Chad: A Nation in Search of Its Future

Chad: A Nation in Search of Its Future

Chad: A Nation in Search of Its Future

Chad: A Nation in Search of Its Future

Synopsis

"A splendid account of Chad, one of the world's least-known countries-its politics, its peoples, & their history, with important sections on colonialism & the postcolonial conflict." Stephen P. Reyna University of New Hampshire "Highly recommended." Sulayman S. Nyang Howard University

Excerpt

Chad, the fifth largest country in Africa, has experienced one of the most difficult social and political evolutions on the continent. This difficult evolution began in the 1890s, when the French attempted to unite peoples of widely disparate cultural, geographic, economic, social, and political backgrounds: Muslims, traditionalists, and Christians; nomads, agriculturalists, herders, and permanent pilgrims; Europeans, expatriates from the French Antilles, and peoples with state and stateless traditions. in its brief forty-year formal colonial presence in Chad, however, France found it impossible to create a unified colony out of so diverse a population. As late as 1960, on the very eve of political emancipation, the potential for national conflict was apparent. This conflict was signaled by the continued French military presence in the northern prefecture of Biltine-Ennedi-Tibesti as late as five years after Chad gained independence. in 1965, the retreat of French forces from northern Chad unleashed a wave of dormant resentment against the government of President François Tombalbaye -- a resentment that led to armed insurrection for the next two and a half decades. Despite this turbulent history and regardless of the spotlight into which it was cast briefly in the 1980s and 1990s, Chad has been neglected and understudied by the scholarly community.

The early neglect of Chad by statesmen and diplomats, by Africanist scholars and educators, and by the general public is understandable when one recalls its past. Even the French, who created Chad, showed little interest in their colony compared with other equatorial African territories such as Congo, Gabon, Oubangui-Chari, and Cameroon after 1919. Long labeled the Cinderella of the French Empire, Chad was an accidental creation of explorers, military adventurers, intrepid frontiersmen, and rugged administrators who, left alone, tried to make the best out of isolation. Chad was little more than a military territory carved out of Oubangui-Chari and Niger. Its landlocked position, difficult environment, and hostile social climate deterred many would-be colonizers and humanitarians, causing several civil service posts to remain unfilled up to the 1920s.

France applied colonial policy unevenly in the North, or le pays des sultans, and the South, or le Tchad-utile, giving the North greater autonomy. This division complicated matters for the future and undoubtedly contributed to Chad's pres-

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