Since Chad's independence in 1960, most armed opposition groups have originated from a common source, the Front de libération nationale du Tchad/Front for the National Liberation of Chad (FROLINAT), founded in 1966 in Nyala, South Darfur. A leftist movement recruited from northern Muslim communities, the FROLINAT was established to fight the southern-dominated government supported by France. In 1979, its rival factions managed to put an end to 19 years of southern rule, and since then the three presidents who have taken power in N'Djaména—each one ousting his predecessor—have come from ethnic groups from the far north: the Tubu, Goran, and Beri (Zaghawa and Bideyat) respectively. This has not prevented northerners, even those well represented in government, from staging rebellions again, however. Since 1966, Chadian armed opposition groups have been dominated by three ethnic groups, collectively nicknamed GAZ for 'Goran, Arab, Zaghawa.'
A chronic feature of the Chadian political scene has been the inability of opposition groups to obtain power without staging an armed insurgency. Either these groups have taken power by force, or they have coerced governments into negotiations that resulted in the award of key positions. Since he took power in 1990, President Idriss Déby has been confronted by several rebellions, including from within his own kin, the Beri. The long duration of his rule, combined with the general lack of democratic space in Chad, have aggravated this trend. Local inter-ethnic conflicts—and the impunity that the regime provides to Déby's Beri kin who are involved in them—also plays a role in drawing recruits, such as the Tama, Ouaddaïans, some Arabs, and to a lesser extent southerners whose main political leaders have given up the armed struggle following violent repression in the 1980s in favour of secondary roles in the government or non-armed opposition.
President Déby contained these groups using both carrots (positions and money) and sticks (war and the elimination of opponents). Things became more difficult when the war started in Darfur in 2003, however. Déby was unable to prevent his own forces and family from supporting their Zaghawa kin fighting across the border. Khartoum responded by offering support to almost any Chadian armed group, and tried, with limited success, to unite the various factions into coalitions. This policy of proxy war reached its zenith between 2005 and 2009. During this period, the Sudanese government allowed most Chadian armed opposition groups to benefit from rear bases in West Darfur from where they could launch lightning raids on Chadian territory. With N'Djaména as their main target, they rarely sought to control Chadian territory, except in small pockets along the shared border.
Since late 2009-early 2010, Chad and Sudan have engaged in a rapprochement which makes the future of the Chadian armed opposition uncertain. The Sudanese government has ordered them to move from West to North Darfur, further away from the border. Then, following Chad's expulsion of Dr. Khalil Ibrahim, Khartoum ordered the main Chadian armed opposition group leaders (Timan Erdimi, Adouma Hassaballah, Mahamat Nouri, and Tahir Guinassou) to leave Sudan. Their troop strength has also gradually dwindled, from no fewer than 10,000 overall in May 2009 to around 4,000-5,000 today. This decline is likely to continue. However, the Union des forces de la résistance/Union of the Forces of Resistance (UFR) led by Timan Erdimi still poses a threat to the government, due to its significant military strength as well as its kin and family connections inside the inner circle of the Chadian government.
Click below for more information on specific armed opposition groups and coalitions:
Updated July 2010
to go to the Darfur armed groups page.
Relevant Tables, Maps, and Summaries
Relevant HSBA Publications