial aid program to help Chad back from the brink of economic collapse, and to signal France’s support for the fragile new governing arrangement. In late November, Cooperation officials met with representatives from different Chadian ministries and factions to create a list of needs for emergency aid. Ultimately, this consisted of a 50-millionfranc commitment over a four-month period, including 38 million francs for the civilian sector and 12 million francs for the military. The program would seek to pay salaries, provide electricity, repair buildings, build a new ferry, rebuild the health system, improve agricultural production, and restore parts of the education system. The military funding aimed to expedite demobilization and the demilitarization of the capital, as well as facilitate the creation of the stilltheoretical newly integrated national army.101 Giscard signed off on this plan, but also told Cooperation Minister Robert Galley to create a special aid program for the BET and to increase assistance levels for demobilizing combatants. This latter issue constituted “an essential condition” for the whole program.102 Nothing the French could do, though, altered the fact that the new GUNT represented little more than an armed truce. Goukouni later noted it barely functioned at all, recalling, “each movement had its own zone where it exercised exclusive control and where it levied taxes.”103 Moussa Medella, the FAO leader and health minister, wrote that ministers would attend government meetings “armed to the teeth” and frequently exchanged insults. He compared the atmosphere to cowboy movies.104 This made it nearly impossible to govern, and the consequent friction made a renewed outbreak of violence increasingly probable. 100 101 102 103 104

Ibid. 3. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 101/2, “Synthèse n. 10 Période du 1er au 31 décembre 1979,” 07.01.1980, p. 11. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/2/3bis, Handwritten note from Journiac to Galley, No subject, 20.12.1979. Goukouni Weddeye, “Témoignage pour l’histoire du Tchad,” Entretiens avec Laurent Correau, Radio France Internationale, 2008, p. 99. Moussa Medella Youssouf, Pour le Tchad: Récit au cœur de la révolution (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2015), p. 75.

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French policymaking circles were aware of this problem. Some at the Quai felt that regionalizing assistance could encourage a reduction in tensions. The centralized state model had clearly not taken hold, in part because “the colonial period was too short.”105 Nonetheless, all Chadian factions insisted on maintaining the colonial frontiers. From this perspective, any talk of “federalism” implied a breakup of the country. This feeling had grown particularly strong since early 1979, when the South had become a separately governed space. In the view of the Quai, the current state apparatus could no longer function since “the structure must correspond to reality.”106 This meant French economic aid should focus on regional efforts rather than hoping the GUNT could effectively coordinate assistance. This was particularly important for encouraging the demobilization of armed groups because, “Chad will have to live with private armies for a long time, and these will only slowly dissolve in their regions of origin, given a minimum level of economic activity.”107 The Quai thus suggested that France discreetly orient its development aid towards local and regional initiatives to promote a more decentralized Chad. Publicly stating this would risk alienating Chadian political elites, so it would become important to “do it without saying so.”108 Due to the fragility of the Chadian political scene, many faction leaders privately wanted the French army to remain. Several days after the GUNT’s formation, Tonquédec received orders to fly to Maroua in Cameroon, alone, and in civilian clothes. The reason soon became clear as he encountered Giscard’s advisor René Journiac in an empty and isolated villa. After the two sat down, Ahmat Acyl, the most vocally anti-French Chadian faction leader, entered the room. Tonquédec was stunned. Acyl explained that in his view the Douguia agreement was illusory. Goukouni had no authority over the other movements, and even within the FAP dissensions had begun to appear. Habré seemed determined to seize power and awaited the best moment to do so. Such a conflict would be far worse than the past fighting in N’Djamena. Furthermore, he asserted that Gaddafi, who had hitherto supported Acyl, aimed to turn Chad into a Libyan protectorate.109 105 106 109

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/4, DAM Note, “A/ S: De la régionalisation au Tchad,” 24.01.1980, p. 1. 107 108 Ibid., p. 2. Ibid., p. 3. Ibid., p. 3. Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 68 above, 97–98. The meeting is also referenced, though not in detail, in MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad

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Journiac asked Acyl his opinion on how to counter these possibilities. Acyl responded that only France had the means to enable peace, and it had a moral obligation to do so. He even declared that France should “recolonize” Chad. He told his French interlocutors he obviously could not say this publicly, but he counted on them to ensure his feelings were known at the highest echelons of the French government.110 This was not the first time Acyl had reached out to his adversaries. In early April 1979, before Kano II, he passed a message to the French Embassy in Tripoli, offering a nonaggression pact.111 At the end of May, following Lagos I, he sent a message via Sudanese diplomatic channels to Goukouni and Habré, assuring them of his patriotism and that he was no Libyan “dupe.” He told the GUNT leaders he would not support Libyan annexationist goals. He encouraged them to broaden the GUNT to include his movement.112 They did not respond to Acyl’s overtures, but it did suggest his desire for a pretext to escape Libyan oversight. After Douguia, Acyl and his movement held an important position within the new GUNT. His fears over the transitional government’s future prevented him from any open break with Gaddafi, but he certainly felt the weight of Libyan pressure and for this reason sounded out French officials for possible guarantees. These contacts continued over the next few months. In February 1980, Acyl again made overtures to French officials. La Rochère suggested giving him money to soften the blow of a possible break with Libya.113 On February 4, 1980, René Journiac visited N’Djamena to sound out GUNT leaders on Tacaud’s future and other forms of French assistance. Like Acyl, Habré also expressed a strong desire for French forces to remain. Even Kamougué, despite his feelings towards France, told Journiac that a French presence was indispensable. Goukouni, though, had become less enthusiastic. He told Journiac that Habré

110 111 112 113

1980–1983, Carton 104, 104/4, DAM Note pour Monsieur Levitte, “A/s. Acyl Ahmat,” 22.02.1980, p. 1. Ibid., p. 98. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1975–1979, Carton 77, telegram from Cabouat to Paris, “Tchad,” 10.04.1979, p. 2. FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/2/2, telegram from Dallier to Paris, “A/S : M. Acyl Ahmed et la Libye,” 01.06.1979. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/4, DAM Note pour Monsieur Levitte, “A/s. Acyl Ahmat,” 22.02.1980, pp. 3–4.

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presented a serious obstacle to reconciliation, and he feared the FAN leader’s ambitions. Furthermore, he remained convinced that certain elements within Tacaud were actively collaborating with Habré. Kamougué repeated these accusations as well, though he was careful to add that the French military presence remained necessary to maintain stability.114 In a shift from his earlier position, Goukouni wanted to move ahead with negotiating the modalities of a French withdrawal. Journiac suggested an exchange of letters, which would set these out and provide for Tacaud’s replacement with a new mission providing military aid and humanitarian assistance. Journiac explained that any such deployment would have to be able to protect itself as well as guarantee the safety of foreign expatriates. Goukouni rejected this proposal, as it implied that French combat formations would remain in place. Instead, he and Journiac agreed that the GUNT would charge a commission to elaborate the basis for withdrawal negotiations.115 On February 6, Journiac boarded a plane headed for Yaoundé, the Cameroonian capital, for consultations with President Ahidjo. Tonquédec accompanied Journiac to the airport. He later wrote that Journiac’s aircraft, which belonged to Omar Bongo, looked like it needed substantial maintenance work.116 That evening, it crashed at the N’Gaoundéré airstrip in northern Cameroon, killing Journiac and the flight crew. Journiac’s death deprived Giscard of one of his closest advisors. While suspicion immediately fell upon Libyan intelligence as the culprit, the crash investigation and eyewitness reports revealed that a combination of darkness, wind, and pilot error led to the crash as the plane approached the runway. The fact that the pilot was Gabonese president Omar Bongo’s nephew kept the investigation results under wraps, feeding rumors of a Libyan plot.117 After Journiac’s death, French policy in Chad grew increasingly listless. In many respects, this had less to do with any French personality than with Tacaud’s position in N’Djamena. As his discussions with Journiac had indicated, Goukouni had already decided by early February that the French should leave. Though other Chadian leaders, 114 115 117

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 113/1, telegram from Beaux to Paris, “Mission de M. Journiac à N’Djamena,” 07.02.1980, p. 3. 116 Ibid., p. 3–4. Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 68 above, p. 109. Pascal Airault and Jean-Pierre Bat, Françafrique: Opérations secrètes et affaires d’Etat (Paris: Tallandier, 2016), p. 107.

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particularly Habré, did not share this view, no one could publicly denounce the Lagos II clause. Doing so would stigmatize them as tools of French neocolonialism. In Tonquédec’s view, shared by some Quai officials, French policy had effectively pushed Goukouni back into Gaddafi’s arms.118 This process did not happen overnight, but almost certainly began with Barracuda. Tonquédec later wrote that in his meetings with Goukouni in the weeks following Barracuda, the Chadian president often jokingly feigned shock he had not yet been arrested by French troops.119 Though apparently lighthearted, this humor did reveal Goukouni’s insecurities regarding French aims. By the end of 1979, these jokes transformed into real suspicion. Two seemingly minor incidents illustrated Goukouni’s growing fears. One night in late November 1979, a number of French soldiers deployed at N’Djamena airport moved to another section of the base to escape hordes of mosquitos. Unbeknownst to them, the FAP had deployed a unit to protect the aircraft of a visiting Congolese delegation. The movement of French troops provoked confusion among the Chadians, who sent conflicting reports to Goukouni about French activities. The same evening, the GUNT had organized a banquet for the visiting Congolese dignitaries. At the last minute Kamougué decided not to attend, and the officer he designated to replace him did not arrive either, due to an accident. The absence of southerners at the banquet, combined with suspicious French troop movements, led Goukouni to suspect a coup. He stayed awake all night with his Kalashnikov, awaiting such an eventuality.120 On December 15, Goukouni had another scare. Tacaud units escorted the transfer of some 1 billion CFA francs from the Central Bank to the airport, and then to Moundou, where it would finance the purchase of cotton. However, the prolonged presence of French soldiers and vehicles in front of the Central Bank caused nearby FAP units, unaware of a transfer arrangement, to sound the alert. Within moments armed men seized the central avenues of the capital. Fearing an imminent fight, hundreds of people fled across the Chari River and businesses closed. At the last minute, French officers and the FAP 118 119

FCMGT, Carton 5, A4/7/2, Centre d’analyse et de prévision, Note pour le ministre, “A/S Bref post-mortem tchadien,” 31.12.1980, p. 2. 120 Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 68 above, p. 92. Ibid., p. 103.

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leadership avoided a firefight.121 Tonquédec later recalled, “The extreme nervousness exhibited in both these cases by Chadian leaders demonstrated to me the extent to which Barracuda had created a climate of lasting mistrust towards France.”122 While other faction leaders felt that a continuing French presence served their interests, Goukouni increasingly lost faith in his French interlocutors. In early January, Marcel Beaux, the new French ambassador, summarized his view of Goukouni’s dilemma: He finds himself split between a concern to protect Chad from the Libyan threat with the help of French forces and the fear of being accused of violating the Lagos accords. Additionally, he hopes to be able to benefit from French cooperation, all the while mistrusting our attitude towards Chad and, more especially, [toward] his own movement.123

Accordingly, in late 1979 Goukouni requested a French commitment against Libya. Before Tonquédec left for consultations with General Méry and Giscard in Paris on December 17, he met with Goukouni to ask if he could pass any messages to the French president. The FAP leader requested food aid for the BET and an eventual official visit to Paris to discuss the future of Franco-Chadian relations. Additionally, he asked the French to establish a base at FayaLargeau to deter potential Libyan attacks.124 Shortly before leaving, Tonquédec asked Habré his opinion. The FAN leader insisted that France agree to Goukouni’s request for a base, as it “would probably prevent Goukouni from throwing himself into the arms of the Libyans!”125 Upon arriving in Paris, Tonquédec told Méry about Goukouni’s requests before meeting with Giscard at the Elysée’s underground command center. Oddly, Méry told him not to tell Giscard of Goukouni’s request for the base in Faya-Largeau; instead he himself would take care of Goukouni’s message. Thus, when Giscard asked Tonquédec what messages Goukouni had for him, the French colonel

121 122 123 124

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 101/2, “Synthèse n. 10 Période du 1er au 31 décembre 1979,” 07.01.1980, pp. 12–13. Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 68 above, p. 104. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 113/1, telegram from Beaux to Paris, “Entretien avec le président Goukouni,” 10.01.1980. 125 Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 68 above, p. 104. Ibid., p. 105.

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only relayed the first two requests. Giscard quickly agreed to both.126 When Giscard asked Méry for his assessment, the French general failed to mention Goukouni’s entreaty, but asserted, “If we let Chad fall under Libyan influence, we’d also lose CAR. Niger would find itself in a very difficult situation, not to mention our loss of credibility in Gabon, Cameroon, and elsewhere.”127 Tonquédec agreed entirely and wanted to blurt out that France had to “deploy to Faya-Largeau or leave Chad!”128 Out of respect for his superior, though, he said nothing. On January 20, 1980, Tonquédec received official confirmation of a decision not to deploy French forces in northern Chad.129 Goukouni repeated his request in a meeting with Beaux on January 24, also to no avail.130 In Tonquédec’s view, it was a mistake to refuse. Such a force would have signaled to Goukouni and other Chadian leaders that France not only defended “useful Chad,” but the North as well. Tonquédec felt this refusal helped convince Goukouni he could not count on France for his own long-term security. Against Habré, Gaddafi represented Goukouni’s only possible ally.131 Goukouni’s recollections are not particularly clear on this point, perhaps deliberately so. He made veiled references to a deal with the Libyans in his 2008 interviews with Radio France Internationale. He suggested the FAP had made an initial deal with Libya to facilitate his selection as president at Lagos II. By keeping Habré in the dark, he managed to gather the support of pro-Libyan factions and the FAN for his nomination.132 However, his narrative then becomes somewhat confusing and makes no mention of his relations with France at this stage. Thirty years later, while visiting Tonquédec’s home in France, Goukouni told the former Tacaud commander that he enlisted Libyan

126

127 129 130

131 132

See: FCMGT, Carton 3, A4/2/3bis, Handwritten note from Journiac to Galley, No subject, 20.12.1979. for Giscard’s special requests to the Cooperation Ministry for emergency assistance to the BET. 128 Quoted in Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 68 above, p. 105. Ibid. Ibid., p. 106. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 107, 107/3, telegram from Beaux to Paris, “Présence des forces françaises au Tchad,” 24.01.1980, p. 3. Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 68 above, p. 105. Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 103 above, pp. 97–98, and 102–103.

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support because he desperately needed money for the coming war with Habré.133 Goukouni’s fears and political reorientation came to a head shortly before Journiac’s last visit on February 4. The previous day, Goukouni summoned Tonquédec, recently promoted to the rank of brigadier general, to the presidential palace along with his intelligence chief, Lt. Colonel Saouli, and Beaux. Goukouni’s chief of staff, Adoum Yacoub, immediately accused Saouli of collaborating with Habré to help the FAN leader seize power. Tonquédec and Beaux rejected these accusations and defended Saouli’s record. Nevertheless, Goukouni demanded Saouli’s immediate recall and, after Tonquédec’s vigorous protests, Tonquédec’s expulsion as well.134 Tonquédec later felt Saouli’s removal, and perhaps his own, represented a signal to Gaddafi that Goukouni was ready to do business. Libyan intelligence may have perceived Saouli’s Arabic language skills and experience as a particular threat.135

Return to Civil War By early February 1980, tensions had grown considerably between Habré and the other GUNT factions. The previous month, FAN units attacked Am-Dam in Ouaddaï. This town lay on the route between Abéché and N’Djamena and thus represented a strategically important point for Habré’s forces.136 However, units linked to the former Frolinat 1st Army, now regrouped with other smaller factions allied to Goukouni, controlled Am-Dam prior to Habré’s attack, and lost over 100 men in the fighting.137 Goukouni, furious at this move and fearful of Habré’s intentions, began to concentrate allied factions in the capital. French observers estimated these at some 1,500 good though disorganized fighters 133 134

135 136 137

Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 68 above, p. 109. FCMGT, Carton 4, A4/6/1bis, Report from Marcel Beaux, “A/S: Le retrait de N’Djamena des Forces Françaises et les relations franco-tchadiennes,” 05.06.1980, p. 3, and Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, 108. Only Beaux mentions that Saouli was an intelligence officer. Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 68 above, p. 108. Robert Buijtenhuijs, Le Frolinat et les guerres civiles du Tchad: 1977–1984 (Paris: Karthala, 1987), pp. 155–156. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/4, DAM Note, “a/s: Tension à N’Djamena et sécurité de la colonie française,” 14.02.1980, p. 1.

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armed with ample weapons and ammunition. French intelligence also reported Goukouni brought another 500–600 men from the BET to the capital as reinforcements, where they discreetly took up positions just outside the city. Evidence also suggested that Libya had begun supplying money.138 Tonquédec later wrote that Brahim Yousouf, one of Goukouni’s deputies, had returned to N’Djamena from a trip to Tripoli with 200 million CFA francs for the FAP and its allies.139 French officials judged Habré’s position in the capital as somewhat weaker, with 1,000 men, although these were better organized and had more experience of urban combat. Furthermore, Goukouni could count on at least tacit support from Kamougué. He, like many southerners, felt deep personal enmity towards Habré, due to the events of the previous year.140 The African “neutral force” had finally deployed to the Chadian capital in January, although both Benin and Guinea ultimately refused to participate. Thus only a small 500-strong Congolese force arrived and took up residence at the gendarmerie barracks. However, they had no specific orders and, in French eyes, lacked the capacity to decisively intervene in case of major fighting. French officials even feared that, in the event of hostilities, the Congolese force would take refuge at the French base, thus complicating Tacaud’s mission.141 Tacaud’s mission was already complicated. When Tonquédec left Chad on February 9, the four remaining Jaguar ground-attack aircraft left with him.142 The force in N’Djamena now consisted of 1,080 men, of which only 500 were combat troops. Shortly before he left, Tonquédec explained to Quai officials that if fighting broke out, Tacaud could no longer fulfill its now principal mission: the protection of the roughly 750–800 French expatriates living in the capital.143 This population lived in various parts of the city, including in relatively vulnerable areas. This made evacuation extremely difficult, especially since the French army barely had enough troops to protect their own base.144 138 140 141 143 144

139 Ibid., p. 2. Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 68 above, p. 111. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/4, DAM Note, “a/ s: Tension à N’Djamena et sécurité de la colonie française,” 14.02.1980, p. 2. 142 Ibid., p. 3. Tonquédec, Face à Kadhafi, note 68 above, pp. 109–110. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/4, DAM Note, “a/ s: Tension à N’Djamena et sécurité de la colonie française,” 14.02.1980, p. 3. Ibid.

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Nevertheless, the perception that Tacaud constituted an essential stabilizing factor grew among French policymakers. While French officials recognized that Tacaud itself would have to withdraw, they hoped to negotiate this in such a way that a substantial French military presence remained, albeit under a different name and formal mandate.145 Journiac had tested this possibility during his last meeting with Goukouni. While the latter rejected French proposals, Quai officials still strongly felt they could reach an agreement. In mid-February, Goukouni tasked GUNT agriculture minister Raymond Naïmbaye as a personal emissary to Giscard to discuss the French military presence and the Chadian political situation. Naïmbaye was also close to Kamougué. La Rochère urged Giscard to emphasize the negative consequences of a full withdrawal to his Chadian interlocutor. These included “the near-certainty of a FANFAP confrontation with dramatic humanitarian and uncertain political consequences; the absence of any recourse and assistance in case of external aggression; the near-certain disappearance of any kind of cooperation for reasons of insecurity. In short, without Tacaud, Chad would almost find itself in the situation of Uganda.”146 Giscard received Naïmbaye on February 14. The Chadian minister handed Giscard a letter confirming the GUNT’s position on the retreat of French forces. Nevertheless, Naïmbaye explained that while the GUNT factions agreed on the principle of French withdrawal, they disagreed over the calendar and modalities. He personally felt French forces should stay, since the other Lagos II clauses had either been violated or not yet implemented. The continued Libyan presence in the North and the threat they posed to the rest of Chad made Tacaud indispensable. A French withdrawal would, in his eyes, allow Libya to launch a full-scale invasion. He insisted that, in fact, “only a small minority really want French forces to leave.” Giscard retorted that it was this small minority who made the most noise.147 145 146

147

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/4, Note d’entretien from La Rochère to Giscard, “a/s: M. Naïmbaye,” 13.02.1980, p. 2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/4, Note d’entretien from La Rochère to Giscard, “a/s: M. Naïmbaye,” 13.02.1980, p. 2. Uganda was then experiencing significant levels of violence following Tanzania’s ouster of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin Dada the previous year. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 113/2, Elysée note, “Audience accordée par le Président de la République à M. Naïmbaye, Ministre de l’Agriculture du Tchad,” 14.02.1980, p. 2.

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Naïmbaye warned Giscard that Habré presented the principal obstacle to sustainable peace. Kamougué and Goukouni continued to worry that French officers supported the FAN leader. Naïmbaye asked the French president, “Does France prefer Chad, or an individual?” and expressed the concern that the French troop presence might contribute to an eventual Habré military victory.148 Giscard responded that he had given strict orders to Tacaud not to intervene on behalf of any faction, but only at the GUNT’s “unanimous” request, “in response to an external threat.” He continued, “I repeat, personal rivalries are Chadian affairs, and we will not get involved.” Giscard added that he personally feared that a French departure would have negative consequences. At the same time, he could not maintain troops in Chad against the will of the Chadians themselves.149 Nonetheless, Naïmbaye’s discussion with Giscard, combined with other mixed signals from within the GUNT, convinced French policymakers that a negotiated solution avoiding a complete withdrawal remained possible. While some in the French military, particularly Tonquédec, felt that Goukouni’s push for a French withdrawal resulted from Libyan initiatives and incentives, the Quai had other views. La Rochère felt Goukouni’s initiative resulted from the GUNT’s failure to make progress on other Lagos II clauses such as demilitarization. The retreat of French forces represented the only objective that all parties “officially” agreed upon. Hence, in La Rochère’s view, Goukouni’s motive stemmed more from a need to assert his own authority than anything else. La Rochère also felt that pressure from other African states played a role. In the African regional context, affirming a desire to remove French forces reinforced Goukouni’s international credibility as something other than a neocolonial pawn, as well as his preeminence at the head of the Chadian state.150 This led Quai officials to conclude they could find the right formula for Tacaud that effectively reconciled French interests with Chadian concerns. First, though, French officials had to address the ambiguous nature of Tacaud’s current role. While its initial goal in 1978 aimed to protect General Malloum’s regime from Libyan-backed aggression, the 148 150

149 Ibid. Ibid., p. 3. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 107/3, DAM Note, “A/s. Présence militaire française au TCHAD,” 12.03.1980, p. 2.

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political situation had radically shifted. Yet, even as Giscard maintained to Naïmbaye that Tacaud would intervene in case of foreign intervention, he – or his subordinates – had rejected Goukouni’s pleas for protection against Libya. In the face of Giscard’s indecisiveness, Quai officials identified several key components of Tacaud’s mission that benefited French interests. First, they felt it helped stabilize N’Djamena’s political scene. It also prevented the appearance of a political vacuum, which could attract Libyan designs. From a geopolitical standpoint, the control of the N’Djamena airbase served as a central location and staging ground for communications and support to French garrisons and African allies throughout the continent. Furthermore, the French presence protected expatriates, which allowed the continuation of French economic aid. Finally, Tacaud maintained a basic level of humanitarian assistance and service provision.151 For these reasons, as well as a desire to keep a French seat at the Chadian political table, it became important to avoid getting forced into a precipitous withdrawal. In this vein, La Rochère suggested the basis for a future agreement aiming at “the transformation, or adaptation to the current Chadian and African context, of the French military presence.”152 This included the retreat of French combat units, but retained a logistics detachment including air transport, engineers, and a hospital to help maintain basic infrastructure and services. French officials wanted to keep their military base for this purpose, as well as control over parts of the airport. Furthermore, at least a small number of combat troops would have to remain to both protect this detachment and the Embassy. Meanwhile, French advisors could help with the creation and training of the new national integrated army called for in the Lagos II agreement.153 However, the French would not have the chance to work out such an arrangement. Despite French and Chadian views that Tacaud played a stabilizing role, on March 20, 1980, the long-awaited struggle between Goukouni and Habré finally began. The fighting started with an attack by FAP combatants on FAN elements occupying the military police 151 152

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 107/3, DAM Note, “A/s. Présence militaire française au TCHAD,” 12.03.1980, pp. 3–4. 153 Ibid., p. 4. Ibid., pp. 5–6.

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barracks in N’Djamena. They killed 27 FAN personnel in their beds. This came in response to FAN attacks in the previous weeks, particularly the Am-Dam incident and an attack on Mongo. Goukouni later claimed he had no role in ordering the attack, but admitted that FAP troops and commanders were responsible for it and, consequently, for the ensuing violence. Nonetheless, he felt an armed struggle had become inevitable and the attack on the police barracks only precipitated events.154 Soon clashes escalated, with each side bringing in reinforcements. Habré’s FAN fought alone, with only marginal support from the few fighters affiliated with the Frolinat Fondamental, led by Hadjéro Senoussi, one of Frolinat’s founding members, but also something of a “general without an army.”155 French sources and later accounts also suggest Habré received some support in the form of arms supplies from Egypt and Sudan, opposed as they were to Libyan expansionism.156 Habré denied this and claimed that his arms stocks came from captured supplies, as well as from material stockpiled over the previous months and years.157 Soon a war of attrition began to develop in the capital. FAT units under Kamougué advanced to the Chari River and bombarded FAN positions, with no effect other than killing lots of civilians.158 FAN forces bloodily repulsed FAT attempts to cross the river, and soon Kamougué’s troops partially withdrew from the fighting.159 The extensive use of heavy weapons, including 106mm recoilless rifles, multiple rocket launchers, and 120mm mortars, resulted in large-scale devastation. According to French estimates, by early April some 80,000 people had fled to neighboring Cameroon.160 French forces helped evacuate the Congolese “neutral force” at the end of March.161 Their small numbers and isolation made it impossible to serve as an interposition force as the civil war erupted around 154 155 157 158 160 161

Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 103 above, pp. 101–102. 156 Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 136 above, p. 158. Ibid., p. 160. Ibid. 161–162. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/4, Note pour le Ministre, “a/s: Situation au Tchad,” 02.04.1980, p. 2. 159 Ibid. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, p. 158. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/4, Note pour le Ministre, “a/s: Evolution de la situation au Tchad,” 08.04.1980, p. 3. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 107/4, telegram from La Rochère to Defense Ministry, “Contingent congolais au Tchad,” 31.03.1980.

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them.162 As in the previous year, French officials attempted to mediate a cease-fire. However, neither Beaux nor Tacaud’s new commander, Colonel Paul Lardry, achieved anything other than very temporary arrangements on two separate occasions at the end of March. On April 6, Togo’s president, Gnassingbé Eyadéma, arrived in N’Djamena to mediate between the parties, though this too ended in failure. It seemed to French observers that both Goukouni and Habré had determined to eliminate each other, and that peace was no longer an option. Goukouni himself said as much to his French interlocutors.163 The fighting placed Tacaud in a very difficult position. After the first week, the intensity was such that French embassy personnel withdrew to the French military base. Elements on both sides requested French assistance to varying degrees. The fact that French forces found themselves largely in or near parts of N’Djamena controlled by FAP forces meant that it became impossible to ignore FAT and GUNT pleas for nonmilitary assistance. This included supplying the city’s power grid, use of the ferry, and even the transport of GUNT delegations out of the country for international meetings, particularly for the Franco-African Summit in Nice in April and May. This naturally provoked complaints from Habré, and French officials worried about reprisals.164 French policymakers continued to debate Tacaud’s role. Some in the Quai felt a withdrawal would severely threaten French interests in Africa, “because Chad constitutes a double keystone: for the geopolitical zone where our interests are obvious (Niger, Cameroon, CAR): and for the credibility of our active policy in Africa.” Furthermore, a retreat would imply significantly increased Libyan involvement and allow Gaddafi to proclaim a victory against French imperialism.165 By late April, it seemed Habré had the upper hand and was slowly but surely wearing down Goukouni’s forces. In French eyes this risked triggering decisive Libyan support for Goukouni. Nonetheless, the 162 163

164 165

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 107/4, telegram from Embassy Congo to Paris, “Retrait du contingent congolais,” 01.04.1980. FCMGT, Carton 4, A4/6/1bis, Report from Marcel Beaux, “A/S: Le retrait de N’Djamena des Forces Françaises et les relations franco-tchadiennes,” 05.06.1980, p. 10. Ibid., p. 9. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/4, DAM Note, “A/s. TCHAD. Que faire ?,” 25.04.1980, p. 1.

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broader political situation seemed favorable to Goukouni and his allies. First, nearly all the Chadian factions had united, at least rhetorically, against Habré. Second, French observers felt the other Chadian factions were unanimous in their desire to respect the Lagos II agreement. Together this gave Goukouni a level of both domestic and international legitimacy. In this delicate climate, Quai officials felt that “Chad’s salvation won’t come from Africa.”166 Quai officials suggested that France intervene actively on Goukouni’s behalf. They gave several reasons. First, France should remain on the side of legitimacy. Second, he was the only Chadian leader who could plausibly reconcile the different movements (excepting the FAN). Third, clear support for Goukouni would prevent him from falling into Gaddafi’s hands. Other movements close to Libya, particularly Acyl’s CDR, would also be more likely to loosen their ties with Gaddafi. Finally, a victory by Habré could be catastrophic for Chad. In terms that would later prove prophetic, a Quai memo described the consequences of a FAN victory. Habré’s politics had alienated the entire South and much of the North. After winning the “battle for N’Djamena,” he would have to “pacify” other parts of the country to establish control. In the Quai’s analysis, “Hissène Habré’s brutal and cynical behavior, as well as his deep feelings, suggest that if he wins, he’s more likely to become a new bloodthirsty dictator than the unifier that Chad needs.”167 Beaux later seconded this assessment, writing that he could not see how Habré could impose himself as a Chadian leader without “a long period of fighting and the establishment of a bloody dictatorship.”168 Neutrality would soon become impossible for France. Continuing passivity was no longer an option. Furthermore, if Tacaud were to remain in N’Djamena, it would need a “massive” intervention requiring large numbers of reinforcements and the possibility of high troop losses. This could spark negative reactions in French public opinion. It could also hurt French credibility in international fora, particularly following the recent Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.169 166 168

169

167 Ibid., p. 3. Ibid., p. 5. FCMGT, Carton 4, A4/6/1bis, Report from Marcel Beaux, “A/S: Le retrait de N’Djamena des Forces Françaises et les relations franco-tchadiennes,” 05.06.1980, p. 12. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 113/3, DAM Note pour le Ministre, “A/s. Situation tchadienne,” 21.04.1980, p. 3.

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Cooperation Ministry officials had reservations about a continued troop presence. Contrary to earlier fears, French forces had evacuated most of the expatriate population within the first week of the fighting without loss. This now meant that French forces had no mandate apart from protecting the airport and ferry and caring for wounded Chadian civilians and combatants. One of Robert Galley’s advisors, Jean Chesneau, called these tasks “as useful as they are menial,” and complained that Tacaud “is, in reality, a combat unit of the French army, and not a transport company or an extension of the Red Cross.”170 Weighing these considerations, Giscard ultimately decided on a complete troop withdrawal. In his eyes, this represented the only viable response to the escalating civil war. On April 23, Martin Kirsch, Giscard’s new Africa advisor and personal envoy following Journiac’s death, flew to N’Djamena for talks with Goukouni at the French military base. The two agreed to a French withdrawal and made the decision public on April 26 in order to preempt any antiFrench resolutions from an upcoming OAU meeting in Lagos.171 On April 29, Giscard released a statement affirming the French retreat would be total and swift. On May 17, the last French troops departed, along with all the diplomatic staff.172 Following the withdrawal, Paris reduced its presence to a bare minimum. Initially, French officials wanted to maintain formal diplomatic relations. They thus established a diplomatic post in Maroua in northern Cameroon and created a consular office in Moundou in southern Chad to provide services to the several hundred French expatriates working in the Chadian cotton sector. It would also continue providing pension payments to the large numbers of Chadian veterans of the French Army, which constituted an important source of income in the region.173 While the Moundou consulate began functioning, Cameroonian authorities restricted French diplomatic activities in Maroua. Fearing spillover from Chad, particularly due to the large numbers of refugees, 170 171

172

FCMGT, Carton 4, A4/6/1bis, Cooperation Ministry Note, “A/S: Présence de l’armée française au Tchad,” 16.04.1980, pp. 1–2. FCMGT, Carton 4, A4/6/1bis, Report from Marcel Beaux, “A/S: Le retrait de N’Djamena des Forces Françaises et les relations franco-tchadiennes,” 05.06.1980, p. 6. 173 Ibid. Ibid., pp. 7–8.

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Cameroonian officials tried to seal the border and limit French contacts with the other side. This forced the Quai to downgrade its presence in Maroua to an office attached to the French Embassy in Cameroon. This also briefly cut off French humanitarian aid.174 Meanwhile the fighting continued unabated. By early June the situation looked grim for Goukouni. Habré’s forces in other parts of the country began to seize FAP strongholds in the BET, including FayaLargeau. By pinning the bulk of FAP combatants in N’Djamena, Habré threatened to cut Goukouni off from the North. Goukouni later ascribed FAP’s losses to a chronic lack of ammunition.175 French observers at the Quai worried that the situation would soon force Goukouni to call openly for Libyan assistance.176 This prediction soon bore itself out. On June 11, Gaddafi declared his neutrality in the conflict, stating that Libya would never intervene in Chadian internal affairs unless the two countries signed an official treaty legitimizing Libyan action. Four days later, on June 15, Gaddafi and FAP representative Brahim Youssouf signed a “Friendship and Alliance Treaty.” While the two parties would not make the text public until September 28, it laid the groundwork for overt Libyan military intervention.177 One of the nightmare scenarios envisioned by the most alarmist French policymakers and their Chadian interlocutors would soon come to fruition. Gaddafi was preparing to invade Chad. 174 176 177

175 Ibid., p. 8. Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 103 above, pp. 103–104. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/4, DAM Note, “A/ s. Tchad-Perspectives,” 06.06.1980, pp. 1–2. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 136 above, p. 166.

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Giscard had not quite given up on overthrowing Gaddafi, but he had limited options. Colonel Marolles, the head of covert operations of the French foreign intelligence agency (SDECE), continued his efforts to undermine the Libyan regime. After the September 1979 failed assassination attempt, Marolles scored a major success in enlisting Gaddafi’s military security chief, Idriss el-Shehaibi, to the cause. With French and Egyptian backing, Shehaibi planned to lead a military uprising among disaffected Libyan troops in Tobruk. This aimed to spark off a wider rebellion, which hopefully would overthrow Gaddafi. Planning for the operation reached an advanced stage, with a start date set for June 5, 1980. Unfortunately for the plotters, Gaddafi somehow uncovered the plot. Shehaibi was arrested and executed.1 It remains unclear if Gaddafi was aware of the French role, but Marolles’ failure ended his career.2 In any event, by September 1980, French staff working in hospitals across the Chari River in Cameroon noticed a sharp uptick in casualty rates among FAN (Forces armées du Nord) and FAP (Forces armées populaires) combatants in N’Djamena. French foreign ministry officials linked this to increased ammunition and weapons deliveries from Libya to the FAP and concomitant escalation of arms from Sudanese and Egyptian sources to Habré.3 On September 29, Gaddafi gave a 1

2

3

Pascal Airault and Jean-Pierre Bat, Françafrique: Opérations secrètes et affaires d’Etat (Paris: Tallandier, 2016), pp. 112–113. Special thanks go to Jalel Harchaoui for confirming some of the details. It also seems likely that Shehaibi’s recruitment was more an Egyptian operation than a French one. He had the misfortune of alienating both Giscard and SDECE chief Alexandre de Marenches. Giscard detested Marenches, and Marenches was furious that Marolles took orders from Giscard, bypassing the normal chain of command. Meanwhile, Giscard held Marolles responsible for the failed operation, and he was forced into retirement. See: Ibid., p. 113. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/4, DAM Note, “a/s. Situation au Tchad,” 26.09.1980, pp. 1–2.

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speech hinting at a Libyan intervention in Chad, following the recently signed treaty. Furthermore, he demanded that France acknowledge that Chad represented part of Libya’s “vital space” as a cultural and geographical extension of Libya itself. In exchange, he stated that Libya would have no objection if other African countries such as CAR, Cameroon, Gabon, Senegal, and Côte d’Ivoire determined their own relations with France.4 On September 30, Libyan foreign minister Ahmed Shahati met French ambassador Charles Malo to discuss Gaddafi’s speech and the Chadian situation. Shahati intimated that if France recognized Libya’s “vital space” and continued selling arms to Libya, Libya would not interfere in French relations with other African states. Furthermore, he suggested Libya could grant France favorable trade concessions, particularly in the oil sector. Malo asked if this meant Libya would soon intervene in Chad. Shahati simply smiled in reply.5 Malo wrote to Paris that Libya’s offers should be taken seriously, particularly given the effects that the recent outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War could have on long-term oil prices. However, Gaddafi’s “offer” would also leave him a free hand in Chad.6 No evidence exists of a Franco-Libyan arrangement along these lines, and French officials vehemently denied it, even in internal communications. Nevertheless, just weeks after Shahati’s offer, Albin Chalendon, the head of the French national oil company ELF, signed a major contract with Libya. This provided for the additional export of 1.5 million tons of Libyan oil to France at a reduced price, as well as prospecting rights for the firm. At the same time, Libya paid off the 1.12 billion francs it owed in arrears for previous arms sales and other exports.7 Over the following months, Libyan officials also fed rumors by implying the existence of a deal. This led to renewed suspicions among Chadian and other African observers worried about secret neocolonial arrangements and French double-dealing.8 4 5 6 7 8

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 107/4, telegram from Malo to Paris, “Discours du Colonel Kadhafi – Tchad,” 29.09.1980, pp. 1–2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 107/4, telegram from Malo to Paris, “Entretien avec M. Shahati,” 30.09.1980, pp. 2–3. Ibid., p. 4. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 113/1, Direction Afrique du Nord Note, “A.S. Relations franco-libyennes,” 13.12.1980, pp. 1–3. Robert Buijtenhuijs, Le Frolinat et les guerres civiles du Tchad: 1977–1984 (Paris: Karthala, 1987), 170.

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In the first half of October, Goukouni’s situation began to deteriorate. FAN forces tightened their growing encirclement of FAP and allied forces in the capital. French observers noted the FAP had suffered serious losses. These not only included combat casualties, but also desertions and defections. Goukouni only managed to prevent a complete collapse through the sudden appearance of heavy weaponry. Habré accused the FAP of employing “mercenaries,” although to French officials this clearly represented the beginning of an increased Libyan commitment to FAP’s survival. This was marked by unsuccessful Libyan ground and air attacks against FAN positions in FayaLargeau, and a bombing raid on FAN’s positions N’Djamena by a Tu-22 bomber.9

Libyan Intervention and the French Reaction On October 24, a Quai (French foreign ministry) analysis predicted that without more substantial Libyan involvement, Habré would win the war. French observers remained unsure about whether Gaddafi would actually mount a full-scale intervention. This would carry many risks. These included the costs of the large numbers of troops and materiel necessary for such an effort, the enormous logistical difficulties resulting from the long distances and harsh climate, the negative international reaction, and the probability of eventually facing an armed insurgency.10 By early November, though, it became clear Gaddafi would fully commit himself. French military intelligence saw early signs of this with the establishment of a logistical network based in Sebha in southern Libya, and Zouar in northern Chad. From there Libyan aircraft flew weapons, ammunition, and other equipment to Fada, Mongo, and N’Djamena. As early as late June, a reinforced battalion of regular Libyan troops deployed to Zouar. On October 19 and 20, Libyan troops flown to the airstrip at Douguia joined the fighting in N’Djamena. Helicopters, ground-attack aircraft, light armor, and infantry intervened in support of Goukouni’s forces in the North. French intelligence accused Libyan soldiers of committing abuses 9 10

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/4, DAM Note, “a/s: Le Tchad après Lomé,” 24.10.1980, pp. 2–3. Ibid.

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against the local population. This movement culminated on the night of October 31–November 1 with a successful attack on Faya-Largeau by combined FAP-Libyan forces.11 On November 4, Gaddafi dramatically flew into the city, removing any doubts about the Libyan presence and Habré’s increasingly fragile situation.12 French observers felt certain that Libyan engagement would not stop here. Despite a presence in N’Djamena, Libyan involvement did not yet weigh decisively in the main fight. However, the Libyan military began increasing its rate of arms deliveries, and at least nine Libyan Mirage F1 fighters deployed to Chadian bases.13 French intelligence concluded, “A major Libyan intervention is thus probable in the near future. In case of success, it won’t fail to be seen as a direct threat for neighboring countries, especially Cameroon, CAR, and Niger.”14 In the meantime, French officials reestablished low levels of humanitarian assistance from the Cameroonian side of the border. This mainly consisted of aiding Chadian refugees and treating the wounded. The Cooperation Ministry also provided some financial assistance in the South for cotton production.15 Although the Libyan intervention provoked serious apprehension among France’s African allies, French policymakers faced considerable restraints on any meaningful response. France, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), and all of Chad’s neighbors accepted the legitimacy of the Gouvernement d’Union nationale de transition (GUNT) following Lagos II. The very same GUNT, minus Habré, had signed a treaty with Gaddafi and requested a military intervention. Furthermore, notwithstanding their fears of Gaddafi, few African leaders had yet publicly condemned Libya’s intervention. Also, the international community’s lack of interest in Chad would make it extremely difficult to mobilize broader support for a Libyan withdrawal.16 11 12 13 14 15 16

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 115/1, Fiche CERM, “Menace libyenne sur le Tchad,” 03.11.1980, pp. 1– 2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/4, DAM Note, “a/s: L’intervention militaire libyenne,” 12.11.1980, p. 1. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 115/1, Fiche CERM, “Menace libyenne sur le Tchad,” 03.11.1980, p. 2. Ibid. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/4, DAM Note, “a/s: Le Tchad après Lomé,” 24.10.1980, p. 4. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 115/1, DAM Note, “a/s: Intervention libyenne au Tchad, Que faire?,” 05.11.1980, pp. 1–2.

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The only international effort to bring peace to Chad to date had been several failed attempts by Togolese leader Gnassingbe Eyadéma to mediate a cease-fire. French officials hoped other African states associated with Eyadéma’s initiative might help form a core of Africans willing to mobilize against Libyan expansion. The chances of success seemed slim, though. Quai officials felt the only alternative was to somehow encourage a Chadian nationalist reaction against the Libyan invaders. This implied a reorientation of French policy towards support for Habré, and an effort to reconcile Kamougué and Habré to form a “union sacrée” against Libyan aggression.17 The new head of the Quai’s Africa desk, Jean Herly, argued that Libya’s intervention fundamentally changed the character of the Chadian conflict. France’s priority should now aim to counter Libyan expansion. This meant “the disadvantages represented by Hissène Habré have become secondary.” By supporting Habré, Herly said that France would only be acting in continuity with its past policy of “reconciling Chadians and helping to maintain the independence and integrity of the country; Africa would reproach any failure to react, and our credibility would vanish.”18 He also suggested that France should offer Kamougué military guarantees to assuage his fears about Habré’s intentions towards the South. This, combined with financial assistance to southern authorities, could detach them from the GUNT and help mobilize effective resistance against Libya.19 On November 28, 1980 in Lomé, OAU mediators, including Eyadéma and other West African leaders, persuaded Goukouni to sign a cease-fire accord. Though it remains unclear why he agreed, it likely related to the FAN’s local military superiority and uncertainty about the extent or desirability of further Libyan escalation. It also may have resulted from diplomatic pressure from other African heads of state worried about Libyan expansion. In any case, this agreement fixed December 15 as the cease-fire date and mandated the deployment of yet another “neutral force,” composed of troops from Guinea, Benin, Congo, and Togo. It also called for the demilitarization of the capital. Habré refused, however, under the pretext that Libyan troops had invaded Chad. The Senegalese and Cameroonian foreign ministers attempted to convince him to sign the agreement, explaining that they 17

Ibid., p. 3.

18

Ibid., p. 4; emphasis in the original.

19

Ibid.

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shared his goals.20 Presumably, such a signature would undercut the rationale behind Libya’s military intervention. On the other side of the ledger, Kamougué finally committed some 1,500 men to N’Djamena to join the fight against Habré, removing any possibility of an alliance with the FAN leader.21 Habré projected an image of unconcern to French officials. According to Jean Herly, he even claimed to welcome the Libyan intervention. For Habré, the Libyans had “fallen into a trap, and it’ll cost them a lot to get out of it.”22 The Libyans could not capture N’Djamena without losing their anti-imperialist image. If Gaddafi bombed N’Djamena, he would kill thousands of civilians and “it would be a scandal in Africa.” If he attacked with his own forces, he would lose hundreds of men and “it would be a scandal in Libya.” If instead he pushed his Chadian clients into a more aggressive attempt to dislodge the FAN, “it would be ridiculous,” due to their clear military inferiority.23 Habré also confidently asserted that, regardless of what happened, FAN forces could easily withdraw from the capital and launch a guerrilla war if necessary. This explained his refusal to go to Lomé and sign the cease-fire, which he deemed premature. Habré told French officials he would only negotiate when African leaders publicly condemned the Libyan invasion and removed Goukouni’s Lagos II mandate to lead the GUNT.24 Habré’s confidence, though not entirely unfounded, was somewhat misplaced. Although the Libyan invasion did encourage some defections to Habré from FAP and its allies, Habré’s polarizing role in Chadian politics severely limited his appeal. Southerners, particularly Kamougué, deeply resented him for his role in the previous year’s massacres. Habré made this worse by shooting many southerners in Abéché just as Libyan forces in the North freed some 700 southern prisoners still held in Faya-Largeau.25 Furthermore, Gaddafi not only

20 21 22 25

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/4, DAM Note, “a/s: Tchad,” 10.12.1980, p. 3. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/4, Note from Herly to Kirsch, “A/s: Réflexions sur le Tchad,” 05.12.1980, p. 3. 23 24 Ibid., p. 2. Ibid., pp. 1–2. Ibid. 2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/4, DAM Note for Kirsch, “a/s: Tchad,” 01.12.1980, p. 2.

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provided material support to Goukouni, he also committed to a massive invasion of the country. Starting on December 7, reinforced Libyan regular forces began to launch major assaults against Habré’s positions in N’Djamena. The combined strength of the Libyan-GUNT coalition, particularly their dominance in heavy weaponry, made Habré’s position untenable. On the night of December 14 and 15, Habré skillfully disengaged from N’Djamena and began a general withdrawal. The bulk of his forces in the capital, some 2,000 men in total as well as several hundred civilians, successfully made their way to the East towards Biltine and Sudan, under the command of FAN commander Idriss Déby. Habré, with several hundred others, escaped into Cameroon. FAN garrisons on the N’Djamena-Abéché axis either surrendered or joined their fellow combatants in the retreat.26 After nine months of intense fighting, N’Djamena had become virtually unrecognizable. For most of the battle, Habré’s forces controlled much of the “African” neighborhoods with most of the population, while the FAP coalition held the administrative quarters. Thus, when Libya intervened with troops, multiple rocket launchers, heavy mortars, truck-mounted anti-aircraft cannon, and aerial bombardments, civilian casualties multiplied. At least 7,000 people died in the fighting.27 Paris-Match reported on FAP’s innovative use of Libyan-supplied 14.5mm Soviet anti-aircraft guns mounted on Toyota trucks and fired horizontally: “Not one house, not one mud brick wall of an African neighborhood has been able to resist the firepower and rate of fire of this Soviet weapon.”28 Habré also had blood on his hands. Just hours after his flight, locals discovered dozens of bodies in various states of decomposition littered about his recently abandoned residence. Some still had their hands tied behind their backs. Tanguy Loyzance, a photographer who arrived at the scene hours after Habré’s departure, described the scene: He lived in a small house in Sabangali next to the Chari River. There was no one there. On a sort of no-man’s land between his house and the marshland 26 27 28

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 115/2, CERM Note de renseignement, “L’intervention libyenne au Tchad,” 16.01.1981, pp. 3–4. Florent Sené, Raids dans le Sahara central (Tchad, Libye, 1941–1987): Sarra ou le rezzou décisif (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2011), pp. 168–169. Cited in ibid., p. 169.

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there were bodies everywhere. The cadavers were at least 40 meters from his house. Some bodies were fresh. They had been shot. Some only had heads, the rest had been eaten by vultures. It was a field of dead. There had to have been at least fifty bodies. There were also bones and skulls lying around.29

In the following months, the Sabangali site would become something of a macabre tourist attraction for visiting aid workers and journalists. Goukouni’s coalition would use it to illustrate Habré’s penchant for extreme brutality. In the meantime, although Goukouni’s GUNT now controlled the capital and nominally most of Chad, its victory came at a steep price. The extent of Libyan engagement shocked French officials. A military intelligence assessment described the Libyan invasion force as consisting of over 6,000 regular troops equipped with over 60 T-54 and T-55 medium tanks, 150–200 light armored vehicles, large numbers of mobile multiple rocket launchers, at least 10 helicopters, including CH-47 Chinooks and Mi-24 Hind gunships, 30 light reconnaissance aircraft, a number of MiG-23 and Mirage F1 fighter aircraft, and Tu-22 bombers. Such a diverse and well-equipped expeditionary force required a complex logistical support operation. This involved the use of five major air bases in both Chad and Libya, and the construction of numerous landing strips as staging locations for transporting supplies.30 Libyan forces did not markedly outnumber the FAN. Indeed, the latter had demonstrated their capacity to defeat Libyan troops in the past. However, the effective use of combined arms “overcame their resistance.”31 French intelligence warned that only similarly equipped forces could expel the Libyans from Chad. One analysis soberly concluded, “Thanks to oil and the support of Eastern bloc countries, Qaddafi [sic] has been able to build a military force which, at the African level, can no longer be ignored. It would be dangerous to take Qaddafi’s [sic] determination and capabilities lightly.”32

29

30 31

Cited in: Human Rights Watch, “Allié de la France, Condamné par l’Afrique: Les relations entre la France et le régime tchadien de Hissène Habré (1982–1990),” June 2016, www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/ francehabre0616frweb.pdf (accessed May 5, 2020), pp. 27–28. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 115/2, CERM Note de renseignement, “L’intervention libyenne au Tchad,” 16.01.1981, pp. 4–5. 32 Ibid., p. 5 Ibid.

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Even before Habré’s withdrawal, it became clear that Gaddafi had altered the balance of power in Chad. French policymakers saw a difficult set of options. In a note to Giscard’s Africa advisor Martin Kirsch, Jean Herly wrote, “whatever the feelings one can have towards Hissène Habré, today it is difficult to not support him.” Failure to do so would strike a blow to French credibility in Africa. Some allies might then quickly turn “towards others for their protection if they have the feeling that we are no longer in a position to ensure it for them.”33 Just before Habré’s defeat, a Quai analysis highlighted the “profound incompatibility” between French and Libyan aims. Accordingly, it examined three possible French options. The first and most ambitious option aimed at nothing less than “eliminating” the Libyan leadership. Giscard had tried this on more than one occasion, without success. Quai officials pointed to the lack of a credible opposition in Libya as well as Gaddafi’s control over the army as potentially fatal obstacles to any covert plan. Such an operation would also depend on Egyptian support. In case of failure, it risked alienating friendly Arab states, who might feel forced to align with Gaddafi. If the Libyan army got bogged down in Chad, though, such an operation might become more feasible.34 Alternatively, the Quai note suggested, France could try to appease Gaddafi by accepting the fait accompli. While this might present shortterm advantages, Gaddafi would almost certainly continue his offensive against French influence in Africa. It seemed in total contradiction with French aims on the continent.35 The third, and preferred, option, looked to strike a balance between various unpalatable choices. Quai officials argued that France should maintain open lines of communication with Gaddafi’s regime while doing everything possible, short of war, to oppose the Libyan intervention.36 This would not prove easy. The Quai outlined three possible strategies to prompt a Libyan withdrawal. All of them would inform French policy at different stages in the coming months.

33 34 35

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/4, Note from Herly to Kirsch, “A/s: Réflexions sur le Tchad,” 05.12.1980, pp. 3–4. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 113/1, Direction Afrique du Nord Note, “A.S. Relations franco-libyennes,” 13.12.1980, pp. 4–5. 36 Ibid., p. 5. Ibid.

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The first consisted of continued support for OAU initiatives aiming to broker a cease-fire (until Habré was chased out of the country) and a peace settlement. This would remove one major justification for the Libyan presence. Even if Gaddafi refused to withdraw after such an agreement, it might trigger an OAU condemnation, which would diplomatically isolate Gaddafi’s regime. A second, more radical strategy, would follow Herly’s earlier advice and throw French support behind Habré. Presidents Senghor and Ahidjo also pushed Giscard in this direction. This approach risked a more direct confrontation with Libya, and possibly a prolonged war in Chad. Some Quai officials also feared such a commitment might encourage increased Soviet assistance to Libya, and perhaps involvement in Chad. A final possibility lay in a concerted effort to detach Goukouni from his dependence on Libya by offering him French support. This could provide just the incentive and security needed for Goukouni to break his ties with Gaddafi. Unlike support for Habré, it was also compatible with OAU peace efforts.37 Regardless of the chosen path, Quai officials argued that France needed to clearly warn Gaddafi that his behavior was unacceptable. Paris had some leverage, as Gaddafi placed great stock in his arms purchases from France. The Libyans also employed some of their French equipment in Chad – possibly to encourage suspicion of a secret Franco-Libyan bargain over the country. For the Quai, France should threaten to cut supplies of ammunition and replacement parts, which formed part of previous arms contracts. Furthermore, future sales should be suspended.38 On December 16, the day after Habré’s defeat, Goukouni and Kamougué together met the French chargé d’affaires, who had crossed the Chari River from Cameroon. Both Chadian leaders urged France to reopen its embassy and provide assistance to help rebuild Chad’s shattered economy. They also dispatched a letter to Giscard requesting French aid.39 Giscard offered no response. Officials in Paris anxiously awaited the outcome of a conference in Lagos, beginning on December 23, hosted 37 39

38 Ibid. Ibid., p. 6. FCMGT, Carton 5, A4/7/2, telegram from Quesnot to Paris, “Entretien avec le président et le vice-président du GUNT,” 16.12.1980.

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by Nigerian president Shehu Shagari. This conference, meant to follow the November cease-fire discussions in Lomé, brought together the “OAU ad-hoc committee” for Chad. This included leaders of countries who had sponsored the Lagos II agreement the previous year, as well as the OAU’s secretary general, the Togolese politician Edem Kodjo. French observers hoped this conference would elicit a loud African condemnation of Libya’s invasion. In particular, they hoped Nigeria would help mobilize broader opposition to Gaddafi on the continent. The conference ended acrimoniously in the early morning of December 24. Yves Plattard, the French ambassador, reported that Goukouni, apparently drunk with victory, exhibited an arrogant demeanor, which annoyed many of the attendees.40 Habré attempted to join the conference, but was shown the door by Nigeria’s somewhat embarrassed foreign minister, who tried to shoo him away before Shagari arrived.41 It also exposed clear divisions among the attending states parties. In the middle of the conference, Senghor, Eyadema, Ahidjo, and Guinea’s leader Sékou Touré, walked out of the meeting to protest its complacent treatment of Libya. Five of the country delegations, led by Shagari and including Libya, strongly pushed for a watered-down final statement simply calling for the removal of “foreign troops” from Chad. Much to the chagrin of French observers, the meeting’s final communiqué failed to condemn Libya’s invasion. The conference did, however, reiterate the stipulations of the Lagos II accord and the November 1980 Lomé meeting, particularly regarding the eventual deployment of an OAU force to maintain order and oversee free elections.42 As 1980 came to an end, France’s African policy lay in tatters. Jean Herly wrote, “It is clear that today, several countries around Chad are in a state of shock. They count on France for their security. Without openly saying so, they have begun to doubt our credibility. How do we restore confidence ?”43 One route lay in improving the capacities of 40 41 42

43

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/3, telegram from Plattard to Paris, “Tchad-Réunion de Lagos,” 26.12.1980. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/3, telegram from Plattard to Paris, “Tchad réunion de Lagos,” 23.12.1980, p. 2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/3, telegram from Plattard to Paris, “Tchad-La réunion de Lagos se termine dans la confusion,” 24.12.1980, pp. 2–4. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/4, DAM Note, “a/s. TCHAD et maintenant ?,” 23.12.1980, p. 3.

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Niger and Cameroon to resist potential Libyan encroachments. Herly also reversed his earlier views on support for Habré. Now, he argued, France should respond favorably to GUNT requests for economic assistance and reopen its embassy in N’Djamena. He also felt French authorities should not condition these on a Libyan withdrawal. Instead France should take the lead in “a vast international aid operation in Chad.” This would limit the potential influence of other powers, particularly the United States and the Soviet Union, and ensure that France remained an indispensable interlocutor.44 At the Cooperation Ministry, though, Robert Galley’s diplomatic advisor Jean Chesneau argued that French ambiguity had its advantages. He disparaged criticisms of France’s lack of reaction to the Libyan invasion. Instead, he suggested the French withdrawal gave France “a position of neutrality conducive to reflection and favorable to the development of a mature approach.” For Chesneau, the uncertainty surrounding the nature and composition of the GUNT, and especially its relationship with its Libyan allies, meant that France had time to decide on a new approach.45 Giscard had already begun to alter France’s regional posture. Shortly before Habré’s flight, Giscard dispatched several Jaguar ground-attack fighters to Gabon, and then to CAR. He also reinforced the French troop presence in CAR. Furthermore, following the sudden death of French defense minister Joël Le Theule on December 14, Giscard named Robert Galley to the post. Galley also kept his portfolio as Cooperation Minister. Handing the Defense Ministry to the member of government most involved in African affairs looked to signal Giscard’s commitment to the defense of France’s African allies.46 In the meantime, the Cooperation Ministry pursued what one could describe as a “southern strategy.” In some respects, this built on Quai suggestions from early 1980 advocating a regionalization of French assistance to promote a more decentralized Chad.47 This followed from the realization that despite Kamougué’s public alignment with

44 45 46 47

Ibid., pp. 2–3. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/3, Cooperation Ministry Note, “A/S: Tchad,” 30.12.1980, p. 1. Jacques Isnard, “La logique des événements,” Le Monde, 26.12.1980. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 104/4, DAM Note, “A/S: De la régionalisation au Tchad,” 24.01.1980, p. 1.

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the GUNT, he and many of his southern associates greatly feared the repercussions of Libya’s invasion. On December 31, Gabonese President Omar Bongo hosted a meeting between Chesneau and Kamougué in Libreville. Bongo, the most vocal anti-Libyan voice among France’s clients, wanted France to intervene militarily. He hoped French support for Kamougué could weaken Libyan influence. Kamougué thought so too. Kamougué told Chesneau that the sheer scale of the Libyan presence scared him and exacerbated his weakness within the GUNT. The vast power imbalance against the South was his primary worry. He asked Chesneau for a French deployment to southern Chad, suggesting that inaction would further tarnish French credibility. He requested “firm promises, and not vague assurances; In the south I need the support of planes, tanks, and French troops in a sufficient number to confront the Libyans and proceed with their expulsion.”48 Chesneau tried to get Kamougué to outline his strategy and how he viewed Chad’s future if he accomplished his goals. One of Kamougué’s aides, present at the meeting, explained that they could not publicly break with the GUNT without a formal French military commitment. Such support would allow Kamougué to negotiate on equal terms with the GUNT and Libya. Afterwards, they “would see.” For Chesneau, it seemed clear that Kamougué lacked a clear approach. Nor did he seem to have a vision for a future government that could satisfy the country’s many competing interests. On the contrary, he felt Kamougué was only interested in the restoration of a fully southern regime. Indeed, Kamougué emphasized that the South contained “the only intelligentsia in the country.”49 Chesneau then asked if Kamougué simply wanted France to do for southern Chad what Libya had done for the North, “an occupation pure and simple, placed in the service of a faction.” Kamougué crudely responded yes, “that’s exactly it.”50 Bongo pressed the matter, telling Chesneau that he completely endorsed Kamougué’s request. He declared that Gaddafi had to be stopped at all costs, and that behind Libya stood the Soviet Union and East Germany. This meant France should launch a massive 48 49

FCMGT, Carton 5, A4/7/2, Cooperation Ministry Note, “A/S: Entretien avec le Colonel Kamougué,” 02.01.1981, p. 2. 50 Ibid., p. 2. Ibid., p. 3.

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intervention in southern Chad and ignore negative diplomatic reactions. A skeptical Chesneau concluded that even if France responded favorably and ousted the Libyans, no political solution existed that could restore stability to Chad. The only alternative, in Chesneau’s view, was partition.51 Although available records make it difficult to know how seriously French policymakers took this idea, partition was discussed at senior levels within the Quai and the Cooperation Ministry in early 1981. In the previous year, French statements gently advocating federal solutions had the rare distinction of encountering unanimous opposition from Chad’s factions. Now, partition seemed to some like an option for cutting losses, saving “useful Chad,” creating a rump Chadian state as a bulwark against Libya, and rescuing French credibility. Partition would also merely formalize a reality which had existed since the outbreak of fighting in early 1979.52

The Libyan-Chadian Merger As French decision-makers mulled over Chad policy, their worst fears concerning Libyan intentions seemed to come true. On January 6, 1981, as Goukouni visited Tripoli, the Libyan press published a “joint” Libyan-Chadian communiqué proclaiming, “Libya and Chad have decided to work together to totally unify into a single ‘Jamahiriya’ in which power, wealth, and weapons will be in the hands of the people.”53 Paris reacted with horror. The day following this apparent merger announcement, Giscard imposed a visa requirement on Chadians wishing to visit France. This was not yet common practice for France’s former colonies, and Chadians of all political stripes would later vigorously protest it. Giscard feared that the Libyan intervention could spark a major exodus of Chadians to France.54 He also suspended the recently signed ELF contract with Libya, as well as arms deliveries. The next day, the 51 52

53 54

Ibid., pp. 3–4. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/2, Cooperation Ministry Note, “A/S: Une partition est-elle envisageable au Tchad?,” 14.01.1981. Cited in: Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 8 above, p. 177. FCMGT, Carton 2, A3/7, DAM Note pour le cabinet du ministre, “A/S: Visas d’entrée en France pour les Tchadiens,” 14.08.1981, p.1.

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Quai put out a communiqué declaring that the merger was “in violation of the Lagos accords, to which the Libyan government has subscribed. It ignores the rights of the Chadian people, who are not allowed to freely decide. It unmasks ambitions which constitute a threat for the security of Africa.”55 Jean Herly wrote that the merger “changes the nature of the Chadian problem” and that “France’s position in Africa, already weakened, is collapsing: tomorrow what will our support to Abdou Diouf [the new president of Senegal] or President Kountché be worth?”56 He thus argued that France should respond favorably to Kamougué’s earlier request by occupying parts of southern Chad as “territorial leverage.” Such an action would restore French credibility and create the conditions for negotiations, which could lead to the withdrawal of the Libyan army.57 Instead, Giscard opted for a less confrontational approach. Several factors may have pushed him in this direction. First, the publicity around the Bokassa “diamond affair” had increased political sensitivity to interventionism in Africa. Giscard also soon faced a presidential election and may have felt another military intervention would not serve him well electorally. Furthermore, it quickly became clear that the dramatic Chadian-Libyan “merger” did Gaddafi more harm than good. From January 12–14, heads of state and high-ranking officials from the OAU’s ad hoc committee on Chad met in Lomé to discuss the new situation. Contrary to the previous month’s meeting, Nigeria took the lead in condemning the Libyan initiative. The Lomé conference’s final communiqué denounced it as a violation of Lagos II and declared it “null and void.” It also demanded the immediate withdrawal of Libyan forces and reiterated Lagos II provisions for the deployment of an African peacekeeping force.58 Gaddafi now faced the prospect of diplomatic isolation within Africa. In Chad the merger also generated much opposition. Kamougué publicly disassociated himself from it. On January 12 anti-Libyan 55 56 57 58

Ibid., p. 178. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/3, Note pour le Ministre, “Le Tchad – la dernière chance?,” 07.01.1981, p. 1. Ibid., pp. 2–3. FCMGT, Carton 5, A4/7/2, DAM Note pour le Ministre, “A/s: Lomé (12–14 janvier 1981) et ses perspectives,” 15.01.1981, pp. 1–3.

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protests erupted in N’Djamena. The same day, following a quarrelsome meeting, the GUNT published a statement walking back the merger. It declared that the merger did not have an “enforceable character” and represented a simple “declaration of intent,” which could not happen without referenda in both countries.59 Following both Chadian and wider African opposition to his plans, Gaddafi also felt obliged to water down his declaration. On January 16, Libyan Foreign Minister Ali Triki affirmed that no merger could happen before elections in Chad, and that Libya would respect the decision of the Chadian people.60 Gaddafi previously had made many such overtures to Arab states. Indeed, between 1969 and his last attempt at a union with Morocco in 1984, Libya “officially” merged with various countries on seven different occasions. This reflected the intensity of Gaddafi’s pan-Arab nationalism, while his Chadian effort also stemmed from a desire to become a leader of pan-African unity.61 Some confusion remains over Goukouni’s decision to sign the merger agreement, however. The French ambassador in Libya, Charles Malo, reported that Goukouni signed under pressure or threats.62 Otherwise, Goukouni might have done it to fulfill a promise made in exchange for Libyan assistance against Habré. Goukouni later maintained that he simply signed to please Gaddafi and signal to the international community that Libya and the GUNT stood shoulder to shoulder. Only the vast negative reaction to the merger announcement led him to realize he had made a serious mistake.63 Meanwhile, discussions within the French Cooperation Ministry and Foreign Ministry regarding a hypothetical partition of Chad seem to have quickly come to an end. Despite Herly’s impulsive calls to occupy southern Chad, cooler heads prevailed. In a memorandum shared with the Quai, Chesneau concluded that partition would solve nothing. The fact that Chad’s rebellions originated among sedentary communities in central Chad, and that mobility was key to the survival 59 61 62 63

60 Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 8 above, p. 181. Ibid., p. 182. Dirk Vandewalle, A History of Modern Libya (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), p. 86. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 115/2, telegram from Malo to Paris, “Projet de fusion Libyo-Tchadienne,” 08.01.1981. Goukouni Weddeye, “Témoignage pour l’histoire du Tchad,” Entretiens avec Laurent Correau, Radio France Internationale, 2008, p. 107.

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of Chad’s pastoralists, meant that simply drawing a new border would not resolve the country’s political conflicts.64 Despite his earlier aggressiveness, Herly agreed, writing to La Rochère that he had grown skeptical of the idea.65 French policy settled on a formally hands-off, noninterventionist line. As articulated in several Quai internal memoranda over the next few months, this was largely guided by the principle of “doing nothing without the agreement of the Africans.” In public declarations, French spokesmen reiterated their support for Lagos II and the Lomé communiqué, especially regarding the eventual deployment of a panAfrican peacekeeping force. French officials also expressed solidarity with African countries threatened by Libyan designs and offered increased levels of assistance. At the same time, Giscard conditioned the reopening of the French embassy in N’Djamena on security in the city and broader African diplomatic acceptance of the GUNT. In practice this meant a Libyan withdrawal. Meanwhile, France would limit its economic and humanitarian assistance to refugees in Cameroon and small projects run out of the Moundou consulate.66 The French cooperation mission based in Kousséri, just across the Chari River from N’Djamena in Cameroon, would also serve as a “diplomatic antenna,” ensuring a basic level of contact between French officials and the GUNT. Nevertheless, Giscard did not simply sit on the sidelines. Sometime in January 1981, he ordered the SDECE to begin covert assistance to Habré’s rebels. Partly this was motivated by France’s African allies, especially Senegalese officials, who pushed for French aid to Habré. According to one of Habré’s subordinates later interviewed by Human Rights Watch, a French delegation met with Habré in Khartoum in January under the auspices of the Sudanese government. Initially, the French wanted to push for a Kamougué-Habré alliance. Habré agreed “in principle,” though expressed skepticism since he considered Kamougué a criminal.67 Soon though, both French and Sudanese authorities concluded that Kamougué was a lost cause and decided to 64

65 66 67

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/2, Cooperation Ministry Note, “A/S: Une partition est-elle envisageable au Tchad ?,” 14.01.1981, pp. 3–4. Ibid. Handwritten note appended to the memorandum. FCMGT, Carton 5, A4/7/2, DAM Note, “A/s: Tchad,” 20.03.1981, pp. 3–4. Human Rights Watch, “Allié de la France,” note 29 above, p. 17.

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support Habré unconditionally. For French observers, Kamougué’s control over the South seemed uncertain, as was his resolve to break from the GUNT over Libya.68 The French contribution came partly in the form of money. Habré’s future ambassador to Paris, Ahmad Allam-Mi, later wrote that the total amounted to several hundred thousand francs.69 While this paled in comparison to later American assistance, the SDECE also provided heavy machine guns and all-terrain vehicles. This, in conjunction with more substantial Egyptian and Sudanese aid, helped Habré reestablish himself as a serious nuisance for the GUNT and the Libyan army along Chad’s eastern border. The SDECE benefited from the close relationship between its director, Alexandre de Marenches, and Anwar Sadat. Sadat allowed the SDECE to use Egypt as a staging point for arms drops to Habré. In February 1981, two SDECE operatives were killed when their Egyptian C-130 aircraft crashed en route to Darfur. Though this did not become public at the time, it did highlight the potential risks of exposure should the French operation go awry. Egyptian authorities went public anyway with their support to Habré in March.70 This period also represented the first time American policymakers began to take a serious interest in Chad. Although the United States had established an embassy in 1961, it had long exhibited little interest in the country. Apart from some modest economic aid projects, the only American presence of any note was a minor CONOCO oil prospecting operation dating back to 1970.71 The Libyan invasion of Chad, however, coincided with the election of hardline conservative Ronald Reagan to the American presidency. Reagan’s incoming administration had already identified Libya as a major challenge to American interests.72 In the eyes of Washington hard-liners, Gaddafi was a Soviet stooge who dangerously threatened 68 69 70 71 72

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/3, DAM Note, “A/s. Tchad.-Initiatives?,” 02.02.1981, pp. 2–3. Ahmad Allam-Mi, Autour du Tchad en guerre: Tractations politiques et diplomatiques 1975–1990 (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2014), p. 66. Human Rights Watch, “Allié de la France,” note 29 above, p. 18. FCMGT, Carton 2, A3/9, Cooperation Ministry Note, “Sur les problèmes pétroliers au Tchad,” 21.09.1976, p. 2. For more on the Reagan administration’s approach to Libya, see: Saskia van Genugten, Libya in Western Foreign Policies, 1911–2011 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), pp. 105–125.

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the stability of the Middle East and cultivated close relationships with a wide array of international terrorist organizations. In early January, the French ambassador in Washington, François Lefebvre de Laboulaye, met with Reagan’s incoming secretary of state, Alexander Haig. Haig emphasized Libya’s destabilizing role in Africa and said it constituted a priority issue for the incoming administration.73 On February 19, French embassy officials met with Parker Borg, the country director for West African Affairs in the US State Department. Borg explained that the new administration had begun assessing the possibility of supporting Habré. He insisted that the United States would remain careful, however, since American officials were aware of Habré’s broader unpopularity in Chad.74 Donald Norland, the American ambassador to Chad, was evacuated with his staff when the fighting broke out between Habré and the GUNT in March 1980. He remained accredited to the country, though, and reacted with alarm to growing pro-Habré noises within the new administration. In February 1981, he wrote, “I feel strongly that helping Habré should be viewed as the least desirable expedient, one that should be undertaken only after the diplomatic option has been given at least several weeks to work itself out.”75 As Norland later explained, Habré “had no sense of compromise” and his record of atrocities and massive unpopularity in the South made him an unattractive alternative. He lamented, “I tried to keep the Reagan administration from putting its eggs in the Habré basket. I didn't succeed. And that's one of the reasons that I retired. I felt that I didn't want to be associated with this.”76 At some point in early 1981, Reagan issued a secret presidential finding (presidential directive) ordering covert support to Habré’s forces. For Haig, this effort aimed to “increase the flow of pine boxes back to Libya.”77 The CIA station chief in Khartoum, who spoke 73 74 75

76 77

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 116/2, telegram from Laboulaye to Paris, “Conversation avec le général Haig,” 02.01.1981. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 116/2, telegram from Laboulaye to Paris, “Tchad,” 19.02.1981. Interview with Ambassador Donald R. Norland, Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, Library of Congress, pp. 95–96. Ibid., p. 96. Bob Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981–1987 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987), p. 97.

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French, contacted Habré to arrange the operation.78 Eventually this aid would total over 10 million dollars, and would play an important role in the FAN’s eventual victory. American support took the form of both money and equipment. Some aid came indirectly through Egypt, which supplied weapons to Habré in exchange for American replacements. The CIA may have also organized the delivery of captured Soviet weapons from Israeli stocks to Habré’s forces. Furthermore, a handful of CIA operatives may have been physically present in Darfur with Habré’s men.79 In general, supplies were sent to Khartoum, where Sudanese intelligence took charge of onward delivery to Habré in Darfur.80 As Habré attracted increasing foreign support, both the GUNT coalition and the GUNT-Libyan relationship frayed at the seams. The first potential sign of trouble came as early as mid-December 1980 when Libyan troops killed Brahim Youssouf, one of Goukouni’s closest companions, and another GUNT official in Abéché. Youssouf was leading an inspection tour of the region and apparently had a violent disagreement with local Libyan commanders over their management of the area. It remains unclear whether Youssouf’s death was premeditated. While the GUNT quickly investigated the incident, they made no formal accusations against the Libyan army.81 Meanwhile, Gaddafi had made extravagant promises of financial assistance. This included paying the salaries of officials in the largely moribund administration, funding a new national army, emergency spending of between 10 million and 20 million dollars to restore basic infrastructure and services, as well as long-term loans for agricultural and industrial projects, which could create thousands of jobs. If implemented, this would have meant that Libya would realize Gaddafi’s ambition of replacing France as the dominant power in Chad, both militarily and economically. As it happened, these promises never 78

79

80 81

Michael Bonner, “Our Man in Africa: America Championed a Bloodthirsty Torturer to Fight the Original War on Terror. Now He Is Finally Being Brought to Justice,” Foreign Policy, January/February 2014, p. 40. Human Rights Watch, “Enabling a Dictator: The United States and Chad’s Hissène Habré 1982–1990,” June 2016, pp. 18–19; www.hrw.org/report/2016/ 06/28/enabling-dictator/united-states-and-chads-hissene-habre-1982-1990 (accessed May 5, 2020). Bonner, “Our Man in Africa,” note 78 above, p. 40. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 8 above, p. 183.

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materialized. Although Libya did provide some money, it was a fraction of what Gaddafi had promised, and much of this appears to have vanished through corruption.82 In mid-April 1981, growing tensions resulted in a major outbreak of fighting pitting Ahmat Acyl’s Conseil démocratique révolutionnaire (CDR) against the FAP and the reconstituted Frolinat 1st Army in Abéché. The Libyan army intervened on the side of the CDR with aircraft and artillery, targeting the marketplace and gendarmerie headquarters, killing around 100 people. The CDR then took control of the town. Afterwards, CDR combatants executed the pro-FAP prefect and two of his assistants. The following month, an Abéché-based French missionary recounted the events to Pierre Ricard, the French diplomatic representative in Kousséri. He asserted that Abéché’s population now felt a “profound hatred” towards the Libyan army, viewing it as an occupying force.83 The conflict between the FAP and the CDR soon evolved into the sharpest political divide within the GUNT. The CDR, Acyl’s formation, benefited from strong Libyan support, due in part to its primarily Arab ethnic base. Goukouni, on the other hand, had never proved a completely reliable Libyan client. The close CDR-Libya relationship, combined with increasing tension between Goukouni and Libya, would play important roles in Chad’s political dynamics over the following year. Shortly following the clashes in Abéché, Goukouni traveled to Tripoli to lower tensions and clarify the GUNT-Libya relationship. On May 9, after his return, the GUNT published a communiqué declaring that Libya agreed to remove its commander in Abéché, to dissolve nascent Libyan-inspired local political organizations (“popular committees”), and to an eventual military withdrawal.84 This represented a small political victory for Goukouni against the CDR within the GUNT. Goukouni’s position remained fragile, though. On the one hand, Acyl’s CDR acted as a powerful and well-armed Libyan client, while Kamougué’s Forces armées tchadiennes (FAT) exhibited little loyalty towards the GUNT and its Libyan ally. This left Goukouni and the 82 83 84

Ibid. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/2, telegram from Kousséri to Paris, “Situation à Abéché et N’Djamena,” 19.05.1981, pp. 2–3. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 8 above, p. 184.

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FAP somewhat isolated. Nonetheless, the May 9 statement represented a clear public expression that Goukouni and the rest of the GUNT (minus the CDR) intended to operate autonomously from their Libyan protectors. Goukouni made further moves to consolidate his authority. On May 14, he announced the formal dissolution of the GUNT’s Frolinat factions and their reorganization into a new unified Frolinat. Ricard reported rumors that Gaddafi had orchestrated the “unification” to increase the CDR’s relative weight within the GUNT.85 It seems though that the move came at Goukouni’s behest, though Gaddafi’s acquiescence may help explain why Acyl agreed to such a maneuver. Goukouni possibly saw this as a means to bolster his legitimacy as a national leader rising above the factionalized GUNT.86 From May 15 to May 30, Goukouni convened a “séminaire des cadres.” This brought together a thousand participants from Chad’s fourteen prefectures and diaspora, as well as members of the GUNT. This meant to herald Goukouni’s commitment to building a functional state and exposed the limits of Libya’s ability to influence politics in N’Djamena.87 According to GUNT agriculture minister Raymond Naïmbaye, the gathering raised hopes that it could reinvigorate a moribund state. He added, though, that discussions got bogged down over details such as the color of the national flag and the role of Arabic as a national language, a project strongly promoted by the Libyans. This last point held some importance for southern elites, as they feared that the officialization of Arabic would lead to the wholesale replacement of French-speakers from their (long unpaid) public-sector jobs.88 The most important formal decision was the official disbanding of all government armed factions and their integration into a single Armée nationale intégrée (ANI). It also demanded a timetable for the withdrawal of Libyan forces, and their replacement with the African “neutral force” called for at Lagos II and in subsequent OAU declarations. Furthermore, it committed the GUNT to form a new

85 86 88

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/2, telegram from Kousséri to Paris, “Situation à Abéché et N’Djamena,” 19.05.1981, p. 4. 87 Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 8 above, p. 185. Ibid. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/2, telegram from Kousséri to Paris, “Entretien avec le ministre Tchadien de l’agriculture,” 27.05.1981, pp. 2–3.

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government and hold elections within 12 months.89 Although none of these demands translated into practical realities, French observers did note that the conference’s success encouraged some southern cadres to return to their positions in N’Djamena after months or years of absence.90 Meanwhile, on May 21–22, Siaka Stevens, the president of Sierra Leone and the chairman of the OAU (an annually rotating position), convened a “mini-summit” in N’Djamena. This meeting aimed to clarify the future of the Libyan presence and its eventual replacement by an OAU force. The meeting brought Gaddafi and Nigerian president Shehu Shagari together with Goukouni a month before the OAU’s annual meeting, slated to be held in Nairobi. Stevens presented the meeting as a success. The final communiqué suggested that all parties agreed to the deployment of an OAU peacekeeping force to the country.91 Ricard disagreed and viewed Stevens’ presence as legitimizing the Libyan occupation. Gaddafi used the occasion to demand the Nobel Peace Prize for putting an end to Chad’s civil war. Although he agreed in principle to an OAU deployment, its composition, financing, and logistical support remained uncertain.92 Naïmbaye seconded the French assessment. He told Ricard that Stevens’ endorsement of the meeting without a concrete decision on an OAU deployment represented a failure for the OAU. Furthermore, in a meeting with GUNT ministers, Gaddafi insisted that Libya’s support to Frolinat aimed to spread his “Green Book” revolution throughout Chad “by breaking all obstacles.” Naïmbaye asserted that everyone in the GUNT saw this outburst as a personal threat, especially non-Muslim southern ministers whom Gaddafi might consider the first obstacles to his revolution. This indicated to many in the GUNT that Gaddafi had no intention of letting go of his dream of annexing the country.93 89 90 91

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MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/1, “A.S. : Séminaire National des Cadres – mai 1981 – Un extrait du rapport final,” 18.11.1983. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/2, telegram from Kousséri to Paris, “Situation à N’Djamena,” 04.06.1981. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 114/1, Note from Freetown to Paris, “Texte anglais du Communiqué publié à N’Djamena à l’issue du mini-Sommet sur le Tchad les 21 et 22 Mai 1981,” 12.06.1981. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 114/1, telegram from Kousséri to Paris, “Suite de la réunion des chefs d’état à N’Djamena,” 26.05.1981. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/2, telegram from Kousséri to Paris, “Entretien avec le ministre Tchadien de l’agriculture,” 27.05.1981, pp. 1–2.

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Mitterrand Comes to Power On May 10, 1981, François Mitterrand defeated Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in the second round of the French presidential election. For the first time in the Fifth Republic, France would have a Socialist president and government. Longtime leader of the opposition, Mitterrand won with a list of “110 Propositions for France,” which promised to radically transform the state. Few proposals dealt with extra-European foreign policy, and none dealt with Africa as a whole. While this reflected the general lack of interest in foreign affairs among the French public, the fifth proposal did call for the “independence of Chad” from Libyan occupation.94 Like Giscard, Mitterrand had preexisting ties to the continent that influenced his world view. In 1950–1951, he had served as minister of Overseas France. He later considered this period the most important of his prepresidential political career. During his time in office, he famously negotiated a deal with Félix Houpouët-Boigny’s Rassemblement démocratique africain (RDA), an anticolonial political party uniting nationalists across Francophone Africa. In exchange for releasing political prisoners and liberalization measures, the RDA broke its affiliation with the French Communist Party. In Mitterrand’s view, this cooptation of Africa’s nationalist elite played a critical role in preventing future colonial wars. Whether exaggerated or not, he strongly felt this episode gave him a special kind of African legitimacy.95 Mitterrand differed little from his predecessors in his ideological approach to Francophone Africa. Geopolitically, he saw the constellation of French client states as crucial to France’s position as a global power. He also saw France’s former colonies as key to maintaining and promoting the French language and culture. French influence in its “pré-carré,” or African backyard therefore, had to be defended against any and all external threats. In part, these stemmed from Cold War-inspired concerns about Communist expansion. It also included “Anglo-Saxon” threats from Britain, the United States, and Anglophone African countries. In Chad, 94

95

“Programme électoral du Parti socialiste (PS) pour l'élection présidentielle de 1981, intitul: 110 propositions pour la France, avril-mai 1981,” found at: http:// discours.vie-publique.fr/notices/083001601.html (accessed on 23.11.2017). Philippe Marchesin, “Mitterrand l’Africain,” Politique Africaine, No. 58, Juin 1995 (1995), pp. 11–12.

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the principal threat came from Libya. Mitterrand subscribed to the same kind of domino theory that had motivated Foccart and Giscard. If Libya remained in Chad, it would threaten Chad’s neighbors, and, in Mitterrand’s later formulation, “If Niger and Cameroon crack, French influence in Africa is finished.”96 While Mitterrand’s foreign policy elsewhere in Africa and Latin America initially embodied something of a left-wing “ThirdWorldist” posture, his approach to Francophone Africa would remain fundamentally conservative. When later criticized for cozy relationships with African autocrats, his closest aides argued that most French clients lacked credible oppositions to engage with. Furthermore, Mitterrand generally felt that single-party regimes were natural outgrowths of state-building on a “complicated, fragile” continent.97 Nonetheless, many of France’s African allies reacted suspiciously to Mitterrand’s victory. His winning coalition, which included the French Communist Party, sparked fears among African leaders of a leftward tilt in French policy. Mitterrand’s inexperienced and ideologically leftist entourage fed these fears. This included, for instance, Régis Débray, who had accompanied Che Guevara during his ill-fated attempt to launch a rebellion in Bolivia, and now served as an advisor on Latin American and Third World affairs. More important, the Cooperation Ministry was subordinated to the oversight of the Foreign Ministry. This seemed to signal a reduced emphasis on the privileged nature of the Franco-African relationship in the new administration. The new cooperation minister, Jean-Pierre Cot, began pushing to reallocate money destined for Francophone Africa to development projects elsewhere. This eventually clashed with Mitterrand’s increasingly conservative approach. It also did not sit well with African leaders such as Bongo or Houphouët-Boigny, who actively pushed for his removal. At the end of 1982, he resigned.98 Guy Penne, Mitterrand’s chief advisor for African affairs, proved far more compatible with traditional Franco-African diplomatic practices. A formal dental surgeon, Penne had little prior experience on the continent, but was a close friend of Mitterrand. He could thus serve 96 98

97 Ibid., p. 10. Ibid., p. 12. Jean-Pierre Bat, Le syndrome Foccart: La politique française en Afrique de 1959 à nos jours (Paris: Editions Gallimard, 2012), pp. 448–450.

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as a trusted personal envoy and intermediary between Mitterrand and various African leaders used to this kind of direct personal relationship with the French presidency. To this end, as soon as he took office, Penne quickly visited several African capitals to reassure French clients that Mitterrand planned no radical break from existing policy.99 As they departed, Giscard’s staff removed many records relating to African affairs. This hindered policymaking in the new administration.100 Furthermore, neither Mitterrand nor his advisors had substantial contacts with, or knowledge of, Chad’s fragmented political scene.101 Although Mitterrand did not have a clear policy in mind for Chad, he wanted to avoid a military solution. He was also skeptical of Hissène Habré and on June 7, he ended all assistance to Habré’s forces.102 Since Mitterrand’s team had few contacts with Chadian actors, they established an unlikely back channel through the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE). In early June, Javier Nart, the then head of the Spanish party’s Africa desk, met with two prominent French Africanist scholars, Jean-Pierre Raison and Roland Colin. Nart had just returned from N’Djamena, where he had led a PSOE medical mission and had met Goukouni. Nart identified Acyl Ahmat as Gaddafi’s main Chadian agent. Goukouni told Nart that Acyl’s position as foreign minister limited his own ability to interact with outsiders and facilitated Libyan control. Goukouni’s discussions with Nart covered a lot of ground, but the GUNT leader’s concerns about Libya were a recurring theme. Goukouni had several grievances. He felt the Libyans worked to sabotage the establishment of the new ANI. Though it then nominally consisted of some 2,000 troops, the Libyans reneged on their responsibilities to pay and help supply it, and actively encouraged desertions. Furthermore, Libyan officials told Goukouni they had little faith in the CDR’s ability to defend eastern Chad against Habré’s insurgency. Instead they wanted FAP combatants to bear the brunt of the fighting, with Libyan forces playing a supporting role. Goukouni told Nart that 99 101

102

100 Ibid., pp. 452–454. Ibid., p. 453. Robert Buijtenhuijs, “L’art de ménager la chèvre et le chou: la politique tchadienne de François Mitterrand,” Politique Africaine, No. 16, Décembre 1984, (1984), p. 104. Jacques Attali, Verbatim: Tome I, Chronique des années 1981–1986 (Paris: Fayard, 1993), p. 34.

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this would make his FAP cannon fodder, since they lacked heavy weaponry. At the same time, for political reasons, he could not refuse. He expressed hope that someone could pressure Habré’s backers, particularly Egypt and Sudan, to cut their support. Goukouni also expressed worries, echoed by earlier French observers, that the new “unified” Frolinat now served as a vehicle for Acyl to grow the CDR’s influence.103 Goukouni clearly meant to privately signal his frustration with Libya to the new French administration. He may have even exaggerated to this effect, since Nart seemed to think serious tensions had grown within the CDR itself over the nature of its own relationship with Tripoli. Through Nart, Goukouni wanted to convince French policymakers they should respond favorably to GUNT requests for upgraded diplomatic relations and economic assistance. Goukouni wanted France to reopen its embassy and exchange ambassadors. He also wanted French assistance in repairing Chad’s communication network, including telephone and telex lines to “break the Libyan blockade.”104 Implicitly, Goukouni argued that only French assistance could break his dependence on Gaddafi. Also, as his reference to Egyptian and Sudanese aid to Habré indicated, he likely suspected that Giscard had supported the FAN leader. He may have thus hoped Mitterrand could pressure Habré’s allies to end their support for him, and ease GUNT dependence on Libya. In early June 1981, Acyl visited Paris in his capacity as the GUNT’s foreign minister. He brought with him a letter from Goukouni, as well as a personal message on his own behalf. Acyl requested a meeting with Mitterrand and Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson. Instead, Mitterrand ordered Cot to meet the Chadian dignitary on behalf of the French government. Both Acyl and Goukouni expressed their happiness at Mitterrand’s victory. In his letter, Goukouni wrote that Giscard’s hands-off policy following Tacaud’s withdrawal had “somewhat tarnished France’s image in Chad.” He hoped the new French administration would approach Chad more constructively than its predecessor had. In that 103

104

FCMGT, Carton 5, A4/7/2, Note sur le Tchad (suite à entretien avec Javier NART, Responsable Afrique du P.S.O.E., de retour de N’Djamena, 8-6-81), 08.06.1981, pp. 1–3. Ibid., p. 3.

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vein, he begged Mitterrand for substantial emergency assistance ranging from medical supplies, food, refugee aid, and communications and infrastructure repair to government salaries and funding for the ANI.105 Despite their political differences and personal rivalry, Acyl’s message to Cot closely echoed Goukouni’s letter. Acyl added that France “must be present in Chad” and should reopen its embassy as soon as possible.106 While Goukouni and assorted French officials saw or portrayed Acyl as a Libyan stooge, Acyl also worked hard to challenge this assumption. As noted earlier, through covert requests for French assistance, Acyl had previously demonstrated a desire to break from Libyan oversight. Hence, without prompting, Acyl went to great lengths to assert that he was not “Libya’s man.” He told Cot that practically every Chadian faction at one time or another had to seek help from Gaddafi, and his was no different. He had also loudly and vocally opposed Libya’s annexation of the Aozou Strip. Regarding the current Libyan presence, he noted that the GUNT had asked France and numerous other countries for support against Habré during the previous year’s fighting, but had met with refusal from everyone. This forced them to turn to Libya to survive. Acyl also claimed that Gaddafi announced the merger of the two countries without consulting his Chadian counterparts. He insisted Libya did not control Chad and said that the GUNT could ask Libyan forces to leave whenever it suited them. Nevertheless, until the Habré threat had disappeared and until the ANI became operational, the GUNT needed a strong Libyan presence.107

Getting Libya Out At the Quai, Jean Herly strongly argued for a cautious response, writing that any policy on Chad depended entirely on French relations with Libya. Furthermore, Herly noted, “France cannot have ‘good’ 105 106

107

FCMGT, Carton 5, A4/7/2, Letter from Goukouni to Mitterrand, dated 30.05.1981. FCMGT, Carton 5, A4/7/2, “Note d’entretien du Ministre chargé de la Coopération et du développement avec le Ministre d’état chargé des Affaires étrangères du Gouvernement d’union nationale de transition du Tchad,” 09.06.1981, p. 2. Ibid., pp. 2–3.

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relations with a country that threatens the national interests of its friends in Africa.”108 This meant that France should take no action in Chad without consulting its African allies, as well as other important states like Nigeria. In particular, Herly insisted that France should avoid reopening its embassy, since this would signal French acceptance of the Libyan occupation. Thus, the upcoming OAU meeting in Nairobi would prove critical in determining the GUNT’s broader legitimacy and the extent to which France could and should engage with it.109 At the Cooperation Ministry, officials pushed for a more moderate line. Renaud Vignal, Cot’s chief diplomatic advisor, emphasized the counterproductive nature of Giscard’s past policies. For Vignal, French support for Habré only solidified GUNT dependence on Libya. Habré united all other factions against him. Since he was too weak on his own to expel the Libyans, support for him could only prolong the Libyan occupation. Instead, Vignal argued that French policymakers should view Goukouni as a “patriot” who had aligned with Libya out of necessity, given the Habré threat. Vignal thought Goukouni “sincere” and “honest,” and that France should not abandon him to Libya. He noted that Gaddafi had not followed through on promises of economic assistance. Libya had only paid one month of government salaries when Libyan officials had promised six. Without upgrading its diplomatic presence, Vignal argued, France could still substantially augment its economic and humanitarian assistance, particularly helping to rebuild critical infrastructure in N’Djamena. Like Herly, though, he felt any decision should await the upcoming OAU summit in Nairobi.110 In mid-June, Mitterrand looked to quickly settle on a Libya policy. To that end, he asked for an interministerial assessment to present a viable strategy. On June 17, a Libya task force composed of senior representatives from the cooperation, foreign, commerce, and defense ministries met to discuss options. A rather disappointing consensus soon emerged. All the participants agreed on the fundamental incompatibility of French and Libyan aims in Africa. Neither military 108 109 110

FCMGT, Carton 5, A4/7/2, DAM Note, “A/S. Tchad,” 12.06.1981, p. 7. Ibid., pp. 7–8. FCMGT, Carton 5, A4/7/2, Cooperation Ministry Note, “Problématique Tchad,” undated 06.1981, pp. 2–3.

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intervention nor covert action would likely prove effective against Gaddafi. Libya’s massive arsenal and its ability to rapidly reinforce its troops in Chad made any military venture risky at best. Moreover, Libya lacked a coherent opposition with a domestic base, and Gaddafi’s regime boasted strong security services. This made it difficult and perhaps pointless to attempt to overthrow or assassinate the Libyan leader through covert action, as Giscard had already discovered.111 At the same time, the task force soberly concluded that France alone did not have enough leverage to change Libyan behavior. Nonetheless, it advocated dialogue. At the very least, this would allow French officials to publicly state their views and red lines, which could help to end the ambiguity surrounding the Franco-Libyan relationship. The low-level nature of official contacts in the previous years had lent credence to African fears, encouraged by Gaddafi himself, of a secret deal between France and Libya to partition Chad. First, the task force argued that France should fulfill arms contracts suspended by Giscard following Gaddafi’s merger announcement. Any further military cooperation, however, should depend on a Libyan withdrawal. The task force also argued that French officials should make it publicly clear they viewed Libyan efforts to destabilize France’s African allies as unacceptable. The task force also recommended public signals of French commitment to allies’ security through increased military assistance to vulnerable states.112 Shortly following the meeting, Vignal set to work on draft recommendations for Cot to send to Mitterrand. Vignal outlined a multipronged strategy that had as its ultimate goal the retreat of Libyan forces. First, he endorsed the task force’s emphasis on dialogue and their recommendations to fulfill suspended contracts. He stressed the need to publicly state that France could not maintain “normal” relations with Libya while Libyan troops occupied Chad. Additionally, French authorities should work with their African, Arab, and American counterparts to exacerbate Libya’s diplomatic isolation. Importantly though, Vignal wanted to encourage Habré’s backers – principally Egypt, Sudan, and the United States – to end their support 111

112

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 113/3, Cooperation Ministry Note, “Réunion ‘Task Force’ sur la Libye, relevé de conclusions,” 17.06.1981, Conclusions. Ibid., pp. 4–5.

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for the FAN’s guerrilla war, as this only sustained the GUNT’s need for Libyan protection.113 Vignal also highlighted the need to proclaim and plan for financial and logistical support for any eventual OAU operation replacing the Libyan troop presence. Reiterating his previous recommendations, he suggested that France increase its level of economic and humanitarian assistance in Chad to wean Goukouni off the need for Libyan aid. He also felt France should, and could, condition this on the withdrawal of Libyan troops from N’Djamena.114 These recommendations would form the basis for French strategy in Chad over the following months. First, though, French policymakers anxiously awaited the outcome of the OAU’s annual heads-of-state summit, held in Nairobi at the end of June. They hoped the OAU would reiterate previous condemnations of the Libyan invasion and clarify the GUNT’s international legitimacy. They also wanted a determined resolution calling for the deployment of an inter-African peacekeeping force to replace the Libyans. In some respects, the OAU disappointed French observers, as it failed to condemn Gaddafi. Even worse, the heads of state at the meeting agreed to hold the following year’s summit in Tripoli, where Gaddafi would become the annual OAU chairman. This fulfilled a long-held ambition of the Libyan leader, and probably resulted from a combination of Libyan promises of economic assistance, bribes, and changes in Libyan policy towards Morocco and the Western Sahara. On the other hand, the meeting also formally declared the GUNT as the legitimate government of Chad and charged it with creating an integrated army and organizing elections. It also restated its previous support for the deployment of an African peacekeeping force to replace the “foreign” military presence. However, it did not address the crucial issues of financing and troop contributions.115 Goukouni returned to N’Djamena in an ebullient mood since the GUNT now benefited from formal and uncontested international recognition. He soon took advantage of this to encourage more active French involvement. In early July, he requested a visit to France. Quai officials felt the GUNT’s newly recognized international status meant 113 114 115

FCMGT, Carton 5, A4/7/2, “Memorandum Tchad,” 17.06.1981, p. 4. Ibid., pp. 4–6. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 114/1, DAM Note, “A/ S. Le Tchad après le sommet de l’OUA: vers l’envoi d’une force panafricaine?” 10.09.1981, pp. 1–4.

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they could not refuse Goukouni’s request. At the same time, they feared it was too soon for such a visit. Instead, they proposed sending a ministry official to Chad to assess the nature and feasibility of Chadian aid requests before giving Goukouni a possible date.116 Mitterrand agreed. In early August, Jean-Pierre Campredon, a highranking diplomat who had just finished a posting as ambassador to Madagascar, met Goukouni and each of the GUNT’s ministers/faction leaders. He was followed by seven Cooperation Ministry officials charged with developing a needs assessment and recommendations for a French aid package. In his conversations with Campredon, Goukouni indicated that Habré would soon launch a major offensive. He wanted France to pressure Habré’s backers, especially Egypt, Sudan, and the United States, to stop their assistance to the FAN. He argued that this support and the FAN threat only strengthened the Libyan occupation, and this undermined his efforts to end it.117 This echoed, and likely reinforced, the perceptions of Mitterrand’s advisors that supporting Goukouni represented the best hope of getting Libya out of Chad. Although Goukouni was almost certainly sincere, he also knew how to talk to his French interlocutors. Campredon reported to Guy Penne that Goukouni had repeatedly expressed his confidence in him and his faith in France’s ability to contribute to Chad’s future.118 Meanwhile though, the FAN threat had not yet fully materialized. In April, a CIA analysis reported that Habré had conducted few operations. It also noted he had difficulty deploying equipment acquired via Egypt and Sudan into the Chadian interior.119 In mid-July Idriss Miskine, the FAN vice-president, sought a meeting with the French embassy in Cairo to “establish contact.” Miskine took care to emphasize the FAN’s difficulties. These included a frosty reception at the Nairobi OAU summit, Goukouni’s political victory there, and an end to Moroccan assistance to the FAN following a rapprochement 116 117

118 119

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 113/2, DAM Note, “A/ S. Projet de visite en France du Président Goukouni,” 09.07.1981, pp. 1–2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 113/1, telegram from Kousséri to Libreville (Pour M. Penne), “Entretien avec M. Goukouni,” 04.08.1981, p. 3. Ibid. CIA: CREST Database Doc. CIA-RDP83B01027R000300060015–6, Memo for DCI, “Warning Report: Sub-Saharan Africa No. 30,” 23.04.1981, p. 1.

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between Rabat and Tripoli. He also claimed that neither Egypt nor Sudan had actually provided much aid and that the FAN had no contact at all with the Americans. Instead, he claimed that most of the FAN’s supplies came from equipment captured from the GUNT and the Libyan army.120 Miskine’s motives for contacting the French and the veracity of his claims remain difficult to discern. He did stress the FAN view that Gaddafi’s occupation of Chad was part of a long-term strategy, and that only a military solution could force the Libyans to leave.121 He certainly wanted to convey the message that the FAN represented the only viable option if the French wanted Libya out of Chad. Miskine’s account of FAN difficulties certainly seemed to manifest itself on the ground. In a late-July report, CIA analysts described Habré’s efforts to date as “unsuccessful.”122 In early September, a Quai assessment concluded that Habré’s attempts to build a broader anti-Libyan front had failed and his support from Egypt and Sudan remained meagre. This translated into limited and highly localized guerrilla activity “without notable consequences.”123 That said, Habré still had 4,000 men under his command along the Sudanese-Chadian border. He also maintained a small operational presence inside Chad in the form of a command post northeast of Abéché and a handful of isolated units operating as far as central Chad. He had traveled to Saudi Arabia seeking military assistance.124 Furthermore, contrary to French evaluations, by early September the CIA reported that Habré had finally stockpiled enough supplies to launch more-robust offensive operations.125 In early September, the CIA also reported that Habré had attacked and captured the towns of Guéréda and Iriba in Biltine prefecture. This represented “Habré’s most significant military success” since his defeat

120 121 122 123 124 125

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 113/1, Note from Cairo to Paris, “a/s: Entretien avec le Vice-Président des FAN,” 13.07.1981, pp. 1–2. Ibid., pp. 2–3. CIA: CREST Database Doc. CIA-RDP83B01027R000300050045–4, Memo for DCI, “Warning Report: Sub-Saharan Africa,” 23.07.1981, p. 2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 113/2, DAM Note, “A/ S. Tchad: situation intérieure (le protectorat libyen),” 11.09.1981, pp. 5–6. Ibid., p. 5. CIA: CREST Database Doc. CIA-RDP83T00296R000400020043–9, “National Intelligence Daily, Friday 11 September 1981,” 11.09.1981, p. 6.

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the previous year.126 The fighting continued throughout the month, as Habré also seized Adré on the Sudanese border. Various GUNT factions, assisted by the Libyans, counterattacked all three towns and pushed the FAN back across the border, though they suffered heavy casualties in the process. The CIA reported these at 200 killed, along with the loss of several troop transports, armored vehicles, and heavy weapons. The FAN also shot down a Libyan Mi-24 attack helicopter and an SF-260 groundattack aircraft. Throughout the fighting, the FAN kept their losses light, with 23 killed. The Libyan Air Force also launched attacks across the Sudanese border, including against civilian targets.127 Meanwhile, Mitterrand finally greenlighted a meeting with Goukouni. On September 17 the two met in the Elysée Palace in Paris. For Goukouni, this moment was important in more ways than one. Most obviously, it signaled a clear French recognition of the GUNT’s legitimacy. On a personal level, it represented a high point in Goukouni’s career. Olivier Kramer, a Swiss national and friend of Goukouni, accompanied the Chadian president to Paris. He later wrote that Goukouni told him that day he was “the happiest man in the world” and often spoke of it afterwards.128 Goukouni managed to extract several concessions. Although Mitterrand expressed his disapproval of the Libyan presence, he did not condition improved relations on a Libyan withdrawal. He recognized that it was “a difficult problem and that it was obviously up to the Chadians to resolve it themselves.” France would, he added, support the creation of an OAU force, and hoped that parts of it could be deployed as soon as possible. Furthermore, he promised increased humanitarian assistance, along with help rebuilding N’Djamena. He also offered French aid in organizing and training the ANI. Mitterrand further promised to make the symbolic, though extremely important, gesture of reopening the French embassy in the Chadian capital.129 126 127

128

129

Ibid. CIA: CREST Database Doc. CIA-RDP84B00049R001203110010–8, Memo, “Topic for Discussion at DCI Breakfast Meeting with Secretary Haig on 6 October 1981–Situation in Eastern Chad,” 05.10.1981. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/1, Letter from Olivier Kramer to French Foreign Ministry, “Concerne/GUNT/Tchad,” 28.06.1983. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 113/2, Circular telegram from La Rochère to French Africa Embassies, “Visite en France du Président Goukouni Weddeye,” 22.09.1981, pp. 2–3.

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Goukouni later said he also asked Mitterrand to push the Americans to loosen their pressure on the GUNT. Mitterrand replied that he could not do so.130 Nevertheless, Washington wanted to reassure the French that they had no intention of undermining diplomatic efforts to remove Libyan forces from Chad. In a note outlining its position, the Reagan administration insisted that American efforts – referring to their support for Habré – complemented French aims. It also expressed American support for the deployment of an OAU force and French and African efforts to obtain a UN mandate to help with financing and logistics. Crucially, it conveyed American willingness to “adjust” their policy toward the GUNT as soon as Goukouni demonstrated a “really independent position” from Libya.131 At the end of September 1981, Jean-Pierre Cot traveled to Washington. Contrary to Mitterrand’s apparent claim to Goukouni, Cot requested – albeit indirectly – that his American counterparts stop supporting Habré. He told Chester Crocker, the new US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, that the Habré threat “had the effect of reinforcing the Libyan faction within the Chadian government” and delayed the deployment of the OAU peacekeeping force. Consequently, he felt the Americans should pressure Egypt and Sudan to limit their assistance to Habré “for at least some time.”132 Crocker did not give a definitive response but said the United States had no illusions about Habré’s future in Chad, and that he “was only one card that they held while awaiting something better.”133 Cot was perhaps less convincing when he tried to justify Mitterrand’s decision to fulfill existing arms contracts with Libya. Cot simply stated that France had to honor its commitments, though it would slow down deliveries.134 At any rate, Habré’s recent successes encouraged continued American patronage. This is indicated by CIA reports, which include precise details of FAN preparations and offensive planning. An October 5 memo addressed to CIA director William Casey noted 130 131 132

133

Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 63 above, p. 110. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 116/2, translated note, “Position des Etats-Unis au sujet du Tchad,” 14.09.1981. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 114/3, telegram from Washington to Paris, “Entretiens de M. Jean-Pierre Cot à Washington – II) Entretien avec M. Crocker,” 30.09.1981, p. 2. 134 Ibid., p. 3. Ibid., p. 1.

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Habré would soon receive supplies flown into western Sudan. It also suggested that, once sufficiently resupplied, Habré would launch a nighttime raid against Libyan positions in the town of Am Zoer, north of Abéché.135 As Habré regrouped and rearmed, Goukouni came under renewed Libyan pressure. On October 5, Gaddafi summoned the Chadian president to Sebha. Goukouni later described this meeting as the moment when relations with Libya really unraveled. Gaddafi demanded an acceleration of the Libya-Chad merger agreement. The Libyan leader also organized large protests in the streets of Sebha, demanding the unification of the two countries. Goukouni refused.136 Gaddafi reacted by cutting off all financial assistance to the GUNT.137 The following week, on October 12, major fighting erupted between the CDR and the Frolinat 1st Army. The fighting first broke out in Mongo, in central Guéra, and soon spread westward to Dourbali in the Obangui-Chari prefecture, just 80 kilometers from N’Djamena. French accounts, probably derived from Ricard’s sources in Kousséri and N’Djamena, suggested that Libyan troops intervened on the CDR’s side, and helped drive the 1st Army out of both towns. Alarming reports also suggested that CDR and Libyan forces had begun moving towards Am-Timam in southeastern Salamat.138 This could give Acyl a strong basis with which to contest Goukouni’s authority within the GUNT. While the causes of the fighting remain unclear, tensions between the movements dated at least to April, when they fought each other in Abéché. Buijtenhuijs cites conflicting reports. One emphasizes its local dimensions, suggesting it stemmed from a 1st Army reaction to the establishment of a Libyan administrative presence in Mongo. A more sinister interpretation placed the blame on Acyl, who saw the 1st Army

135

136 137 138

CIA: CREST Database Doc. CIA-RDP84B00049R001203110010–8, Memo, “Topic for Discussion at DCI Breakfast Meeting with Secretary Haig on 6 October 1981–Situation in Eastern Chad,” 05.10.1981. Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 63 above, pp. 109–110. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 101/2, “Synthèse des évènements du mois d’octobre 1981,” 06.11.1981, p. 2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/2, Circular telegram from DAM, “Aggravation de la situation au Tchad,” 22.10.1981, p. 2.

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and its leader, Mahamat Abba Seïd, as a major hindrance to his aim of taking over the GUNT.139 Whatever the reasons, Goukouni saw it as a Libyan-inspired plot to unseat him. On October 16, he told Ricard he seriously lacked both money and ammunition and that he had become more isolated within the GUNT itself. He asked Ricard to pass on a formal request for French assistance.140 French fears paralleled Goukouni’s. A circular telegram sent out by the Quai on October 22 warned that “the aggressive attitude of the CDR has led to a conflict situation likely to jeopardize the existence of the GUNT and to plunge the country again into civil war, including in N'Djamena itself.” French officials worried Libya might take advantage to impose its control over the GUNT before any OAU force could arrive.141 Breaking from past policy, Mitterrand agreed to help Goukouni. On October 22, while attending the North-South Summit in Cancun, Mexico, Mitterrand sent a dramatic and public cable to Daniel arap Moi, the Kenyan president, who then held the OAU chairmanship. Mitterrand called for “the emergency creation and deployment without delay” of the peacekeeping force. He also declared his willingness to “materially, financially, and logistically contribute in this respect, excluding any military participation.”142 Edem Kodjo, the OAU secretary general, had spent the past weeks quietly soliciting troop commitments from several countries, without notable successes. While he welcomed French support, the suddenness of Mitterrand’s cable startled him, and he complained to French officials that the publicity was not very helpful.143 Indeed, it gave the impression that any OAU troop deployment came at the behest of and in service to a former colonial power. Mitterrand also went a step further. In response to Goukouni’s requests, he ordered the delivery of desperately needed supplies to the FAP. From October 25 to the end of the month, French aircraft 139 140 141

142 143

Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 8 above, pp. 191–192. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 101/2, “Synthèse des évènements du mois d’octobre 1981,” 06.11.1981, p. 3. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/2, Circular telegram from DAM, “Aggravation de la situation au Tchad,” 22.10.1981, pp. 2–3. Cited in: Buijtenhhijs, Les guerres civiles, note 8 above, p. 193. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 107/3, DAM Note, “A/ S. Force interafricaine au Tchad – Entretien avec M. Kodjo,” 26.10.1981, p. 1.

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transported over 25 tons of munitions to Kousséri. Goukouni’s fighters then transported them across the Chari River. Since the FAP mostly relied on Eastern bloc weapons such as AK-47s and RPG-7s, French officials had to purchase stocks held by the neighboring CAR and transport them. French aircraft also delivered items such as medications and uniforms.144 Claude Cheysson publicly confirmed these aid deliveries on October 27.145 The publicity given to both Mitterrand’s telegram to Moi and the munitions deliveries aimed to warn Gaddafi against efforts to overthrow Goukouni or to preempt an OAU deployment. French officials coupled this with renewed efforts to persuade the Americans to end their support for Habré and to help finance the OAU deployment. On October 20, François Heisbourg, an advisor to French defense minister Charles Hernu, traveled to the Pentagon. In a meeting with Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Francis J. West Jr, Heisbourg insisted that Habré “should be cut off from all external aid,” since it hindered “the French plan to have Goukouni force the Libyans out of Chad.” West reported that Heisbourg did not clarify questions about Goukouni’s ability to actually do that, but seemed firmly opposed to Habré.146 In Chad itself, tensions only increased. On October 27, Abdessalam Jalloud, Gaddafi’s number two, visited N’Djamena. Goukouni’s account confuses some of the chronology, but it seems he viewed Jalloud’s visit as a prelude to a possible coup. The Libyan security preparations made for his visit included the deployment of tanks in front of the Chadian presidential palace.147 This may have been meant to intimidate Goukouni, who nevertheless found the courage to demand that Libya withdraw its troops from N’Djamena. Jalloud apparently agreed.148

144 145 146

147 148

FCMGT, Carton 5, A4/7/3, Mission militaire de coopération, Fiche, “Munitions Tchad,” 28.10.1981. “Tchad: M. Cheysson confirme que la France apporte ‘un soutien logistique’ au président Goukouni Oueddeï,” Le Monde, 27.10.1981. CIA: CREST Database Doc. CIA-RDP84B00049R001403560020–6, Memorandum for the Record, “Conversation with French Defense Aide,” 21.10.1981. Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 63 above, pp. 110–111. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 101/2, “Synthèse des évènements du mois d’octobre 1981,” 06.11.1981, p. 3.

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Goukouni later claimed that Jalloud encouraged Acyl and several other factional leaders to launch a coup. For some reason – possibly because the Libyans preferred another figurehead – Acyl balked at this, so nothing happened.149 French observers, at any rate, seemed pleasantly surprised by Acyl’s refusal to move.150 This gave Goukouni the opportunity to act, and he seized on it. On October 29, he convened the GUNT to discuss the Libyan troop presence. In an astonishing move, he called for the complete withdrawal of the Libyan army from Chad. After some debate, the GUNT ministers voted 14 to 11 in favor of Goukouni’s motion. As he later recounted, the GUNT leaders knew the FAN could take advantage of the withdrawal, but did not think Habré strong enough to overthrow the government. In the absence of the Libyans, though, the CDR would not be able to take power.151 In a subsequent communiqué, the GUNT called for an immediate Libyan withdrawal from N’Djamena and the neighboring Chari-Baguirmi prefecture, followed by a phased withdrawal from the rest of Chad by the end of the year, conducted in consultation with the GUNT. The OAU force and the ANI would then gradually replace the retreating Libyan units.152 149 150 151 152

Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 63 above, pp. 110–111. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 101/2, “Synthèse des évènements du mois d’octobre 1981,” 06.11.1981, p. 3. Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 63 above, p. 111. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 115/3, telegram from Kousséri to Paris, “Communiqué du conseil des ministres,” 30.10.1981, pp. 1–2.

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Endgame

French observers were flabbergasted and initially worried that Goukouni’s risky move, calling for the complete withdrawal of the Libyan army from Chad, could dangerously backfire. To their amazement, however, after three days of uneasy silence, the colonel commanding Libyan troops in N’Djamena informed the Gouvernement d’Union nationale de transition (GUNT) that Gaddafi had agreed to the demand. Libyan forces would leave the Chadian capital within three days, and the rest of Chad within eight days.1 To the surprise of nearly everyone, French and Chadians alike, Gaddafi kept his promise. By November 15, the last Libyans had left the country, apart from the Aozou Strip.2 Despite his clear Chadian ambitions, several reasons seem to have led Gaddafi to comply. First, and perhaps most important, the Libyan leader had spent considerable political and financial capital to secure Tripoli as the location for the July 1982 Organization of African Unity (OAU) summit and his election to the chairmanship of the organization. Defying the wishes of the internationally recognized government of Chad could sink these hopes. Additionally, Gaddafi had few reliable allies in Chad. Even Ahmat Acyl seemed less of a pliable Libyan pawn than his adversaries often had asserted. The lack of financial generosity to the GUNT and the heavy-handedness of the Libyan troop presence had also generated much opposition within Chad. Had Gaddafi refused Goukouni’s request, he might have had a fight on his hands.3 Furthermore, the Libyan army had not performed brilliantly. They often failed in their skirmishes with Goukouni’s men in the late 1970s. 1 2 3

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/3, DAM Note, “A/s. Tchad,” 09.11.1981, p. 2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 101/2, “Synthèse des évènements du mois de novembre 1981,” 30.11.1981, p. 9. Robert Buijtenhuijs, Le Frolinat et les guerres civiles du Tchad: 1977–1984 (Paris: Karthala, 1987), pp. 199–200.

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Some of its units had also suffered humiliating losses against the Tanzanian army in 1979 while defending Idi Amin’s vicious regime in Uganda. In Chad, Gaddafi himself admitted to the loss of 300 dead and 700 wounded. Given the importance of the military’s loyalty for regime survival, an expanded war in Chad may not have seemed appealing.4 Nonetheless, the rapidity of the withdrawal, and Gaddafi’s refusal to coordinate it with the GUNT, also seemed to stem from Libyan resentment. Goukouni, as well as French observers, felt it aimed to destabilize the GUNT by leaving a major power vacuum that the still-hypothetical OAU force could not yet fill.5 Habré would certainly take advantage of this. Nevertheless, upon hearing of the precipitous Libyan withdrawal, he declared a unilateral cease-fire and called for negotiations. Goukouni did not welcome the idea, suggesting it was too early for talks.6 Habré’s real commitment to a negotiated settlement was equally questionable. Indeed, Ahmad Allam-Mi, one of the authors of the cease-fire offer, later described it as a propaganda ploy.7 In early November, Sudanese president Gaafar Nimeiry saw the Libyan retreat as a reason to rein in the Forces armées du Nord (FAN). He asked Habré to halt his activities in Chad. The FAN leader agreed on three conditions: that France cut its aid to Goukouni, that the OAU and its peacekeeping force exhibit complete neutrality, and that a national reconciliation meeting be held immediately with guaranteed FAN participation. Nimeiry promised Habré FAN participation in any Chadian talks and asked him to come to Khartoum for consultations. Nimeiry threatened to end all Sudanese support for Habré if the FAN leader refused to comply. On November 9, Nimeiry told Egyptian officials that Habré had agreed to a one-week cease-fire.8 Either Nimeiry misunderstood Habré, or Habré had no intention of keeping his word. On November 11, before the Libyans had completed 4 5 6 7 8

Ibid. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/3, DAM Note, “Les faits récents” 09.11.1981, p. 3; and Goukouni, “Témoignage,” pp. 112–113. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 3 above, pp. 205–206. Ahmad Allam-Mi, Autour du Tchad en guerre: Tractations politiques et diplomatiques 1975–1990 (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2014). p. 77. CIA: CREST Database Doc. CIA-RDP84B00049R000200240007–2, “Topic for Discussion at DCI Breakfast Meeting with Secretary Weinberger on 13 November 1981 – Situation in Eastern Chad,” 12.11.1981, pp. 1–2.

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their withdrawal, he seized Adré on the Sudanese border. Over the next several days, his forces pushed into the Chadian interior. They soon reoccupied Guéréda and Iriba, and on November 19 they captured Abéché, virtually unopposed. Habré had benefited from the political aftermath of the fighting between the Forces armées populaires (FAP) and 1st Army against the Conseil démocratique révolutionnaire (CDR) earlier in the year. No FAP or 1st Army units remained in any strength in the East. At the same time, the new Armée nationale intégrée (ANI) of some 2,000 troops was still underequipped, ill-organized, and haphazardly spread out over central Chad. It posed little threat to Habré’s troops. Only the CDR, consisting of some 4,000 men, had the numbers, equipment, and training to effectively oppose the FAN advance. However, French observers felt the disappearance of its Libyan backers and Acyl’s desire to conserve his strength led to a marked lack of combativeness against the FAN advance.9 Nimeiry was furious. He asked Egyptian authorities to cease deliveries of weapons and supplies to Habré’s forces. The Egyptians asked to meet Habré in Khartoum.10 Although Habré initially agreed, he soon backtracked, claiming that the “complicated situation” in Chad meant he had to stay put. He further insisted he had only “peacefully” reoccupied Iriba and Guéréda, and that his forces had not initiated any fighting. In response, both Egypt and Sudan ended their assistance to the FAN.11 Indeed, Habré’s principal value to his Egyptian and Sudanese backers was his opposition to Libya. In September, for instance, Sadat told French officials that Egyptian and American aid principally aimed to increase Habré’s nuisance value against Gaddafi. Sadat did not feel Habré could drive the Libyans out of Chad by himself. He saw no contradiction in support for Habré and French attempts to pry Goukouni away from Libya. He also maintained he held no grudge against Goukouni and had no problem working with the GUNT if the Libyans actually left

9 10

11

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 101/2, “Synthèse des évènements du mois de novembre 1981,” 30.11.1981, p. 5. CIA: CREST Database Doc. CIA-RDP84B00049R000200240007–2, Memo, “Topic for Discussion at DCI Breakfast Meeting with Secretary Weinberger on 13 November 1981 – Situation in Eastern Chad” 12.11.1981, p. 2. Ibid.

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Chad.12 Furthermore, on October 6, 1981, Islamist militants assassinated Sadat in response to his peace agreement with Israel. The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) noted that his successor, Hosni Mubarak, seemed more concerned with consolidating his own authority than with investing resources to counter Libyan ambitions.13 The evidence for the evolution of American relations with Habré during this time remains fragmentary. Human Rights Watch’s 2016 analysis of US relations with Habré suggests that “the United States continued and even increased its role” in support of Habré after the Libyan withdrawal.14 Nevertheless, the combination of declassified CIA and French archival records suggests that American assistance also ended in November 1981, at least for several months. First, the Egyptian and Sudanese decisions would have made aid deliveries difficult, since this was the only corridor for American assistance. Second, a November 1981 CIA assessment implied US assistance to Habré had ended, noting that, “Any upgrade of an airfield in Western Sudan would be useful in supplying Habré should the Libyans return in force and we wish to urge him to resume a combat role.”15 A December CIA analysis also reported that Egypt and Sudan had been Habré’s “last foreign benefactors” before ending their support in November.16 This suggests the United States ended its support to Habré earlier, possibly as early as September or October, when French officials had asked them to, and at the latest when Goukouni expelled Libyan forces from Chad. A June 1982 conversation between the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research Herman Cohen and Fernand Wibaux – then French ambassador to 12

13

14

15 16

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 113/2, telegram from French Embassy in Cairo to Paris, “Entretien avec le président Sadate: III – Problèmes africains” 10.09.1981, pp. 1–2. CIA: CREST Database Doc. CIA-RDP84B00049R000902290040–1, Memorandum for the Record, “Meeting of MacFarlane Group on Libya” 06.11.1981, p. 2. Human Rights Watch, “Enabling a Dictator: The United States and Chad’s Hissène Habré 1982–1990,” June 2016, pp. 19–20; www.hrw.org/report/2016/ 06/28/enabling-dictator/united-states-and-chads-hissene-habre-1982-1990 (accessed May 5, 2020). CIA: CREST Database Doc. CIA-RDP84B00049R000400890005–1, Memo, “US Policy Toward Libya,” undated,11.1981, p. 12. CIA: CREST Database Doc. CIA-RDP84B00049R000200400079–5, Research Paper, “Chad: Origins and Impact of Factional Strife,” 28.12.1981, p. 4.

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Senegal – lends credence to this hypothesis. Cohen told Wibaux that the United States had provided substantial logistical support to Habré, but ended it following French requests. He felt, though, that the quantity of material given to Habré was itself enough to continue the fighting in the following months.17 Regardless, by mid-November the main thrust of US policy had shifted to support for the OAU operation. In the previous weeks, American officials had begun aggressively lobbying the OAU to deploy the force. In a November 13 joint memo to President Ronald Reagan, Secretary of State Alexander Haig and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger recommended supporting the operation with up to $12 million for logistical and other forms of assistance. They argued that: It is critical that the PKO [peacekeeping operation] move as quickly as possible in order to limit the possibility of renewed warfare among contending factions, to provide some stability in war torn Chad in the wake of the Libyan withdrawal, and to avoid giving Libya an excuse to return.18

Meanwhile, at the Franco-African summit held in Paris on November 3–4, Mitterrand basked in the glory of the Libyan withdrawal. Zaire’s dictator, Mobutu Sese-Seko, promised to send Zairian units to Chad in short order, as part of the nascent OAU force. Following French promises of financing and logistical support, Senegalese authorities also agreed to send a contingent. After months of apparently fruitless negotiations, and with foreign support assured, it now looked as if the OAU would commit to its very first peacekeeping operation. On November 15, the first Zairian contingent arrived in N’Djamena.19 A Senegalese detachment followed at the end of the month, and Nigerian units began arriving in early December.20 Mitterrand viewed the combination of the Libyan withdrawal and the OAU deployment as a major diplomatic triumph. It also 17 18

19 20

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 116/2, telegram from Wibaux to Paris, “Tchad – un point de vue américain,” 08.06.1982, pp. 1–2. CIA: CREST Database Doc. CIA-RDP84B00049R001303150023–9, Memorandum for the President, “Assisting an OAU Peacekeeping Organization (PKO) for Chad,” 13.11.1981, p. 2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 101/2, “Synthèse des évènements du mois de novembre 1981,” 30.11.1981, p. 9. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 114/2, OAU Report, “Report of the Secretary-General for the Period 29 November 1981 to 10 February 1982,” undated, p. 1.

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exemplified his ability to clean up a mess left by his predecessor.21 However, the power vacuum left by the Libyans rapidly turned into a source of trouble. It also soon became clear that the African peacekeeping operation could not fill the void. Cooperation Ministry officials quickly grasped some elements of the problem. The GUNT had no money. This meant it could neither fund a functioning administration nor the ANI. Hence, the only operational armed forces remained those of the various factions. At the same time, the OAU was nearly penniless as well, relying almost entirely upon outside funding for the peacekeeping operation, especially from the United States and France. While the idea of soliciting financial help from the United Nations gradually gained support, French officials feared the process would take far too long to have an impact.22 At the Cooperation Ministry, which allocated French assistance, Renaud Vignal was alarmed by the strains these factors placed on French aid efforts. Previously, Mitterrand committed 150 million francs to Chad. This was divided equally among budgetary support for the GUNT, ANI funding, and the OAU force. By mid-November though, only 40 million francs remained. France had already spent 30 million francs on emergency deliveries to the ANI, and another 30 million directly to the GUNT budget to pay public-sector salaries. Furthermore, of the 50 million francs set aside for the OAU force, all had gone to Senegal to equip and transport its battalion. In a draft memo, Vignal urged Cooperation Minister Jean-Pierre Cot to press Mitterrand for more money “if we want to prove that Chad can live without Libya.”23 Meanwhile, the OAU soon dashed any hopes that Goukouni and other GUNT leaders had placed in the organization. In Paris on November 4, Goukouni signed an agreement with OAU Secretary General Edem Kodjo, outlining the peacekeeping mandate. According to this agreement, its role was “to prevent, contain, and temper hostilities in Chad, or to put an end to them, as well as to ensure the safeguarding of the security of the Chadian state [. . .] additionally it will assist the Chadian government in the formation of 21 22 23

Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 1 above, p. 203. FCMGT, Carton 5, A4/7/3, Draft Memo from Vignaud to Cot, “Entretien avec le Président de la République : le Tchad,” 18.11.1981. pp. 1–2. Ibid., p. 3 and attached note.

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the National Integrated Army [ANI].”24 The wording seemed to promise OAU assistance in, if not defeating Habré, at least protecting the GUNT from the FAN threat. Indeed, this promise, dangled by the French, had encouraged Goukouni to expel the Libyan army. Within a month, though, it became clear the OAU had overpromised and underdelivered. At the end of November, Kenyan president and OAU chairman Daniel arap Moi convened a meeting in Nairobi to flesh out the OAU force’s mandate and the modalities of its further deployment. The Habré question dominated the meeting. Goukouni insisted the OAU force should fight the FAN. However, the troopcontributing countries – consisting of only Nigeria, Senegal, and Zaire – all stated that their troops would not engage in combat operations. Moi could only lamely call on all neighboring countries to end their assistance to Habré, though by this point both Sudan and Egypt had already done so. All of this led an infuriated Goukouni to threaten to bring the Libyans back into the country if Habré could not be contained.25 The final agreement between the OAU and the GUNT gave the peacekeeping force a far more ambiguous mandate than Goukouni had hoped. Although it charged the force with ensuring “the defence and security of the country whilst awaiting the integration of Government Forces,” it stipulated that it should “abstain from interfering in the internal affairs of the country.”26 For Goukouni, this made the OAU force worse than useless. In desperation, Goukouni attempted to induce Ethiopia to join the force. As a Soviet-aligned country, Libyan ally, and enemy of Sudan, Goukouni hoped Ethiopian troops might actually fight Habré. French officials made it clear, though, that Ethiopian participation would be unacceptable, as the Americans would withdraw their support, and it would likely push

24

25 26

FCMGT, Carton 5, A4/7/3, “Accord sur le statut de la force de l’O.U.A. pour le maintien de la paix au Tchad,” 04.11.1981. p. 2. My translation; presumably there is an official English version of this, but I was unable to find it. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 114/1, telegram from Nairobi Embassy to Paris, “Tchad – Réunion de Nairobi,” 29.11.1981, pp. 2–3. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 114/3, “Agreement between the Transitional National Union Government of the Republic of Chad and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Regarding the Status of a PanAfrican Peace Keeping Force in Chad,” Signed 28.11.1981, pp. 3–4.

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Sudan into supporting the FAN again.27 Although Goukouni had to relent, one thing was certain: he would never negotiate with Habré. Throughout December and into early January, the bulk of the peacekeeping force, commanded by Nigerian Major General Geoffrey Ejiga, deployed to Chad. It eventually peaked at some 4,400 troops. This included 3,000 Nigerians in three battalions, one battalion of 750 Zairian paratroopers, and a Senegalese battalion of 650 men.28 This operation is often cited as a milestone as the first African-organized peacekeeping force.29 While technically true, it owed its existence in part to French diplomatic efforts, and remained heavily, if not entirely, dependent on outside financing. It would also ultimately serve very little purpose.30 The peacekeeping force’s mandate meant it would do nothing to stem the inexorable FAN advance. On December 22, FAN forces captured Oum-Hadjer, halfway between Abéché and the central town of Ati. This resulted in part from FAN’s striking superiority in heavy weaponry. The Libyan army had left large stores of weapons, equipment, and money in Abéché after its expulsion. When Habré captured the town shortly afterwards, he found a veritable treasure trove of war materiel. French observers quickly suspected the Libyans had done this deliberately to “punish” their erstwhile GUNT protégés.31 27

28 29

30

31

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 114/1, telegram from Kousséri to Paris, “Attitude du Tchad vis-à-vis de l’O.U.A.,” 18.12.1981, pp. 2–3. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 114/3, DAM Note, “A/S : Fonds d’assistance à la FIA.,” 06.05.1982, p. 1. See, for instance: Romain Esmenjaud, “L'Africanisation et l'appropriation africaine des opérations de paix: étude politique et historique à travers les missions africaines au Tchad (1979–1982), en République centrafricaine (1997 à nos jours) et au Darfour (2004 à nos jours),” Ph.D. Dissertation, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, 2012, and Terry Mays, Africa's First Peacekeeping Operation: The OAU in Chad, 1981–1982 (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2002). Arguably, it was not the first African peacekeeping force, as another French initiative resulted in the deployment of an Inter-African Force to southern Zaire in 1978-1979 following the Shaba wars. Unlike their predecessors though, the peacekeepers in Chad were authorized by the OAU and thus benefited from a continent-wide legitimacy that the Zaire operation lacked. For more, see: Nathaniel K Powell, “Saving Mobutu: Zaire, the West, and the Inter-African Force, 1978-1979,” Working Paper in Conflict, Politics, and Human Rights in Africa, African Studies Center, Boston University, No. 3 (2016). MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980-1983, Carton 101/2, “Synthèse des évènements du mois de décembre 1981,” 30.12.1981, p. 2.

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In some sense, this was less a FAN victory than a GUNT defeat. Pierre Ricard, the French diplomatic representative in Cameroon, noted that the ANI troops that formed the bulk of GUNT forces in front of Ati lacked munitions and heavy weapons. The only aid they received were supplies and ammunition that France provided to the GUNT, along with small amounts of materiel from Algeria. However, Goukouni had made sure to skim off some aid for his own forces. The GUNT factions also remained suspicious of one another and maintained their own chains of command to their own units. Furthermore, on December 28, the GUNT cut salaries to troops and government administrators by 50 percent. Though pay was always irregular, this shattered morale.32 Ricard saw no hope for the GUNT’s prospects, writing, “It is likely that if the GUNT does not receive more help for its army, integrated or not, the defeat of its troops is practically inevitable sooner or later.”33 FAN successes and the GUNT’s clear inability to counter them fed increasing calls, both within Chad and in the OAU, for a negotiated settlement. Goukouni forcefully rejected such a notion. This hard-line position would appear increasingly irrational to outside observers in the following months. Goukouni had good reasons for intransigence, though. As the CIA acknowledged in early January, “a move to bring Habre [sic] back into the leadership – still only a remote possibility – would be as dangerous as keeping him out. He probably would not accept a subordinate position for long if he again concluded that the prospects were good for taking control.”34 Habré had already helped initiate two major rounds of bloody urban fighting to seize control of the state. It seemed unlikely he would settle for anything less this time around. Habré’s advance continued through January 1982. In the middle of the month, FAN troops routed GUNT forces in bloody fighting at Oum-Chalouba. Shortly thereafter, the FAN captured Faya-Largeau without a shot. Local forces, many of whom had ethnic ties to Habré’s 32 33

34

Ibid., pp. 3–4. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/2, telegram from Kousséri to Paris, “Audience du ministre de la défense Tchadien,” 26.12.1981, p. 2. CIA: Document Number (FOIA) /ESDN (CREST): 0005065421, National Intelligence Daily, Saturday 2 January 1982, “Chad: Insurgent Gains,” 02.01.1982, p. 4.

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men, defected. By the end of January, the FAN controlled most of the BET, and had made progress in the center of the country with moves towards Mangalmé. The GUNT itself seemed to fall apart at the seams. Goukouni’s FAP were themselves torn by internal divisions and had lost much of their numerical strength in the preceding year. The 1st Army had practically dissolved following heavy losses in its fighting against the CDR, and internal fissures. Some of its combatants threatened to join the FAN. Acyl kept much of the CDR concentrated around Ati, which also hosted a large contingent of Nigerian peacekeepers. While this lay astride the main East-West axis to N’Djamena, Habré seemed more likely to move around it to avoid a fight with the OAU. This meant that Acyl’s troops were effectively shielded from heavy fighting – a potentially prudent move while awaiting events. Meanwhile, tensions between Kamougué’s partisans and his southern opponents weakened what little weight the FAT could throw into the balance. French and Algerian arms deliveries had made little difference in improving its operational capacity, and a chronic lack of pay meant persistently low morale. Furthermore, many southerners had increasingly concluded that the ongoing war represented little more than an intra-ethnic conflict among Tubu, or at the most, among northerners. They thus felt little incentive to sacrifice themselves for a cause that had nothing to do with them.35 Although cut off from American, Egyptian, and Sudanese assistance, the FAN did get a boost from an unexpected quarter. Despite Mitterrand’s early decision to end all French aid to Habré, this did not cut off all communications between the SDECE (the French foreign intelligence agency) and the FAN. Throughout the summer of 1981, Habré maintained contacts with the agency. In July of that year, he may have visited Paris on a Sudanese diplomatic passport for discreet meetings with his SDECE handlers.36 Many SDECE officers were deeply suspicious of the new Mitterrand administration because of its leftist orientation and its inclusion of the 35 36

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 101/2, “A/s: Synthèse des évènements du mois de janvier 1982,” 01.02.1982, pp. 2–4. Human Rights Watch, ,“Allié de la France, Condamné par l’Afrique: Les relations entre la France et le régime tchadien de Hissène Habré (1982–1990),” p. 20, June 2016; www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/ francehabre0616frweb.pdf (accessed May 5, 2020).

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Communist Party in the new government. In response, the agency burned some of its most sensitive archives relating to counterespionage and contacts in the Eastern Bloc. These feelings also helped motivate the agency’s head, Alexandre de Marenches, to prefer resignation to service under Mitterrand.37 Others seem to have adopted a more indirect approach to undermining Mitterrand’s foreign policy. Through SDECE contacts, Habré connected with famed French mercenary Bob Denard. Denard organized “Operation 61” in support of the FAN. In January 1982, several of Denard’s men arrived in Chad to help train FAN forces in the use of mortars. They also helped establish a communications network and helped to maintain FAN equipment.38 The end of January 1982 finally saw the return of a French diplomatic presence to N’Djamena, and the arrival of an accredited ambassador, Claude Soubeste. Soubeste had recently served in Chad as consul general from July 1979 to May 1980. He had also established the consulate in Moundou after the French evacuation of the capital. He arrived on January 25 to a city still in ruins after the murderous rounds of fighting in 1979 and 1980. He later wrote, “Right out of the airport I found a devastated city, dead and delivered into the hands of combatants. The shops on the ‘Bank’ street, one of the main arteries, crumbled underneath the rubble. Most of the public buildings were destroyed.”39 The embassy compound was ruined, and it would take months to render it serviceable. The property was also littered with unexploded ordnance, which took weeks to disarm and remove.40 On February 10, the OAU’s Standing Committee on Chad, the group of countries charged with monitoring the Chadian crisis, met in Nairobi. Goukouni attended reluctantly. He complained to Soubeste that he had not received the meeting’s agenda and expressed fear that the OAU would impose a negotiated settlement.41 The GUNT delegation arrived after the conference had begun. Shortly thereafter, 37 38

39 40 41

Jean-Christophe Notin, Le maître du secret: Alexandre de Marenches, légende des services secrets français (Paris: Tallandier, 2018), pp. 431–432. Human Rights Watch, “Allié de la France,” note 36 above, pp. 20–24. One should note the rather confused chronology apparent in the sources used by Human Rights Watch. Claude Soubeste, Une saison au Tchad (Paris, France: L’Harmattan, 2012), p. 59. Ibid., p. 62–64. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 114/2, telegram from N’Djamena to Paris, “Réunion de l’OUA sur le Tchad,” 07.02.1982, p. 2.

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Goukouni’s delegation withdrew from the debates after the organizers refused to allow a brief postponement to review documentation pertaining to the discussion. The next day, Moi presented Goukouni with an ultimatum. The Standing Committee passed a resolution calling for “all parties” to agree to a cease-fire by February 28, begin negotiations under OAU mediation by March 15, draw up a provisional constitution by April 30, and organize presidential and legislative elections by June 30. The resolution also declared that the peacekeeping force would withdrawal by June 30.42 The GUNT delegation was shocked. Immediately, they issued a communiqué denouncing the resolution, and questioning the legitimacy of the Standing Committee to dictate terms.43 Goukouni then organized a public rally in N’Djamena. He accused several African leaders, including Moi, of betraying Chad, and intimated that senior officers in the OAU Force were collaborating with Habré.44 Ricard reported that all the GUNT’s faction leaders viewed the OAU pronouncement as a “humiliation.” Although not enough to catalyze any real movement towards unity, it did encourage many in the GUNT leadership to visit frontline troops to outline their position on the OAU. Also, several FAT companies moved northwards to join the “front,” and Acyl’s CDR appeared to take a more combative posture.45 Nevertheless, Ricard noted that fissures within the GUNT continued to weaken the “façade” of unity. Acyl told Ricard he had nothing personal against Habré. Kamougué began meeting frequently with FAN representatives in Cameroon. Furthermore, in Ricard’s view, the total lack of available government funds and state capacity generated increasing levels of overt discontent within GUNT factions and among the population at large.46 Meanwhile, Goukouni ordered several attacks against FAN positions, hoping to regain lost ground. Although the ANI barely existed, 42 43

44 45 46

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 114/2, OAU, AHO/ST/ Cttee/Chad/Res.1(III), “Resolution,” 11.02.1982, p. 2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 114/2, “Communiqué du Gouvernement National de Transition Tchadien après la résolution de l’OUA sur le Tchad du 11 février 82,” 11.02.1982. Soubeste, Une saison au Tchad, note 39 above, p. 65. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 101/2, “A/s: Synthèse des évènements du mois de février 1982,” 01.03.1982, p. 4. Ibid., pp. 5–6.

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the GUNT had benefited from recent Algerian arms deliveries, which improved available stocks.47 This consisted of light weapons, particularly mortars and machine guns, as well as ammunition, delivered in weekly flights. Algeria also deployed some 150 advisors, mostly based in Douguia, to help maintain GUNT and ANI equipment.48 The initial GUNT offensive seemed successful, as its forces briefly recaptured Oum-Hadjer, which the FAN had mostly evacuated. The victorious troops failed to take proper defensive precautions, though. On February 21, in a clever ploy, a FAN column circled around the town and entered it from a westward direction. The GUNT defenders mistook them for friendly reinforcements and were quickly put to flight.49 Ricard reported the GUNT suffered few casualties, but FAN forces captured considerable amounts of equipment, including artillery, rockets, and ammunition.50 Buijtenhuijs recounts, however, that a FAT contingent lost some 200 dead and 400 wounded.51 This and further losses in the coming month would contribute to an explosion of southern discontent towards the GUNT. Habré then took advantage of the OAU resolution to bolster his own standing by publicly agreeing to the February 28 cease-fire. This did not stop Goukouni from attempting to organize one last major counteroffensive. On March 13, GUNT forces launched a three-pronged attack from Ati, Mongo, and Mangalmé in the direction of Ouaddaï.52 Within days, though, it collapsed. This round of fighting, combined with the failed February offensives, took an especially heavy toll on FAT units who had taken part. This 47 48

49 50 51 52

Ibid., p. 3. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 115/4, telegram from Algiers to Paris, “L’Algérie et le Tchad,” 02.05.1982, p. 2. The reasons for this support remain somewhat unclear. Guy Georgy, then French ambassador in Algiers, felt it was linked to an Algerian desire to play a more important role in sub-Saharan Africa, and the GUNT’s favorable stance on Western Saharan membership in the OAU. See: Telegram from Algiers to Paris, “Tchad,” 13.06.1982, p. 1. Florent Sené, Raids dans le Sahara central (Tchad, Libye, 1941–1987): Sarra ou le rezzou décisif (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2011), p. 172. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 101/2, “A/s: Synthèse des évènements du mois de février 1982,” 01.03.1982, p. 3. Buijtenhuijs, Guerres civiles, note 1 above, p. 211. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/3, Premier Ministre, Secrétariat Général de la Défense Nationale, Fiche, “Situation points chaud le mardi 16 mars 1982 matin,” 16.03.1982.

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led to a mutinous atmosphere, as many FAT troops withdrew towards N’Djamena and accused the FAP of using them as cannon fodder. This nearly led to an outbreak of fighting in the capital between the FAT and FAP. Though that was avoided, tension between the FAT and the rest of the GUNT grafted itself onto growing divisions within southern ranks. For instance, both Kamougué and the Comité Permanent, which had emerged in 1979 as the South’s de facto governing organ, objected to a number of southern ministers sitting in Goukouni’s cabinet whom they accused of being coopted by northern factions.53 Also, by early March the Comité Permanent had begun expressing a preference for a political settlement. Some elements in the FAT, on the other hand, absolutely rejected any notion of negotiations with Habré.54 The withdrawal of southern units and general GUNT disunity meant that Habré easily made further territorial gains, including the capture of Mangalmé at the end of March. French intelligence viewed this as an effort to encourage the OAU to increase its pressure on the GUNT to negotiate.55 It also soon became clear that Libya would not intervene on Goukouni’s behalf. On March 23, French intelligence heard from Senegalese sources that Gaddafi had put out feelers to Habré. Gaddafi apparently expressed willingness to provide financial support to the FAN in exchange for certain concessions – presumably regarding the Aozou Strip.56 In fact, according to Allam-Mi, Habré’s spokesperson in Europe, the Libyan regime had made initial contacts with the FAN as early as mid-December 1981. Habré initially responded positively, telling a surprised Allam-Mi that realism required dialogue with Libya to ensure peaceful bilateral relations in the future. According to Allam-Mi, however, the disorganized nature of these contacts with a 53 54

55

56

Buijtenhuijs, Guerres civiles, note 1 above, pp. 212–213. See: FCMGT, Carton 5, A4/7bis/5, “Motion des officiers, sous-officiers et hommes de troupe de la garnison régions [sic] militaire n. 5,” 10.03.1982. p. 2; and “Déclaration du chef d’état-major des ex-Forces armées Tchadiennes,” 23.03.1982. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/3, Premier Ministre, Secrétariat Général de la Défense Nationale, Fiche, “Situation points chaud le jeudi 1er avril 1982 matin,” 01.04.1982. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 107/4, Service de coopération technique internationale de police, Note, “Informations concernant le conflit tchadien,” 23.03.1982.

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wide variety of interlocutors implied the existence of competing policy lines in Tripoli. Though nothing ultimately came of these discussions, they signaled that Gaddafi viewed a FAN victory as inevitable.57 During a mid-April visit to Paris, Ahmat Acyl expressed frustration with his GUNT colleagues. He held Goukouni personally responsible for the political and military failures of the previous months. He also blamed Goukouni’s close companion, the Defense Minister Adoum Togoï, for his incompetent handling of the military situation and expressed his disdain for Kamougué’s political machinations.58 On April 17–18, Mitterrand sent his chief Africa advisor, Guy Penne, to N’Djamena to meet Goukouni and assess the situation. Goukouni outlined a litany of reasons behind the GUNT’s military failures. The GUNT’s sheer lack of money constituted its biggest problem and it exacerbated all the others. Troops and government officials went unpaid. The small amounts available often disappeared due to corruption. Furthermore, Goukouni noted that the ANI barely existed, and pointed his finger at the FAT, which had never wanted to join it and disappeared soon after getting paid and resupplied.59 At the same time, for Goukouni, factional loyalties impeded any feeling of a broader national sentiment. Despite superior numbers, the recent offensives against Habré had failed because GUNT forces were inept, lacked capable leaders, and were undisciplined due to “tribal reflexes.” Goukouni cited the February loss of Oum-Hadjer as an example. He explained that the fighting lasted fifteen minutes, officers never left their vehicles, and the best soldiers were killed while the rest fled. For Goukouni, it was clear he could not rely on GUNT forces.60 In a desperate search for alternatives, the GUNT leader briefly toyed with recruiting several thousand new troops from scratch, bypassing government factions. This, though, would require foreign advisors and more supplies. He also told Penne he might look for a third-party intervention – on April 17 he had sent Adoum Togoï to Libya, though nothing came of the trip. Goukouni also asked Penne if France could redeploy troops from CAR to Chad. Penne did not record his response.61 57 58 59

Allam-Mi, Autour du Tchad, note 7 above, pp. 79–87. FCMGT, Carton 5, A4/7bis/5, Note from Penne to Mitterrand, “Tchad: Evolution récente” 19.04.1982, p. 3. 60 61 Ibid., p. 11. Ibid., p. 8. Ibid., p. 9. It certainly wasn’t “yes.”

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Goukouni had surprisingly mixed views about the OAU force. Since the deterioration of relations with the OAU following its ultimatum, Nigeria had threatened to withdraw one of its three battalions. Though furious at the OAU’s inaction against Habré, Goukouni feared an immediate withdrawal would create a dangerous vacuum. This would allow Habré to easily reach N’Djamena if he chose to launch an offensive. He wistfully added, “maybe God will help us.”62 One potential solution, supported by several GUNT ministers and faction leaders, was to create a “mini-assembly” composed of factional representatives from all of Chad’s prefectures, including those under Habré’s control. This assembly would name a government of “technocrats” from which current ministers would be excluded. While Penne viewed this as a way of engaging with the FAN without losing face, he soberly concluded that, “the GUNT’s failure can be seen everywhere.”63 Meanwhile, the OAU peacekeeping force kept busy doing nothing. Apart from its ambiguous mandate, a chronic lack of transport, logistical support, and financing would plague the mission from beginning to end. The OAU had initially concluded that a year-long deployment would cost $162,897,500. Though nominally based on standard UN budgeting practices, UN officials made it clear that they should revise this colossal sum downwards.64 Even so, neither the OAU nor its member states could contribute much in the way of money to the mission. Although France had agreed to fund and supply the entirety of the Senegalese deployment, it had little left over for others. The United States had promised $12 million and agreed to divide it equally between the Nigerian and Zairian contingents. However, as late as mid-May 1982, less than half of this had been spent.65 After months of hesitation, the financial crunch finally led the OAU, strongly encouraged by France, to seek financial assistance from the United Nations. On April 30, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 504, creating a financial assistance fund for the OAU force, and called for voluntary contributions from member states. French 62 64

65

63 Ibid., pp. 9–10. Ibid., pp. 12–13. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 114/2, OAU Report, “Report of the Secretary-General for the Period 29 November 1981 to 10 February 1982,” 10.02.1982, p. 2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 114/3, DAM Fiche, “a.s : Financement de la force interafricaine au Tchad (F.I.A.),” 14.05.1982, p. 2.

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officials lobbied their Security Council counterparts hard for the resolution and viewed its passage as an important diplomatic achievement.66 The United Nations initially budgeted $35 million for the coming three months, and the OAU declared that any decision to keep peacekeepers in Chad past June 30 would depend on the amount raised.67 At a European Economic Community meeting in mid-May in Brussels, the French delegation pleaded with its counterparts to contribute. Though the Italians, West Germans, and British expressed support, no real commitment seemed forthcoming.68 On May 8, Goukouni formally dissolved the GUNT and replaced it with a “State Council,” meant to act as an, “organ for conception, reflection, consultation, and orientation.” Nominally presided over by Kamougué, it consisted of 15 members, including faction chiefs and former GUNT ministers.69 In theory it would then name a government, which would concentrate on “technical” and economic matters. However, it never reflected the “mini-assembly” idea laid out by Goukouni in his meeting with Penne.70 It also would not serve as a back-door mechanism for initiating negotiations with Habré. Even if Goukouni intended such negotiations, he would not have the time. Already, at the end of April, Habré once again moved onto the offensive. On April 30 he seized Salal and routed its FAP defenders. Soubeste reported the FAP garrison in Moussoro, 200 kilometers further south, said they would simply defect if the FAN attacked them.71 Habré made more progress in May, capturing Moussoro and Mao on May 24 without a fight. Soon afterwards he reached Lake Chad and moved within 200 kilometers of the capital. The OAU units stationed in the area did not intervene. French observers now estimated that 66 67 68

69 70

71

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 114/3, DAM Note, “A/S : Fonds d’assistance à la FIA.,” 06.05.1982, p. 1 MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 114/3, telegram from New York to Paris, “Tchad- Force Interafricaine,” 12.05.1982, pp. 2–3. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 114/3, telegram from Brussels to Paris, “Réunion du comité politique (15 mai 1982) -Fonds d’assistance à la force de maintien de la paix au Tchad,” 15.05.1982, pp. 1–2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 101/1, DAM Note, “A/s. Tchad. Evolution récente,” 27.05.1982, p. 1. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/3, Premier Ministre, Secrétariat Général de la Défense Nationale, “Document de travail en vue de la Réunion Intéministérielle [sic] du 28 mai 1982,” 21.05.1982, p. 2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/3, telegram from Soubeste to Paris, No subject, 03.05.1982.

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Habré possessed some 10,000 disciplined fighters, while Goukouni retained less than 1,000 loyal FAP combatants. Though the CDR still numbered some 4,000 and the FAT some 6,000 men – of varying quality – neither Acyl nor the FAT leadership would risk more losses in a war they had already lost.72 At the OAU, the FAN’s rapid gains and Goukouni’s intransigence were the subject of a meeting held on May 21–22 in Kinshasa. Nigeria had already withdrawn one of its battalions to pressure Goukouni into making concessions. The meeting’s final communiqué read like another ultimatum. It called for a cease-fire, followed by negotiations, the writing of a new constitution, and elections. It gave Goukouni until June 10 to agree, or the rest of the peacekeeping force would withdraw by its June 30 deadline.73 Despite pressure from Kamougué, Acyl, and other personalities in the ex-GUNT, Goukouni refused. Alarmed by the deterioration of the situation, Guy Penne organized an interministerial meeting to settle on a French response. The meeting participants noted that “the most likely outcome is a military victory for Hissein [sic] Habré. The advance of his forces seems inevitable.”74 A foreign intervention, especially from Libya or the OAU, on Goukouni’s behalf seemed unlikely. The main concern focused on the likelihood of major street fighting in N’Djamena and the threat this posed to the 130 French citizens, including embassy staff, who lived there. Given the former GUNT’s rapid collapse, the meeting’s participants had few concrete recommendations to give. Instead, they concluded that while the OAU would quickly move to recognize a new Habré regime, France should temporarily freeze relations once Habré took power, though the embassy should remain open.75 French policymakers had definitively given up on Goukouni. As it turned out, the end came rather quickly. On June 1, the FAN reached Massaguet, just 80 kilometers north of N’Djamena. At no point did OAU troops intervene. The OAU also now made it known

72 73 74 75

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 101/1, DAM Note, “A/s. Tchad. Evolution récente,” 27.05.1982, p. 2. Ibid, p. 3. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 101/1, DAM Fiche, “A/s. Réunion sur le Tchad au SGDN (28.05.82),” 28.05.1982, p. 2. Ibid., pp. 1–3.

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it would definitively leave the country at the end of June, and some units already began to redeploy in preparation for withdrawal.76 In the face of the FAN onslaught, Goukouni’s few hundred remaining fighters withdrew to defensive positions around N’Djamena’s airport and the presidential palace. Kamougué’s FAT and Acyl’s CDR moved south of the city to await events. They both publicly stated they would only enter the fight if attacked. As fear gripped the capital over the possibilities of another major round of urban fighting, many civilians also began to leave.77 Seeing the writing on the wall and wanting to improve relations with a potentially useful future ally, Acyl had made a point of cultivating good relations with Soubeste throughout the first half of 1982. He invited the French ambassador to his home on several occasions and introduced him to his family. He promised Soubeste to provide warning if Habré’s troops reached Massaguet, whose fall would likely signal the fall of the capital. This would give Soubeste time to organize an evacuation of French nationals and other expatriates. On June 1, Acyl kept his promise and got favorable treatment in Soubeste’s memoirs for his trouble.78 Within days of Acyl’s timely warning, Soubeste managed to evacuate most French citizens to Cameroon. The OAU force commander, General Ejiga, provided nine Senegalese peacekeepers to guard the French embassy compound. Given the FAN’s imminent arrival, Acyl attempted one last time to convince Goukouni to negotiate. He refused.79 At this point, negotiations would have likely proven fruitless, as Habré clearly had the upper hand. On the night of June 6–7, Goukouni assembled his closest associates to discuss whether to fall back towards Lake Chad, or into southern Chad. The majority voted for the South, hoping to reconstitute the GUNT and continue the fight there. Unfortunately for the FAP cadres, the FAT held the Chagoua bridge, the only way out of the capital into the South. As Goukouni later recounted, FAT officers and men had no desire to bring the war between northerners into the South and thus 76

77 79

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/3, CERM, “Bulletin Hebdomadaire de Situation du 28 Mai 1982 au 3 Juin 1982,” 04.06.1982, pp. 13–14. 78 Ibid., p. 14. Soubeste, Une saison au Tchad, note 39 above, pp. 65–67. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/3, telegram from Soubeste to Paris, “Situation à N’Djamena,” 06.06.1982.

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prevented the FAP from retreating in that direction. Instead, Goukouni told his personal guards to evacuate his family to the South, while he looked for an escape route. Early on June 7, as the FAN entered the city, Goukouni attempted to cross the Chari at Farcha, but Nigerian peacekeepers prevented him. Instead, he commandeered an old pirogue and ignominiously crossed into Cameroon.80 On June 7, after several hours of sporadic though occasionally fierce combat, FAN fighters seized control of the city. Soubeste and his staff had the misfortune of finding themselves in the middle of the fighting, as the French embassy compound lay near the presidential palace. It was subjected to mortar fire and suffered damage, though no one inside was injured.81 Soubeste reported, however, that several hundred Chadian civilians had lost their lives.82

Aftermath American officials warmly greeted Habré’s victory. Jay Moffat, the US ambassador to Chad from March 1982, explained that the US government had supported the GUNT when he arrived, and “until four or five weeks before the end.” He recounted, “Suddenly from one day to the next without any warning we were told – communications were not very good – that the United States supported Hissen Habre [sic]. This was rather alarming, for we had our staff there and there were a lot of wild men around town with guns.”83 It remains unclear though what form this support took. Given the dilapidated state of the GUNT’s defenses, it seems unlikely that Habré needed American assistance at that point. A CIA assessment noted, “Habré’s takeover serves US interests in Chad at least for the short term. He is at present the nearest equivalent among Chad’s competing factional leaders to a moderate, pro-Western 80

81 82 83

Goukouni Weddeye, “Témoignage pour l’histoire du Tchad,” Entretiens avec Laurent Correau, Radio France Internationale, 2008. p. 115. For the pirogue anecdote, see: Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 1 above, p. 216. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/3, telegram from Soubeste to Paris, Sent in the clear, No subject, 07.06.1982. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/3, telegram from Soubeste to Paris,“Situation à N’Djamena et Moundou,” 09.06.1982. Interview with Ambassador Jay P. Moffat, Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, Library of Congress, pp. 28–29.

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leader. He also is an ardent nationalist who is wary of Libya.” It warned, however, that Habré, “is essentially an opportunist and over the long run may be a less reliable friend of the West than we would like [. . .] he has repeatedly betrayed and changed his alliances, creating about him an aura of distrust.” At the same time though, it noted, “He needs the sympathy and support of moderate Africans, France, and the US to help him establish authority.”84 By contrast, the French reaction was muted. The main French concern was to end the conflict. The Cooperation Ministry thus conditioned desperately needed budgetary assistance to Habré’s new regime on negotiations with defeated factions, particularly the FAT and CDR. Meanwhile, it would only provide basic humanitarian aid. French officials had their eyes on the calendar, though. The Tripoli OAU summit, slated for early August, would pass the organization’s chairmanship to Gaddafi, a position he had long cherished. French observers felt this prestige prize had played an important role in restraining Libyan behavior in Chad since Libya’s withdrawal the previous November. After the summit, Gaddafi would have more political room for maneuver.85 Initially it seemed French efforts might pay off. Soon after taking power, Habré created a Conseil d’Etat, mostly formed of FAN cadres, though it included some southern representatives. It meant to play a transitional role until Habré could reach an agreement with other factions on a hypothetically more representative arrangement. On July 10–11, he met Kamougué in Libreville under the auspices of Omar Bongo and in the presence of Guy Penne and Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, the French president’s son and Penne’s deputy. The two only concurred on the importance of more talks, however, and reached no agreement. In particular, Kamougué refused to make a deal without Acyl’s presence, as both had a shared interest in containing Habré’s influence.86

84 85

86

CIA: CREST Database Doc. CIA-RDP84B00049R0006014900094–4, Report, “Developments in Chad,” 07.06.1981, p. 1. FCMGT, Carton 5, A4/7bis/6, Cooperation Ministry Note, “a/s Tchad: Compte rendu de la réunion de Cabinet du 29 juillet et projet de note pour le Président,” 31.07.1982, p. 1. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 103/3, telegram from Libreville to Paris, “Rencontre Habré-Kamougué,” 10.07.1982.

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Unfortunately for Kamougué and the CDR, on July 19, Acyl was killed when he walked into the rotating propeller blades of an aircraft in Laï, in southern Chad.87 This struck at a critical moment, as Habré began to launch major military operations against CDR forces south of the Chari River. Though claiming that his offensive aimed at stopping abuses committed by CDR combatants, Habré may have feared that the CDR’s largely Arab ethnic base threatened his monopoly of control over Chad’s North. Kamougué, at any rate, viewed Habré’s moves as a means of putting pressure on the FAT.88 Kamougué also had troubles of his own, which weakened his negotiating position. Although long the self-proclaimed leader of the South, his position had come under increasing pressure in the previous months. In June 1982, serious fighting broke out between units loyal to Kamougué and dissident FAT factions in Moundou. Though victorious, by the end of July it appeared that Kamougué only exercised effective control around Moundou itself. French reports suggested he only retained 2,000 men under his command. The remaining FAT, scattered across the South and estimated between 5,000 and 6,000 troops, were of dubious loyalty. French officials at the Quai feared this made the South easy pickings for Habré’s divide-and-rule strategy.89 In early August, the OAU summit in Tripoli got off to a rough start. Moroccan refusal to sit with the Western Saharan delegation engendered splits among member states. The meeting was then postponed to November, when a compromise was reached. Meanwhile, Goukouni had attempted to join the informal pre-summit meetings on August 7 as Chad’s recognized head of state. After protests from Habré’s camp, however, Gaddafi decided to exclude the former GUNT leader from the summit.90 Troubles at the OAU, combined with Gaddafi’s known Chadian ambitions, fed American fears of renewed Libyan military adventurism. On August 19, George Shultz, the new US Secretary of State, wrote to his French counterpart, Claude Cheysson. Shultz expressed

87

88 89

The bizarre and brutal nature of Acyl’s death naturally lent itself to theories that the Libyans or Habré had had him assassinated. Goukouni however, was sure that it was an accident. See: Goukouni, “Témoignage,” note 80 above, p. 112. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 101/1, DAM Note, “a.s. Tchad – évolution récente,” 21.07.1982, p. 3. 90 Ibid., p. 2. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 1 above, pp. 237–238.

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his worry that the United States and France would “lose an opportunity” to stabilize Chad. Shultz wrote that: We are convinced that the Habre [sic] Government offers a genuine prospect for breaking the cycle of civil war and Libyan manipulation that has plagued Chad for many years. Habre [sic] has been making what we believe to be a serious effort at national reconciliation, thus far with only limited success.91

Shultz blamed this failure on southern divisions, and asked Cheysson for French advice on how to facilitate negotiations. He also chided the French for their refusal to provide more substantial economic assistance. Shultz argued that a resumption of French aid would encourage reconciliation and keep Habré on a “moderate” path. Most important, enhanced assistance was a necessary precondition to effectively counter Libyan influence. Shultz concluded by acknowledging the “sometimes unsavory aspects of Habre’s [sic] past record,” though he emphasized that “we are also impressed that he has conducted himself quite well since seizing Ndjamena [sic].”92 Cheysson’s reply illustrated the differences between French and American appreciations of the situation. In particular, he insisted that aid would simply not be effective in the absence of a national consensus derived from a negotiated peace agreement. Furthermore, he gently suggested that American fears over Libyan aims, influence, and capabilities were exaggerated. For Cheysson, Gaddafi’s current priority remained resolving the OAU crisis. Only in the absence of an agreement over the Western Sahara might Gaddafi again look to Chad as an outlet for his frustrations.93 In late August, Kamougué and Acheikh Ibn-Oumar, the new CDR leader, met Habré in Gabon. They quickly broke up in acrimony, partly because FAN forces, in alliance with dissident FAT elements, had launched an offensive against Kamougué’s troops. Kamougué received word of the fall of Bongor just as the meeting began. Several days later, FAN and dissident FAT forces captured Sarh, threatening Kamougué’s stronghold in Moundou. Habré denied FAN involvement 91 92 93

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 107/3, Letter from George P. Shultz to Claude Cheysson, 19.08.1982, p. 1. Ibid., p. 2. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 107/3, telegram from Paris to Washington Embassy, “Message à M. George Shultz sur le Tchad,” 28.08.1982, pp. 3–4.

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and claimed that only dissident FAT troops were involved. At the same time, he informed Soubeste that he should consider the evacuation of French citizens from Moundou, as it would soon come under attack. For Cooperation Ministry officials it had become crystal clear that Habré had no real interest in a negotiated settlement.94 Soubeste took Habré’s advice, but in response Kamougué refused to allow French citizens to leave the town. Furious at what amounted to a hostage situation, Mitterrand ordered the defense ministry to plan a possible military intervention using troops stationed in neighboring CAR to evacuate the 50-odd French residents.95 Ultimately, they would not have to intervene as several days later, on September 4, the FAN captured the town and Kamougué fled. Now Habré had effective control, either directly or indirectly, over most of southern Chad. In a worrying turn of events foreshadowing the future, in late August Acheikh Ibn-Oumar sent a personal emissary to Paris, Tidjani Thiam, to meet Guy Penne. Thiam emphasized Habré’s responsibility in the failure of negotiations to date. He had come to inform his French interlocutors they could no longer negotiate. He also accused the United States of providing military aid to Habré’s government. Consequently, the CDR would have to renew its ties with Libya to survive.96 Renaud Vignal saw this as clear evidence that increased support to Habré’s government, especially through military assistance, would prove a costly mistake. He wrote that such aid could serve as a “perfect pretext” for Gaddafi to return to Chad at the behest of Kamougué or the CDR. Military aid would be “totally counterproductive,” and France should attempt to convince the United States of this as well.97 After seizing control of most of Chad, except for parts of Tibesti still loyal to Goukouni, Habré set about consolidating his power. On September 29, the FAN promulgated “L’Acte Fondamental de la République” and officially named Habré president. Habré appointed a government which, on the surface at least, was split evenly between northerners and southerners, though FAN cadres held the bulk of real power. French observers also noted, with some surprise, that the 94

95

FCMGT, Carton 5, A4/7bis/6, Cooperation Ministry Note, “Grandes lignes d’une communication éventuelle de Jean-Pierre COT au Conseil des Ministres du 01er septembre sur le Tchad,” 31.08.1982, p. 2. 96 97 Ibid., pp. 3–4. Ibid., p. 4. Ibid., pp. 4–5.

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imposition of central government authority in the South had occurred rather smoothly. Life seemed to return to “normal” and the FAN and FAT had formally begun to merge into a national army.98 On October 29, Goukouni, Kamougué, and several former GUNT cadres formed a “Government of National Salvation” (renamed “GUNT” again the following year) in Tibesti. With Goukouni as president and Kamougué as vice-president, over the following months it recruited several thousand fighters in preparation for an anti-Habré rebellion.99 This formation had clear Libyan backing, and again prompted American appeals to their French allies. Contrary to French fears, the Reagan administration had not provided military assistance to Habré after he seized power. American policy looked to encourage France to do it instead. At the end of October, Shultz wrote to Cheysson, warning about increasing Libyan activity in the Aozou Strip. Shultz argued, “It is clear that something must be done to quiet the fears of the new Chadian government and to forestall renewed Libyan-sponsored insurgency. If France is unable to assist, we must look for other ways of addressing legitimate Chadian concerns.”100 Nonetheless, it would still take several months before either France or the United States began to provide Habré with military assistance. In the meantime, Gaddafi’s pan-African dreams collapsed at the OAU meeting in November. While the organization reached a compromise over the Western Sahara – the Western Sahara delegation agreed to “provisionally” abstain from the meeting – it split over the issue of Chadian representation. Whereas in August, Gaddafi had sent Goukouni packing in favor of Habré, this time he insisted that Goukouni was the legitimate Chadian representative. When Habré rejected a compromise that would force him away from the conference in exchange for recognition as the legitimate Chadian leader, twenty other member states, most of them Francophone, followed him out the door. The resulting lack of a quorum meant the meeting adjourned, and Gaddafi lost his chance at the OAU chairmanship.101 98 99 100 101

MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 101/1, DAM Note, “A.s. Tchad,” 09.11.1982, p.1. Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 1 above, pp. 235–236. MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 107/3, Letter from George P. Shultz to Claude Cheysson, undated, “fin Octobre 1982.” MAE La Courneuve, DAM Tchad 1980–1983, Carton 101/1, DAM Note, “a.s. Le Tchad et le sommet de l’OUA,” 30.11.1982.

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It remains unclear why Gaddafi took this position at the summit when it so clearly ended his very public ambition to head the OAU. It may have related to anger at Habré for dangling, and then reneging on, the possibility of an agreement over Aozou and other outstanding issues while he consolidated his control over Chad.102 Whatever the reasons, the “loss” of the OAU now meant Gaddafi had less incentive to stay on the sidelines in Chad. The cycle of war would begin anew.

Postscript Beginning in 1983, Mitterrand’s policy towards Chad increasingly resembled Giscard’s. In August of that year, under the pressure of France’s African allies, Mitterrand ordered the deployment of Operation Manta to Chad. This force would reach a total of some 3,500 men, making it the largest overseas French military operation since the Algerian War.103 Manta aimed to prevent GUNT forces and their Libyan allies from crossing the 15th parallel. At the beginning of 1984, after the loss of a French pilot and aircraft, Mitterrand advanced this line to the 16th parallel. While this hardly brought a solution to the crisis, it did protect Habré from near-certain defeat. Manta also signaled a decisive public break from the anti-imperialist line that Mitterrand and the Socialist Party had flirted with during Giscard’s presidency. Now it had become clear that Mitterrand’s Africa policy would differ little from that of his predecessors. Containing Libyan expansionism meant supporting Habré at all costs, even if that meant turning a blind eye to his crimes. Towards the end of 1984, France came to an agreement with Libya on a simultaneous withdrawal of French and Libyan forces. It quickly became apparent that only France held up its end of the bargain. On the contrary, after some delay, Gaddafi actually reinforced his troops in northern Chad. The country remained divided, and in early 1986, Habré requested that Mitterrand again impose a red line against Libyan and rebel moves southwards. In response, the French

102 103

Buijtenhuijs, Les guerres civiles, note 1 above, pp. 238–239. Centre de Doctrine d’Emploi des Forces (CDEF),Répertoire typologique des opérations: Tome 2 Afrique (Paris: Ministère de la Défense, 2006), p. 52.

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president ordered Operation Épervier to rescue Habré’s beleaguered regime. Consisting of some 1,500 personnel, Épervier was smaller than Manta, and it was primarily an air operation. Épervier played a key role in providing Habré’s forces with logistical and intelligence support, and it supplied the Chadian army with munitions. This allowed Habré, now allied with dissident GUNT factions, to launch a series of major offensives against the Libyan army in 1987. In March of that year, the Chadian army took the major Libyan base at Ouadi-Doum by surprise and routed its Libyan defenders. The fighting culminated with a daring raid into Libyan territory against the airbase at Maaten al-Sarra.104 Although these smashing victories marked the beginning of the end of the Chadian-Libyan conflict (sometimes referred to as the “Toyota War”), they also led to Habré’s downfall. In addition to French troops and military assistance, Habré had, beginning in 1983, benefited from substantial American support in the form of weapons, money, and intelligence.105 Following the fighting in 1987, Habré increasingly leaned on American largesse, much to the annoyance of French officials upset over perceived ingratitude and motivated by long-standing paranoia of American intentions in Francophone Africa. In particular, the creation of the CIA-organized “Haftar Force,” a unit of dissident Libyan troops lead by General Khalifa Haftar, the former commander of the Libyan base at Ouadi Doum, irked French authorities, as they were not consulted.106 Hence, Opération Épervier did not intervene on Habré’s behalf when Idriss Déby, his former army chief, launched a rebellion and then overthrew him in December 1990. Like their predecessors, Operations Manta and Épervier aimed to protect a political order favorable to French interests in France’s

104

105

106

See: Stéphane Mantoux, Les Guerres du Tchad, 1969–1987 (Chamalières: Lemme Edit, 2014), pp. 82–96; and Sené, Raids dans le Sahara central , note 49 above, pp. 259–262; pp. 343–350. For some specifics, see: CIA: CREST Database Doc. CIARDP85M00363R001102550013–8, Memo, “Activities in Support of Chad,” 01.08.1983. For a comprehensive overview, see: Human Rights Watch, “Enabling a Dictator: The United States and Chad’s Hissène Habré 1982–1990,” June 2016. Human Rights Watch, “Allié de la France,” note 36 above, pp. 77–79.

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African “pré-carré.” Unlike Opération Limousin or even Tacaud, French interventions in the Habré years had no corollary aim of either restructuring the Chadian state or facilitating a reconfiguration of the reigning political elite. Mitterrand also put little effort into a broader peace process. His policy appeared limited to holding a (sometimes literal) line in the sand. He seemed painfully aware, in a way his predecessors had not, that France simply did not have the capacity to impose peace on the country. Nonetheless, over this same period, Hissène Habré would head one of the most brutal dictatorships in postcolonial African history. Best estimates suggest a death toll of some 40,000 people. Thousands more fell victim to torture at the hands of Habré’s secret police, the Direction de la documentation et de la sécurité (DDS).107 French military operations helped sustain his regime in a multitude of ways that had a profound and lasting impact on Chad’s population. The DDS benefited from direct assistance provided by both the French army and French intelligence. This included intelligence-sharing, training, and even the transport of prisoners condemned to torture or death.108 In addition, the aid and protection provided by both France and the United States allowed Habré to launch a ferocious campaign of repression against the populations of southern Chad in response to a series of rebellions. From 1984–1985 these operations, led by Chad’s current president, Idriss Déby, cost the lives of thousands. Soubeste later wrote that in the South the government army waged “a harsh and often blind repression. Several hundred captured guerrillas were executed, local notables and government officials accused of supporting the rebellion were arrested, or even liquidated, many villages suspected of sheltering dissidents were burnt and destroyed.” He recalled flying over a devastated landscape, offering a “distressing spectacle, south of Moundou, of hundreds of straw huts burnt for kilometers.”109 He later noted that this experience contributed to his decision to return to France. To his credit, on his departure in early 1985,

107

108 109

For a comprehensive account of the crimes of the Habré regime, see: Human Rights Watch, “La Plaine des morts: Le Tchad de Hissène Habré, 1982–1990,” 2013. Human Rights Watch, “Allié de la France,” note 36 above, pp. 58–59. Soubeste, Une saison au Tchad, note 39 above, pp. 121–122.

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Soubeste protested the level of violence and warned Habré that repression in the South threatened his legitimacy there. Despite this, Soubeste argued in his memoirs that “at the time, only President Habré seemed to me best able to lead his country.”110 As long as Mitterrand and his advisors shared this view, Chadians would continue to suffer. 110

Ibid., p. 123.