Multiculturalism: Ethnic, Linguistic, and Religious in Chad

Multiculturalism: Ethnic, Linguistic, and Religious in Chad

Dr Adam Yusuf

Chad is a landlocked country, located in a vast area of land up to 1284,000 km2. And it stretches with 1700 km from north to south, and 1000 km from east to west, far away from the sea coast.
Astronomically, it is located between latitude 8 ° and 32.5 ° north over a distance of 1760 km from south to north, and between longitudes 14 and 24 east over a distance of 1200 km and geographically, it is located in central Africa to the north a little, surrounded by six countries: from the east: Sudan, form the north by Libya, on the west side: Niger, Nigeria, and by Cameroon from the southwest, and by Central Africa from the south.
Chad is the largest landlocked country in Africa, and the third-largest continental country in the world after the Republic of Kazakhstan and Mongolia, and ranks twentieth among the countries of the world in terms of total area ranking.

Chad as a name for the country originated from the well-known lake called “Lake Chad”, the largest freshwater lake in central Africa, and the lake borders four countries: Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad. This lake is fed by the Shari and Lukon rivers, and this lake was historically known as Lake Kawar.
The first diligence to draw the name of Chad from the French drawing is (Chad), which is a common drawing and faces the problem of drawing the T at the beginning of the name, because its presence is a syntax of TCH for phonetic necessity, which is a consonant in this composition, and it is known that in the Arabic language, it is forbidden to start with the consonant, and in French is also not pronounced, this is in addition to the fact that the local people in Chad, just like the French, do not pronounce this Ta, which is written at the beginning of the common drawing of the word, and they denounce hearing it when it is spoken by those who depend on the drawing in circulation, but its presence in Western languages requires its pronunciation and this is what It is contrary to both French and Arabic pronunciation and local pronunciation.

The second opinion: The drawing of the name (Ichhad), which is a common drawing in maps and some publications in North Africa (Libya), is a solution to the problem of dwelling in the case of Ta in the previous common drawing.
The third opinion: The name “Chad” is drawn, and it is a form close to the Chadian pronunciation that cannot begin with the consonant Ta in the common drawing, so enter the definite article before the word, which means phonologically, bypassing the problem of moving the T, and also the problem of starting with a consonant. It is more likely that the word (Chad) may be due to the definite article that the French used to pronounce “le Tchad”. And that the name was given to the lake before colonialism, and then it became the name of the country, and that the names of the kingdoms in the region were different (the kingdom of Kanem, the Sultanate of Dai, and Baqarmi).
Fourth opinion: The name “Shad” is drawn like this without a T. It is a distortion of the Arabic word “Shat”. Professor Al-Baili mentioned this drawing by saying: Lake Chad and the word is a distortion of the Arabic word Shat. And it has been reported in the scientific references that Lake Chad took its name from the name of a type of fish known as (Chad) rich in nutrients that is abundant in the lake, and therefore we find the name Chad written in some sources and references CHAD without T at the beginning in line with this source, in this name.  In addition to the presence of the letter Ta in French, which is for phonetic necessity only, Tchad is written and not pronounced while reading and the writing of the Ta is dropped completely in the English language (Chad).

The beginning of contemporary Chad

The invasion of Chad began in the year 1897 AD when Emile Gentil signed a protection treaty with Gawrang II, Sultan al-Baqarmi, in February 1900 AD. The three French colonies converged here: (Golan-Magnieh, Gentil, and Fur-Lami) around Lake Chad.
And under the leadership of (Fur Lami) on April 22, 1900 AD, he faced with his forces Rabah Fadlallah, who was killed together with (Lami) in the Battle of Kosri, and thus the city of Fur Lami was established, which later became N’Djamena.
The conquest of southern Chad was relatively easy, as the French forces in the north faced strong opposition and in the east the group of Sultan al-Wadai Dud Marra, who remained in power until 1906 AD.

Chad was a military territory, then part of the colonies of Ubangi-Shari at the emergence of French Equatorial Africa, and it became a full colony in 1920 AD, 1922 AD, and 1923 AD.
The colonial power organized its administrations on basic foundations, including preserving the sultanates, establishing new leaderships with subdivisions, and establishing the first infrastructure (roads, cities) by resorting extensively to forced labor in the south of the country. And a tax during the two world wars, and recruitment for these administrative pressures.

In August 1940, Felix Eboue, the ruler of Chad at that time, joined the independent France, which led to the mobilization of what remained of French Equatorial Africa. From the Chadian lands, the independent French Forces fought the Italian forces in Libya.

At the beginning of the year 1944 AD, at the Brazzaville Conference, General De Gaulle promised to support the African colonies to become able to self-administer.
In the year 1956 AD, the law called the Defar Act restored the authority of regional labor administration to a council of government elected by universal suffrage from 1958 to 1959.
The colony of Chad has witnessed four governments.
On August 11, 1960 AD, Chad gained its independence.

Ethnic and racial diversity

Chad has been known for its many ethnicities and cultures since ancient times, as Lake Chad was a meeting place for multiple tribes and ethnic groups.
By race, we mean a group of human beings that have common denominators that link them to belonging to a group and are characterized by a single identity, language and culture in terms of clothing, food, nature of life, and political, social and economic systems.

In Chad, we find many ethnicities whose origins go back to Zinj, Berbers and Arabs, and they have become a supplementary issue to the local cultural component in language and literature and legal systems, customs, transactions, richness, literature … etc.
The total number of tribes in Chad exceeds a hundred tribes. There are the Tebu and Quraan tribes (the Enkaza, the Norma, the Qaida, the Kamja … etc.) and the Zaghawa in the north of the country (Borko-Enidi-Tibesti), and these are pastoral peoples.

In the western region, in the Kanem region, where the historical kingdom of Kanem was established, we find the tribe of Kanembo, and the Qaraan (Kreida and Knuma), and on the borders of Lake Chad the Bedouma, and in the east the Arab tribes, Maba, Dajo, and Masalit, and in the middle, the Sahel region, the Arab tribes of Batha and Balala on the borders of Lake Fatri, Koka and Madgu And in the center are the tribes of the Hegray, the Kenga, the Donglias, and the Janjur, and in the south, where the rich savannah are the tribes of the Baqermi, the Sara, and the Fulani – this is, for example, the tribes are numerous in Chad and overlap with each other greatly.

And that the high density of this percentage of the population is concentrated in the south and then the center. The group of tribes is many of different races and ethnicities of Negro, Arab and Berber origins.
The customs and traditions differ among the tribes, as northern Chad differs radically from the south, as well as the center, although there is a convergence between the center and the north as a group of Muslim tribes, and the state system is still a system that adopts law and customs, including transactions, legislation, conflict resolution, and the division of power.
We can point out here that the capital N’Djamena is the most important center in Chad, not in the sense that it is the capital city of the country, but rather that it has gone beyond that because it has become a link for all the tribes, a link for the nation, and a symbol of national feeling.

The linguistic and cultural dimension

The geographical boundaries between African countries, even if they formed a dividing line and created new states in our time, but they were not able to separate cultures that have combined them and peoples that have coexisted with each other for thousands of years. The environment in Africa is similar, and there are common basic characteristics, in religion – race – and language.
The Arab and African cross-fertilization in Chad has been traced back to the year 666 AD, in the seventh century AD through the Kingdom of Kanem, and it began to crystallize within the framework of the local and Islamic component, and (Arabic and African),
And the Arabic language began to spread in the region as the language of the Islamic religion until it became the common language of communication among the population of the country, and the Chadian constitution recognizes in Article (9) that French and Arabic are official languages of the country in education and administration and official and international transactions, and local national languages are used in the media.  They are also used in local news releases, and communication between its speakers, in northern Chad, the Dzhokra language (the Qaraan language) spreads more as a language of communication than Arabic and French, and in the western region of Chad, the Kanambo (Kanuri) language spreads more than French and Arabic.
And in the Mayokibi region in the south, we find the Sara language spread more than Arabic and French as a language of communication (these are examples). In Chad there are

more than a hundred (100) languages, and in total, colloquial Chadian Arabic is the language of communication most prevalent among the population of Chad, while French is a language spoken among the elites in the job and government bureaus.

The religious dimension

Religions in Chad are classified, as in many African countries, into divine religions and inherited beliefs, so we find Islam and Christianity, and on the other hand a group of practices that are based on spiritual rituals such as (Margai)  in the Kira region, or initiation rituals such as (Yundo)  in the south of the country For the Sara tribes.

It is the veneration of the ancestors and the belief in the gods and the hidden powers, in the jinn living in different places: trees, mountains, and caves. However, spiritual beliefs are currently in decline due to the spread of Islam and Christianity for very long periods. Christianity was associated with Western colonialism, so the first Christian missions settled in Chad in the 1930s, in the last century, where Islam existed before that, at the beginning of the twelfth century.

Even though Islam was distinguished by the majority, most parts of Muslims in Chad are Sufis (the Tijaniyya tradition), and we notice since the 1990s the emergence of the Salafi trend (Wahhabism) . Islam is clear and evident in the central region, which includes the east, west, north, and part of the south, and its appearance in the north is less than it is in the west and east. There are other religions in the south, as well as in the center, and the percentage of Muslims, Christians and non-believers can increase or decrease depending on the circumstances and data surrounding education, living and stability.

The emergence of the city of N’Djamena 

N’Djamena (Fort Lami) was founded in the year 1900 AD by Emile Gentil after the victory of the French forces over Rabeh’s forces in Kusri, and the new center got the name (Fort Lami) as a memory of Commander Lami who died during the battle. N’Djamena is the melting pot of the Chadian nation and the attractive pole and the main area in the country. N’Djamena is based on 14% of the urban population, and about 10% of the country’s population. This is due to reasons such as the best oil access since it has benefited since 2008 from great efforts in preparation and planning.

The political liberalization encouraged the intense stability of the rural population. In 1960 AD the city had 60,000 inhabitants, and in 1973 AD the name (Fur Lami) changed to N’Djamena, which means in Arabic, “we have rested,” and it included 18,000 people, which is an indication of the depth of the Arab presence in the region. As a result of the increase in nature and migration that was exacerbated by droughts and conflicts, the number of inhabitants increased rapidly in cities. It rose from 22,400 people in 1975 to 53,000 in 1993, and the number reached 993,000 in 2009. An average growth rate of 6% annually, and the current population (2014) exceeded one million.

The expansion and growth of N’Djamena is a sign of rapid population growth, and the first buildings were military and administrative buildings located on the slopes of the Shari banks.
Then the city grew to the west (Farsha area), to the northeast and east, by occupying dry lands first, then wetlands or flood plains until the mid-seventies of the last century, and the occupation was subject to the control of the public authority, and starting from the year 1984 AD (end of the civil war), the city started expanding spontaneously along with the official divisions under the pressure of the unmet needs of the lands to be built for the residents of N’Djamena. Likewise, the public authorities are striving to keep pace with the rapid population growth and the expansion of the place for housing.

These expansions in the urban area, which began to accommodate the tops of the villages neighborhood of the city, responded to the urbanization progress from (570 hectares) in 1950 AD to (7000 hectares) in 1999 AD, and its area reached more than (20000 square meters).

The ethnic plurality of different tribes and ethnicities with their beliefs, customs, traditions, values and principles during the long years of housing, settlement, stability and survival, the practice of trade exchange, multiple business, and direct communication through common exchanges of the nature of living and life led to a mutual and common influence in all areas of life.
This is in addition to the local cultural component that is being formed, developed and crystallized in a national project that has led to the formulation of foundations for peaceful social and cultural coexistence in the country.



The African Center for Research and Policy Studies (AFROPOLICY): An independent institution specialized in preparing studies and research related to African political, strategic, and social affairs to provide officials, decision-makers, and development sectors with the necessary knowledge to help them make balanced decisions related to the issues of the African continent by providing them with accurate, factual professional data and reports. .

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