Chad is a vast and diverse territory, which at independence had poor communications, few known resources, a tiny market, and a collection of impoverished people with sharply differing political traditions, ethnic and regional loyalties, and sociocultural patterns. The French colonial powers that had created the country's boundaries had done little to promote economic interdependence, political cooperation, or crosscultural understanding.
Chad became independent in 1960 under President François Tombalbaye. In January 1962 he banned all political parties except his own PPT, and started immediately concentrating all power in his own hands. His treatment of opponents, real or imagined, was extremely harsh, filling the prisons with thousands of political prisoners.
Tombalbaye survived as President until 1975 when he was killed during a military coup. The incumbent government had been ineffectively dealing with an armed insurgency in the form of the Liberation Front of Chad, which had developed in the north of the country. Felix Malloum served as both President and Prime Minister under August 1978, when Hissène Habré – the former Northern rebel leader - was appointed Prime Minister to integrate armed northern rebels into the government.
From 1979 – 82 Chad spiralled into civil war, with Southerners (Malloum’s faction) finally losing control of government, and insurgent northerners (under Habre). A period of bitter factional infighting led to Goukuni being named head of the GUNT. The war developed into a regional affair with Sudanese and Libyan support crucial in the eventual victory of Habre’s forces of those of Goukuni in 1982. Habre ruled as President until 1990 facing fierce opposition on multiple fronts and participating in the brutal suppression of political opponents.
Idriss Deby – the current President of Chad – defected from the Habre government in late 1980s and launched an attack from Sudanese Darfur at the head of a Zaghawa (his own ethnic group) rebel organization. In December 1990, with Libyan assistance and no opposition from French troops stationed in Chad, Déby’s forces successfully marched on N’Djamena. Despite coups attempts and continued violence Deby survived and won the country’s first multi-party presidential elections in 1996.
Déby, in the mid-1990s, gradually restored basic functions of government and entered into agreements with the World Bank and IMF to carry out substantial economic reforms. Oil exploitation in the southern Doba region began in June 2000, with World Bank Board approval to finance a small portion of a project.
Déby won a flawed 63% first-round victory in May 2001 presidential elections after legislative elections were postponed until spring 2002. Having accused the government of fraud, six opposition leaders were arrested (twice) and one opposition party activist was killed following the announcement of election results. However, despite claims of government corruption, favoritism of Zaghawas, and abuses by the security forces, opposition party and labor union calls for general strikes and more active demonstrations against the government have been unsuccessful. Despite movement toward democratic reform, power remains in the hands of a northern ethnic oligarchy.
A war in the East – relating to the conflict in Darfur has also been fought since 2005. Deby accuses Sudanese President Omar el Bashir of trying to "destabilize our country, to drive our people into misery, to create disorder and export the war from Darfur to Chad." Attacks on the capital in 2006 and 2008 proved unsuccessful – the violence appears to be a power-struggle within the Chadian ruling elite.