Flag description: three equal vertical bands of blue (hoist side), yellow, and red; similar to the flag of Romania; also similar to the flags of Andorra and Moldova, both of which have a national coat of arms centred in the yellow band; design was based on the flag of France

Location: Central Africa, south of Libya

Geographic coordinates: 15 00 N, 19 00 E

Climate: tropical in south, desert in north

Independence: 11 August 1960 (from France)

Nationality: Chadian(s)

Capital City: N'Djamena

Population: 8,424,504 (July 2000 est.)

Head of State: President Lt. Gen. Idriss DEBY (since 4 December 1990)

Area: 1.284 million sq km

Type of Government: republic

Currency: 1 Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFAF) = 100 centimes

Major peoples: Muslims, commonly referred to as "northerners" or "gorane" (Arabs, Toubou, Hadjerai, Fulbe, Kotoko, Kanembou, Baguirmi, Boulala, Zaghawa, and Maba); non-Muslims, commonly referred to as "southerners" (Sara, Ngambaye, Mbaye, Goulaye, Moundang, Moussei, Massa) including no indigenous 150,000 (of whom 1,000 are French)

Religion: Muslim 50%, Christian 25%, indigenous beliefs (mostly animism) 25%

Official Language: French and Arabic

Principal Languages: French (official), Arabic (official), Sara and Sango (in south), more than 100 different languages and dialects

Major Exports: cotton, cattle, textiles

History: Arabs in the 7th-13th centuries, the area later became known as Bornu and in the 19th century was conquered by Sudan. A French protectorate from 1900, it was incorporated into French Equatorial Africa 1908, becoming a separate colony 1920 and then in 1946 a constituent territory of French Equatorial Africa.

Chad became an autonomous state within the French Community 1958, with François Tombalbaye as prime minister. Full independence was achieved 1960, and Tombalbaye became president. He soon faced disagreements between the Arabs of the north, who saw Libya as an ally, and the black African Christians of the south, who felt more sympathy for Nigeria. In the north the Chadian National Liberation Front (Frolinat) revolted against the government.

In 1975 Tombalbaye was killed in a coup led by former army Chief of Staff Félix Malloum, who became president of a supreme military council and appealed for national
unity. Frolinat continued its opposition, however, supported by Libya, which held a strip of land in the north, believed to contain uranium.

By 1978 Frolinat, led by General Goukouni Oueddi, had expanded its territory but was halted with French aid. Malloum tried to reach a settlement by making former Frolinat leader, Hissène Habré, prime minister, but disagreements developed between them. In 1979 fighting broke out again between government and Frolinat forces, and Malloum fled the country. Talks resulted in the formation of a provisional government (GUNT), with Goukouni holding the presidency with Libyan support. A proposed merger with Libya was rejected, and Libya withdrew most of its forces.

The Organization for African Unity (OAU) set up a peacekeeping force, but civil war broke out and by 1981 Hissène Habré's Armed Forces of the North (FAN) controlled half the country. Goukouni fled and set up a 'government in exile´. In 1983 a majority of OAU members agreed to recognize Habré's regime, but Goukouni, with Libyan support, fought on.

After Libyan bombing, Habré appealed to France for help. Three thousand troops were sent as instructors, with orders to retaliate if attacked. Following a Franco-African summit 1984, a cease-fire was agreed, with latitude 16ºN dividing the opposing forces. Libyan president Col Khaddhafi's proposal of a simultaneous withdrawal of French and Libyan troops was accepted. By Dec 1984 all French troops had left, but Libya's withdrawal was doubtful.

Habré dissolved the military arm of Frolinat 1984 and formed a new party, the National Union for Independence and Revolution (UNIR), but opposition to his regime grew. In 1987 Goukouni was reported to be under house arrest in Tripoli. Meanwhile Libya intensified its military operations in northern Chad, Habré's government retaliated, and France renewed (if reluctantly) its support.

It was announced March 1989 that France, Chad, and Libya had agreed to observe a cease- fire proposed by the OAU. A meeting July 1989 between Habré and Khaddhafi reflected the improvement in relations between Chad and Libya. Habré was endorsed as president Dec 1989 for a further seven-year term under a revised constitution, introduced July 1990.

In Dec 1990 the government fell to rebel opposition forces, Hissène Habré was reported killed, and the rebel leader Idriss Deby became president. Opposition groupings other than the ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement were permitted from Oct 1991.

Between Oct 1991 and Jan 1992, a number of anti-government coups were foiled, sometimes with the help of French troops. The new government moved nearer to multiparty politics when two opposition groups, the Alliance for Democracy and Progress (RDP) and the Union for Democracy and Progress (UPDT), were approved March 1992.

A transitional charter was adopted early 1993 pending the holding of multiparty elections, and a peace agreement was signed with the rebel Movement for Democracy and Development (MDD) 1995. In April 1996 a new constitution with a dual executive, based on the French model, was finally approved.