Country Listing

Chad Table of Contents


Central Saharan Languages

The distribution and numbers of Central Saharan language speakers probably have changed dramatically since independence. The Chadian Civil War and the Chadian-Libyan conflict have disrupted life in the northern part of the country. Also, the rise to power of two heads of state from the far north, Goukouni Oueddei and Hissein Habré, may have inspired the migration of northerners to the national capital and a greater integration of the region into the life of the country.

Teda and Daza are related languages in the Central Saharan group. Teda is spoken by the Toubou people of the Tibesti Mountains and by some inhabitants of nearby oases in northeastern Niger and southwestern Libya. Daza speakers live south of the Toubou in Borkou Subprefecture and Kanem Prefecture, between the Tibesti Mountains and Lake Chad (see fig. 5).

Despite their shared linguistic heritage, the Toubou and the Daza do not think of themselves as belonging to a common group. Moreover, each is further divided into subgroups identified with particular places. Among the Toubou, the Teda of Tibesti are the largest subgroup. Daza speakers separate themselves into more than a dozen groups. The Kreda of Bahr el Ghazal are the largest. Next in importance are the Daza of Kanem. Smaller and more scattered subgroups include the Charfarda of Ouaddaï; the Kecherda and Djagada of Kanem; the Doza, Annakaza, Kokorda, Kamadja, and Noarma of Borkou; and the Ounia, Gaeda, and Erdiha of Ennedi.

About one-third of the Teda are nomads. The remainder, along with all of the Daza, are seminomadic, moving from pasture to pasture during eight or nine months each year but returning to permanent villages during the rains. In general, the Teda herd camels and live farther north, where they move from oasis to oasis. The Daza often herd camels, but they also raise horses, sheep, and goats. Their itineraries take them farther south, where some have acquired cattle (whose limited capacity to endure the heat and harsh environment of the northern regions has altered patterns of transhumance). Some cattle owners leave their animals with herders in the south when they return north; others choose to remain in the south and entrust their other animals to relatives or herders who take them north.

Kanembu is the major language of Lac Prefecture and southern Kanem Prefecture. Although Kanuri, which derived from Kanembu, was the major language of the Borno Empire, in Chad it is limited to handfuls of speakers in urban centers. Kanuri remains a major language in southeastern Niger, northeastern Nigeria, and northern Cameroon.

In the early 1980s, the Kanembu constituted the greatest part of the population of Lac Prefecture, but some Kanembu also lived in Chari-Baguirmi Prefecture. Once the core ethnic group of the Kanem-Borno Empire, whose territories at one time included northeastern Nigeria and southern Libya, the Kanembu retain ties beyond the borders of Chad (see Kanem-Borno , ch. 1). For example, close family and commercial ties bind them with the Kanuri of northeastern Nigeria. Within Chad, many Kanembu of Lac and Kanem prefectures identify with the Alifa of Mao, the governor of the region in precolonial times.

Baele (also erroneously called Bideyat) is the language of the Bideyat of Ennedi Subprefecture and the Zaghawa of Biltine Prefecture. Despite this similarity, the Zaghawa and the Bideyat exhibit diverse life-styles. Some Zaghawa live in a centralized sultanate, with a ruling family of Dadjo origin; these Zaghawa are semisedentary and prominent in local and regional commerce. Other Zaghawa, however, living primarily in the south, are nomads. The Bideyat also are nomadic.

Data as of December 1988