Fine prehistoric rock engravings and paintings can be found in northern Chad, dating from between 5000–2000 BC . As early as the 8th century AD , Arabs entered from the north and their records tell of the existence of great African empires—Kanem, Bornu, Baguirmi, and Ouaddai—between the 9th and 16th centuries. By the end of the 19th century, many small states south of Lake Chad became vassals of the northern sultanates, which conducted a flourishing slave trade.
Europeans began exploration of Chad in the 19th century. Chad was explored in part in 1822 by Dixon Denham and Hugh Clapperton, two British travelers. More detailed explorations were carried out by Heinrich Barth (1853) and Gustav Nachtigal (1870–71). In the decade after 1890, French expeditions gradually expanded French control of the lands to the south and east of Lake Chad. Completed conquest of the territory was achieved by 1913. The borders of Chad as they presently stand were secured by conventions between France and Germany (1894) and France and the UK (1898). In 1910, Gabon, Middle Congo, and Ubangi-Shari (which included Chad) were constituted administratively as colonies; together they formed French Equatorial Africa. Chad was separated in 1916 and became a colony in 1920.
On 26 August 1940, during World War II, French officials in Chad rallied to the Free French standard, making Chad the first colony to do so. N'Djamena, formerly Fort-Lamy, was an important Allied air base on the route to the Middle East, and from there Col. Philippe Leclerc's troops departed to fight in the North African campaign. After 1945, Chad became one of the territories of French Equatorial Africa in the French Union, and in the referendum of 28 September 1958 the territory of Chad voted to become an autonomous republic within the French Community. On 26 November 1958, the territorial assembly became a constituent assembly and proclaimed the autonomous Republic of Chad. On 11 August 1960, Chad achieved full independence, with François (later Ngarta) Tombalbaye as head of state and prime minister. On 4 April 1962, a new constitution was proclaimed, and a new government formed with Tombalbaye as president.
After 1965 there was full-scale rebellion in the Muslim north country, largely the result of Muslim resentment toward the Christian- and animist-oriented government in N'Djamena. Prominent in the rebellion was the National Liberation Front (Front de Libération Nationale—FROLINAT). In late 1968, President Tombalbaye requested and received the aid of French troops in combating the rebels. French troops were officially withdrawn from Chad in 1972 although technical advisers remained. In 1973, Libya, a major source of covert aid for the rebels, occupied and annexed the Aozou Strip in northern Chad.
On 13 April 1975, Tombalbaye's 15-year rule was ended with his assassination in an army coup. Gen. Félix Malloum became the new president. Like his predecessor, Malloum was a Southerner whose rule was opposed by the Muslim north. In 1976, however, a faction led by Hissène Habré split with FROLINAT and eventually formed the Armed Forces of the North (Forces Armées du Nord—FAN). Goukouni Oueddei, with Libyan support, emerged as head of FROLINAT, but a FROLINAT advance south was stopped by additional French troops in 1978. In a government shuffle, Malloum named Habré prime minister in 1978, but the two broke in early 1979 as antagonism between Muslims and Southerners intensified. After Habré's FAN seized control of the capital, Malloum resigned as president on 23 March 1979 and fled the country. In April Habré became defense minister and Oueddei interior minister in a coalition government, which in August was reconstituted with Oueddei as president. In November it became the interim Government of National Unity, representing 11 armed factions, with Oueddei remaining as president and Habré as minister of defense.
Fighting between FAN and government forces broke out in March 1980, and Habré was dismissed from the cabinet in April. France withdrew its forces from Chad in May, and the FAN occupied Faya-Largeau in June, as well as holding part of N'Djamena. By October, Libya had intervened on Oueddei's behalf, and, in December, an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 Libyan troops completed the conquest of Chad by occupying N'Djamena. Habré's forces fled to eastern Chad and the Sudan.
Libya's action and talk of a union with Chad angered other African leaders and France, and Oueddei himself may have become alarmed at the growth of Libyan influence. At Oueddei's request, Libyan troops withdrew in November 1981 and were replaced by a 3,600-man OAU peacekeeping force. These troops did nothing, however, to halt the FAN's subsequent advance from the east. On 7 June 1982, Habré's forces occupied the capital, and Oueddei fled to Algeria. Habré declared himself president of Chad on 19 October 1982.
By early 1983, the Habré regime had extended its control to southern Chad, but was meeting increasing difficulties in the north. Ousted president Oueddei formed a rival government and, with a rebel army of about 3,000, captured the northern town of Faya-Largeau on 10 August 1983, with the support of Libyan aircraft and artillery. France and the United States rushed supplies to Habré, and France sent 2,000 to 2,500 troops. Zaire sent in another 2,700. As of early 1984, Chad was effectively partitioned, with a chain of French military posts stretching across the center of the country. To the south, the Habré regime was consolidating its position. France subsequently moved its defensive line 100 km (60 mi) to the north. Northern Chad, however, remained under the control of Libya and Oueddei's rebel forces, and there were growing fears that Libya was moving to annex the area.
A November 1984 agreement between France and Libya called for both countries to withdraw their forces from Chad, but although France complied, Libya reneged. French troops returned in 1985 to help repulse an enemy offensive. On 8 August, Aozou, and with it the entire disputed strip, fell to Chad, but a Libyan counteroffensive recaptured the settlement on 28 August. However, after a damaging Chadian raid on an air base within Libyan territory on 5 September, Libya agreed to a cease-fire, effective 11 September. During 1987 fighting, Chad captured $500 million to $1 billion worth of Libyan military equipment, most of it intact. US-supplied Stinger missiles allowed Habré's forces to neutralize Libya's air force.
The struggle for Chad took another twist in November 1990. After a three-week campaign by guerrillas loyal to an ex-army commander, Idriss Déby, the Habré regime fell. Déby was supported by Libya and Sudan, but he also was backed by the United States, France, and Nigeria. A French force of 1,200 assisted Déby against pro-Habré rebels, who were eventually put down in 1993.
In May 1992, Déby appointed a new prime minister, Joseph Yodoyman, who formed a new cabinet that included several opposition figures. Parties were legalized and, by the end of 1992, 28 parties had registered. In April 1992, Yodoyman stepped down. He died in November..
A Sovereign National Conference that lasted from January to April 1993 brought together a diverse group of government, economic, military, and special interest representatives. It confirmed Déby as Chief of State, established a new transitional government, elected 57 counselors to a Higher Transitional Council (a quasi-legislative body), and adopted the Transitional Charter, an interim constitution. This government was given a one-year mandate. Late in 1993, a technical commission of jurists was constituted, which began work on a new constitution, an electoral code, and a charter for political parties. In April 1994
Déby's mandate was extended by 12 months, and the work of the jurists was continued. Elections were scheduled for April 1995 but were postponed. The Transitional Council submitted a proposed constitution in 1994 calling for a directly elected president, a bicameral legislature, and a constitutional court.
Chad's long-standing territorial dispute with Libya over the Aozou Strip was taken up by the International Court of Justice in June 1993. On 3 February 1994, the Court rejected Libya's claim to Chadian territory. Libyan withdrawal was slow, but was fully completed by May 1994. French forces remained in the area despite Libyan protests. In December 1994 the government announced an amnesty for exiled opposition politicians and for political prisoners, excluding Habré. Opposition activity expanded afterwards, but Déby was accused of sponsoring harassment despite the amnesty. Opposition forces coalesced early in 1995, to form the Political Parties Concentration (CPP), which, joining with Western nations—notably France—began calling for changes in the administration of the Transitional Council. In March, ignoring such demands, the Transitional Council expanded its mandate to govern the country and removed the sitting prime minister. In August, the chairman of the Transitional Council resigned amid allegations of fiscal mismanagement. Later that month, the Council sponsored raids of opposition parties, and the government briefly detained a prominent opposition leader. Elections and the required constitutional referendum continued to be postponed.
In March 1996 the government signed a cease-fire agreement with 13 opposition parties for the constitutional referendum and following elections to take place. The agreement was brokered by Gabon in Franceville, with assistance from the Central African Republic and Niger. Though an election timetable was established and proceeded, numerous opposition groups, and particularly those who wished a federal governmental system rather than a unitary one, urged a boycott of the referendum polling. Despite these calls and opposition in the southern part of the country, 63.5% of the voters on 31 March 1996 agreed to adoption of the constitution
The presidential elections could then proceed. Twenty men presented their candidacies for the presidency, though five were rejected on terms of residency requirements. The first round of voting took place on 2 June 1996 with Déby garnering 43.8% of the votes. The second round, held on 3 July was contested between Déby and Wadal Abdelkader Kamagoué, representing the URD (Union pour le renouveau et la démocratie), who had taken 12.4% of the voters in the first round. Déby was inaugurated as president on 8 August.
Legislative elections, though delayed again, took place in January and February 1997, with 658 candidates representing 49 political parties in polling for 125 national assembly seats. The President's party, the MPS (Patriotic Salvation Movement) took 63 seats, the URD (Union for Renewal and Democracy) 29, the UNDR (National Union for Democracy and Renewal) 15, and the UDR (Union for Democracy and the Republic) 4. As of early 2003, Haroun Kabadi was prime minister, appointed in June 2002.
Much of Déby's presidency since his 1996 inauguration has been engagement in negotiations or armed conflict with continuing dissident groups in the northern and southern regions of the country. Due to the desire to see the oil revenues from southern oil fields brought into production, his government has been particularly eager to bring a cessation to hostilities in the south, with uneven success. Outbreaks of violence continue to be reported in both the northern and southern regions. The Tibesti MDJT (Movement for Democracy and Justice in Chad), led by Déby's former defense minister, Youssouf Togoimi, began an armed rebellion against the government in 1998.
The Chadian security forces continue to be charged with human rights violations by various internal and international rights organizations. In October 1996 Amnesty International also accused France of participating in these violations in Chad. Despite various disagreements over the years, France continues to see maintenance of an armed force in Chad as essential for security due to Chad's strategic position as a border state of Libya and Sudan. Déby's government also continues to be accused of harassing the opposition, including detentions, prosecutions, and jail terms. Chadian forces have taken part in the UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic in 1998 and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from September of that year.
In January 1998 Déby's government stated its intention of requesting extradition of Hissène Habré from Senegal in order to prosecute him for human rights abuses and embezzlement of government funds. In a separate approach toward Habré, the Chadian Truth Commission, which spent 15 months studying charges against the former president, has pressed for his criminal trial in Senegal, where he has lived in exile since his ouster in 1990. They are joined by several international human rights organizations. The Commission, in a 1992 report, estimated that Habré's forces killed 40,000 Chadians, most of the deaths being attributed to his National Security Service. Senegal indicted the former president on torture charges in February 2000 and placed him under house arrest under the 1984 UN Convention against Torture. However, in March 2001, Senegal ruled it did not have jurisdiction to try Habré in Senegal on torture charges during his tenure in power in Chad.
On 20 May 2001, Déby won reelection as president with 63% of the vote in an election determined by credible sources to have been marked by fraud and vote-rigging. Six of the candidates opposing Déby were detained for questioning by the police, but were released within an hour. Although results from 25% of the polling stations were cancelled due to irregularities, Déby's reelection was confirmed and he was sworn in August for a second five-year term. During the campaign, Déby promoted a US $3.7 billion pipeline project from southern Chad to the coast of Cameroon, which is a joint venture between Exxon Mobil, Chevron Texaco, and Malaysia's Petronas. Exports were due to begin by 2004. The World Bank estimates that government income could increase by 40%–50% by 2004; Chad expects to receive between US $2.5 billion and $5 billion in direct revenues from royalties, taxes, and dividends, depending on the price of oil over the Chadian oilfield's 30-year life. Another US $3.5 billion was also expected in economic activity.
In November 2001, relations between Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) broke down when the CAR army chief of staff, François Bozizé, fled to Chad after being accused of involvement in a failed coup attempt. Chad and the CAR accused each other of supporting dissidents in cross-border attacks. CAR President Ange-Félix Patassé claimed Chad was looking to annex part of the CAR's oil-rich north, as, according to Patassé, 85% of the rebels occupying the north and center of the country were Chadians. In March 2003, Bozizé took power in a coup in the CAR.
In January 2002, the Chadian government and Togoimi's MDJT reached a peace agreement, brokered by Libya. The accord provided for an immediate cease-fire, an amnesty for prisoners held by both sides, the integration of rebels into the national army, and government jobs for MDJT leaders. However, in May, fighting between the two forces broke out in the far north of the country, and 64 were killed. As of early 2003, skirmishing between government forces and the MDJT continued.
In January 2003, the government signed a peace agreement with the National Resistance Army (ANR), a rebel group operating in eastern Chad, near the border with Sudan and the Central African Republic. The accord provided for an immediate cease-fire and an amnesty for prisoners.
In legislative elections held on 21 April 2002, Déby's Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS) took 102 of the 155 seats, while the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) won 12 seats, and the ecologist Federation Party and Action for the Republic (FAR) took 11 seats. Twelve other political parties participated.