Chad Table of Contents
Mabang languages are concentrated in the highlands of Ouaddaï Prefecture, but they are also spoken in Biltine and Salamat prefectures. Maba is the major language of the group. Maba speakers are semisedentary farmers who combine millet cultivation during the rainy season with herding during the drier parts of the year. For the last several decades, many Maba laborers have migrated to Sudan. The core ethnic group of the sultanate of Wadai, the Maba played a central role in that state even after conquest by rulers from the east in the seventeenth century. Wadai sultans frequently took Maba women as first wives, and the first dignitary of the court usually was also Maba.
Massalit, another major Mabang language, is spoken by people who live east of the Maba along the Sudan border. Complemented by a far larger Massalit population in Sudan, the Chadian Massalit are farmers who rely on passing animal herds to fertilize their fields.
Massalat speakers are found farther west and are divided into two groups, one in eastern Batha near Ouaddaï Prefecture, and the other in northern Guéra Prefecture. Once part of the larger Massalit community, the Massalat have diverged from the main group. The two languages are sufficiently different that linguists classify Massalat in a separate subgroup. In addition, the Massalat physically and culturally resemble the Dadjo more closely than they do their relatives to the east.
Runga is spoken over a large part of Salamat Prefecture and in a small part of Central African Republic. Many Runga speakers are farmers who grow millet, sorghum, peanuts, and cotton. In the nineteenth century, the Runga were ruled by sultans from a capital in the Salamat region. Herders of Wadai, the Runga also founded Dar al Kuti, the most important precolonial state in northern Central African Republic. Extensive slave raiding by the Sudanese warlord Rabih Fadlallah in the 1890s decimated the Runga in Chad; as late as the 1960s, they numbered only about 12,000.
Other Mabang languages spoken by much smaller populations include Marfa, Karanga, and Kashméré, found in the highlands north of Abéché; Koniéré, spoken in a small region just east of Abéché; and Bakhat, a language of restricted distribution, found west of Abéché.
Data as of December 1988