Maba people


Maba / Burgu / Bargo / Bergo / Wadai

The Burgu people (also Bargo, Bergo) are a minority ethnic group found primarily in the mountainous Ouaddaï region of eastern Chad, Central African Republic and and adjacent areas of Sudan. Their population is estimated to be about 300,000 in Chad. Other estimates place the total number of Burgu people in Sudan to be about 700,000.

The Burgu people have also been referred to as the Wadai, a derivative of Ouaddaï.

Maba map

The Burgu today primarily adhere to Islam, following the Maliki Sunni denomination. They supported the Sultans of Abeche and the Sudanic kingdoms, who spoke their language. Little is certain about their history before the 17th century. They are noted as having helped expel the Christian Tunjur dynasty and installed an Islamic dynasty in their region in the early 17th-century. Their homelands lie in the path of caravan routes that connect the Sahel and West Africa with the Middle East. The Burgu people are an Arabized African people. They are traditionally pastoral and farmers who are clan-oriented.

The Burgu people rebelled against the tribute demands of the Bornu Empire, and became sovereign people. They then led raids to southern regions for plunder and slaves from non-Muslim African ethnic groups. The African slaves of the Burgu people were absorbed in the Burgu tribal culture, and often they converted to escape slavery. In the 19th century, a powerful Burgu Sultanate on slave trading caravan route emerged under rulers such as Muhammad al-Sharif and Doud Murra. The Burgu Sultanate was abolished by the French in 1912, and the Burgu people's region thereafter annexed into the Ubangi-Shari colony. The Burgus participated in the efforts to end the colonial rule and then in the civil wars in Chad.

Maba boy


They speak Maba, a Nilo-Saharan language, of the Maban branch. Locally this language is called Bura Mabang. The first ten numerals in Maba language, states Andrew Dalby, are "tek, bar, kungal, asal, tor, settal, mindri, rya, adoi, atuk", and this is very distant from other Nilo-Saharan languages. Although a small ethnic group, their Maba language was the state language of the Islamic state of Wadai, and continued to be an important language when the Islamic Bornu Empire conquered these lands. Many Burgu people also speak Arabic, as their traditional trade language.



The Burgu people are subdivided into many sub-clans, each controlling certain grazing lands and sources of water. Among the various sub-clans, the largest are the Marfa, Djene and Mandaba.

It is believed the term “Maba” is used to describe the mountain tribes which other ethnic groups have been assimilated. The Maba ethnic groups are grouped into subgroups such as Marfa , Mandaba, Karanga, Kibet, Massalat, Dadjo which includes the Western and Eastern Dadjo, Hajerai and Guera are also part of the Maba.



Maba grow crops such as millet, wheat, maize, yam and raised horses, cattle, goats, sheep, and chickens are raised for their milk, yogurt, butter, wool, eggs, and meat.


Maba Society

Chiefs and members of a Royal clan still possess a higher degree of prestige and power. The Ancestral homeland is in the Wadai region, which has a broad flat grasslands and plateaus characterize the area. Their animals Include Elephants , Antelopes, Giraffes and Lions among them with their neighboring ethnic groups.

In Maba Culture, women help the men work in fields, the men alone are responsible for clearing the land and doing other heavy work. The men also tend to the animals , trade at the local markets, and make important family decisions. The women are responsible for milking the animals, brewing beer from millet , preparing a daily millet based porridge.

In Maba tradition, they lived in large towns. There, they lived in huts that are clustered tightly together, many others lived in compact rural villages. Their huts are grouped into compounds surrounded by grass mat fences and the huts are usually made up of straw, high peaked roofs and are reserved for both resting and storing grains.

Other Maba Community activities, such as dances or local assemblies, roofed pavilion for the Elders are also located in the Central Square. It is believed the Village mosque and a straw roofed pavilion for elders are also located in the Central Square.

In Maba tradition, Marriages generally take place between a man who is in his 20s and a woman who is in adulthood as well.

Polygamy is permitted, howevee, It is limited by Islamic law to not have more than a setting numbers of wives like more than 4 wives.

When a Couples are married , Among Maba they usually live with the bride’s family for 2 years , after which time they move into their own newly built house .It is said a man’s wife as the ‘’Chief” or “guardian” over any additional wives. It is believed only the 1st wife lives with the husband in his house. Others live in their huts which is separated.

The Maba’s Sultan Palace is in the Capital town of Abeche, Sultan traditionally is the head of the State and rules that directs the people through governors, district Chiefs, and various Other Official. Sultan is also referred as Son of Queen or son of the Queen Mother, who is believed to be the widow of the previous Monarch and women have the highest status and great Influence among the Maba People of Chad, Central African Republic and Sudan.

Maba Festivals

Maba People celebrate festivals such as Nebewi, Id El Kabir, El Mouloud, harvest cassava festival and other festivals. Their folk songs Include Sur Tol, Dambodjoya, Maba dance song and they performed traditional dances such as Gangang Abeche dar, Dilingala, Haryavi folk dance, Pigeons dance It is said Pigeons dance which is a set of their traditional dance which represents human life , the dancers play teenagers dating and forming Couples in a circular.

Maba girl
Maba girl
Maba girl
Maba girl

The History of Maba People of Chad , Central African Republic and Sudan

(narrated by Wec Chad , Africa Inland Mission)

According to Africa Inland Mission account, Mostly Eastern Chad , some parts of Sudan and Central African Republic . The Maba are one of the African groups and not an Arab ethnic group in Chad . They are the dominant tribe of the Wadai mountains . The Wadai region is hot and dry most flat grasslands and plateaus. It is said long ago the Maba overthrew Tunjur dynasty which is claimed to be a religious dynasty or a Christian or Muslim dynasty in Wadai and formed the backbone of the Wadai Empire which is claimed to be Islamic Empire , Wadai Empire dominated the Eastern part of Chad In the 1800s and in their class still possess a high degree of prestige and power , although the French abolished the Sultanate in 1912. According to Wec Chad history on Maba People of Chad, Sudan and Central Africa, The Maba are the major ethnic group in East of Chad. They were at one time a powerful Kingdom that ruled an extensive area . It is said Maba speak Bura Mabang, they are also known for their attachment to Arabic language or to so called Islam. It is said Maba and their language are better known by the name Ouaddai also referred as Wadaye , which is term used by non Maba which was used to Identify a Maba. Ouaddai has become the name of an administrative district and is often used less precisely for the Eastern region of Chad . It is said Maba are to be found in the Chadian regions of Ouaddai, Wadi Fira , and Sila, some part of Central African Republic, Sudan in Darfur in Sudan. There are also significant numbers of Maba in N’Djamena, Khartoum and Gezira region of Sudan . Until 1912, Ouaddai became a powerful Independent Sultanate. Maba consist of several Sub-tribes without any Central Organisation and followed their Indigenous Spirituality until the arrival of Islam in the 16th Century . For a tribe called Tunjur ruled over them , It is said an Arab known as Abdal Kareem drove out of Tunjur and made himself a ruler or self-acclaimed ruler in a region in 1635, It is believed there wa a tribe known as Tunjur . Abdal Kareem was from the lineage of Abbasid Caliphs of Present day Baghdad, Iraq. Abdal Kareem based himself in Wara and sent Islamic teachers into the Maba Villages. The Islamic teachers convinced them to abandon their faith for Islam and It is said those who followed Islam and those who refused were separated as anyone who opposed their Arab new regime and Arabs sold them as slave in the Middle Eastern Market later It is believed, new sultanate followed Islam . Wara became an Important centre and maintained relations with the Ottoman Empire. In 1880s, a new Capital was built to the south of Wara at Abeche. There is an abandoned ruins of Wara are now one of Chad’s few historic sites.

In 1900, the French entered in Present day Western Chad. The Anglo- Egyptian forces had recently the Mahadist Kingdom to the East in Present day Sudan and the Ouaddai braced itself to resist. The French advance eastwards was checked by Ouaddaian Armies and two expeditions were annihilated. It was only in 1912 that the French prevailed and captured Abeche. In the north, east and centre, many groups are nomadic, grazing livestock across large areas. These groups Include Fulani , Tubu or Toubou . According to Frontier Ventures account on Maba People of Chad, Central African Republic and Sudan, The Maba also referred by other names such as Mabangi, this story is Intended to illustrate how this people group thinks and lives “Maama Nya”, why do some of our people say we should not look up at a tree? “Youssef, a Maba boy asked his grandmother she answered“ There is an Old Proverb of our People that says, “If you sleep all the time, you sleep all the time, you will miss out on everything. Those who are absent are always wrong. It is far better to be at events when they happen to avoid losing out on an Opportunity and It is said this means a Child like you also has ideas to share. It is believed a worthy Maba man must be pleasing to Allah. Maba, Maban or Mabang dialects are divided into several dialects, Maba is a group of language spoken in Chad, Central African Republic and Sudan. Other groups Include Karanga, Kibet, Massalat, Marfa and Runga.

Maba masquerade

According to Crenshaw Torrance account on Maba People of Chad , Sudan and Central African Republic , After enduring decades of Civil warfare among ethnic groups as well as Invasions by Libya , Chad got started toward a more stable state with the seizure of the government in early december , 1990 by former Northern guerilla leader by the name Idress Deby .It is claimed Maba were also part of the Kingdoms of Bagirimi and Ouaddai during the 16th and 17th Centuries . In the 1880s, It is believed Chad was conquered by a Warlord known as Rabih al- Zubair who was a Sundanese , It is believed Chad was the first defined as a national territory in 1910 , as one of the four making up French Equatorial Africa and Chad became part of the France’s so called African assets until 1960 . Maba are considered to be one of the Independent, fearless and extremely Clan- Conscious populate the desert part of the Country Chad in the east . Maba hand down the traditions of their Ancestors through their traditional songs and epic narrations and they have griots .

Maba man

According to Ethnologue‘s account , It is believed Maba are located in the east of Ouaddai Prefecture, Abeche Sub prefecture , south of Abeche , It is said their 2nd language is Arabic , 1st language is their native language Mana and other language include Marfa . Wadai which is also considered as a Kingdom or Empire from 1500-1909, the Sultanate occupied the Eastern part of Chad . Before the 1500s, the region was dominated by Maba People . Wadai was a Vassal Kingdom of Darfur dominated by Maba People . It is said a little is known for the period, the King went by the title known as “ Malik” . Others believed Maba established the Waddai or Wadai Empire the Tunjur in the latter 1500s , destroyed the Muslim Sultanate . The Tunjur Sultanate ruled until `1635, they were expelled by Abdal- Krim , The Maba rulers then took the title “ Kolak” when Abd al- Krim being the first . The Waddai Kingdom came under the Influence of Kanem . In the 1700s, It began to reassert Its Independence from Kanem and It is said Arabs began raiding Wadai followed by 1835 , Wadai was conquered by Darfur , Sudan . In 1890 , later Wadai was controlled by a proxy territory of Rabih . In 1909, It is believed France had Invaded the region and annexed it to Chad . In 1935 , Kolak was reinstated with limited authority over the Quaddai.


The Oral Tradition of Maba People of Chad, Central African Republic and Sudan

According to the Oral tradition , Maba Languages had changed when they migrated from Present day Yemen westward to avoid Arab on the east , the Maba other languages include Dadjo , Mimi , Sungor , Kibert , Mourro and Dagel are considered to be part of Tama which is also part of the Maba languages , although Maba lived in the arid Sahel , to settle in their Present day homelands . Once the rulers of Sultanate ruled . It is said the Dadjo part of the Maba were separated into 2 groups during the 15th Century . Tunjur conquered Waddai some of the Maba the Dajo fled West and the Eastern Dadjo remained in Southern Present day Ouaddai Prefecture and , following defeat by the Tunjur founded a new Sultanate with its Capital at Groz Beida . The Hajerai and Gudra are also part of the Maba who lived with Dadjo and have common origins some also claimed Maba are descendants of the Berber People .

Maba dishes Include Porridge made up of Sorghum , their sauces contain meat , dried fish , tomatoes , rice , sesame and some bean species . Among them Imam is considered as their Spiritual leader and It is said Cassava , sugarcane , yams , rice , sweet potatoes and grilled lamb , homemade Cheese and brewed local beer is known as Gala . The 200 distinct groups Include the north and center distinct groups such as Gorane , Toubou , Daza , Kreda , Zaghawa , Kanembou , Maba, Baguirmi , Hadjerai , Fulbe or Fulani , Kotoko , Hausa , Boulala and the South Include Sara , Massa , Moussei, Mbaye and Goulaye