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Chad (/æd/ (About this soundlisten); Arabic: تشادTshād, Arabic pronunciation: [ˈtʃaːd]; French: Tchad, pronounced [tʃa(d)]), officially known as the Republic of Chad (Arabic: جمهورية تشادJumhūriyyat Tshād; French: République du Tchad lit. "Republic of the Chad"), is a landlocked country in north-central Africa. It 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.

Chad has several regions: a desert zone in the north, an arid Sahelian belt in the centre and a more fertile Sudanian Savanna zone in the south. Lake Chad, after which the country is named, is the largest wetland in Chad and the second-largest in Africa. The capital N'Djamena is the largest city. Chad's official languages are Arabic and French. Chad is home to over 200 different ethnic and linguistic groups. The most popular religion of Chad is Islam (at 55%), followed by Christianity (at 40%).

Beginning in the 7th millennium BC, human populations moved into the Chadian basin in great numbers. By the end of the 1st millennium AD, a series of states and empires had risen and fallen in Chad's Sahelian strip, each focused on controlling the trans-Saharan trade routes that passed through the region.

France conquered the territory by 1920 and incorporated it as part of French Equatorial Africa. In 1960, Chad obtained independence under the leadership of François Tombalbaye. Resentment towards his policies in the Muslim north culminated in the eruption of a long-lasting civil war in 1965. In 1979 the rebels conquered the capital and put an end to the South's hegemony. But, the rebel commanders fought amongst themselves until Hissène Habré defeated his rivals. He was overthrown in turn in 1990 by his general Idriss Déby. Since 2003 the Darfur crisis in Sudan has spilt over the border and destabilised the nation. Poor already, the nation and people struggled to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees who live in and around camps in eastern Chad. Read more...

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Smoke over Ndjamena.jpg

The Battle of N'Djamena began on February 2, 2008 when Chadian rebel forces opposed to Chadian President Idriss Déby entered N'Djamena, the capital of Chad, after a three-day advance through the country. The rebels were initially successful, taking a large part of the city and attacking the heavily defended presidential palace. The palace never fell however, and two days later the governmental troops had pushed the rebels out of the city. The rebels retreated back eastward.

The assault on the capital was part of a longer military campaign to unseat the Chadian president. The array of rebels fighting against the government has shifted during the war, in this battle it was the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development, Union of Forces for Democracy and Development-Fundamental and Rally of Democratic Forces that attacked with some 2,000 men.

Soon after the beginning of the war, government forces repelled a rebel attack on the capital in April 2006 in which hundreds of people are thought to have been killed. The rebels responsible of the attack, the United Front for Democratic Change (FUC) led by Mohammed Nour Abdelkerim, rallied to the government in December; already before it was being replaced as the central force behind the rebellion by the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development (UFDD), founded in October 2006 and led by Mahamat Nouri.


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Child at a MSF camp in Chad.jpg
Credit: Mark Knobil

Child at a Médecins Sans Frontières camp in Chad.

Selected biography

Lieutenant General Idriss Déby Itno (إدريس ديبي) (born 1952) is the President of Chad and the head of the Patriotic Salvation Movement. Déby is of the Bidayat clan of the Zaghawa ethnic group. He added "Itno" to his surname in January 2006.

Déby was born in Fada as the son of a herder. After finishing school he entered the Officers' School in N'Djamena. From there he was sent to France for training, returning to Chad in 1976 with a professional pilot certificate. He remained loyal to the army and to President Félix Malloum until central authority crumbled in 1979. Déby tied his fortunes to those of Hissène Habré, one of the chief Chadian warlords. A year after Habré became President in 1982, in exchange for his loyalty, Déby was made commander-in-chief of the army. He distinguished himself in 1984 by destroying pro-Libyan forces in Eastern Chad. In 1985 Habré removed him from his post and sent him to Paris to follow a course at the École de Guerre; on his return he was made chief military advisor to the Presidency. In 1987 he confronted Libyan forces on the field, adopting tactics that inflicted heavy losses to enemy forces. A rift emerged in 1989 between Habré and Déby over the increasing power of the Presidential Guard. Habré accused Déby of preparing a coup d'état, motivating Déby to flee to Libya. He moved to Sudan and formed the Patriotic Salvation Movement, an insurgent group, supported by Libya and Sudan, which started operations against Habré in October 1989. He unleashed a decisive attack on 10 November 1990, and on 2 December Déby's troops marched unopposed into the capital, N'Djaména.

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