This had the black Africans laughing so hard they turned blue, because the coast of Libya used to be the world's biggest WalMart in the trade in black Africans. Introduce a Libyan to a black man and instead of shaking hands, he'll pry the guy's mouth open, check out his teeth and say, "75 dinars, not a shekel more!"
The rest of Africa was happy to take the crazy Arab's money, but they didn't really want much to do with him. So Qadafi decided to get his own little imperialist game going. The only African country close enough and weak enough for Libya to mess with was Chad.
I love that name. A country named "Chad." Sounds like somebody who lived next door to the Brady Bunch. But if Chad actually lived next to the Bradys, Greg would be roasting over a slow fire and Marsha would be standing naked on an auction block, because Chad is one of the hungriest, craziest, most desperate places on the planet. Chad has every possible birth defect you could give a country if you wanted to make sure it was going to be screwed up forever. It's in Africa, for starters. It's landlocked. It's mostly desert, with one small fertile zone down in the south to make all the desert nomads jealous. It's got the classic Sahel division between Muslim north and Christian south. It had the French in charge for most of the 20th century (I said the French were good soldiers, I never said they were good colonizers). And maybe worst of all, it was stuck due south of Libya just when Qadafi started turning his greedy little eyes in that direction.
There were so many little wars going on in Chad in the late seventies that Qadafi could pick which ones he wanted to fund. And boy, was he fickle. He started out doing the obvious thing, backing Muslims in the north rebelling against Christians in the south.
You have to feel sorry for the poor black people in southern Chad. For hundreds of years, they were nothing but livestock on the hoof for the Muslim slave-traders who'd raid south and capture whole villages to sell. Then the French come along and show them the benefits of civilization by drafting them into the French army. Next thing you know black guys who'd never been out of the village end up in the trenches at the Marne. Not many of them ever came home from that European vacation.
Then finally, the southern blacks in Chad get the one piece of good luck in history: the French get out, and since the South had the only fertile land and the only real city, they get to be on top for once. No more slave traders carrying off your kids. No more recruiting officers humming the Marseillaise while they help your son trace his name on the enlistment papers. For once, they can look forward to minding their own business, dealing with ordinary misery like drought, locusts, and every kind of tropical disease known to man. Paradise!
Well, it didn't happen, thanks to good old Qadafi. With new money and arms, the Muslim leader, Habre, made his move and captured the capital, a mud-brick hellhole called N'Djamena.
This was strictly by the book according to the rules of African warfare, which state "the worse the hellhole, the harder they fight for it."
The rest of the civil war went by the book too. The black Christian southerners fled the city, headed south to stay with relatives, and started killing any Arabs or Muslims they could find. They found about 10,000, by all accounts, chopped them up and felt better about losing their city gig. Then-and once again, this is strictly old-school, by-the-book stuff -- the winners started eyeing up each other, looking for weakness, and not even bothering to thank the foreigners who'd bankrolled them. Once he'd taken the capital, Habre wouldn't even return Qadafi's calls. In his classic drama-queen style, Qadafi flounced around his tent, sulked, and did what he always does: gave money to his ex-best-friend's worst enemy. Habre's worst enemy happened to be a Southern-Chad Black Christian Colonel named Kaougoue. Qadafi funded him anyway. So much for Islamic unity.