In the 9th century, relatively weak local kingdoms were overtaken by the powerful Kanem-Bornu Empire. Beginning in the Middle Ages, Chad became a crossroads for Muslim traders and indigenous tribes. The empire lasted well into the 19th century and Chad became a part of France's colonial system after the battle of Kousséri in 1900.
In WWII, Chad was the first French colony to join the Free French and the Allies, under the leadership of its Governor, Félix Éboué. In 1960, Chad became an independent country, with François Tombalbaye as its first president.
Chad's post-independence history has been marked by instability and violence stemming mostly from tensions between the mainly Arab-Muslim north and the predominantly animist and Christian south.
In 1975 Tombalbaye was killed in a coup and replaced by the southerner Félix Malloum who was himself replaced by a Libyan-backed northerner, Goukouni Oueddei in 1979.
Civil war broke out with insurgent Hissène Habré and Libya invaded Chad in 1980, to help Oueddei remain in power. Fighting between the parties in the airport area could be heard loudly when I landed in N'Djamena in March 1980 to catch a flight to Lagos on my way to Malabo in Equatorial Guinea. Habré conquered the capital in 1982 and the Libyan occupation of the Aouzou Strip in the north ended when Qaddafi's forces were defeated in 1987 with the support of France and the USA.
In 1989, Idriss Déby, one of Habré's leading generals and a member of the Zaghawa tribe, defected and fled to Darfur in Sudan, from which he mounted a series of attacks on Habré (of the Gorane tribe). In December 1990, Déby’s forces successfully marched on N’Djamena with Libyan assistance and seized power. During the next few years, Déby faced at least two coup attempts and government forces clashed violently with rebel forces. Finally, Déby won the country’s first two multi-party presidential elections in 1996 and in 2001.
Oil exploitation in the southern Doba region began in June 2000, with World Bank Board support of a 1000-km. pipeline through Cameroon to the Gulf of Guinea. The project established unique mechanisms for World Bank, private sector, government, and civil society collaboration to guarantee that future oil revenues benefit local populations and result in poverty alleviation.
Government corruption, favoritism of Zaghawas, and abuses by the security forces have caused widespread dissatisfaction. Déby earned more vigorous criticism in 2005 by passing a law defeating the above garantees on the use of oil revenues and by amending the constitution to allow himself to serve a third term. Dissent within his own Zaghawa tribe led to the defection of several Chad army officers who established bases in Darfur where non-Arab Zaghawas were in conflict with Arab Baggaras and their Janjaweed cavalry.
In December 2005 a rebel attack on the Chadian town of Adre near the Sudanese border left "hundreds" dead and Chad announced that it was in a "state of war" with Sudan..
N'Djamena was full of troups and the tension was high when I was there in the last week of January 2006.
In February 2006, Chad and Sudan signed the Tripoli Agreement, ending the Chadian-Sudanese conflict.
On March 14th, the twin brothers Tim and Timam Erdimi, two high-ranking officers who had tried to overthrow Déby in 2004 along with 100 members of the military, tried again to stage a coup while Déby was away in Equatorial Guinea. They failed and most of them were arrested.
On April 13th, rebels columns from the Darfur bases of the United Front for Democratic Change FUD (headed by Mahamat Nour), attacked N'Djamena in an attempt to overthrow Déby but were defeated by the Chad army (with French logistic support).
In May, Déby charged Sudan with supporting the FUD opposition and Chad again severed diplomatic ties with Sudan.
It is pertinent to note that the United Nation's ability to deal with the Darfur humanitarian crisis is not helped by China's dominant position in Sudan's oil production and American Exxon-Mobil's control of Chad's Doha oil fields...
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N'Djamena was full of police, gendarmes and troops and the atmosphere was tense. I was carefull to keep my camera out of sight and took pictures only when no uniforms were around.
This poorly framed picture of the Chadian Central Bank was shot from the hip like in western films.
Taking this view of the cathedral was risky because it was just across the street from the well guarded Presidential Palace. It is forbidden to walk on the palace side of the street. Most people avoid this stretch of Félix Éboué Avenue altogether.
Félix Éboué was the first black governor of Guadeloupe, then of Chad which he rallied to the Free French in 1940.
The French cultural centre has a large selection of books and presents various films and shows. The shady garden is a nice place to enjoy a cool beer.
France has traditionally maintained a very active presence in its former African colonies going as far as military intervention to protect expats and to counter attempts to alter the status-quo by violence. It is my understanding that French forces provided logistic support but did not get involved directly in the April 2006 fighting.
Hotels in the "European" north west part of town were expensive so I stayed at the Aurora Hotel in the south east part of town.
The hotel management thought it prudent to keep an armed guard in uniform at the door. A plain room here was not cheap at 33 $US.
Here is a view of the street in front of my hotel.
And one of another street nearby.
The Centenary roundabout is not far further south of the Aurora Hotel.
On the other side of the Rond-Point de l'Unité, north east of the Aurora, Schoelcher street leads to the Central Market and the Great Mosque.
Victor Schoelcher was a politician who fought to abolish slavery in the French colonies.
Taking pictures in this part of town was also tricky because the people did not like it. Many complained and one old fellow shook his fist at me.
Here is the southern wall of the central market.
In the distance, you can see the minarets of the Great Mosque.
Here is another view closer up.
And finally, here is the mosque itself.
I did not feel welcome so I stayed only five days in N'Djamena.
I tried to get a Libyan visa with the letter of invitation my friend Abdeljalil sent me but it did not work because he had not cleared it first through the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
I was very disapointed but I decided to tour a few places I had not yet seen in the Middle East and flew to Dubai via Addis Abeba.