Chad (تشاد, ; Tchad, ), officially the Republic of Chad (جمهورية تشاد ; République du Tchad "Republic of the Chad"), is a landlocked country in north-central Africa. It is bordered by Libya to the north, Sudan to the east, the Central African Republic to the south, Cameroon and Nigeria to the southwest, and Niger to the west. It is the fifth largest country in Africa and the second-largest in Central Africa in terms of area.
Chad has several regions: a desert zone in the north, an arid Sahelian belt in the centre and a more fertile Sudanian 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. The capital N'Djamena is the largest city. Chad's official languages are Arabic and French. Chad is home to over 200 different ethnic and linguistic groups. The most popular religion of Chad is Islam (at 55%), followed by Christianity (at 40%).
Beginning in the 7th millennium BC, human populations moved into the Chadian basin in great numbers. By the end of the 1st millennium AD, a series of states and empires had risen and fallen 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-lasting civil 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 Habré defeated his rivals. He was overthrown in 1990 by his general Idriss Déby. Since 2003 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. An uneven inclusion into the global political economy as a site for colonial resource extraction (primarily cotton and crude oil), a global economic system that does not promote nor encourage the development of Chadian industrialization, and the failure to support local agricultural production has meant that the majority of Chadians live in daily uncertainty and hunger.
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. Since 2003, crude oil has become the country's primary source of export earnings, superseding the traditional cotton industry.
In the 7th millennium BC, ecological conditions in the northern half of Chadian territory favored human settlement, and the region experienced a strong population increase. Some of the most important African archaeological sites are found in Chad, mainly in the Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti Region; some date to earlier than 2000 BC.
For more than 2,000 years, the Chadian Basin has been inhabited by agricultural and sedentary people. The region became a crossroads of civilizations. The earliest of these were the legendary Sao, descendants of the Hyksos who conquered Ancient Egypt known for skills in designing weapons and artifacts, they are also known for their oral histories. After a century of rule, the Sao fell to the Kanem Empire, the first and longest-lasting of the empires that developed in Chad's Sahelian strip by the end of the 1st millennium AD. Two other states in the region, Sultanate of Bagirmi and Wadai Empire emerged in the 16th and 17th centuries. The power of Kanem and its successors was based on control of the trans-Saharan trade routes that passed through the region. These states, at least tacitly Muslim, never extended their control to the southern grasslands except to raid for slaves. In Kanem, about a third of the population were slaves.
French colonial expansion led to the creation of the Territoire Militaire des Pays et Protectorats du Tchad in 1900. By 1920, France had secured full control of the colony and incorporated it as part of French Equatorial Africa. French rule in Chad was characterised by an absence of policies to unify the territory and sluggish modernisation compared to other French colonies.
The French primarily viewed the colony as an unimportant source of untrained labour and raw cotton; France introduced large-scale cotton production in 1929. The colonial administration in Chad was critically understaffed and had to rely on the dregs of the French civil service. Only the Sara of the south was governed effectively; French presence in the Islamic north and east was nominal. The educational system was affected by this neglect.
After World War II, France granted Chad the status of overseas territory and its inhabitants the right to elect representatives to the National Assembly and a Chadian assembly. The largest political party was the Chadian Progressive Party (PPT), based in the southern half of the colony. Chad was granted independence on 11 August 1960 with the PPT's leader, Sara François Tombalbaye, as its first president.
Two years later, Tombalbaye banned opposition parties and established a one-party system. Tombalbaye's autocratic rule and insensitive mismanagement exacerbated inter-ethnic tensions. In 1965, Muslims in the north, led by the National Liberation Front of Chad (FROLINAT), began a civil war. Tombalbaye was overthrown and killed in 1975, but the insurgency continued. In 1979 the rebel factions led by Hissène Habré took the capital, and all central authority in the country collapsed. Armed factions, many from the north's rebellion, contended for power.