Ethnic groups in Chad

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The population of Chad has numerous ethnic groups. SIL Ethnologue reports more than 130 distinct languages spoken in Chad.[1]

History and demographics[edit]

The 14 million Chad people belong to some 200 ethnicities, who speak numerous languages.[2] The southern part of the country was historically the cross roads of the caravan routes below the Sahara, forming a link between West Africa and the Arabic region, as well as one between North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.[2] The slave trade between sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East passed through the slave markets of Chad and Western Sudan, slave-trading was a key component of Chad's historic economy,[3] and this brought people of various ethnicities into Chad.[4] The CIA Factbook estimates the largest ethnic groups in 2009 as:[5]

The peoples of Chad carry significant ancestry from Eastern, Central, Western, and Northern Africa.[6]

  • Sara (Ngambaye/Sara/Madjingaye/Mbaye) – 25.9%
  • Arab – 8.6%
  • Kanembu/Bornu/Buduma – 5.3%
  • Masalit people (Wadai/Maba/Masalit/Mimi) – 7%
  • Gorane – 3.8%
  • Masa, Musseye and Musgum – 4.7%
  • Naba– 7.6%
  • Bidiyo/Migaama/Kenga/Dangleat – 3.6%
  • Marba/Lele/Mesme – 2.9%
  • Dadjo/Kibet/Muro – 2.5%
  • Mundang – 2.5%
  • Gabri/Kabalaye/Nanchere/Somrai – 2.4%
  • Zaghawa (Zaghawa/Bideyat/Kobe) – 2.3%
  • Fulani/Fulbe/Bodore – 2%
  • Tupuri (Tupuri/Kera) – 2%
  • Tama (Tama/Assongori/Mararit) – 1.6%
  • Baguirmi/Barma – 1.3%
  • Karo/Zime/Peve – 1.3%
  • Mesmedje/Massalat/Kadjakse – 1%
  • Other Chadian ethnicities – 2.5%
  • Sudanese refugees in Chad – 2.0%
  • Chadians of foreign ethnicity descent – 0.6%
  • Other non-Chadian foreign nationals 0.5%

Other little-known ethnic groups believed to be living in Chad include the Kujarke people.[7]

The population can be broadly divided between those in the east, north and west who follow Islam, and the peoples of the south, by which is meant the five southernmost prefectures, who are mostly Christian or animist.

Muslim groups[edit]

Islamization began as early as the 8th century and was mostly complete by the 11th, when Islam became the official religion of the Kanem-Bornu Empire. The Arab invaders established an economy of slave trade across the Sudan region, and in Chad there was a tradition of slave raids (ghazw) under the Ouaddai and Baguirmi which persisted well into the 20th century.

The Arabs of Chad form a relatively homogeneous group, localized in the regions of Chari Baguirmi and Ouaddai, but mostly seminomadic. Other Muslim groups include the Toubou, Hadjerai, Fulbe/Fulani, Kotoko, Kanembou, Baguirmi, Boulala, Zaghawa, and Maba. Some indigenous groups, such as the Salamat and the Taundjor, were largely Arabized by intermarriage over the years.

Non-Muslim groups[edit]

Among the non-Muslim indigenous peoples, the most important (and the largest single group in Chad) are the Sara, about 30 percent of the population. They live in the valleys of the Chari and Logone rivers and are farmers of considerable skill. Others include the Ngambaye, Mbaye, Goulaye, Moundang, Moussei, and Massa.

Language and ethnic groups[edit]

Ethno-linguistically, the groups may be divided into:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition, online version
  2. ^ a b M. J. Azevedo (2005). The Roots of Violence: A History of War in Chad. Routledge. pp. 9–10. ISBN 978-1-135-30080-7.
  3. ^ Martha Kneib (2007). Chad. Marshall Cavendish. pp. 20–21. ISBN 978-0-7614-2327-0., Quote: "In the past, a key component of Chad's economy was the slave trade" (see photo's caption).
  4. ^ Christopher R. DeCorse (2001). West Africa During the Atlantic Slave Trade: Archaeological Perspectives. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 131–139. ISBN 978-0-7185-0247-8.
  5. ^ Chad: Society and People Archived November 24, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, CIA Factbook, US Government
  6. ^ Haber, Marc; Mezzavilla, Massimo; Bergström, Anders; Prado-Martinez, Javier; Hallast, Pille; Saif-Ali, Riyadh; Al-Habori, Molham; Dedoussis, George; Zeggini, Eleftheria; Blue-Smith, Jason; Wells, R. Spencer; Xue, Yali; Zalloua, Pierre A.; Tyler-Smith, Chris (2016-12-01). "Chad Genetic Diversity Reveals an African History Marked by Multiple Holocene Eurasian Migrations". The American Journal of Human Genetics. 99 (6): 1316–1324. doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2016.10.012. ISSN 0002-9297. PMC 5142112. PMID 27889059.
  7. ^ Blažek, Václav (2015). "On the position of Kujarke within Chadic". Folia Orientalia. 52. ISSN 0015-5675.