The landlocked Central African country of Chad celebrated it’s 74th Independence Day Aug. 11. French and Arabic are Chad’s official languages, and it has more than 200 ethnic groups. Polygamy is still common in Chad, with 39 percent of women living in such marriages. Female genital mutilation is prohibited but widely practiced with 45 percent of Chadian women undergoing the procedure. Here are 10 things you didn’t about Chad’s independence day, its struggle for freedom from French colonization, and what happened after it gained independence.
Sources: Al Jazeera, Everyculture.com, Mapsoftheworld.com,
In 1913 France took control of the Kingdoms of the Kanem-Bornu, Baguirmi and Ouaddai, now part of modern-day Chad. At the time, these kingdoms were under the rule of Sudanese conqueror Rabih al-Zubayr.
Rabih al-Zubayr was not about to just give up his kingdoms, and a bloody series of battles with French troops ensued. Rabih died in the fighting and in the 1920s Chad officially became a French colony.
After World War II the political climate changed in France and being a seen as a conquering colonial power wasn’t quite so cool as it had been. France changed the status of Chad to an overseas French territory in 1946. Still the country remained very much under French rule.
In 1957 some autonomy was granted to Chad by France and in November 1958 its status changed to a self-governing territory within the French community. It wasn’t enough for those who wanted complete independence and under the leadership of rebel Francois Tombalbaye, Chad citizens continued to push France for full freedom.
On Aug. 11, 1960, Chad gained full independence and Francois Tombalbaye became the country’s first president. But because the country had never been united before the French drew its modern day boundaries in the early 1900s, when independence came Chad had no recognizable national identity.
Independence from France may have ended colonial rule, but freedom for the majority of residents was not an option. Francois Tombalbaye proved to be an autocratic leader, and almost immediately banned all political parties. Nearly 40 years of civil war followed Tombalbaye’s autocratic way of governing continued after his death with successive regimes.
Hissene Habre, Tombalbaye’s successor, came to power in 1982, and also ruled the country with an iron fist. In fact, under his watch some 20,000 people died and many others disappeared without a trace.
And even though France turned over power in Chad in 1960, it hasn’t been far from removed from Chadian politics. According to an Al Jazeera article the French military helped every government that came to power after independence stay in power by crushing any uprisings.
Chad adopted its current flag in 1959. The design is influenced by the French tricolors and the original post-independence flag used red, green and yellow. The green was later replaced by the current blue.
Independence Day is a public holiday in Chad. There are many festivities marking the date the country gained freedom from France. These include political assemblies, speeches, sporting events, parades and lots of music and dancing.
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