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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for Southerners in Chad

View Group Chronology

Chad Facts
Area:    1,250,000 sq. km.
Capital:    N'djamena
Total Population:    6,300,000 (source: UN, 1995, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

Southerners in Chad exhibit several characteristics that make likely armed rebellion. First and foremost is the recent history of widespread violence in the mid- to late 1990s and of continued sporadic attacks through late 2001. Connected to this is the large number of militant Southern organizations. However, since 2002, opposition became more politically oriented in place of violence. The concentration of Southerners in one region is another factor facilitating rebellion. Continued human rights violations and restrictions on peaceful protest may also encourage violent responses. The 2001 elections leading to the arrest and torture of the Southerner candidate, Yorongar, and the 2003 naming of the first non-southern Christian to the post of Prime Minister in 25 years further alienated Southerners from the government, thus increasing their risk for future rebellion. Finally, rebellion in the North of the country serves to weaken the central government, providing an opening for Southern rebel groups.

However, there are also many factors inhibiting rebellion in the South. While violence is perhaps likely, the Southern lack of coordination and organization makes unlikely the resumption of large-scale military attacks. In fact, deaths from military attacks have consistently dropped since 1998. The change in attitude of CMAP, with its expressing a preference for negotiation in 2001, and Deby’s willingness to negotiate, also point to a turn to conventional political activity. The presence of a Southerner candidate in the 2001 elections further illustrates a tendency toward more conventional tactics. Continued opening of the political system also should create incentives for peaceful protest and conventional politics. Another development militating against a resurgence of armed resistance is the government’s reaching a peace accord with Northern rebels in spring 2002. The cessation of fighting in the North makes available resources to curb any violence that should appear in the South.

Political protest has been historically low in southern Chad, although it reached a peak in the 1980s. Recently, protest has been restricted to verbal protest. However, continued significant political and cultural restrictions combined with government’s partial democratization may lead to increased protest in the future. Furthermore, the continuing development of the Chad-Cameroon pipeline and oil exploration in Southern Chad may fuel increased protest if the government does not propose a more favorable distribution of oil revenues.


Analytic Summary

Southern Chadians make up approximately 33 percent of the country’s total population and live in Chad’s five southern prefectures, which make up around 10 percent of the country’s area (GROUPCON = 3). Predominantly Christian or animist, they include the Sara, Massa and Moundang in Mayo-Kebbi. While groups in eastern and central Chad became arabicized through contacts from Egypt and Sudan, Southern Chadians primarily integrated into a Europeanized culture under French colonial rule. Southern groups have not been able to mobilize around a single political platform or movement, as the proliferation of political parties and opposition movements in the south indicates (GOJPA06 = 3).

Conflict between Chad’s numerous ethnic groups broke out almost immediately following independence in 1960 and centered on competition for state control between politically dominant southerners and politically marginalized northerners and easterners. Conflict was contained, at least temporarily, in 1979 with the establishment of the Government d'Union Nationale de Transition (GUNT), an interim government supported by the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Within GUNT, Goukouni Oueddei (a Northerner) assumed the Presidency, while Col. Wadal Abdelkader Kamougue (a Southerner) became Vice President, and Hassan Habre (a Toubou or Northerner) Defence Minister. However, violence broke out in the early 1980s, as Southern groups rebelled (REB80X = 6). With the support of Libya and Sudan, the peoples of the Muslim north eventually defeated the politically dominant south, culminating in Habre's assumption of the presidency in June 1982.

Habre was unable to consolidate control of the country, however, facing opposition from other northerners as well as continued resistance in the south (REB85X = 4). He was ousted by Idriss Deby, an ethnic Zaghawa from the northern part of the country, in a 1990 coup. While Deby pursued a cautious policy of political accommodation, the national army and security forces faced increasing rebel activity in the Lake Chad region by the Movement for Democracy and Development (MDD), in the East by the National Front of Chad (FNT), and in the southern Logone oriental region by the Committee of National Revival for Peace and Democracy (CSNPD). Opposition groups from the South resumed protests and occasional spontaneous rebellions (PROT90X = 3; REB90X = 4). They advocated the establishment of a federalist structure and the recalling of Deby's Republican Guard from the region. Protests by the Southerners were brutally repressed by Deby. Meanwhile, the rival opposition groups of the North and East seem to use more rebellious techniques, often resulting in coup attempts led by rival leaders.

Peace accords were signed in late 1994 between rebel groups and the government, and as a result, 1995 and 1996 saw a dramatic decrease in violence in the country. Multiparty elections took place in 1996 and 1997 in which Idriss Deby’s Patriotic Salvation Movement won the presidency and overall majority in parliament. Deby won a second 5-year term in 2001, despite the cancellation of nearly one-quarter of the poll results due to irregularities, and his party again won a parliamentary majority in 2002. In 2004, the Chadian legislature approved an amendment to the constitution that would allow him to run for a third term.

The MMD, FNT, and CSNPD seemed to have disappeared from the political scene in Chad and the country was relatively peaceful in the run-up to and aftermath of the elections in 1996 and 1997. However, violent opposition resumed in 1998 (REB98 = 3) and sporadic violence continued through 2000 (REB99-00 = 1), despite numerous attempts at negotiation. However, recent rebellion has been absent from 2001 to 2006, although violence between ethnic groups continues in the region. For example, in 2004 In Bebedja, a dispute between a Christian trader and a Muslim buyer led to ethnic fighting that killed 12 people when the communities of each intervened (INTERCON04 = 1). Protests also continue, although generally at a low level (PROT99; PROT00 = 1; PROT06 = 3). In 1999, several Southern exiled groups joined with other opposition groups to form the Coordination of Armed Opposition Political Movements (CMAP). In October 2001, CMAP expressed a willingness to meet with Deby for negotiations. Talks took place in late 2001 and early 2002. However, violence didn’t stop with negotiations. In December 2001, Southern rebels based in the Central African Republic undertook raids in Chad.

Southern political grievances center on desires for increased political rights and participation in the central decision-making (POLGR04-06= 1). Controversy also arose in 2003, when Moussa Faki Mahamet was appointed Prime Minister, resulting in the removal of a Southerner from that position. Demands for increased regional autonomy within a federalist structure have not been expressed in recent years, although such demands were included in Yorongar's 2001 presidential platform.

The discovery and planned exploitation of oil resources in the South have also fueled economic grievances (ECGR04-06 = 2). Southerners remain unsatisfied with proposals for the distribution of oil revenues, which would funnel much of the money to the central government and to regions in the north. Religious grievances revolve around the Muslim-Christian divide between Southern Chadians and the Muslim-dominated central government.



African Research Bulletin. Various reports 1994-1995

Amnesty International. 6/12/2001. "Chad:Violent crackdown on peaceful protesters.", accessed 7/12/2004.

CIA World Factbook. 2004. "Chad."

Collelo, Thomas, ed. 1988. Chad: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress.

Keesing's Record of World Events. Various reports. 1990-1996.

Lique, RJ. 2001. “Tchad: Un vote protestaire dans le Sud et rien de plus.” Afrique Express., accessed 07/08/04.

LexisNexis. Various reports. 2004-2006

U.S. Department of State. 5/1992. Country Profile of the Republic of Chad.

U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Chad. 1992, 2001-2006.


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Information current as of December 31, 2006