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Formal Name
Republic of Chad

Local Name

Local Formal Name
République du Tchad

Location: Africa

Status: UN Country

Capital City: N'djamena (Ndjamena)

Main Cities: Moundou

Population: 6,183,000    Area []: 1,284,000

Currency: 1 CFA franc = 100 centimes (no longer used)

Languages: French, Arabic, Sudanic tribal

Religions: Animist, Muslim, Christian


Chad, Republic, republic in north central Africa. Chad is bounded on the north by Libya; on the east by Sudan; on the south by the Central African Republic; and on the west by Cameroon, Nigeria, and Niger. The landlocked country has an area of 1,284,000 sq km (495,753 sq mi). N'Djamena is the capital and largest city.

Land and Resources

Chad's terrain is dominated by the low-lying Lake Chad Basin (elevation about 250 m/820 ft), which rises gradually to mountains and plateaus on the north, east, and south. In the east heights of more than 910 m (more than 3000 ft) are attained in the Ennedi and Wadai plateaus. The greatest elevations are reached in the Tibesti Massif in the north, with a maximum height of 3415 m (11,204 ft) at Emi Koussi. The northern half of the republic lies in the Sahara. The only important rivers, the Logone and Chari (Shari), are located in the southwest and flow into Lake Chad. The lake doubles in size during the rainy season.


The northern portion of Chad is hot and arid. The central section has three seasons: hot from March to July; rainy from July to October, with rainfall averaging from about 250 to 750 mm (about 10 to 30 in); and cool during the remaining months. The southern section has similar seasons but receives about 1145 mm (about 45 in) of rain in the same four months.

Natural Resources

Although only about 2 percent of Chad's land is arable, the agricultural resources are of primary importance. Indigenous crops, as well as those recently introduced, yield important food products. Extensive fish resources in Lake Chad and the Chari River are also of vital importance. Natron (sodium carbonate) is the only mineral extracted in significant quantities. Deposits of petroleum near Lake Chad and uranium in the north have been discovered but remain unexploited. Other untapped mineral resources include tungsten, tin, bauxite, gold, iron ore, and titanium.


The population of Chad consists of numerous ethnic groups. Arab peoples are important in the north and east, and black African peoples dominate in the south.

Population Characteristics

The population may be divided into two main groups: a Muslim population in the northern and eastern portions of the country and the non-Muslims of black African origin in the southern regions. The Muslim population includes both nomadic Arabs and sedentary non-Arab peoples. The largest group among the non-Muslims is the Sara tribe. Chad culture draws most heavily on the ethnic heritage of its black peoples, but Islamic and French influences are much in evidence. The population of Chad (1995 estimate) is about 6,361,000. The overall population density is about 5 persons per sq km (about 13 per sq mi). About two-thirds of the people live in rural areas. Most of the population is concentrated in the south.

Political Divisions and Principal Cities

Chad is divided into 14 prefectures. N'Djamena (formerly Fort-Lamy), with an officially estimated population in 1992 of 687,800, is the capital and largest city. Other cities, with estimated 1992 populations, are Sarh, formerly Fort-Archambault (129,600), Moundou (117,500), and Abéché (95,800).

Language and Religion

The official languages of Chad are French and Arabic, but numerous African languages are spoken. Chadic languages, especially Hausa, are spoken in the Lake Chad area. Muslims make up about 40 percent of the population. About 33 percent of the people are Christians. Most of the remaining population adheres to traditional religions.


In the early 1990s Chad had a literacy rate of about 30 percent. Yearly school attendance in the early 1990s was estimated at 591,417 primary and 72,641 secondary students. During this period there were about 2500 schools. In the late 1980s nearly 3000 people attended institutions of higher education, including the country's one university, the University of Chad (1971).


The economy of Chad is based largely on subsistence agriculture; some 73 percent of the labor force is engaged in farming and animal husbandry. In the early 1990s national budget figures showed revenues of about $115 million and expenditures of some $412 million.

The currency is the CFA franc, consisting of 100 centimes (584.53 CFA francs equal U.S.$1; 1994). An exchange rate of 50 CFA francs equal to 1 French franc was in force until 1994, when the CFA franc was devalued by 50 percent. In the early 1990s yearly imports exceeded $294 million, and exports were about $194 million.


Cotton and livestock are the most important exports of Chad, accounting for about 70 percent of earnings. Production in the early 1990s was about 70,000 metric tons of lint cotton. The rice crop is becoming increasingly important. Millet, potatoes, squash, beans, peanuts, and other vegetables are grown for local consumption. Livestock raising is important in the central region and in areas of the north. In the early 1990s the country's livestock population included about 4.5 million head of cattle, 3 million sheep, 3 million goats, 570,000 camels, and 185,000 horses. About one-third of the land is used for grazing.


The processing of cotton and cottonseed oil and the manufacturing of peanut oil are major industries in Chad. Modern meat-packing plants have been established in N'Djamena and Sarh. The fishing industry furnishes fresh, dried, and smoked fish for domestic use and export. Natron is the principal exploited mineral. Forestry is important in the south. The yearly output of electricity in the early 1990s was about 70 million kilowatt-hours.

Transportation and Communications

Of a road network of some 31,322 km (about 19,463 mi), less than 24 percent are all-weather. Chad has no railroads. The main airport at N'Djamena can accommodate large jets, and about 55 other airports serve smaller craft. The radio station in N'Djamena is government-owned and broadcasts programs in French, Arabic, and eight African languages. In the early 1990s about 1.4 million radios and 8000 telephones were in use.


Political instability plagued Chad throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In 1989 a new constitution providing for an elected president and parliament came into effect. This constitution was suspended, and parliament dissolved, after an insurgent group, the Patriotic Salvation Movement, took power in December 1990. Chad was then ruled by an interim government consisting of a 33-member state council headed by a president. In 1993 the Higher Transitional Council instituted a timetable for establishing an electoral code in preparation for a constitutional referendum and presidential and legislative elections. The referendum is scheduled to take place at the end of 1995, and the elections are planned for early 1996. In the early 1990s Chad maintained an army of 25,000 members and a small air force. The country has signed defense agreements with France, which gives Chad's army technical and other aid.


Cave paintings indicate that Chad was a fertile and populous country in ancient times. By the 9th century AD, the kingdom of Kanem (see Kanem-Bornu Empire) was established in what is now western Chad, with its capital at Njimi, near Mao. Its rulers adopted Islam in the 11th century. Kanem was subjected to neighboring Bornu in the 16th century, and in the succeeding period the chief powers were the sultanates of Baguirmi and Wadai in the south. The export of slaves to North Africa was an important sector of the economy of these states.

In the late 19th century the area was subdued by the Sudanese conqueror Rabah Zubayr, and it was taken over by the French on his death. In 1910 Chad became a part of the French Equatorial Federation, with headquarters in Brazzaville, Congo, about 2400 km (about 1500 mi) away. The change to colonial status resulted in little interference in the way of life of the indigenous peoples and little development beyond the establishment of cotton plantations in the south.

In 1960 Chad, like other French colonies in Africa, became independent. Desperately poor, the governments of President François Tombalbaye, a southerner, were supported by French aid. The dissatisfaction of northern Muslims first surfaced in 1963 and forced some changes in the Bantu-dominated one-party government. This, however, was not enough to satisfy them, and in 1969 Muslim guerrillas began to operate in the north. With support from neighboring Libya, their attacks escalated during the following years. Despite military aid from France, Tombalbaye's situation was made totally untenable by the drought of the early 1970s. He was assassinated in 1975.

Tombalbaye's successor, General Félix Malloum, was not able to end the civil strife. By 1979 the war had engulfed the south, Malloum was overthrown, and a northerner, Goukouni Oueddei, emerged as president. In 1980 Libya intervened to support Oueddei against rebels under former defense minister Hissène Habré, who was backed by Sudan and Egypt. After the Libyan forces withdrew late in 1981 at Oueddei's request, Habré renewed his offensive, and his troops captured N'Djamena in June 1982. In 1983 the ousted Oueddei formed a rival government in the north. In the continued civil strife, Oueddei had the backing of Libyan troops, while France sent troops and supplies to keep Habré in power. By the end of 1988, Libyan forces had been driven out of Chad, and the two nations had normalized diplomatic relations. In December 1990, however, Habré was ousted by an insurgent group, the Patriotic Salvation Movement, which had Libyan support. The rebel leader, General Idriss Deby, then assumed the presidency. In January 1992 the Deby government claimed to have crushed a rebellion by forces loyal to Habré, and France sent more troops as a safeguard. Throughout the early 1990s, Chad continued to suffer from widespread political and ethnic unrest, including the massacre of 82 civilians by President Deby's private guard in August 1993.

In 1994 the government reached a cease-fire agreement with the rebel group Comité de Sursaut National pour la Paix et la Démocracie (CSNPD); the CSNPD committed to withdraw troops from southern Chad, and the government agreed to appoint members of the CSNPD to the national army. In addition, a 20-year territorial dispute with Libya came to an end when the International Court of Justice ruled that Chad had sovereignty over the Aozou Strip, a stretch of land along the Libyan border.