By Mohammed Elsharif.
Tripoli, 26 November:
The near-decade long conflict between Niger and Chad, which ran from 1978-1987, is one of the darker . . .[restrict]clouds over Libyan history. Horror stories abound from both sides, with many truths about that war still hidden from the public.
In 1978, Qaddafi launched an invasion into northern Chad with the intention of annexing the Aouzou strip, an area stretching across the north of the country which he claimed as part of Libya on the grounds of a treaty dating back to 1935.
Over the course of four separate incursions, during which time Chad enlisted the support of the French government, Libyan forces were finally reduced to humiliating defeat.
Amongst the most infamous episodes of the conflict was the forced recruitment of young high school students by the regime, many of whom were sent straight to the front with little or no training. Large numbers never came back.
Other horror stories include an order allegedly given by the regime to army officers to leave wounded soldiers in the desert, in order to minimise evidence of Libyan casualties.
Now, 25 years on, Libyan filmmaker Hassan Idris is putting together a documentary intended to help Libyans understand one of Qaddafi’s most infamous wars.
“The film is now in its final stages”, says Idris, who explains that the documentary is the culmination of a lifelong fascination with a conflict that has moved him for many years. “The finishing touches will be done in Egypt”, he says, adding that the documentary is due to be screened for the first time next summer at the Tunisian independent filmmakers festival.
Central to the film will be the exploits of General Khalifa Hifter, one of Qaddafi’s senior commanders at the time, who subsequently defected and fought for the revolutionaries during last year’s uprising that toppled the regime.
Hifter was captured in Chad towards the end of the war and subsequently defected to the National Front for the Salvation of Libya. It is believed he created his own anti-Qaddafi militia whilst in Chad, the so-called “Hifter force”, said to have received covert US backing, before he disappeared to the United States in the early 1990s. The general finally returned to Libya in 2011 to join the revolution.
Idris says that he has raised most of his own funds for the project, with some help coming from a Tunisian production company. Support from the Libyan Ministry of Culture, he says, has yet to be forthcoming. “I tried, but I only got promises”.
The film will graphically recount episodes from the war, revealing new insights which, Idris hopes, will contribute to a greater public understanding of a conflict many would still like to forget.