In 1975 Libya occupied and subsequently annexed the Aouzou Strip
a 70,000-square-kilometer area of northern Chad adjacent to the
southern Libyan border. Qadhafi's move was motivated by personal
and territorial ambitions, tribal and ethnic affinities between
the people of northern Chad and those of southern Libya, and,
most important, the presence in the area of uranium deposits needed
for atomic energy development.
Libyan claims to the area were based on a 1935 border dispute
and settlement between France (which then controlled Chad) and
Italy (which then controlled Libya). The French parliament never
ratified the settlement, however, and both France and Chad recognized
the boundary that was proclaimed upon Chadian independence.
Qadhafi became entangled in factional rivalries among the various
Chadian groups. In the late 1970s, it appeared as though Libyan
ambitions were being achieved. Goukouni Oueddei, a member of the
Tebu Muslim tribe in northern Chad, was installed as president
in April 1979 with Libyan support. In January 1981, the two countries
announced their intention to unite.
Goukouni's overthrow in 1983 led to further Libyan involvement
in Chad. From his Libyan exile, Goukouni reorganized his forces
and occupied the strategic northern town of Faya Largeau. As the
conflict drew in other players, particularly France, Chad was
in effect a partitioned country. With French help, the N'Djamena
government of Hissein Habré controlled the southern part of Chad.
The area north of the sixteenth parallel, however, was controlled
by Goukouni and his Libyan backers. According to the terms of
a September 1984 treaty, France withdrew its forces from Chad.
Libya, however, decided to keep its troops there, and skirmishes
and fighting continued intermittently.
The stalemate in Chad ended in early 1987 when the Habré forces
inflicted a series of military defeats on the Libyans and their
Chadian allies, at Fada, Ouadi Doum, and Faya Largeau (see Invasion
of Chad , ch. 5). The press engaged in considerable speculation
on the repercussions of these humiliations on Qadhafi and his
regime. It was reported that Goukouni was being kept forcibly
in Tripoli, and that, as a result of some disagreements with the
Libyan leader, he was wounded by a Libyan soldier. Qadhafi's position
had clearly been weakened by these developments, and the long-term
fighting in Chad aroused discontent in the Libyan army as well.
Data as of 1987