Chad (French: Tchad, Arabic: تشاد Tshād), officially known as the Republic of Chad, is alandlocked country in central Africa. It is bordered by Libya to the north, Sudan to the east, theCentral African Republic to the south, Cameroon and Nigeria to the southwest, and Niger to the west. Due to its distance from the sea and its largely desert climate, the country is sometimes referred to as the “Dead Heart of Africa”.
Chad is divided into three major geographical regions: a desert zone in the north, an aridSahelian belt in the centre and a more fertile Sudanese savanna zone in the south. Lake Chad, after which the country is named, is the largest wetland in Chad and the second largest in Africa. Chad’s highest peak is the Emi Koussi in the Sahara, and N’Djamena, (formerly Fort-Lamy), the capital, is the largest city. Chad is home to over 200 different ethnic and linguistic groups. Arabic and French are the official languages. Islam and Christianity are the most widely practiced religions.
Beginning in the 7th millennium BC, human populations moved into the Chadian basin in great numbers. By the end of the 1st millennium BC, a series of states and empires rose and fell in Chad’s Sahelian strip, each focused on controlling the trans-Saharan trade routes that passed through the region. France conquered the territory by 1920 and incorporated it as part of French Equatorial Africa.
In 1960 Chad obtained independence under the leadership of François Tombalbaye. Resentment towards his policies in the Muslim north culminated in the eruption of a long-lastingcivil war in 1965. In 1979 the rebels conquered the capital and put an end to the south’s hegemony. However, the rebel commanders fought amongst themselves until Hissène Habrédefeated his rivals. He was overthrown in 1990 by his general Idriss Déby. Recently, the Darfur crisis in Sudan has spilt over the border and destabilised the nation, with hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees living in and around camps in eastern Chad.
While many political parties are active, power lies firmly in the hands of President Déby and his political party, the Patriotic Salvation Movement. Chad remains plagued by political violence and recurrent attempted coups d’état.
The country is one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world; most Chadians live in poverty as subsistence herders and farmers. Since 2003 crude oil has become the country’s primary source of export earnings, superseding the traditional cotton industry.
Chad is governed under the constitution of 1996 as amended. The executive branch is headed by a president, who is elected by popular vote for a five-year term; there are no term limits. The prime minister is appointed by the president. Members of the 155-seat National Assembly are popularly elected for four-year terms. Administratively, Chad is divided into 18 regions.
Chad’s landlocked position, poor transportation network, inadequate natural resources, and ongoing political turmoil have severely hampered economic development. The economy is based primarily on sedentary subsistence agriculture and nomadic pastoralism, employing 80% of the workforce but contributing only about 32% of the GDP. The best farming zone is in the south, where rainfall is sufficient for the cultivation of cotton and peanuts (the country’s leading cash crops) for export and some subsistence crops, including sorghum, millet, rice, potatoes, and manioc. Cattle, sheep, goats, and camels are raised, and there is fishing in Lake Chad. During drought periods, Chad requires food aid to meet necessary levels.
Natron and uranium are the country’s chief minerals, and petroleum is produced in the southern Doba basin, which is connected by pipeline with the Cameroonian port of Kribi. Industry is limited to food processing and the production of textiles and light consumer goods. Imports-largely machinery, transportation equipment, industrial goods, foodstuffs, and textiles-generally outweigh exports, mainly cotton, cattle, gum arabic, and oil. Chad’s chief trading partners are the United States, France, Cameroon, and China.
Due to its great variety of peoples and languages, Chad possesses a rich cultural heritage. The Chadian government have actively promoted Chadian culture and national traditions by opening the Chad National Museum and the Chad Cultural Centre. Six national holidaysare observed throughout the year, and movable holidays include the Christian holiday ofEaster Monday and the Muslim holidays of Eid ul-Fitr, Eid ul-Adha, and Eid Milad Nnabi.
Regarding music, Chadians play instruments such as the kinde, a type of bow harp; thekakaki, a long tin horn; and the hu hu, a stringed instrument that uses calabashes as loudspeakers. Other instruments and their combinations are more linked to specific ethic groups: the Sara prefer whistles, balafones, harps and kodjo drums; and the Kanembucombine the sounds of drums with those of flute-like instruments.
Football is Chad’s most popular sport. The country’s national team is closely followed during international competitions, and Chadian footballers have played for French teams. Basketball and freestyle wrestling are widely practiced, the latter in a form in which the wrestlers don traditional animal hides and cover themselves with dust.