The history of Chad. A brief overview.

The history of Chad is one of the longest recorded histories on earth.

Chad is a country in Africa situated in the central northern region and located in the Sahara zone, which means the climate is humid and hot.

Two important rivers, the Chari and the Logone run into freshwater Lake Chad.

Lying in the heart of Africa, Chad has no seaport and, worse yet, no railroads.

The northern half of the country is desert, so arid and hot that it's scarcely inhabited.

A few groups of Nomadic Arabs and Toubou brave the baking heat.

Over eight and a half million people live in Chad, mostly in the southwest portion, the Sara being the largest group of inhabitants followed by the Massa and the Moudang.

The land of Chad is a basin with deserts in the north, grassy plains in the central region, and tall grasslands and jungles in the southern parts.

The central area is most used for raising cattle, sheep and goats.

The long, long history of Chad

Some of the earliest known human life forms, dating back to prehistoric times, have been discovered in the region.

The history of Chad can be traced a long way back with the discovery there of a six million + year old humanoid skull, found in archeological digs inside Chad.

It is thought that African dialects in the southern part of the country originate from prehistoric languages from the area between Lake Chad and the Nile Valley.

Most are non-Muslim, having animistic beliefs and six percent are Roman Catholic. French and Arabic are the official languages, though few Chadians can read or write.

The first known civilized settlers in the area of Chad were called Sao known for their expertise in pottery.

Some time around 1000 B.C., the history of Chad shows that the area was divided into kingdoms with strong military defense/offense.

Later, the Nomads arrived and Islam became the dominant religion.

Slave hunters began combing the area, kidnapping inhabitants and selling them in the north.

France in the history of Chad

In the late 1800s, French explorers became interested in the area, and by 1913 France had gained control of it, naming it French Equatorial Africa.

France was interested in this land for the cultivation and exportation of cotton and the financial gain it ensued.

The French brought in the French language, hence it being one of the many Francophone nations in the world, and somewhere it is possible to learn French and practise your French.

In 1905 the region was connected with three other French provinces, Ubangi-Chari, Moyen-Congo and Gabon, Chad being the least favored and most ignored.

Very little attention was given to the natives of the land other than to be utilized as laborers for the French.

A governor-general ruled all four areas which were all headed under the name of French Equatorial Africa, but the government was sparsely manned and only slighty active, predominately patrolling caravan routes.

Post-War history of Chad

By 1946 the southern region of Chad began to prosper, France having taken consideration and allowing payments to plantation workers and allotting pensions to those who served in the French military.

France had made more and better roads and had constructed schools during its control, but civil unrest arose, the people complaining of unfair treatment.

In 1940, Felix Eboue, African/European, born in French Guiana, became governor of Chad.

Eboue wanted to train traditional African leaders for government administrations.

He was an influential man in France and did much to help the people in Chad.

In 1946 Chad was allowed limited powers, its citizens becoming French citizens.

The country was recognized as a French territory and delegates were given seats in parliaments.

However, France remained in strong control. By 1953, Chad had slowly gained more political freedom and in 1958 Chad separated from the other four territories and became a sovereign state under French rule.

In 1960, yet accepting French influence, Chad claimed independence.

Post independence history of Chad

For the next twenty years, among tremendous droughts, the country's economic status deteriorated.

Rebellions against the government led to civil wars, primarily between the northern Muslims and the south which turned to France for assistance.

Government leaders played political "musical chairs".

From 1979 to 1982, Chad experienced much violence and destruction.

Neighbor, Lybia, became involved in the power struggles and battles, aiding the north and expecting to make Chad a Libyan extension.

Northerners demanded that Arabic be spoken in broadcasts.

It is estimated that over 10,000 Chadians lost their lives through violence in this time in another period of turmoil in the history of Chad.

After several negotiations for peace had failed, a pact was agreed upon in 1979 which allowed troops from Congo, Guinea, and Benin (instead of the French) to maintain control.

This solution, however, was never trusted and Chadian militia still roamed the streets, causing mayhem.

In 1980 Goukouni Oueddei, leader of the southern half of the country, signed a treaty with Libya for military aid.

Libya soon had control of the capital city but France and the United States were successful in negotiating Libya out of Chad in 1981 and France promised to be supportive of Goukouni's leadership.

Hissene Habre, leader of the opposition, accepted a cease-fire proposal in 1982, but Goukouni refused and fled to Libya when Habre's troops stormed the capital city.

Goukouni returned with new Libyan forces and captured the northern parts of Chad as Habre called to France again for aid.

Eventually, Goukouni and Libya began to disagree and Goukouni teamed up with Habre to quell the Libyan battles which resulted in a truce.

From 1982 to 1990 Habre became an abusive dictator over the country. Records show that at least 300,000 people were tortured under his rule, and thousands were murdered during a bloody period in the history of Chad.

Habre's government was overthrown in 1990, (stripped of power but fleeing to Senegal with eleven million dollars) by a rebel group named the Patriotic Salvation Movement and in 1993 an interim government was formed.

The government admitted that over $150 million United States aid was mishandled and wasted.

A new constitution was adopted in 1996.

A record-breaking plague of locusts descended on Chad in 1997, adding to misery and suffering.

Chad is still experiencing political unrest and confusion, corruption suspected in parts of government.

The government of Chad is Republic with an elected president and prime minister.

N'Djamena, the capital of Chad, is sporting new progress, new businesses sprouting. The city is divided into the French business district and the cultural African section.

Throughout the history of Chad's last 100 years cotton has comprised 90 per cent of Chad's exports until oil was discovered in 1974.

A recently engineered pipeline is already bringing petroleum strongly into the export picture.

The country is still one of the most undeveloped countries in the entire world, where life expectancy is a mere forty years.

by Jan Michele
Want to learn more than the history of Chad. Check out the country's stats, facts & figures.

Chad Maps |
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History of Chad, a French Speaking Nation
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