French colonial interests in central Africa led to the creation of the Military Territory of Chad (Territoire Militaire des Pays et Protectorats du Tchad) in 1900. Chad didn’t become independent of France until sixty years later, forming the Republic of Chad (République du Tchad) on August 11, 1960. This landlocked country is bordered by Libya to the north, Sudan to the east, the Central African Republic to the south, Cameroon and Nigeria to the southwest and Niger to the west. It is the fifth largest country in Africa in terms of area. Lake Chad, after which the country is named, is the largest wetland in Chad and the second-largest in Africa. N’Djamena, 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 and Christianity are the most widely practiced religions.
In the seventh 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 of these date to earlier than 2000 BC. For more than 2,000 years, the Chadian Basin has been inhabited by agricultural and sedentary people. 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 first millennium AD. Two other states in the region, Baguirmi and Wadai Empire emerged in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 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. In Kanem, about a third of the population were slaves.
French activity in the area had begun in 1889 with the establishment of an outpost called Bangi (now Bangui) at the head of navigation on the Ubangi River, the largest right-bank tributary of the Congo River. The Upper Ubangi (Haut-Oubangui) territory was established as part of French Congo on December 9, 1891. Despite a France-Congo Free State convention establishing a border around the fourth parallel, the area was contested from 1892 to 1895 with the Congo Free State, which claimed the region as its territory of Ubangi-Bomu (Oubangui-Bomou). The Upper Ubangi was a separate colony from July 13, 1894, until December 10, 1899, at which time it was folded back into the French Congo. The Upper Shari region was established as part of the French Congo on September 5, 1900, while French settlements around Lake Chad became the Military Territory of Chad (Territoire Militaire des Pays et Protectorats du Tchad).
The non-Chadian territories were united as the separate colony of Ubangi-Shari on December 29, 1903, following the French defeat of Abbas II of Egypt, who had claimed the area. On February 11, 1906, this colony merged with the Lake Chad settlements and became the territory of Ubangi-Shari-Chad (Oubangui-Chari-Tchad). In 1909, it received the administration over the sultanates of Zemio and Rafai from the Belgian Congo. On January 15, 1910, this administration was merged with the French Middle Congo (Moyen-Congo) and Gabon as the Ubangi-Shari area of French Equatorial Africa (Afrique équatoriale française), a federation of French colonial possessions in Central Africa, extending northwards from the Congo River to the Sahara. On April 12, 1916, it again became the separate colony of Ubangi-Shari, but lost the territory around Lake Chad in 1920. This became the Territory of Chad (Territoire du Tchad) on March 17, 1920 as it passed to French civilian administration as a separate colony incorporated in the federation of French Equatorial Africa.
Regular mail service in Chad began soon after the French occupation of the area, with a post office established at Fort-Lamy in 1905. Additional offices were opened at Abeche (1909), Amm et Timan (1910), Ati (1909), Bousso (1910), Fada (1920), Faya-Largeau (1920), Mandjafa (1910), and Tchekna (1910). Mail used stamps of French Congo until 1915, then stamps of Ubangi-Shari-Chad, whose overprints read OUBANGUI-CHARI-TCHAD. Although Chad had come under civil administration in 1920, it didn’t receive its own stamps until November 1922. The initial issue consisted of 18 values ranging from 1 centime to 5 francs using the issues of Middle Congo overprinted TCHAD. As with Ubangi-Chari, the administrative situation was clarified from 1924 on by the addition of an additional overprint AFRIQUE EQUATORIALE FRANCAISE. In 1930, a set of colorful postage due stamps were the first to be inscribed with the name of the colony, followed by the Colonial Exposition Issue in 1931. Separate stamps issues came to an end in 1936, after which Chad used the stamps issued for all of French Equatorial Africa.
The four colonies of Ubangi-Shari, Middle Congo, Gabon, and Chad were administered together as French Equatorial Africa under the direction of a governor general stationed in Brazzaville. The governor general had broad administrative control over the federation, including external and internal security, economic and financial affairs, and all communications with the French minister of the colonies. Lieutenant governors, also appointed by the French government, were expected to implement in each colony the orders of the governor general. The central administration in Brazzaville tightly controlled the lieutenant governors despite reformist efforts toward decentralization between 1910 and 1946. Chad’s lieutenant governor had greater autonomy because of the distance from Brazzaville and because of France’s much greater interest in the other three colonies. As for the number of troops deployed in the country, there were three battalions for a total of about 3.000 soldiers.
The French primarily viewed the colony as an unimportant source of untrained labor 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 Sara of the south was governed effectively; French presence in the Islamic north and east was nominal. The educational system was affected by this neglect.
The lines of control from Brazzaville, feeble as they may have been, were still stronger than those from N’Djamena to its hinterland. In the huge Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti Region, the handful of French military administrators soon reached a tacit agreement with the inhabitants of the desert; as long as caravan trails remained relatively secure and minimal levels of law and order were met, the military administration (headquartered in Faya Largeau) usually left the people alone. In central Chad, French rule was only slightly more substantive. In Ouaddaï and Biltine prefectures, endemic resistance continued against the French and, in some cases, against any authority that attempted to suppress banditry and brigandage. The thinly staffed colonial administration provided only weak supervision over arid Kanem Prefecture and the sparsely populated areas of Guéra and Salamat prefectures. Old-fashioned razzias continued in the 1920s, and it was reported in 1923 that a group of Senegalese Muslims on their way to Mecca had been seized and sold into slavery. Unwilling to expend the resources required for effective administration, the French government responded with sporadic coercion and a growing reliance on indirect rule through the sultanates.
France managed to govern effectively only the south, but until 1946 administrative direction came from Bangui in Ubangi-Shari rather than N’Djamena. Unlike northern and central Chad, a French colonial system of direct civilian administration was set up among the Sara, a southern ethnic group, and their neighbors. Also, unlike the rest of Chad, a modest level of economic development occurred in the south because of the introduction in 1929 of largescale cotton production. Remittances and pensions to southerners who served in the French military also enhanced economic well-being.
Even the advantages of more income, schools, and roads failed to win popular support for the French in the south. In addition to earlier grievances, such as forced porterage (which claimed thousands of lives) and village relocation, southern farmers resented the mandatory quotas for the production of cotton, which France purchased at artificially low prices. Government-protected chiefs further abused this situation. The chiefs were resented all the more because they were generally the artificial creations of the French in a region of previously stateless societies. This commonality of treatment and the colonial organizational framework began to create during this period a sense of Sara ethnicity among persons whose collective identities had previously been limited to small kinship groups.
Although France had put forth considerable effort during the conquest of Chad, the ensuing administration of the territory was halfhearted. Officials in the French colonial service resisted assignments to Chad, so posts often went to novices or to out-of-favor officials. One historian of France’s empire has concluded that it was almost impossible to be too demented or depraved to be considered unfit for duty in Chad. Still, major scandals occurred periodically, and many of the posts remained vacant. In 1928, for example, 42% of the Chadian subdivisions lacked official administrators.
An event occurred in 1935 that was to have far-reaching consequences throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s. In that year, the French colonial administration negotiated a border adjustment with Italy, Libya’s colonial master. The adjustment would have relocated the Libyan-Chad boundary about 100 kilometers south across the Aozou Strip. Although the French legislature never ratified the agreement, the negotiations formed part of the basis of Libya’s claim to the area decades later.
In 1940. Chad became internationally prominent when its lieutenant governor, Félix Eboué, led the rest of the French Equatorial African (AEF) federation to support Free France under Charles de Gaulle rather than the government of Vichy France. Chad became the base for Colonel Jacques Leclerc’s conquest of the Fezzan (1940–1943), and the entire episode became the basis of an enduring sentimental bond between Chad and the France of de Gaulle’s generation. More funds and attention flowed to Chad than ever before, and Eboué became the governor general of the entire AEF in November 1941.
French voters rejected many of the progressive ideas of Eboué and others after World War II ended. Nevertheless, the constitution that was approved in 1946 granted Chad and other African colonies the right to elect a territorial assembly with limited powers. The Assembly in turn elected delegates to the French General Council of all the AEF. The position of governor general was redesignated high commissioner, and each territory gained the right to elect representatives to French parliamentary bodies, including the National Assembly, the Council of the Republic, and the Assembly of the French Union. The African peoples became French citizens, and the colonies were designated overseas territories of France.
Although Chad’s status changed to a French overseas territory on October 27, 1946, the real locus of authority remained in Paris. The 1946 reforms sanctioned the existence of a dual college system for voting, with one reserved for the Europeans in Chad; the Africans could only vote for the collège des autochthones. French personnel continued to dominate the AEF’s administration. No formal attempt was made to train Chadian Africans for civil service positions before 1955. On the bright side the 1946 reforms abolished forced labor.
In 1956, the French National Assembly passed the loi cadre (enabling act), known as Overseas Reform Act, which resulted in greater self-rule for Chad and other African territories. Electoral reforms expanded the pool of eligible voters, and power began to shift from the sparsely settled northern and central Chadian regions toward the more densely populated south. The largest political party was the Chadian Progressive Party (PPT), based in the southern half of the colony.
In September 1958, voters in all of Africa’s French territories took part in a referendum on the Fifth Republic’s constitution, drawn up under de Gaulle. For a variety of political and economic reasons, most of Chad’s political groups supported the new constitution, and all voted for a resolution calling for Chad to become an autonomous republic within the French Community. The three other AEF territories voted similarly, and in November 1958 the AEF was officially terminated.
Coordination on issues such as customs and currency continued among the four territories through written agreements or on an ad hoc basis. Nonetheless, some Chadians supported the creation of an even stronger French federation, rather than independence. The leading proponent of this proposal was Barthélemy Boganda of Ubangi-Shari, but his death in 1959 and the vigorous opposition of Gabon resulted in political independence on a separate basis for all four republics.
After Lisette’s coalition crumbled in early 1959, two other alliances governed briefly. Then in March the PPT returned to power, this time under the leadership of Tombalbaye, a union leader and representative from Moyen-Chari Prefecture. Lisette, whose power was undermined because of his non-African origins, became deputy Prime Minister in charge of economic coordination and international relations. Tombalbaye soon consolidated enough political support from the south and north to isolate the opposition into a collection of conservative Muslim leaders from central Chad. The latter group formed a political party in January 1960, but its parliamentary representation steadily dropped as Tombalbaye wooed individual members to the PPT.
Chad was granted independence on August 11, 1960, with the PPT’s leader, a Sara people François Tombalbaye, as its first president. Tombalbaye’s political skills made it possible for observers to talk optimistically about the possibility of building a broad-based coalition of political forces. In 1959, approaching independence, the country issued its first stamps omitting the letters RF (standing for “République française”, French Republic). These included a 15-franc issue depicting a cotton flower, fishers on Lake Chad and the head of an antelope. Independence in 1960 was not reflected in postage stamps until 1961, when three stamps were issued to celebrate admission to the United Nations.
In 1962, Tombalbaye banned opposition parties and established a one-party system. His 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. Libya’s adventure ended in disaster in 1987; the French-supported president, Hissène Habré, 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 with thousands of people estimated to have been killed under his rule. The president favored his own Daza ethnic group and discriminated against his former allies, the Zaghawa. His general, Idriss Déby, overthrew him in 1990. Attempts to prosecute Habré led to his placement under house arrest in Senegal in 2005; in 2013, Habré was formally charged with war crimes committed during his rule. In May 2016, he was found guilty of human-rights abuses, including rape, sexual slavery, and ordering the killing of 40,000 people, and sentenced to life in prison.
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 increased. In 2006 and in 2008, rebel forces attempted to take the capital by force, but have on both occasions failed. An agreement for the restoration of harmony between Chad and Sudan, signed January 15, 2010, marked the end of a five-year war. The fix in relations led to the Chadian rebels from Sudan returning home, the opening of the border between the two countries after seven years of closure, and the deployment of a joint force to secure the border.
Scott #1 was released in November 1922, created by overprinting a Middle Congo stamp originally released in 1907 with TCHAD. The 1 centime red and violet stamp is perforated 14×13½ and portrays a leopard stalking its prey through the savanna.