Introduction / History
Between the sands of the Sahara and the shores of Lake Chad live the Kanembu. For over a thousand years the Kanem-Bornu Empire exerted its influence over central North Africa. Its influence covered eastern Nigeria and Niger, the northern half of Chad and Libya. It traded with Egypt and sponsored Islamic schools as far away as Alexandria. Its camel caravans reached the Muslim holy cities in the Arabian Peninsula. Until the beginning of the 1900's and the French conquest of this area, this empire was the major power in the heart of the north central Africa. Today the Kanembu people are one group of the descendants of this great empire, and their sultans and traditional rules are still more influential than government authorities. They are Chad's merchant tribe, with 75-80% of all merchants in Chad coming from this group, making them one of Chad's wealthiest groups.
Along with the related language group, the Kanuri, they live in an area between the shores of Lake Chad and the Sahara desert. Living in mud brick houses, their culture and clothing resembling that of Bible times, they still await being reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Their practice of Islam is mixed with African traditional beliefs. They have outward conformity to Islam but depend on a form of spiritism to meet daily problems. Marabouts as spiritual leaders are often sought for their healing power or for their ability to communicate with spirits.
The style of living has changed little in the last thousand years, although modern conveniences: vehicles, water pumps, sewing machines, have been added alongside their traditional lifestyle. Today as Chad's main merchant group, Kanembu can be found in all major towns and villages. The current "high school" generation (ages 15 - 30) seeks to escape the village and find a more fulfilling life and job in the outside world. The pull to urban centers, especially to the capital, is very strong.
The Kanembu live in the desert region of northwestern Chad. Since the area receives less than 12 inches of rain per year, farming is very difficult.
Scripture Prayers for the Kanembu in Chad.