Culture History September 10, 2021 at 10:00 am

How Chad came to have its name

Nii Ntreh September 10, 2021 at 10:00 am

September 10, 2021 at 10:00 am | Culture, History

The former sultan's palace in the village of Gaoui just east of N'Djamena, Chad, Central Africa. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ David Stanley

One of the biggest countries by landmass in Africa, the central African country of Chad is blessed with oil, gold and uranium. The landlocked country shares borders with up to six other countries, namely: Libya to the north; Nigeria and Cameroon to the southwest; Niger to the west; the Central African Republic to the south and Sudan to the east.

The nation may have begun in 1960 but the geographical area has been populated since the 7th millennium BC. The earliest settlements in the area were founded by the Sao people who have become known for their eccentric oral histories.

After the Sao came the Kanem people whose empire, the Kanem-Bornu Empire, spread to modern Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Cameroon.

Kanem and the empires that came after that grew because of their control of the trans-Saharan trade routes that passed through the region. Kanem for instance proved so successful with the slave trade that at a point, one in three people in the empire was enslaved.

Today in Chad, those who identify as Kanem make up just a little under 10% of the population. While the Nilotic Sara people are in the majority, over 10% of Chadians identify as Arab, and are locally called Baggara.

It was the earliest peoples of the basin of Lake Chad who are credited with naming the country we know today. Lake Chad has been in existence for 7,000 years and has provided the reason for settlement for countless peoples during this time.

Chad is called as such in the Kanuri language because it is a reference to the waters. Soon enough, the people’s linguistic term for a lake became the reference for the whole area. This was cast in stone with the European incursion into the area in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Kanuri language, which is a continuum of dialects, is spoken across many parts of central Africa to this day. However, one will find more Arab speakers in Chad than Kanuri speakers despite the historical connection the latter has with the country.

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