Chad (French: Tchad, Arabic: ت?ش?ا?د?? Tshāad), officially known as the Republic of Chad, is a landlocked country in central Africa. It is bordered by Libya to the northwest, Sudan to the east, the Central African Republic to the south, Cameroon and Nigeria to the southwest, and Niger to the west. Due to its distance from the sea and its largely desert climate, the country is sometimes referred to as the "Dead Heart of Africa". Chad is divided into three major geographical regions: a desert zone in the north, an arid Sahelian belt in the centre and a more fertile Sudanese savanna zone in the south. Lake Chad, after which the country is named, is the largest wetland in Chad and the second largest in Africa. Chad's highest peak is the Emi Koussi in the Sahara, and N'Djamena,(formerly Fort-Lamy), the capital, is the largest city. Chad is home to over 200 different ethnic and linguistic groups. Arabic and French are the official languages. Islam is the most widely practiced religion.
Beginning in the 7th millennium BC, human populations moved into the Chadian basin in great numbers. By the end of the 1st millennium BC, a series of states and empires rose and fell in Chad's Sahelian strip, each focused on controlling the trans-Saharan trade routes that passed through the region. France conquered the territory by 1920 and incorporated it as part of French Equatorial Africa. In 1960 Chad obtained independence under the leadership of çFranois Tombalbaye. Resentment towards his policies in the Muslim north culminated in the eruption of a long-lasting civil war in 1965. In 1979 the rebels conquered the capital and put an end to the south's hegemony. However, the rebel commanders fought amongst themselves until èéHissne Habr defeated his rivals. He was overthrown in 1990 by his general éIdriss Dby. Recently, the Darfur crisis in Sudan has spilt over the border and destabilised the nation, with hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees living in and around camps in eastern Chad.
While many political parties are active, power lies firmly in the hands of President Déby and his political party, the Patriotic Salvation Movement. Chad remains plagued by political violence and recurrent attempted écoups d'tat (see Battle of N'Djamena (2006) and Battle of N'Djamena (2008)).
The country is one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world; most Chadians live in poverty as subsistence herders and farmers. Since 2003 crude oil has become the country's primary source of export earnings, superseding the traditional cotton industry.
In the 7th millennium BC, ecological conditions in the northern half of Chadian territory favored human settlement, and the region experienced a strong population increase. Some of the most important African archaeological sites are found in Chad, mainly in the Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti Region; some date to earlier than 2,000 BC. For more than 2000 years, the Chadian Basin has been inhabited by agricultural and sedentary peoples. The region became a crossroads of civilizations. The earliest of these were the legendary Sao, known from artifacts and oral histories. The Sao fell to the Kanem Empire, the first and longest-lasting of the empires that developed in Chad's Sahelian strip by the end of the 1st millennium AD. The power of Kanem and its successors was based on control of the trans-Saharan trade routes that passed through the region. These states, at least tacitly Muslim, never extended their control to the southern grasslands except to raid for slaves.
French colonial expansion led to the creation of the Territoire Militaire des Pays et Protectorats du Tchad in 1900. By 1920, France had secured full control of the colony and incorporated it as part of French Equatorial Africa. French rule in Chad was characterised by an absence of policies to unify the territory and sluggish modernisation. The French primarily viewed the colony as an unimportant source of untrained labour and raw cotton; France introduced large-scale cotton production in 1929. The colonial administration in Chad was critically understaffed and had to rely on the dregs of the French civil service. Only the south was governed effectively; French presence in the north and east was nominal. The educational system suffered from this neglect. After World War II, France granted Chad the status of overseas territory and its inhabitants the right to elect representatives to the French National Assembly and a Chadian assembly. The largest political party was the Chadian Progressive Party (PPT), based in the southern half of the colony. Chad was granted independence on August 11, 1960 with the PPT's leader, çFranois Tombalbaye, as its first president.
Two years later, Tombalbaye banned opposition parties and established a one-party system. Tombalbaye's autocratic rule and insensitive mismanagement exacerbated interethnic tensions. In 1965 Muslims began a civil war. Tombalbaye was overthrown and killed in 1975, but the insurgency continued. In 1979 the rebel factions conquered the capital, and all central authority in the country collapsed. Armed factions, many from the north's rebellion, contended for power. The disintegration of Chad caused the collapse of France's position in the country. Libya moved to fill the power vacuum and became involved in Chad's civil war. Libyia adventure ended in disaster in 1987; the French-supported president, èéHissne Habr, evoked a united response from Chadians of a kind never seen before and forced the Libyan army off Chadian soil.
Habré consolidated his dictatorship through a power system that relied on corruption and violence; an estimated 40,000 people were killed under his rule. The president favoured his own Daza ethnic group and discriminated against his former allies, the Zaghawa. His general, éIdriss Dby, overthrew him in 1990.
Déby attempted to reconcile the rebel groups and reintroduced multiparty politics. Chadians approved a new constitution by referendum, and in 1996, Déby easily won a competitive presidential election. He won a second term five years later. Oil exploitation began in Chad in 2003, bringing with it hopes that Chad would at last have some chances of peace and prosperity. Instead, internal dissent worsened, and a new civil war broke out. Déby unilaterally modified the constitution to remove the two-term limit on the presidency; this caused an uproar among the civil society and opposition parties. In 2006 Déby won a third mandate in elections that the opposition boycotted. Ethnic violence in eastern Chad has increased; the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has warned that a genocide like that in Darfur may yet occur in Chad.
In 2006 and in 2008 rebel forces have attempted to take the capital by force, but have on both circumstances failed
Chad is divided since February 2008 in 22 regions. The subdivision of Chad in regions came about in 2003 as part of the decentralisation process, when the government abolished the previous 14 prefectures. Each region is headed by a presidentially appointed governor. Prefects administer the 61 departments within the regions. The departments are divided into 200 sub-prefectures, which are in turn composed of 446 cantons. The cantons are scheduled to be replaced by communautés rurales, but the legal and regulatory framework has not yet been completed. The constitution provides for decentralised government to compel local populations to play an active role in their own development. To this end, the constitution declares that each administrative subdivisions be governed by elected local assemblies, but no local elections have taken place, and communal elections scheduled for 2005 have been repeatedly postponed.
The regions are:
- Barh El Gazel
- Logone Occidental
- Logone Oriental
- Mayo-Kebbi Est
- Mayo-Kebbi Ouest
- Wadi Fira