Chad - History & Background
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HISTORY & BACKGROUND
The Republic of Chad is a land-locked country located in central Africa. It is bordered by Libya on the North; Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon on the West; the Central African Republic on the South; and the Sudan on the East. Chad has an area of 495,624 square miles and a population of more than 8 million (2000 estimate). Both French and Chadian Arabic are the official languages. Chad is made up of more than 200 different tribes and more than 12 major ethnic groups, with the Saras (28 percent) and the Sudanic Arabs (12 percent) representing the two largest ones. The country is 50 percent Muslim, 25 percent Christian, and 25 percent Animist. For political and educational purposes, Chad is really two different countries melded into one. Linguistic, geographic, religious, and economic criteria sharply differentiate the two halves. Northern Chad is a barren land with desert-like features; it is inhabited by nomadic tribes who are, for the most part, Muslim. Southern Chad, on the other hand, is a fertile, rain-drenched valley where Christian farmers live a sedentary life.
Chad became a French protectorate in 1900, a colony in 1920, and one of the four constituent territories of French Equatorial Africa in 1946. It gained full independence in 1960 when it became an autonomous republic within the French Community of Nations. Civil war soon erupted between the Muslim north and the largely Christian-animist south. For almost 20 years, Libyan-backed troops vied for power with indigenous political factions supported by France and the United States. The 1990s ushered in some measure of political stability when self-proclaimed president Idriss Déby assumed power and the International Court of Justice finally recognized the longstanding Chadian claim to the Aozou territory, a mineral-rich strip of land occupied by Libyan soldiers. However, peace was slow in coming, as opposing factions continued to wage civil war throughout Chad, and human rights organizations accused the Chadian army of committing atrocities in the south. Déby was elected president in 1996, and parliamentary elections were held in 1997. Civil unrest continued sporadically as opposition groups pledged to overthrow Déby's government by force. A new pipeline was being built by a French-American and Dutch consortium to tap newly discovered oil reserves and bring, by 2001, much-needed revenues to this war-torn and impoverished nation. In 1998, European Union finance ministers agreed to allow France to continue to guarantee the CFA Franc (the Communauté Financière Africaine franc)—the currency used in Chad and in 14 other African nations.