N'Djamena (pronounced /ɨndʒəˈmeɪnə/, Arabic نجامينا Nijāmīnā), population 993,492 (2009), is the capital city of Chad. It is also the largest city in the country. A port on the Chari River, near the confluence with the Logone River, it directly faces the Cameroonian town of Kousséri, to which the city is connected by a bridge. It is also a special statute region, divided in 10 arrondissements. It is a regional market for livestock, salt, dates, and grains. Meat, fish and cotton processing are the chief industries, and the city continues to serve as the centre of economic activity in Chad, despite the violent civil conflicts.
N'Djamena was founded as Fort-Lamy by French commander Émile Gentil on May 29, 1900, and named after Amédée-François Lamy, an army officer who had been killed in the Battle of Kousséri a few days earlier. During the Second World War, the French relied heavily upon the airport to move troops and supplies.
Its name was changed to N'Djamena (taken from the Arab name of a nearby village, Niǧāmīnā, meaning "place of rest") by the President François Tombalbaye on April 6, 1973, as part of his authenticité program of Africanization. It was occupied by Libya during the 1980-1 Libyian intervention as part of the Chadian–Libyan conflict, the and associated Transitional Government of National Unity.
Fort Lamy received its first bank branch only in 1950, when the Bank of West Africa (BAO) finally opened a branch there.
The city was partly destroyed during the Chadian Civil War, in 1979 and again in 1980. In these years almost all of the population fled the town, searching for refuge on the opposite bank of the Chari river, in Cameroon next to the city of Kousseri. The citizens were to start returning only in 1981-82 after the end of the clashes. Even then, facilities and services were subject, up to 1984, to strict rationing, and the schools were left closed.
The period of turmoil in the city was started by the abortive coup attempted by the northerner Prime Minister Hissène Habré against the southerner President General Félix Malloum: while Malloum and the national army loyal to him were defeated, the intervention in the battle of other northern factions rival to that of Habré complicated the situation. A temporary truce was reached in 1979 through international mediation, establishing the warlord Goukouni Oueddei as head of a government of national unity with his rival Habré as Defense Minister. The intense rivality between Goukouni and Habré caused the eruption of new clashes in the city in 1980; N'Djamena found itself divided in sectors controlled by the various warlords. The tug-of-war reached a conclusion after many monthes only when Goukouni asked for the intervention of the Libyans, whose tanks overwhelmed Habré's defenses in the capital.
Following differences between Goukouni and Qaddafi and international disapproval of Libyan intervention, the Libyan troops left the capital and Chad in 1981. This opened the door to Habré, who marched on N'Djamena occupying with little resistance the city in 1982 and placing himself as new President. He was eventually dislodged in a similar fashion in 1990 by a former general of his, Idriss Déby, the current head of state of Chad.
The city had only 9,976 inhabitants in 1937, but a decade later, in 1947, the population had almost doubled at 18,435. After independence in 1968 the population reached 126,483. In 1993 it surpassed half a million with 529,555. A good deal of this growth has been due to refugees fleeing into N'Djamena for security, although many people fled N'Djamena also, depending on the political situation.
On April 13, 2006, a rebel United Front for Democratic Change attack on the city was defeated. (See Battle of N'Djamena (2006))
The city was once again attacked on February 2, 2008, by UFDD and RFC rebels.