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Africa 2006,

Artifacts dating back to 5000 BC have been discovered at burial sites in the Sahel and Southern Sahara regions, inhabited by nomadic Negroid people, many of whom turned to the Muslim faith as early as the 10th Century. Towards the end of the 19th Century, converted Christians from the south sided with French troops against the north. In 1910 Chad was incorporated into French Equatorial Africa. In 1957 the Chadians formed their first elected government and a year later voted to become a self-governing member of the French Community. The territory became independent on 11 August 1960 with southerner Francois Tombalbaye as its first president. Two years later, in response to growing internal unrest, he banned the opposition. Muslim opponents formed the Chad Liberation Front (Frolinat) and took control of the north. French assistance to Tombalbaye was countered by Libyan financial and military aid to Frolinat. After the withdrawal of the French military in 1972, Libya laid claim to and annexed the Aozou Strip in northern Chad. Tombalbaye perished during a military coup in April 1975, setting off a series of destabilizing events that prompted incursions by Libyan, Nigerian and French troops. In 1990, former army chief Idriss Déby finally deposed the French-favored ruler, Hissene Habre, declared himself president and announced his commitment to a multiparty system. In 1994 the International Court of Justice ruled in Chad's favor in the Aozou dispute, forcing Libya to withdraw. Déby emerged as the winner in the presidential election of 1996 and was reelected in May 2001.