Colonial violence and resistance in Chad (1900-1960)

30 September, 2020
Debos Marielle


Post-colonial Chad is seen as a textbook case of factional conflicts and cycles of violence. Far from being a sign of national atavism or war culture, this violence is rooted in a long colonial and post-colonial history that has contributed to the emergence of a militarized state and a violent economy (Roitman, 2005; Issa, 2010). Another result of this history has been that armed violence has become a practical occupation for a section of the male population (Debos, 2016, 2013, 2011). While Chad’s period of colonization was relatively short - about 60 years, it was disruptive: the French ruled by force of arms, and the colonial order fuelled local tensions. Because the region was considered both difficult and unprofitable, the colony was left in the hands of colonial soldiers and administrators, who were often novices and adventurers. Being sent to this poor country with its harsh climate was often tantamount to demotion or punishment. Colonial domination remained fragmented and incomplete in some areas of northern Chad. As in neighbouring Niger, the “social engineering aspect of colonization was not a priority there” (Lefebvre, 2015: 22). In the South, however, the French exploited the colony and recruited people for forced labour and men as combatants.

The aim of this article is to examine the colonial period, reviewing existing works as well as what is known (or not) about the various outbreaks of mass violence. Chad is an under-studied country: it has been described as a “research field left to lie fallow” (Magrin, 2001: 18) and an “anthropological gap” (Behrends & Heiβ, 2007). This is truer still of the colonial period, which has rarely been studied. Though some episodes of violent repression have been studied, and remain in the collective memory (such as the “massacre des coupes-coupes” of 1917, or forced labour during construction of the Congo-Ocean railway), others have never been thoroughly researched. Some outbreaks of violence are mentioned in academic works and colonial reports - but if they are to be documented, much work remains to be done.

Military conquest (1900-1917)

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Muslim sultanates of Kanem-Borno, Baguirmi, Ouaddaï and Darfur (now in Sudan) raided the societies of the south in order to capture slaves. Wars between the sultanates were also both frequent and “endless” (Reyna, 1990). At the end of the 19th century, several powers clashed over the territories that now make up Chad. In 1899, the Sanusiyyah (a Sufi brotherhood founded in 1837) established itself in Goura, a palm grove located on the eastern edge of Tibesti, and set up zawiya (centres that were at once both warehouses for goods and arms and buildings for worship and religious education) at Ain Galaka (Borkou) and Bir Alali (Kanem) (Triaud, 1995). When the French invaded the North of Chad, the Sanusiyyah organised the resistance, becoming the conquerors’ first opponent. Although allied to the Ouaddaï sultanate, the Sanusis were unable to prevent the French from establishing themselves.

Sudanese adventurer and slave trader Rabah Fadlallah gathered solid, seasoned troops around him. By selling ivory and slaves, he managed to procure modern weapons. In 1893, he took control of Bornu and planned to conquer the Ouaddaï sultanate, which had inflicted an early defeat on him in 1887. In 1900, the French brought an end to his advance. The coloniser abolished slavery, although it persisted until the 1920s.

In the 1890s, the French signed the first treaties with local chiefs (such as the Casimir Maistre expedition and the chiefs of Laï and Kelo in 1892), and founded Fort-Archambault (now Sarh) in 1899. However, the real beginning of the military conquest of Chad was in 1900. On 22 April, French troops from Algiers (the Fourneau-Lamy expedition) and Niger (the Joalland-Meynier expedition) joined forces with those of Émile Gentil (which had come down the Chari River on the Léon Blot) to crush Rabah’s army at Kousseri. But neither Rabah’s death nor the signature of a decree on 5th September 1900 (creating the “Territoire Militaire des Pays et Protectorats du Tchad”) heralded the end of the military conquest, which continued for another 17 years and caused numerous deaths. The French relied on local auxiliaries and instrumentalised local divisions and tensions. Pillage was also an integral part of French strategy (Brachet & Scheele, 2019: 60-61).

As Jean-Louis Triaud has noted, the disruption to economic life brought about by the French conquest caused more deaths than the fighting. The effects of the military campaigns in the north of Chad were disastrous: livestock was decimated, and crops interrupted: “The numbers of animals looted and people killed were quoted in colonial reports with pride” (Brachet & Scheele, 2019: 59). Traditional trade circuits were gradually dismantled. Three consecutive years of drought, plus the arrival of locusts in 1915, added to the disaster: the populations of Ouaddaï and Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti suffered food shortages, famine and epidemics (Triaud, 1995: 778-779). Administrative reports mention 125 deaths from starvation at Abeche (Ouaddaï) in April 1914, 76 in May 1914, 109 in July 1914, and 24 in August 1914 (Triaud, 1995: 779). General Hilaire estimated that the population of Ouaddaï declined from 700,000 inhabitants in 1912 to 400,000 in 1914. The country was regarded as having been conquered between 1914 (Lanne, 1993: 424) and 1917 (Chapelle, 1980). However, resistance to colonisation never stopped.


1899:  Having set out from the loop of the Niger in January 1899, the column led by captains Voulet and Chanoine committed multiple atrocities on its way to the east of Niger: murder, rape, pillaging, and burning of villages. The two captains had already earned a reputation for brutality during the conquest of the Mossi kingdom (now in Burkina Faso). Colonel Klobb, who had been sent out (with only thirty African soldiers and two white officers) to take control of the military expedition, was killed by Voulet and Chanoine on 14 July 1899. The pair were then killed by their own soldiers (colonial troops). Lieutenants Joalland and Meynier took charge of the survivors. In Paris, the whole affair was soon hushed up: the colonial conquest had to go on and the army was fearful of a scandal involving the son of a general known for his violently anti-Dreyfusard opinions. (Mathieu, 1996; Klobb & Meynier, 2009; Taithe, 2009; Taithe, 2017).

July 17, 1899: Lieutenant Bretonnet’s detachment and their allies from the Baguirmi Kingdom were wiped out by the troops of the slaver and warlord Rabah at the rocks of Niellim. Rabah’s troops, consisting of 2,700 gunmen and 10,000 auxiliaries with spears and bows, suffered heavy losses. According to lieutenant Georges Joubert, “those who did not flee were massacred” (Joubert, 1937: 21). (Stapelton, 2016: 198 and 405; Hallam, 1977)

October 28, 1899: Battle between the troops of Émile Gentil and Rabah, on the bank of the River Charin near Kouno. Both armies lost half of their forces. (Chapelle, 1980: 218; Stapelton, 2016: 405; Hallam, 1977 )

April 22, 1900: Battle of Kousseri (now a town in north Cameroon, bordering on Chad). Rabah was beheaded, and his sons were also killed, as his troops re-joined the French. According to colonel Largeau, 19 French soldiers were killed, as well as a thousand of Rabah’s troops (Largeau, 2001 (1914)). Colonel Lamy (after whom Fort-Lamy was later named) also lost his life in the fighting. (Stapelton, 2016: 197).

Early 1900s: Some inhabitants of the village of Kon (near Fort-Archambault) refused to surrender to the French and were killed by colonial troops. (Azevedo, 1998: 83)

November 9, 1901: The French launched an initial attack on the Sanusi zawiya at Bir Alali in Kamen. French troops (comprising 200 tirailleurs plus 50 light cavalry) were repelled, and captain Millot, commander of the detachment, was killed. Two military sources give different casualty statistics: in one case, 15 killed or wounded (including 12 African tirailleurs) on the French side, and 90 killed or wounded on the Sanusi side; in the other, six killed and 34 wounded on the French side and 165 dead on the Sanusi side, which sustained heavy losses, especially among Touaregs from Niger who had joined the zawiya. The second set of statistics can be regarded as more reliable in this respect, although actual French losses have never been disclosed. (Triaud, 1987: 26; Triaud, 1995: 612-616)

January 20, 1902:  French troops seized the zawiya of Bir Alali following extremely violent clashes. There is some inconsistency in the casualty figures: French losses were underestimated. The official record shows one French lieutenant killed, as well as 12 killed and 15 wounded among African auxiliaries and tirailleurs. The true figure is much higher (Triaud, 1987: 27). In terms of losses on the Sanusi side, one notable figure records more than 200 deaths (Triaud, 1987: 27, and 1995: 620). Almost all warring parties were from beyond the region, with Awlad Sulayman and Zuaya Arabs and Touareg on the Sanusi side, and tirailleurs, Banda (former supporters of Rabah) and Yakoma (from Oubangui-Chari) on the French side. (Triaud, 1995: 620)

August 11, 1902: Fighting at Korofu, in the Kanem region (between Mao and Bir Alali). Allied with Awlad Sulayman groups, the French and their troops (composed of tirailleurs) lured the enemy Touareg forces into a trap. Touareg losses were estimated at a thousand – which amounts to half of the Touareg forces active in the area. The French recorded the death of three auxiliaries (Triaud, 1995: 623).

December 2-4, 1902: Fighting close to Bir Alali. Sanusi forces attempted to regain the zawiya. The casualty figures (which are reliable in this instance) were 230 Sanusi dead, with 17 killed and 38 wounded on the French side (Triaud, 1995: 629-632). During the night of 4-5 December, the Sanusi leader, Abu Aqila, died, along with more than 80 of his men. They had bound themselves together so as not to retreat during the attack.

May 16, 1903: Having launched a raid on the village of Peni, Fulbe slavers attacked Koumra with more than 4,000 men and 200 cavalry. The Sara fought back, killing 200 (Azevedo, 1982: 205). Though few slave raids have been documented, there is no doubt that the capture and trade of slaves did not end with the French incursion (Brown, 1983: 56-57). Other events of this type probably occurred in the early 20th century.

1905: Death of Mbang (chief) Mode, killed outside combat. End of the Sara resistance. (Chapelle, 1980: 220)

April, 1907: Captain Bordeaux (with 84 regular soldiers and 154 Goran or Arab auxiliaries) successively occupied: Oueita (April 8), the zawiya of Faya (April 17) and the zawiya of Ain Galakka (April 21), which he then evacuated. Total losses are unknown (Triaud, 1995: 676-677). The defenders of the zawiya were killed and their houses were plundered (Triaud, 1995, Vol.2 : 760-761).  

March 29 (or May 29) and June 16, 1907: On March 29 (Hugot, 1965: 48) or May 29 (Chapelle, 1980: 222), a violent battle was pitted between the armies of Ouaddaï and captain Jerusalemy’s tirailleurs, allied with Acyl’s auxiliaries at Dokotachi in the Ouaddaï, leaving 400 dead and 600 wounded (Hugot, 1965: 48). On June 16, a new battle broke out at Djoua (near Ati): the Ouaddaïens lost 2,000 men. This defeat of the Ouaddaïen armies allowed the French to enter the town of Abeche on June 2, 1909. On August 13, 1909, the French installed Acyl as Sultan – only to depose him in 1911 when they suspected him of supporting a rebellion in the Ouaddaï.

1909-1911: Following the defeat and retreat of Sultan Doudmourrah and the enthronement of Acyl (who was seen as the Trojan horse of the French), military chiefs still loyal to Doudmourrah and the population rose up. The crackdown was violent: in the course of 22 battles, several dozen villages were burned to the ground, with more than 1,320 people killed, according to official statistics. However, the true numbers were undoubtedly higher – 1,500 or 2,000 dead (Doutoum, 1997: 2). The uprising ended on August 12, and Sultan Doudmourrah surrendered on October 27. The occupation of Ouaddaï was thus achieved in 1911.

January 4, 1910: Five French officers as well as over a hundred tirailleurs and 80 Ouaddaïen auxiliaries were killed in an ambush laid by the army of the Sultan of Massalit (east of Ouaddaï) (Ferrandi, 1930: 26; Triaud, 1995: 686).

November 8 and 9, 1910: Fighting at Dorote (east of Ouaddaï) between the column led by lieutenant-colonel Moll (head of the Territory of Chad) and the forces of the Sultan of Massalit. The French took Drijele (capital of Massalit) on 8 November (G.B., 1910: 438). The following day, a surprise attack killed colonel Moll, five non-commissioned officers, and 28 colonial troops. Taj al-Din, Sultan of Massalit, was also killed in the fighting – along with 600 of his followers. (Ferrandi, 1930: 27; Triaud, 1995: 686)

1912: In retaliation for a 1908 attack on a column of colonial troops by the Day (Daï) in the region of Mandoul (Moyen-Chari), a “ferocious and ruthless repression was unleashed on the region” (Dingammadji, 2005: 54). These events, known as the “first war of Mandoul” or the “Mandoul revolt”, resulted in an unknown number of deaths.

Rainy season 2012 - May 1913: Siege of the village of Morgué in the Guéra. According to lieutenant Duault's report, those villagers who refused to yield to the settlers took refuge in “an impregnable position that could only be taken by surprise, or weakened by famine and thirst.” It took more than six months for the colonial troops to reach the platform on which the insurgents had found refuge. Chief Ratou was killed, along with an unknown number of villagers, and others surrendered. At the moment of the French attack, some 50 young people (male and female) threw themselves into the void. Duault’s colonial report comments: “...perhaps the fear of terrible reprisals made them prefer this kind of death. The fact remains that it was a noble gesture” (Duault, 1938). (Chapelle, 1980: 223).

May 23, 1913: 370 men (Sanusi and local allies) attacked the Meharist platoon of lieutenant Dufour at Oum El Adam, in Ennedi (east of Chad). The attack was repelled, leaving 71 dead on the Sanusi side (including several important Sanusi figures), as well as one dead and four wounded on the French side. This marked the resumption of hostilities between the French and the Sanusi. (Triaud, 1995: 745)

November 27, 1913: Violent battles in which French troops engaged against Sanusi forces who had taken refuge in the zawiya of Ain Galaka - a stronghold of the Sanusi. A French column of 766 men (33 Europeans, 407 colonial troops, and 326 diverse auxiliaries) attacked the fortified zawiya, with soldiers forcing entry through a breach made by the artillery. The town’s conquest, house by house, was slow and murderous (Ferrandi, 1930: 76; Triaud, 1995: 760). There were few losses among the French column: 16 dead (including three Frenchmen) and 25 wounded (including four Frenchmen). On the Sanusi side, casualties were difficult to assess. Jean-Louis Triaud estimates that only a third of around 200 fighters survived. Total losses are estimated at around 160 (Triaud, 1995: 761). Colonel Largeau, who led the French troops, wrote: “We had 37 men out of action, including six Europeans. The enemy left 90 corpses on the ground” (Largeau, 2001 (1914): 265). The Sanusi corpses were thrown into a communal grave, together with horses and livestock (Azevedo, 1998: 71; Chapelle, 1980: 223; Ferrandi, 1930: 67-94; Joubert, 1937: 43). In December 1913, the French conquered the Sanusi zawiya of Faya and Gouro, followed by Ounianga Kabir and Ounianga Saghir. Faya was transformed into a military post (Brachet & Scheele, 2019: 61).

1916: René-Joseph Bret recounted the defeat of Sultan Bakhit in detail in a biography of him (Bret, 1987: 179-226), but the conquest of Dar Sila remains neglected in the literature. According to Bernard Lanne, the fall of Sultan Bakhit was a “military walkover” for colonel Hilaire’s men, the machine-guns having rapidly halted the charge of the Dadjo cavalry (Lanne, 1993: 425). In Jean Chapelle and Mario Azevedo’s accounts, the story takes a more dramatic turn. According to both of them, the Sultan’s family (17 people) was wiped out in 1917, after his men attempted to ambush the French contingent (Azevedo, 1998: 72; Chapelle, 1980: 225). The Sultan, who fled after the defeat, was arrested and deported to Laï (October), where he died two months later (Bret, 1987; Malval, 1974: 99-100).

November 15, 1917: “massacre des coupes-coupes”: On October 23, 1917, sergeant Guyader was stabbed to death in Abeche (Ouaddaï). In the wake of this attack, major Gérard (Head of the District) suspected the dignitaries of Ouaddaï of hatching a plot against the French – which is contradicted by historical sources (Lanne, 1993: 426-429). On the morning of November 15, he ordered colonial troops to assassinate the aguid  (military chief) of Dokom and his men. This resulted in the killing of 56 people (Doutoum, 1997: 5) – as well as more than 20 faki. Their heads were laid out in two rows at the eastern entry of the district, where the monument to the dead of Abeche now stands (Doutoum, 1997: 5). The Sheikh of the Mahimid was also arrested and killed at Biltine, along with 40 of his kin and allies. All the houses of the Chig-el-Fakara neighbourhood were ransacked, with 20 influential political and religious figures being deported to other countries in French Equatorial Africa (Doutoum, 1997: 6). The “coupe-coupe massacre” events (“coupes-coupes” can be translated as “cut-cut” and refers to the weapon used), which resulted in a hundred deaths, according to Bernard Lanne (Lanne, 1993: 427), or in 150 deaths according to Mahamat Adoum Doutoum (Doutoum, 1997: 6), prompted the intellectuals of Ouaddaï to leave for either Sudan or Egypt. Villages emptied as people fled to Sudan. The teaching of Arabic was severely affected, and maintenance of a repressive policy increased hostility towards the colonialists. For this violence, major Gérard was merely obliged to take early retirement. It should be noted that a hundred Muslim scholars suffered the same fate in Agadez, in 1917. (Triaud, 1978: 263-271; Doutoum, 1983; Yacoub, 1988; Favre, 2008).

Chad in the grip of the French military (1918-1945)

The decree of March 17, 1920 made Chad a colony directly attached to the General Government of French Equatorial Africa (FEA). In most of the country, military administration was maintained until the 1930s – and the administration of the regions of the extreme north (Borkou, Ennedi and Tibesti - BET) only returned to civilian administration in 1964 - four years after independence. From the outset, the colony’s resources were limited to its own budget, derived from taxes and duties. Schooling remained minimal, especially in the Muslim regions, where the population massively refused to send its children to French schools (Arditi, 2003: 7-22; Doutoum, 1983; Khayar, 1976).

French policy provoked rebellions and resistance movements, which were violently repressed. However, the French implemented different policies across the country’s regions. The north is an arid region, difficult to farm; French interest in this area was limited, and the impact of colonisation there was much less significant than in the regions situated further south. Having tried to destroy or discredit the traditional chiefs, the French opted for indirect government. Christian proselytising was forbidden in this Islamized region.

The French did however seek to control and exploit the regions situated on the left bank of the River Chari – an area characterised in the 1950s as “useful Chad” (Arditi, 2003; Magrin 2001). Chadians in the south were taxed more highly than the herders of the north (Lemarchand, 1980: 469). The imposition of cotton crops from the 1930s onwards aroused further resistance as many traditional chiefs (who were the auxiliaries of the colonial administration) abused their newfound powers. In addition, the south had to endure forced labour: compulsory conscription for porterage and the construction of the Congo-Brazzaville Railway (better known by the name of Congo-Ocean). This region was also a major source of recruits for the colonial army (Azevedo, 1998: 75; Lemarchand, 1980: 454-455). Colonial troops were recruited from 1914 onwards, and by 1928, 7,000 Sara had already served in the French Army. Forced conscription intensified with the outbreak of the Second World War: of the 22,844 Africans enrolled between 1939 and 1945 in the Congo, Gabon, Oubangui-Chari and Chad, at least a quarter came from Chad (Azevedo, 1978).

Between 1940 and 1945, Chad did support the war effort, participating in the war on the side of the Free French. In August 1940, Félix Eboué (a black French Guianese who was the Governor of Chad) rallied to general de Gaulle. Between 1940 and 1943, when Brazzaville was the Free French capital, “Free France was African”: there were about 27,000 combatants from FEA and Cameroon in the Free French Forces (Jennings, 2015). The famous Leclerc Column that attacked Kufra in 1941 was made up not so much of French soldiers as of African riflemen and auxiliaries (Brachet & Scheele, 2019: 76) . The thousand colonial troops who died at the Battle of Bir Hakeim in June 1942 also included many combatants from Oubangui-Chari and Chad.


1918: : Soldiers assassinated several children at Doba (Logone) to “punish” their parents for making, and selling, local beer (Azevedo, 1998: 83).

1921-34: Construction of the Congo-Ocean Railroad. The railroad was intended to link the port of Pointe Noire to Brazzaville, in order to open up Chad and Oubangui (today’s Central African Republic), and work began in 1921. Between 1924 and 1934, more than 120,000 people were forcibly recruited in equatorial Africa. At least 20,000 of these came from Chad (Azevedo, 1981: 12), and 90% of those were Sara. André Gide, who travelled in FEA in 1926 and 1927, characterised the enterprise as a “horrifying consumer of human lives” (Gide, 2004 (1927): 222-226). The work carried out in the equatorial forest was extremely hard, and the mortality rate horrifying: between 15,000 and 30,000 Africans died. According to Mario Azevedo, nearly 10,000 Sara died, which was about half of those recruited from Moyen-Chari. Forced recruitment resulted in resistance: assassinations of village chiefs, forced migration among young workers, and mass violence. For example, in 1927, La Rougery (a Moyen-Chari Post Commander), noting that only the canton of Bediondo had achieved its quota of recruits for the construction of Congo-Ocean, used armed men (Chadians, but not Sara) to speed up recruitment. Some village chiefs and their guards (accomplices of the colonial administration) were killed by those resisting forced recruitment (Azevedo, 1981: 9-10).

1928-1929: “War of Bouna” or “War of Mandoul”. Though this war should be understood in the context of resistance to taxation (Azevedo, 1981: 81-83), many factors seem to underlie the terrible repression of Bouna, “capital” of the Day in Moyen-Chari. In 1928, the Day refused to pay taxes to Chief Moungar, who had been taking advantage of his role as a tax collector to enrich himself. Representatives of the colonial authorities found themselves facing a population ready for a fight – and some may have been killed. The murder of a woman by her husband then brought things to a head. The families of the spouses clashed, causing several deaths (Lanne, 1993: 439). A military operation was organised to put down the resulting rebellion. Men came from Fort-Lamy as well as from the districts of Fort-Archambault, Koumra and Moïssala. The repression was extremely violent. According to official figures, 481 Day were killed, as well as 21 of the attacking forces. However, the number of dead is probably higher: around 600, according to Arnaud Dingammadji (Dingammadji, 2005: 53-60). The historian Raphaël Nzabakomada-Yakoma estimates that in addition, more than 25,000 people were deported (Nzabakomada-Yakoma, 1986: 86-89). And according to Mario Azevedo, almost the entire population of the district perished (perhaps 20,000 people), and the sizeable village of Bouna was left in ashes. The colonial troops spared only the children, who were deported to Moïssala (Azevedo, 1998: 82). Because of the involvement of Chadian auxiliaries in the massacres, the Mandoul war remained taboo for many years.

Reform of the colonial system (1946-1959

The post-war period saw reform of the colonial system. Following the Brazzaville Conference (1944), and the founding of the French Union (1946), Chad became an overseas territory, fully integrated to the FEA federation. Although forced labour had been officially outlawed in 1946, it continued for several years in the south of Chad (Azevedo, 1998: 78); the Code de l’indigénat (a set of laws effectively conferring inferior legal status for natives of French colonies) was also abolished. Chadians voted for the first time in 1945 and political parties were authorised in 1946. The Reform Act (loi-cadre) of 1956 instituted the single college (the double college having over-represented the French), strengthened the powers of the Territorial Assembly, and created a Council of Government which headed the territorial administrations and was accountable to the Assembly.

The Parti Progressiste Tchadien (PPT) was dominated by Gabriel Lisette, a black Guadeloupe-born colonial administrator who had become a fierce opponent of the administration from which he had come. The PPT established itself in the cotton-growing region (the south of the country). As a section of the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (RDA), the PPT-RDA soon evolved into a hotbed of trade-union activity in the Cotonfran factories and of resistance to both the administration and the traditional chiefs. Meanwhile the other major party, the Union Démocratique Tchadienne (UDT), emerged as “the party of the administration.” We should also note the founding of the Mouvement Socialiste Africain (MSA) by Ahmed Koulamallah in 1952 (Lanne, 1998). Chad’s political life was driven by several parties, and there were fierce rivalries between leaders with various regional and religious backgrounds. Muslim elites became aware of the rising influence exercised by those from the south, and those who had been masters in an age of slavery and raids were fearful of an independence that would enable the southern elites to assert their dominance.

The 1958 referendum on the Constitution of the French Fifth Republic gave rise to the Republic of Chad. In 1959, François Tombalbaye - a former teacher from Moyen-Chari - seized power, taking advantage of Lisette being abroad. He led the country to independence, which was proclaimed on August 11, 1960.

Although the reform of the colonial system did represent a significant improvement for Chadians, it did not put an end to the violent repression by the colonial authorities. In addition, inter-communal tensions developed against a background of political rivalries. Clashes between supporters of the PPT and UDT broke out at Fort-Lamy in August 1947, and in Fort-Archambault that October; houses and shops were ransacked and set on fire. Other incidents developed into armed clashes (Lemarchand, 1980: 457-458).


1946: Several clashes occurred between communities from the north and communities from the south in Fort-Lamy, the capital. On 30 November, an incident in which a husband had killed his wife’s lover degenerated into a pitched battle. Sara and Hadjarai fought to settle scores. This resulted in 11 deaths, according to Bernard Lanne (Lanne, 1998: 94-96), and 13 according to René Lemarchand, who sourced his information from secret French reports (Lemarchand, 1980: 457-458).

1947:  In Oum Hadjer, Batha, a violent conflict erupted between Missirie Arabs and Rattatines from the Hadjer Djombo, killing more than 180 over the course of two days. According to the (French) district chief, the causes of the conflict were access to water supplies and problems of customary taxation (Hugot, 1997).

April 16, 1952: At Bebalem in the Logone, supporters of Gabriel Lisette challenged the results of local elections: the PPT had lost. When the peasants rose up, armed with knives, the colonial authorities decided to send in two companies of tirailleurs. Between 120 and 150 men entered Bebalem on April 16, 1952. They fired into the crowd, resulting in a number of deaths: 24 according to Bernard Lanne (Lanne, 1998: 197-218), 70 according to supporters of the canton chief, and 375 according to survivors met by Elie Ndoubayidi Dionmadji (Ndoubayidi Dionmadji, unpublished: 16). The leaders of the uprising were arrested and sentenced to prison.

1958: Clashes occurred between Arabs and Foulbe in the Chari-Baguirmi. The number of casualties is unknown. (Azevedo, 1998: 85)

The author would like to thank Jean-Louis Triaud for his comments on an earlier version of the article.


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Cite this item

Debos Marielle, Colonial violence and resistance in Chad (1900-1960), Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, [online], published on: 30 September, 2020, accessed 02/10/2020,, ISSN 1961-9898
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