The Kanembu of Chad


Population: 655,000

Location: Isolated desert region of North West Chad, surrounding Lake Chad. The area is arid, covered in thorny bushes. The region receives less than 12″ of rain per year.

History: The Kanembu were once a powerful dynasty, the most powerful group in Central North Africa. In the 1200s, the King converted to Islam and began a jihad to conquer the surrounding tribes. The empire began to decline in the 1500s due to internal strife, and ended with the arrival of the French in early 1900s. However, sultans and traditional rulers still today wield more power than government officials.

Culture: Many Kanembu are businessmen. 70-80% of Chad’s merchants are from the Kanembu tribe. Many others are farmers and herders. A significant number earn their living┬ámining natron from salt mines. Natron is used for washing and bleaching textiles.┬áMany Kanembu are illiterate. Their villages lack modern schools and health centers. Many parents forbid their children from attending secular French schools.

Religion: Folk Islam

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