EIGHTEEN months after Col. Idriss Deby toppled Chadian dictator
Hissein Habre and promised democratic reforms in this West African
desert state, the transition process remains bogged down in tribal
An attempted coup June 18 has now unleashed rebel military
action in two areas, with government and rebel forces both taking
casualties in armed clashes around Lake Chad and in the far north.
Although the coup, led by the minister of public works and
transport, Abbas Koty, failed, it was the latest and clearest sign
of the depths of tribal and clan divisions within the government of
President Deby, diplomatic and Chadian sources in N'Djamena say.
"If the weakness of the government continues, it will lead to
fiefdoms being established," says Gala Gata N'Gothe, leader of the
opposition Union of Democratic Forces-Republican Party. "This will
lead to new leaders emerging in the districts. If the government
doesn't improve this situation, then the regions will begin to
administer themselves under regional warlords."
Deby seized power from President Habre in November 1990 after
advancing from Sudan. He promised multiparty reforms and
presidential and legislative elections. To address Chad's ethnic
diversity, the ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement also established
a Council of Ministers that includes representatives of different
In May 1991, in response to calls by opposition parties, Deby
promised to convene a national conference in May 1992 to draft a
new constitution and implement a multiparty system.
However, that conference has not opened, and opposition leaders
express doubt that it will. Despite the appointment of Joseph
Yodoyman, a former Cabinet member of the Habre administration, as
prime minister, ethnic divisions, particularly in the military,
continue to hamper the government.
In his rise to power, Deby drew support from elements of the
Zaghawa tribe, which straddles the Sudan-Chad border. But that
support was and remains tenuous. As Army chief and defense
minister, Deby was forced to flee from Habre after the soldiers he
commanded clashed with Chadian-Zaghawa nomads in 1986.
The clashes stemmed from a dispute with the nomads over who
should appropriate weapons captured from Libyan soldiers during
Chad's war with Libya in the mid-1980s. A second conflict developed
between Deby and the nomads when soldiers under Deby's command
allegedly stole camels from Zaghawa, Anakaza, and Deby's own
Bidiyat tribe. …