OPS Chad – Testimony Tressac



 

Massaguet, five hours of combat, last stop before the apotheosis of Atilla and his horde. It loved its chief, recognizing him as such, without idolized veneration, without “cult of personality.”

Magnetic focus of the FAN for the final struggle. They had come, carried by the impending victory, beggar kings of Faya-Largeau, Mao, Ati – which to finish surrendered without fighting – Abéché or Oum Hadjer. How many were we? Two thousand? Four thousand? The international press, who were seen only at the Chadian, the big hotel in D’Jamena, after the battle, would publish conflict numbers.

The royal entrance. Final assembly and bottleneck of patched-up vehicles. We rode the last fifty kilometers on the only paved section in the country. In the hot night turned muggy, the rainy season arrived. The orders were to arrange ourselves on the sides and wait. But an anonymous Toyota stole the opportunity for the glory to be the first in line and everyone left to attack, without order and in the most complete disorder. It would have been necessary to take the city in a stranglehold, to encircle it in order to stop the Goukounists, starting with Goukouni himself, to stop his escape… In place of that, we attacked in a single column. By the south since they were waiting for us in the north, but this ruse didn’t stop Goukouni from “exfiltrating” in catastrophe by the Chari, the river separating the city from neighboring Cameroon. Like Hissène had done a year and a half before him, like he would do again eight years later in face of the advance by Idriss Deby who would overtake from the same Sudanese room where we had left, at the foot of Darfour.

Hugues de Tressac - Prise de Massaguet - Tchad 1982

Hugues de Tressac
Prise de Massaguet
Tchad – 1982

The wolves get into N’Djamena. The fugitive Goukounists, split between fear and fascination from looting, would die for an air conditioner. The city, already bullet-riddled, honeycombed from the long civil war of 1980, resonated with a thousand single struggles. Five months day by day after having joined Hissène Habré in a dark room on the border of Sudan, I penetrated victoriously into the capital. Proud to have succeeded in my mission, not enthusiastic. The welcome had nothing in common with the liberation of Moroni (reference to the operation of May 13, 1978 in the Comores). N’Djamena had been liberated too many times, the blasé populace marked the points in their caves.

A few days later, Laurent arrived in the first regular airplane to land in the recovered airport. Then Carel and two others from the Comores, hurried by Denard. The Vieux debarked at his turn, he counted, the poor thing, on the Habré’s recognition, that he would provide him a budget in order to create a presidential guard, or to mount a force for the war that would start again in the north with the Libyans… At least that the president of the Chadian republic would pay for services rendered.

“It’s not earned, my colonel, he has become more and more touchy as the victory approached,” I said to warn him before his interview in the unreal villa where Hissène reigned, the same one as Goukouni, a warrior’s home, like the prefecture in Abéché, in front of which hundreds of solicitors lined up for days.

And, in effect, at his return:

“This man doesn’t give a shit about us!” cried Bob Denard, “A real clown, he takes our help but doesn’t want to pay anything after the victory, not even promises for in the future! And he still wants more help, always his C130! He says he has no cash, none. The Americans only promise corn… As for the French… Me, boys, I’ll continue to pay you for three months, if funds don’t start moving until then… afterwards, I can’t do any more. Either you return to the Comores or you stay here and play your own game, if you can get anything from the new head of state…”

“Sir… right now I have my boat waiting for me; I would like to stay here two months to organize the transmissions from N’Djamena, but after that I’m done. I’m not going to play the concierge here. For Moroni, you know where I stand. Nothing new there?”

“Nothing special. But I have nobody to replace you, it would be good if you came back at least for three months.”

I watched it arrive.

“Since my departure, things are fine without me in the Comoros. I’m not indispensible.”

“That’s fair. Do what you want. Give up if you want.” A few days later, I encountered Idriss Deby, I told him about our probably departure and why,

“After all the work you have done! And Jean-Ba who stays behind! Shit’s far from being in order. You are one of us, and we still have need of you. Since he’s been here, I don’t understand Hissène anymore.”

“You’ll see, power corrupts, and absolute power…”

“Absolutely.”

Everything needed reconstruction. Hissène should have gone into the streets, given orders and delegateded, like after the fall of Moroni. Instead he shut himself in and nothing could happen without him, we spun our wheels, powerless, disappointed. Soon combat would start again in the north. We hunted our bitterness in N’Djamena with Riot and Deby’s band… And I met a radiant Chadian woman, divorced, mother of a young boy. I remember that, refined, she burnt a mysterious parfume underneath her shaved sex before our lovemaking.

In August, Khalil d’Abzac accompanied me to the airport. I brought the lucky urn of the mercenary Jean-Baptiste Pouyet and his rolls of film.

Paris. Development. The smiling hero driving the Toyota of his exploits and of his death, a crashed armored Soviet Hind helicopter, charred corpses, unrecognizable, half ejected from the wreck, portraits of armed Goranes, posing proudly, all sorts of weaponry, miscellaneous African catalog, photographed for the Vieux’s information. I gave it all to him.

Eight days later, at the request of the Vieux, I returned to N’Djamena dressed in my outfit like a secret agent or arms dealer: suit, tie, black glasses, briefcase. My mission was to propose the C130 full of munitions, that seemed dear to Hissène’s heart, cash payment for a fee. Everything we could propose to him, by the Sud-Af. He received me in priority and at length, sympathetic, happy to see me again, going over our memories of the desert… But his response didn’t change: “No money, Mustafa, no money.”

Six months and a lot of merchandise later, the C130 finally landed, paid for by Hissène. I would then be far from these negotiations.

At my return to Paris the second time, I brought Donglong in order that he would be operated on at Val-de-Grâce. He had sustained a bad wound, the black eagle trailed on his crutches.

He had never left Chad, he was marvelously naïve, dumbfounded by everything, even the smallest intersection with traffic lights, the height of Montparnasse tower. We had a drink on a terrace on the Champs-Elysées. Some blacks passed, employees of the City of Paris, pushing their municipal brooms, uprooted and nonchalant in their green ecologic uniform.

“You have nothing to do here, Donglong. After your operation, return home quickly.”

I left him at the Chadian embassy.

“Ciao, proud stuntman.”

“Goodbye my friend Mustafa.”

End.

 


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A la mémoire du Colonel Denard
et des hommes qui ont servi sous ses ordres

A la mémoire du Colonel Denard
et des hommes qui ont servi sous ses ordres

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