History Files


African Kingdoms

Central Africa





The modern African country of Chad is directly south of Libya, taking in large swathes of the Sahara Desert in its northern territories. Sudan is to the east and Niger to the west, while the Central African Republic is to the south. Small tribal kingdoms began to coalesce into large states from around AD 900 onwards, and it was the Bornu empire which formed the basis for modern Chad.

Zaghawa / Duguwa Kingdom
c.AD 900 - c.1400

Zaghawa was a medieval kingdom in northern Chad (on Sudan's western border and Libya's southern border), in the Tibesti Highlands beyond the Bodele Depression, which was established by Berber nomads and was especially influential from circa 1000 to circa 1350. There exists almost no data about the region, although the Zaghawa exist to this day as an identifiable Berber ethnic group. Zaghawa was important in the Islamicisation of Kanem, to the south, in 1085.

? - c.850

Kanem is part of the Zaghawa kingdom.

Sahara sandstone
Chad's northern territories include portions of the Sahara, in which these sandstone pinnacles which were eroded by rain prove that the region was much wetter in prehistory

c.900 - c.1080

Unknown rulers

Names and the number of rulers not recorded.

? - 1086


Last Duguwa king of the Sayfawa dynasty.


Hummay, a member of the Sayfawa establishment who is already a Muslim, discards the last Duguwa king and establishes the new Sayfuwa dynasty.

c.1086 - c.1400

Unknown rulers

Names and the number of rulers not recorded.


Zaghawa power is broken by the rise of the Bornu empire, and the Sayfawa are reduced to controlling desert regions to the east.

Kanem Empire
c.AD 900 - 1389

The Kanem empire was situated in modern Chad and Libya. Originating at an unknown period in the north-east of Lake Chad, it was known to the Arabian geographers as the Kanem-Bornu empire from the ninth century AD onwards and it lasted, in one form or another, until 1893. At its height it encompassed an area covering not only much of Chad, but also parts of modern southern Libya and eastern Niger. The rulers were known as mais.

The extremely sketchy history of the empire from the thirteenth century onwards is mainly known from the Royal Chronicle, or Girgam, which was discovered in 1851 by the German traveller Heinrich Barth. There is the suggestion of a pre-Christian origin of Kanem in connection with the Phoenician expansion into Africa, although this is unconfirmed.

? - c.850

Part of the Zaghawa kingdom.

fl c.785


Sayfawa dynasty rulers govern the empire.

fl c.835


fl c.893


fl c.942


fl c.961


fl c.1019


fl c.1035


fl c.1077


fl c.1081

Abd al-Djelfl


The kingdom converts to Islam under the influence of Zaghawa.

1085 - 1097


1098 - 1150

Dunama I

1150 - 1176

Biri I

1176 - 1193


1193 - 1210

Abd al-Djel Selma

1210 - 1224

Dunama II Dabbalemi

1224 - 1242


1242 - 1262

Kachim Biri



1262 - 1281


1281 - 1301

Ibrahim I Nikale

1301 - 1320

Abdullah I


Increased aggression from Egypt and internal discord leads to the collapse of the neighbouring kingdom of Dongola in Nubia.

1320 - 1323


1323 - 1325

Kure Gana

1326 - 1327

Kure Kura

1327 - 1329

Mohammed I

1329 - 1353

Idris I

1353 - 1356


1356 - 1369

Othman I

1370 - 1389

Internal struggles and external attacks tear Kanem apart. Six mais reign in this period, but Bulala invaders (from the area around Lake Fitri to the east) kill five of them. This proliferation of mais results in numerous claimants to the throne and leads to a series of internecine wars.

1369 - 1371

Othman II

1371 - 1372

Abu Bakr Lagatu

1372 - 1380

Idris Dunama III / Umar Idrismi

Moved the capital to Bornu.


The Bulala force Mai Umar Idrismi to abandon Njimi and move the Kanembu people to Bornu on the western edge of Lake Chad.

1380 - 1388

Omar I



1388 - 1389

Kade Alunu

Bornu Empire
AD 1389 - 1890

The once strong Sayfawa dynasty was forced out of Kanem and back into the nomadic lifestyle they had abandoned nearly 600 years ago. Around 1396, the Kanembu finally overcame attacks from their neighbours (Arabs and Berbers, and the Hausa of modern Nigeria), to found a new state in Bornu. After a shaky start which saw a total of fifteen mais on the throne during the course of the fifteenth century, they succeeded in re-establishing domination over their former territory in Chad, eastern Niger and southern Libya, as well as north-eastern Nigeria and northern Cameroon.

The capital was located on the western edge of Lake Chad. Over time, the intermarriage of the Kanembu and Bornu peoples created a new people and language, the Kanuri.

1389 - 1421

Biri II

1421 - 1422

Othman Kalinuama

1422 - 1424

Dunama IV

1424 - 1432

Abdullah II

1432 - 1440

Ibrahim II

1440 - 1446


1446 - 1450

Dunama V

1450 - 1451

Mohammed II

1451 - 1453


1453 - 1458

Mohammed III

1458 - 1463


1463 - 1473

Othman III

1473 - 1474

Omar II

1474 - 1479

Mohammed IV

1479 - 1507

'Ali Gazi

1507 - 1529

Idris II Katakarmabe

1529 - 1544

Mohammed V

1544 - 1548

'Ali I

1548 - 1566

Dunama VI

1566 - 1573

Abdullah III

1573 - 1589

Aissa Kili N'guirmamaramama


1580 - 1617

Idris III Alaoma / Idris Aluma

The empire peaked at this time.

1617- 1632

Mohammed VI Bukalmarami

1632 - 1639

Ibrahim III

1639 - 1657

Hadj Omar


Sustained by the reforms of Idris III (1580-1617), the empire now begins to fade.

1657 - 1694

'Ali II

1694 - 1711

Idris IV

1711 - 1726

Dunama VII

1726 - 1738

Hadj Hamdan

1738 - 1751

Mohammed VII

1751 - 1753

Dunama VIII Gana

1753 - 1793

'Ali III

late 1700s

Bornu's rule now extends only westwards, into the land of the Hausa of modern Nigeria.

1793 - 1808


1808 - 1811

Dunama IX Lefiami

1811 - 1814

Mohammed VIII

1814 - 1846

When the semi-nomadic alliance of Muslim tribesmen take over the empire under Mohammed, the Sayfawas return to the old capital of Kanem under Dunama IX to remain titular monarchs.

1814 - 1835

Mohammed el Amin I

Non-Sayfawa dynasty ruler.

1814 - 1817

Dunama IX Lefiami

Sayfawa ruler restored at Kanem.

1817 - 1846

Ibrahim IV

Sayfawa ruler at Kanem.

1835 - 1853

Omar / Umar

Son of Mohammed.


'Ali IV Dalatumi

Sayfawa ruler at Kanem. The last of the Sayfawas.


Ali V takes part in a civil war in league with Ouaddai tribesmen. He is defeated by Omar and one of the longest ruling dynasties is ended. The title of mai is dropped for a more modest one.

1853 - 1854

Abdul Rahman

1854 - 1880



1880 - 1884

Bukara Kura

1884 - 1885


1885 - 1893


1890 - 1893

The empire is conquered by Great Britain.


Muhammad el Amin II


Sanda Limananbe Wuduroma


The Bornu empire is conquered following an invasion from eastern Sudan by a warlord.

Zobeir Dynasty
AD 1893 - 1901

A short-lived dynasty which saw an invasion of the empire from eastern Sudan conquer the ruling house. In the end, Rabah's forces were overwhelmed by the colonial French.

1893 - 1900

Rabah the Conqueror / Rabih az-Zubayr

Sudanese warlord.


Fad el Allah

Son. Defeated and killed by the French.

1900 - 1960

Chad is conquered by France. Borno goes to Great Britain. French control of Chad is fully secured by 1920 as part of French Equatorial Africa, and remains in place until 11 August 1960, when Chad gains independence and a republic is formed.

Modern Chad
AD 1960 - Present Day

The modern republic of Chad is a landlocked semi-desert country in central sub-Saharan Africa. It is bordered to the north by Libya, to the east by Sudan, to the south by the Central African Republic, to the south-west by Cameroon, and to the west by Nigeria and Niger. The capital is at N'Djamena.

The republic was created on 11 August 1960, when independence was gained from France after forty years of colonial rule. A president was elected, but this quickly turned into a dictatorship and civil war followed in what was always a poor country. Since then the country's history has been marked by instability and violence, stemming mostly from tension between the mainly Arab-Muslim north and the predominantly Christian and animist south. The civil war has largely been a north-versus-south affair, with the fertile south being backed by France and the desert north and arid centre by Libya.

Despite its overal reputation as a dry and dusty country, southern Chad is home to many forests. But over the years these have systematically been chopped down, first by people seeking firewood and then for charcoal which burns for longer and produces less smoke. This makes it cheaper than wood, but it is also less efficient, so more trees need to be felled to produce it. As well as it being illegal to chop down trees in Chad, making charcoal is also forbidden, although they does not stop hundreds of trees being felled every week. However, Chad is rich in gold and uranium and stands to benefit in the twenty-first century from its recently-acquired status as an oil-exporting state.

(Additional information from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and from External Links: BBC News, and BBC Country Profiles, and Time: Chad, Death of a Dictator, and from the official President of the Republic of Chad website.)

1960 - 1962

Tombalbaye, the first president of the republic, quickly introduces dictatorial rule with the banishment of the multiparty system. It takes just two years to get from independence to dictatorship. In 1965, Muslims in the country begin a civil war against him (he being a Christian southerner), but this initially takes the form of relatively ineffective guerrilla warfare and is combined with a severe drought.

1962 - 1975

François 'N'Garta' Tombalbaye

Dictatorial president. Killed.


Signs of liberalisation appear, with Tombalbaye admitting that he has made mistakes in his presidency and rule of the country. Reform is initiated, and France withdraws the last of its troops from the country. Later in the same year a coup attempt is uncovered, with links to Libya's Muammar al-Gaddafi. The reforms come to a shuddering halt, the border with Libya is closed, and Tombalbaye allows anti-Gaddafi rebels to operate from northern Chad.

Tibesti Mountains
The Tibesti Mountains are formed from a range of inactive volcanoes which are located in northern Chad's arid Borkou and Tibesti regions, abutting Libya's south-eastern border


The war continues, and Tombalbaye lashes out at his own military. Seemingly arbitrary promotions and demotions, and also arrests to prevent a perceived (but probably non-existent) coup, lead to him being assassinated during a very real coup by a group of officers. General Noël Milarew Odingar leads the country during a short transition between the coup and the selection of another southerner as the new leader - Felix Malloum.


Noël Milarew Odingar

Military officer who oversaw the transition period.

1975 - 1979

Felix Malloum

Dictator. Resigned after failing to unite north and south.


Libya has become directly involved in the war, with the northern neighbour hoping to take control now that France has lost any influence. It backs a northern Chadian, Goukouki Oueddei, who replaces Malloum when the north conquers the capital at N'Djamena. The country's infrastructure collapses completely, and the fighting continues with armed factions, many of them formerly part of the north's civil war against the south, contending for power. Once the warlords of the defeated south have fought it out to see who will lead them, a former defence minister, Hissène Habré, emerges as their new commander.

1979 - 1982

Goukouki Oueddei

Dictator. Deposed and fled to the north.

1980 - 1981

Not content with supporting rebel groups, Libyan forces now invade and occupy the Aozou Strip. This is followed later in the same year with the occupation of much of northern Chad, but the Chadians under Hissène Habré force them out in 1981.


With continued French support, Hissène Habré reaches the capital and is able to capture it. Goukouki Oueddei is able to escape by fleeing to the north of the country where he forms a rival government. Habré's term of office quickly turns into another dictatorship, with corruption and violence seemingly endemic in everyday life.

1982 - 1990

Hissène Habré / Hissen Habre

Dictator. Deposed by his own general.

1983 - 1987

The Libyans return in 1983 to take northern Chad above Koro Toro. The presence of the Libyans in Chad is almost universally disliked. With extremely unusual levels of support from fellow Chadians, Hissène Habré's forces eject them from the country, although it takes until 1987 to achieve this feat.


Hissène Habré's regime of violence and discrimination against his former allies has worn out the patience even of his supporters. In his turn he is ousted, this time by another Libyan-backed candidate in the form of Idriss Déby, one of Habré's own generals. This northern candidate for dictatorship effectively replaces the shadow government of Goukouki Oueddei.

1990 - 1996

Idriss Déby

Military general who introduced free and fair elections.


The general responsible for overthrowing Habré, Idriss Déby, has overseen a stabilisation of events in the country and also the introduction of a multiparty political system. In 1996 he wins free and fair elections to become the country's first legitimate, democratically elected leader since 1960. He also wins a second term of office five years later, in 2001.

1998 - 2002

An armed insurgency begins in the north, despite President Déby himself being from the north. His former defence chief, Youssouf Togoimi, is the insurgency's leader. A Libyan-brokered peace deal in 2002 fails to put an end to the fighting.

2003 - 2005

In February 2003, rebels in the western region of Darfur in Sudan rise up against the government, claiming that the region is being neglected by Khartoum. In January the following year, the army moves to quell the rebel uprising and hundreds of thousands of refugees flee to neighbouring Chad. In 2005 a peace deal is agreed which ends the Second Sudanese Civil War, but Chad and Sudan accuse one another of backing and harbouring rebels, and the dispute leads to a four-year break in relations between 2006-2010.

2006 - 2009

Internal dissent springing from recent oil drilling delivers renewed conflict. Following his removal of the two-term limit on his presidency, Déby enjoys victory in a third election that is boycotted by the rebels. Full-blown civil war is the expected result, but no side is able to gain decisive control. By 2009, after two failed attempts to take the capital, the rebel attacks are little more than minor firefights.

Chad's rebels
The rebels fighting Chad's rare democratically elected government were based in neighbouring Sudan, but by 2009 they were militarily weak and Chad soon had other problems to worry about

2006 - Present

Idriss Déby

'President' for an unlimited period. Effectively a dictator.

2013 - 2015

Since late in 2013 Chad begins to play host to tens of thousands of refugees who flee the fighting in the neighbouring Central African Republic. In 2015 the country pledges military support to Cameroon and Nigeria in repelling the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency. Boko Haram respond by attacking the Chadian shore of Lake Chad, raising fears that the insurgency may spread eastwards.