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  • Writer's pictureThe Gender Security Project

CRSV: Chadian Civil Wars

This case note is a part of our series of case notes that document the occurrence of sexual violence in violent conflict. The case note contains explicit mentions of different forms of sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.

Background of the Conflict

Chad has faced several civil wars after it gained independence in 1966, in 1966-71, 1980-84, 1989-90, 1998-2000, and 2005-06 (Schofield 2008). The conflict in Chad has its roots in a complex mix of factors that include religion, ethnic tensions, political challenges, authoritarian, and poverty. Chad has been “fighting a losing battle against three mutually reinforcing and destructive factors,” namely “difficult living conditions and landscape, limited state capacity, and ethnic fragmentation,” (Myers 2016) which culminated in these major civil wars.

Most civil wars have taken place between warring factions and the Chadian government. After it attained independence, it was clear that Chad’s government was not able to wield power over the region (Canada & the World. n.d.). The country was also divided along ethnic lines: an Arab-majority North and a Christian-majority South, with several hundreds of small ethnic groups. Leadership in Chad has been shifting back and forth between the Christian and Arab sides – where one side being in power automatically evoked a revolutionary war on the other’s part to counter the situation.

By 1996, the civil war stabilized, and Idriss Deby, a northerner, became the president in Chad’s first democratic elections. In 1998, an armed rebellion began in the north, led by Deby’s former defence chief, Youssouf Togoimi. In 2003, the conflict in Darfur leaked into Chad – and refugees from Darfur were joined by Chadian civilians who tried to escape rebel violence. By this time, Chadian rebels received support from the Sudanese government. The war ended with an agreement for the restoration of harmony between Chad and Sudan (Human Rights Watch 2011).

Prevalence of Sexual Violence

Various forms of sexual violence were perpetrated over the course of Chad’s civil wars. These included child marriage, rape, and sexual assault. The highly militarized society amplified the pre-existing patriarchal norms (Debos 2011) that saw women as either non-essential or as objects to be protected or harmed by the military forces (Karlsrud and Solhjell 2012). In June 2000, the national army invaded the Southern region and raped several women and girls (US Department of State 2000). Women were targeted by the rebel and armed forces in equal measure (Amnesty International 2011). In 2004, Amnesty international recorded 250 rape cases after visiting IDP and refugee camps (Farr 2009). The exact number, however, remains unknown because of the lack of reportage owing to high stigmatization and lack of a reporting mechanism (Amnesty International 2011).

Basis of the use of Sexual Violence

Women were targeted with sexual violence by both the rebel and armed forces. On both sides, sexual violence was used as a means to suppress the population by targeting its women. It was also used as a means to humiliate women by paving the way for a lifetime of stigmatization and social isolation. The breakdown in the security sector system and judiciary meant that the legal system did not uphold the age of marriage (16 years) for women – which led to men taking multiple wives without any legal sanction (Casimiro et. all, 2008). Rape and sexual violence were also associated with combatant groups that lack an effective chain of command or disciplinary mechanisms.


  • Amnesty International “Chad Briefing to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women." October 2011.

  • Arieff, Alexis. Sexual violence in African conflicts. Vol. 25. US: Congressional Research Service, 2009.

  • Canada & the World. "Chad". Canada & the World Backgrounder. 11892102. 76 (1): 102–3.

  • Casimiro, Isabel, Aili Mari Tripp, Joy Kwesiga, and Alice Mungwa. African Women's Movements: Changing Political Landscapes. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008.

  • Debos, Marielle. "Living by the gun in Chad: armed violence as a practical occupation." The Journal of Modern African Studies 49.03 (2011): 409-428.

  • Farr, Kathryn. "Extreme War Rape in Today's Civil-War-Torn States: A Contextual and Comparative Analysis." Gender Issues 26.1 (2009): 1.

  • Human Rights Watch. 2011. "World Report 2011: Chad". Human Rights Watch. 24 January 2011.

  • Karlsrud, John, and Randi Solhjell. "Gender-Sensitive Protection and the Responsibility to Prevent: Lessons from Chad." Global Responsibility to Protect 4.2 (2012): 223-40.

  • Myers, Emily. "War and Women Wielding Power: Lessons from Burundi, Liberia, and Chad." (2016).

  • Schofield, Hugh (4 February 2008). "France faces tough choices over Chad". BBC News.

  • United States Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Chad, 2000.

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