Maba people are a minority ethnic group found primarily in the mountainous Ouaddaï region of eastern Chad, with some across its border with Sudan and Central African Republic. Their population is estimated to be about 300,000 in Chad. Other estimates place the total number of Maba people in north-Central Africa to be about 700,000.
The Maba today primarily adhere to Islam, following the Maliki Sunni denomination. They supported the Sultans of Abeche and the Sudanic kingdoms, who spoke their language. Little is certain about their history before the 17th century. They are noted as having helped expel the Christian Tunjur dynasty and installed an Islamic dynasty in their region in the early 17th-century. Their homelands lie in the path of caravan routes that connect the Sahel and West Africa with the Middle East. The Maba people are an Arabized African people, who descend from Ham in the Bible and Arab mixture. They are traditionally pastoral and farmers who are clan-oriented.
The Maba people have also been referred to as the Wadai, a derivative of Ouaddaï. They speak Maba, a Nilo-Saharan language, of the Maban branch. Locally this language is called Bura Mabang. The first ten numerals in Maba language, states Andrew Dalby, are "tek, bar, kungal, asal, tor, settal, mindri, rya, adoi, atuk", and this is very distant from other Nilo-Saharan languages. Although a small ethnic group, their Maba language was the state language of the Islamic state of Wadai, and continued to be an important language when the Islamic Bornu Empire conquered these lands. Many Maba people also speak Arabic, as their traditional trade language.
The Maba people rebelled against the tribute demands of the Bornu Empire, and became sovereign people. They then led raids to southern regions for plunder and slaves from non-Muslim African ethnic groups. The African slaves of the Maba people were absorbed in the Maba tribal culture, and often they converted to escape slavery. In the 19th century, a powerful Maba Sultanate on slave trading caravan route emerged under rulers such as Muhammad al-Sharif and Doud Murra. The Maba Sultanate was abolished by the French in 1912, and the Maba people's region thereafter annexed into the Ubangi-Shari colony. The Mabas participated in the efforts to end the colonial rule and then in the civil wars in Chad.
The Maba people are subdivided into many sub-clans, each controlling certain grazing lands and sources of water. Among the various sub-clans, the largest are the Marfa, Djene and Mandaba.
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