Toubou people


Toubou / Tubu

The Toubou, or Tubu (from Old Tebu, meaning "rock people"), are an ethnic group inhabiting northern Chad, southern Libya, northeastern Niger and northwestern Sudan. They live either as herders and nomads or as farmers near oases. Their society is clan-based, with each clan having certain oases, pastures and wells.

The Toubou are generally divided into two closely related groups: the Teda (or Téda, Toda) and the Dazagra (or Dazaga, Dazagara, Daza). They are believed to share a common origin and speak two closely related languages called Tedaga (Téda Toubou) and Dazaga (Dazaga Gouran), both Nilo-Saharan languages. The Toubou people speak the Tebu languages, which are from the Saharan branch of the Nilo-Saharan language family.

Tubu Map distribution

The Teda of the Toubou live in the far north of Chad, around the borders of Libya and Niger and the Tibesti Mountains. The Dazagra people are found in northern Chad and part of eastern Niger and northwestern Sudan. Of the two groups, the Dazagra, found to the south of the Teda, are more numerous with a population of 1,500,000, while the Teda number only 750,000.

The Toubou people are also referred to as the Tabu, Tebu, Tebou, Tibu, Tibbu, Toda, Todga, Todaga, Tubu, Tuda, Tudaga, and Umbararo people. The Dazaga are sometimes referred to as Gouran (or Gorane, Goran, Gourane), an Arabian exonym. Many of Chad's leaders have been Toubou (Gouran), including president Goukouni Oueddei and president Hissène Habré.

Toubou People



The Toubou people have historically lived in northern Chad, northeastern Niger, and southern Libya. They have sometimes been called the "black nomads of the Sahara". They are distributed across a large area in the central Sahara, as well as the north-central Sahel. They are particularly found north of the Tibesti mountains, which in Old Tebu means "Rocky Mountains." Their name is derived from this.

The Teda are found primarily in the Sahara regions around the borders of southeast Libya, northeast Niger and northern Chad. They consider themselves a warrior people. The Dazagra live towards the Sahel region and are spread over much of north-central Chad. The Dazagra consist of numerous clans. Some major clans of the Dazagara, or Gouran, include the Anakaza, Dazza, Donza, Gaida, Kamaya, Karra, Kokorda, Mourdia, Wanja, Yierah, and Choraga. The Dazagra cover the northern regions of Bourkou, the Ennedi Plateau, the Tibesti Mountains and Bahr el Gazel in the south. There is a diaspora community of several thousand Dazaga living in Omdurman, Sudan and a couple of thousand working in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.



The ancient history of the Toubou people is unclear. They may be related to the 'Ethiopians' mentioned by Herodotus in 430 BCE, as a people being hunted by Garamantes, but this is speculative, as Jean Chapelle argues.

In Islamic literature, the earliest mention as the Tubu people is perhaps that along with the Zaghawa people in an 8th-century text by Arabic scholar Ibn Qutaybah. The 9th century al-Kuwarizmi mentions the Daza people (southern Toubou). They represent 2.9% of the total population of Chad.

Toubou People



The Teda are, by numerical majority and by cultural preference, nomadic pastoralists. They have herds of goats and, in some areas, camels. As is the case throughout North Africa and the Middle East, the actual degree to which any sector of the population relies on migratory herding for its subsistence, however, varies regionally with social conditions, climate, and terrain. Most of the Tibesti is so barren as to require migration for pasture, and since herding is not a self-sufficient subsistence mode, seasonal migration is also necessary for date harvesting. Even in the best years, however, these two activities do not produce an adequate diet. In the north-central and northeastern Tibesti, there are areas of arable land where sedentary and semisedentary sectors of the population cultivate vegetable gardens, cereals, groves of palm and fruit trees, grapes, and some cotton. Trade between the pastoral and agricultural sectors is essential to the diets of both, whether it be carried out between social units that are almost exclusively migratory or entirely sedentary, or accomplished by division of labor within a social unit whose members exploit both pastures and arable lands. Thus, there is a continuum of patterns of community land use, mobility, and subsistence strategies, with a stated preference and higher status for the end of the continuum that is most exclusively nomadic pastoralism.

Toubou People



Toubou life centres on raising and herding their livestock, or on farming the scattered oases where they cultivate dates and grain and legumes. Their herds include dromedaries, goats, cattle, donkeys and sheep. The livestock is a major part of their wealth, and they trade the animals. The livestock is also used as a part of dowry payment during marriage, either as one where the groom’s family agrees to pay to the bride’s family in exchange for the bride, or, states Catherine Baroin, it is given by the bride's kin to supply the young couple with economic resources in order to start a family.

In a few places, the Toubou also mine salt and natron, a salt like substance which is essential in nearly all components of Toubou life from medicinal purposes, as a mixture in chewing tobacco, preservation, tanning, soap production, textiles and for livestock. Literacy rates among the Toubou are quite low.

Toubou People


Family and clan

Many Toubou people still follow a nomadic pastoralist lifestyle. Those who prefer a settled life typically live in palm-thatched, rectangular or cylindrical mud houses. The Toubou are patrilineal, with an elder male heading the lineage. The second order of Toubou kinship is to the clan.

According to Jean Chapelle, a professor of History specializing in Chadian ethnic groups, the clan system developed out of necessity. Nomadic life means being scattered throughout a region; therefore, belonging to a clan means that the individual is likely to find hospitable clan people in most settlements or camps of any size. A second factor is the maintenance of ties with the maternal clan. Although the maternal clan does not occupy the central place of the parental clan, it provides ties. The third factor is protective relationships at the primary residence.

Despite shared linguistic heritage, few institutions among the Toubou generate a broader sense of identity than the clan. Regional divisions do exist, however. During the colonial period (and since independence in 1960), Chadian administrations have conferred legality and legitimacy on these regional groupings by dividing the Toubou and Daza regions into corresponding territorial units called cantons and appointing chiefs to administer them.

Toubou legal customs are generally based on Islamic law, that allows restitution and revenge. Murder, for example, is settled directly between the families of the victim and the murderer. Toubou honour requires that someone from the victim's family try to kill the murderer or a relative; such efforts eventually end with negotiations to settle the matter. Reconciliation follows the payment of the Goroga (Islamic tenet of Diyya), or blood money. Among the Tomagra clan of the Teda people in the Tibesti region, there is a derde (spiritual head) who is recognized as the clan judge, and arbitrates conflict and levies sanctions.

Toubou People


Social stratification

The Toubou people, states Jean Chapelle, have been socially stratified with an embedded caste system. The three strata have consisted of the freemen with a right to own property, the artisanal castes and the slaves.

The endogamous caste of Azza (or Aza) among Toubou have the artisanal occupations, such as metal work, leather work, salt mining, well digging, dates farming, pottery and tailoring, and they have traditionally been despised and segregated by other strata of the Toubou, much like the Hadahid caste in southeastern Chad among the Zaghawa people. According to Paul Lovejoy – a professor of African History, the 19th century records show that these segregated Toubou castes followed the same customs and traditions as the rest of the Toubou, but they were independent in their politics and beliefs, much like the artisan castes found in many ethnic groups of eastern Chad such as the Kanembu, Yedina, Arab, Kouri and Danawa.

Marriage between a member of the Azza and a member from a different strata of the Toubou people has been culturally unacceptable. The language used by the Azza people is a variant of the Tebu language.

The lowest social strata were the slaves (Kamaja). Slaves entered Toubou society from raids and warfare on other ethnic groups in lands to their south. All slaves were the property of their masters, their caste was endogamous, and their status was inherited by birth.

Toubou People



The Toubou culture forbids marriage between first cousins, a practice common among many Muslim ethnic groups in Africa. A man may marry and have multiple wives according to Islamic tenets, however, this practice is only somewhat prevalent in Toubou society.

The ownership of land, animals, and resources takes several forms. Within an oasis or settled zone belonging to a particular clan, land, trees (usually date palms), and nearby wells may have different owners. Each family's rights to the use of particular plots of land are recognized by other clan members. Families also may have privileged access to certain wells and the right to a part of the harvest from the fields irrigated by their water. Within the clan and family contexts, individuals also may have personal claims to palm trees and animals.


Contemporary conditions in Chad

Much of the political class of Chad are drawn from Dazagra. During the First Chadian Civil War (1966-1979), the derde came to occupy a more important position. In 1965 the Chadian government assumed direct authority over the Tibesti Mountains, sending a military garrison and administrators to Bardaï, the capital of Tibesti Sub-prefecture. Within a year, abuses of authority had roused considerable opposition among the Toubou. The derde, Oueddei Kichidemi, recognized but little respected up to that time, protested the excesses, went into exile in Libya, and, with the support of Toubou students at the Islamic University of Bayda, became a symbol of opposition to the Chadian government. This role enhanced the position of the derde among the Toubou.

After 1967 the derde hoped to rally the Toubou to the National Liberation Front of Chad (FROLINAT). Moral authority became military authority shortly thereafter when his son, Goukouni Oueddei, became one of the leaders of the Second Liberation Army of FROLINAT. Goukouni was to become a national figure; he played an important role in the battles of N'Djamena in 1979 and 1980 and served as head of state for a time. Another northerner, Hissène Habré of the Dazagra, replaced Goukouni of the Teda in 1982, and lost eventually power to the Zaghawa Idriss Déby after 8 years.

Toubou People


Contemporary conditions in Libya

The Toubou minority in Libya suffered what has been described as "massive discrimination" both under the leadership of Muammar Gaddafi as well as after the Libyan civil war.

In a report released by the UNHCR, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) reported "massive discrimination" against the Toubou minority, which resides in the southeastern corner of the country around the oasis town of Kufra. In December 2007, the Gaddafi government stripped Toubou Libyans of their citizenship, claiming that they were not Libyans, but rather Chadians. In addition, local authorities denied Toubou people access to education and healthcare. In response, an armed group called the Toubou Front for the Salvation of Libya (TFSL) staged an uprising in November 2008 which lasted for five days and claimed 33 lives before being crushed by government security forces. Despite resistance and public condemnation, the Gaddafi regime continued its persecution of the Toubou minority in Libya. Beginning in November 2009, the government began a program of forced eviction and demolition of Toubou homes, rendering many Toubou homeless. Several dozens who protested the destruction were arrested, and families who refused to leave their homes were beaten.

In the Libyan Civil War, Toubou tribespeople in Libya sided with the rebel anti-Gaddafi forces and participated in the Fezzan campaign against forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, briefly capturing the town of Qatrun and claiming to capture Murzuk for the rebel movement a month later.

In March 2012, bloody clashes broke out between Toubou and Arab tribesmen in the southern city of Sabha, Libya. In response, Issa Abdel Majid Mansour, the leader of the Toubou tribe in Libya threatened a separatist bid, decrying what he saw as "ethnic cleansing" against Toubou and declaring "We announce the reactivation of the Toubou Front for the Salvation of Libya to protect the Toubou people from ethnic cleansing." The TFSL was the opposition group active in the unrest of 2007–2008 that was "ruthlessly persecuted" by the Gaddafi government.

Toubou People


Religion and Expressive Culture

t is thought that all the Teda are Muslims. Their Islamization dates very probably to early in the Arab conquest, although most education in the Quran and in the intricacies of the legal system was a result of the establishment of Senusi schools in Libya and Chad within the last century. Although there are some traces of pre-Islamic belief, most of these have been incorporated into the Muslim system. The Islamic calendar is followed. Prayer is regularly practiced by both men and women, as is the Ramadan fast and zakat. Inheritance is Islamic. Although the Tibesti does not shelter many men educated in the Quran because few return to live permanently in the mountains, there are families boasting five generations of religiously learned men. In the late twentieth century more and more Teda, both men and women, have been able to perform the hajj.

The health status of the Teda as a group has generally been good. The principal problems are seasonal caloric deficiencies and periodic protein deficiency. In years when nutritional stress has been prolonged, susceptibility to respiratory infections has been a serious health problem. In the late twentieth century rheumatism, dental deterioration, and syphilis have become common.

Toubou People