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The Republic of Chad is a Central African nation. Chad is bounded by Libya, Sudan, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Niger. The landlocked country is one of the poorest in the world. Its border with Nigeria is on Lake Chad, for which the country derived its name.

Chad is an ethnically diverse country, with more than two hundred ethnic groups. The country achieved independence from France after sixty years of colonial rule that failed to create a national unity. Many of its distinct cultures can be traced back to its precolonial history of competing indigenous states, while others are based on ethnicities, religious affiliations, and geographical regions.

Like Sudan, Chad has a northern portion whose population is Islamic and partly Arab-speaking, living in a semi-desert climate. The people of southern Chad are Christians or adherents of traditional religions, who are engaged in agriculture, crafts, and trade. Although the French and independent governments have tried to bring the country together as one people, most people in Chad consider local or regional influences to be greater.

Although the country's official languages are French and Arabic, more than a hundred languages are spoken, with Chadean Arabic becoming a common language.

Traditionally, the area around Lake Chad was an important point in the trans-Saharan trade route. Arab traders came into the area in the 7th century. Not long afterward, nomadic groups from North Africa came, establishing the state of Kanem. Its kings converted to Islam. Over the next several centuries, other kingdoms were established, many of which warred with one another. In the 1890s, they briefly came under the control of Sudan.

Around that same time, French expeditions were made into the region, and France defeated the Sudanese in the region in 1900, establishing Chad as a French colony in 1913. For a short time, it was joined with the region now known as the Central African Republic, then also under French control, but it became a separate colony again in 1920. Coming out of World War II, France granted Chad its own territorial legislature in 1946, autonomy in 1958, and full independence in 1960.

As with many other African nations, independence brought conflict and bloodshed. By 1966, Chad was involved in a full-scale guerrilla war between the country's southern-dominated government and northern Muslim tribes. Chad's first president was killed in a coup in 1979. Other coups followed, and the conflict continues today. Besides the fighting between local rebels and government troops, there have also been clashes between the government of Chad and Sudanese militias. Complicating matters further, Chad has taken in tens of thousands of refugees from the Central African Republic and from Sudan.

Southeastern Chad has experience attacks by Arabs on non-Arab Chadians, and there is a realistic threat that the religious and territorial divide between the Islamic north and the Christian south will escalate into a civil war.

Most of the people of Chad live in poverty, and this situation has been greatly aggravated by the large numbers of refugees in the country. Health care is not available for many in Chad, and there are no governmentally administered social security programs. One in ten children die before the age of five. Most of the population lives without electricity, burning wood or manure for heat. Four out of five people in Chad are illiterate, and schools are not accessible for large portions of the population.

The US State Department warns American citizens about travel to Chad, particularly to its border regions, and to exercise great caution elsewhere in the country. US Embassy personnel are subject to restrictions when traveling in certain parts of Chad's capital city, as well as outside of the capital, particularly the Lake Chad region. Embassy personnel and facilities have been attacked in recent years.

Major cities in Chad include Ndjamena, Moundou, Abéché, Sarh, Kélo, Am Timan, Doba, Pala, Bongor, and Goz Beïda.



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