South Africa | Chad: Hardline rule, poverty and oil

Chad, an oil-rich African nation which holds a presidential election on Sunday, has become a key regional ally of the West in the fight against jihadists.


Stretching from the Sahara desert of the inhospitable mountainous north bordering Libya to the fertile lowlands in the south, Chad is three times bigger than California.

Home to around 15 million people and scores of ethnic groups, just over half its population are Muslim with 35% Christian and the rest animist.

Military challenges

Chad faces military challenges on all of its borders.

In the west, in the region of Lake Chad, the army has been fighting the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram — which is allied to the Islamic State — since 2015.

Former colonial power France keeps troops in Chad and heads a multinational force based in N'Djamena since 2014 to combat Islamists across the Sahel region.

Chad is also a member of five-country regional military force battling jihadists that also includes Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria.

Eastern Chad, on the border with Sudan, has seen conflicts between different ethnic groups.

Northern Chad is also unstable, little populated and difficult to control. Several Chadian rebel groups have set up their base in neighbouring southern Libya.

Violent history

Chad has seen a succession of coups and rebellions since independence in 1960. It was wracked by civil war for three decades and has been invaded several time by Libya.

Idriss Deby Itno took power in December 1990 after ousting Hissene Habre, whom he had served as army chief.

Habre, dubbed "Africa's Pinochet", was sentenced by a special African court to life in jail in 2017 for crimes against humanity. More than 40 000 people are thought to have been murdered during his rule.

Oil rich, poor and corrupt

In 2003 Chad began to export oil to an Atlantic terminal through a pipeline built across neighbouring Cameroon.

It suffered badly from the plunge in the price of crude in 2014.

It is ranked as one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world, with nearly two fifths of the population living below the internationally recognised poverty line.

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