views updated May 17 2018



1,284,000sq km (495,752sq mi)



capital (population):

Ndjamena (601,500)



ethnic groups:

Bagirmi, Kreish and Sara 31%, Sudanic Arab 26%, Teda 7%, Mbum 6%


French and Arabic (both official)


Islam 40%, Christianity 33%

traditional beliefs



CFA franc = 100 centimes

Landlocked republic in n central Africa. Chad is Africa's fifth largest country. It is more than twice as big as France (the former colonial power). Southern Chad is crossed by rivers that flow into Lake Chad, on the w border with Nigeria. The capital, Ndjamena, lies on the banks of the River Chari. Beyond a large depression (ne of Lake Chad) are the Tibesti Mountains, which rise steeply from the sands of the Sahara Desert. The mountains contain Chad's highest peak, Emi Koussi, at 3415m (11,204ft).

Climate and Vegetation

Central Chad has a hot tropical climate, with a marked dry season between November and April. The s is wetter, with an average yearly rainfall of c.1000mm (39in). The hot n desert has an average annual rainfall of less than 130mm (5in). The far s contains forests, while central Chad is a region of savanna, merging into the dry grasslands of the Sahel. Plants are rare in the n desert. Droughts are common in n central Chad. Long droughts, over-grazing, and felling for firewood have exposed the Sahel's soil and wind erosion is increasing desertification.

History and Politics

Chad straddles two, often conflicting worlds: the n, populated by nomadic or semi-nomadic Muslim peoples, such as Arabs and Tuaregs; and the dominant s, where a sedentary population practise Christianity or traditional religions, such as animism. Lake Chad was an important watering point for the trans-Saharan caravans. In 700 North African nomads founded the Kanem empire. In the 13th century the Islamic state of Bornu was established. In the late 19th century the region fell to Sudan.

The first major European explorations were by the French in 1890. The French defeated the Sudanese in 1900, and in 1908 Chad became the largest province of French Equatorial Africa. In 1920 it became a separate colony.

In 1958 Chad gained autonomous status within the French Community, and in 1960 it achieved full independence. Divisions between n and s rapidly surfaced. In 1965, President François Tombalbaye declared a one-party state and the n Muslims, led by the Chad National Liberation Front (Frolinat), rebelled. By 1973, with the aid of French troops, the government had quashed the revolt. Libya (supporters of Frolinat) occupied n Chad. In 1981, two leaders of Frolinat, Hissène Habré and Goukouni Oueddi, came to power. Splits soon emerged and Libya's bombing of Chad in 1983 led to the deployment of 3000 French troops. Libyan troops retreated, retaining only the uranium-rich Aozou Strip. A cease-fire took effect in 1987. In 1990, Habré was removed in a coup led by Idriss Déby. In 1994, the Aozou Strip was awarded to Chad. In 1996, a new democratic constitution was adopted and multiparty elections confirmed Déby as president. He was re-elected in 2001. In 2002 a peace treaty, signed by the government and the Movement for Democracy and Justice, ended three years of civil war.


Hit by drought and civil war, Chad is one of the world's poorest countries (2000 GDP per capita, US$1000). Agriculture dominates the economy, more than 80% of the workforce are engaged in farming, mainly at subsistence level. Groundnuts, millet, rice and sorghum are major crops in the wetter s. The most valuable crop is cotton, accounting for c.50% of Chad's exports.

Political map

Physical map


Aozou Strip

views updated May 14 2018


Disputed border land between Libya and Chad.

The Aozou Strip is disputed land along the common border between Libya and Chad some 310 miles (800 km) long and 40 miles (100 km) deep, encompassing at its northwestern end the Tibesti massif. The strip was ceded by France from French Equatorial Africa to Italian Libya under the MussoliniLaval Treaty in 1935. Although the treaty itself was ratified by both France and Italy, the instruments of ratification were never exchanged and, under the 1955 FrancoLibyan Treaty and the 1956 FrancoLibyan exchange of letters, the previous border, stemming from the 1899 AngloFrench Agreement over their respective spheres of influence in Africa, was generally regarded as being the appropriate international borderalthough not by Libya. In November 1972, Libya occupied the Aozou Strip and administered it until forced out of most of the region in March 1987. The dispute over the strip between Libya and Chad is now before the International Court of Justice at The Hague.


Joffe, E. G. H. "Frontiers in North Africa." In Boundaries and State Territory in the Middle East and North Africa, edited by Gerald H. Blake and Richard N. Schofield. The Cottons, Cambridgeshire, U.K.: Middle East and North African Studies Press, 1987.

George Joffe