The political history of Chad

Chad is a landlocked country in north central Africa that has been inhabited since the 7th millennium BC. The formation of states began across central Chad in the 1st century AD. Most of these states began as kingdoms, where the king was considered divine and endowed with temporal and spiritual powers. Although many states rose and fell, the most important and durable of the empires were Kanem-Bornu, Baguirmi, and Ouaddai.

Although it is the fifth largest country on the continent, much of northern Chad lies in the Sahara, so the population density is only about 20 persons per square mile. Most of the population relies on subsistence agriculture. Chad joined the ranks of oil-producing countries in 2003, raising hopes that the revenues generated would improve the country’s economy. 

Roughly 54% of the country is Muslim, 20% Roman Catholic, 14% Protestant, 10% Animist, and 3% Atheist. Much of the outworking of these religious beliefs reflect Chad’s animist heritage, with animist ideas in particular blended into a form of cultural Islam. Muslims live primarily in the north and the Christians live primarily in the south, with religious freedom guaranteed in the constitution.  

Colonial rule began in 1900 when the French won a decisive battle and absorbed Chad into French Equatorial Africa, with the country only being governed as Chad from 1920. Chad did not flourish under colonial rule. Instead the French seemed to perceive Chad primarily as a source of raw cotton and untrained labour to be used in the more productive colonies to the south. 

On August 11, 1960, Chad earned independence. The first president was Francois Tombalbaye. After two years, opposition parties were banned and Tombalbaye established a one-party system. This exacerbated ethnic tension which led to civil war. In 1975, Tombalbaye was overthrown, but the initial popularity of the rebels wasn’t sustained and civil war resumed. Today Chad remains plagued by political violence and recurrent attempted coups d’état. As a result it remains one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world.

Meet the K people

The K people (we’ve kept their name hidden for security reasons) are the descendants of one of the original states of Chad. Along with another people group using a similar language, they live in an area between the shores of Lake Chad and the Sahara. There are stable social structures among the K people. Villages each have a secular chief and a religious leader, who provide material and spiritual guidance to the village. But they are still waiting to hear the good news of Christ. 

Currently they practise a form of Islam, mixed with African traditional beliefs, and depend on a form of spiritism to meet daily problems. Spiritual leaders are often sought for their healing power or for their ability to communicate with spirits.  

Despite their adherence to Islam, the K people have invited AIM to live among them and to share the gospel with them. We’re looking to establish a team based in a town in the centre of their lands. Initially language and culture learning will be a key priority for the team as they seek to establish relationships with their neighbours. Through these friendships the team will be hoping to encounter K men and women who are searching for truth and willing to engage in Bible study. We’re looking for a few extra people to join others who have expressed interest in serving in this way. Is God laying these people on your heart? 

Related stories

From the beginning

Justin, AIM’s Unit Leader, shares the story of AIM’s ministry in Chad, as we look at the past, present and future, through the person of Moussa.

> Read more

To boldly share

A former TIMO team member serving in Chad shares what is it like to live there and share the gospel with those around her. 

> Read more

There are so many ways you can be a part of reaching Africa's unreached peoples with the good news of Jesus Christ.