Tama people

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Tama language

Tama is a non-Arab, African ethnic group of people who live in eastern Chad and western Sudan. They speak Tama, a Nilo-Saharan language. The population is 200,000–300,000 people and they practice Islam. Many Tama are subsistence farmers who live in permanent settlements and some raise livestock. In the civil war in Chad (2005–2010) the Tama were involved in ethnic conflicts with the Zaghawa tribe.


The Tama people are a non-Arab[1] (i.e., "African"[2][3] or "black"[3]) tribe that live in Dar Tama in northeastern Chad and Darfur in western Sudan.[1] They number 200,000[4]–300,000.[5] They speak Tama, a Nilo-Saharan language.[4] Many of the Tama are subsistence farmers[6][7] who live in permanent settlements[8] and raise millet, beans, cucumbers, gumbo, and sesame.[1] They also raise cattle, camels and goats.[6] The majority of Tama are Muslims, but they also have some animistic beliefs.[8]


The Tama are made up of a number of subgroups: Abu Sharib (approximately 50,000 people),[9][10] Asungor (60,000),[6] Dagel,[11] Erenga (35,000),[12] Gimr (50,000),[9][13] Kibet,[14] Marari (20,000),[9][15] Mileri (9,000),[9][16] and Tama proper.[9]

The traditional home of the Tama is Dar Tama.[17] All reside in Chad, except the Gimr and the Mileri, who live near Saref Omra and Kebkabiya in Sudan.[7][18] In 2006, due to violence between the Tama and the Zaghawa,[19] 1,800 Tama refugees fled to Mile and Kounoungo,[7][20] United Nations-sponsored refugee camps.[21]


For centuries, the Tama were governed by sultans.[22] Many of these were believed to be of Dadjo origin.[22] In the 1800s they were a warlike tribe who was known for their use of the spear,[23] who had maintained their independence for the previous two centuries.[23] On at least two occasions, they resisted the invasions from other tribes.[24][25]

At various times they have been subjected to the sultans of Wadai on the west and Darfur on the east, but have always had their own sultan.[26] For example, they were part of the Sultanate of Darfur in the early 1800s.[27] Turkish-Egypian Sudan governed the area in the late 1800s.[28] During the French colonial period, France really only governed southern Chad,[29] and therefore not the Dar Tama region, but a figurehead sultan was put in place to govern the area.[30]

Zaghawa ethnic tension[edit]

During the Sahelian drought of the 1980s, the Zaghawa migrated to Dar Tama[17] and displaced some of the Tama.[31]

At the time of the Chadian civil war the rebel group United Front for Democratic Change (FUC) largely consisted of Tama.[1] The Zaghawa felt the Tama supported this rebel group that opposed the Chadian government,[31] which was led by President Idriss Déby, a member of the Zaghawa tribe,[32] though there was little activity of any rebel group on the community level.[20]

A 2006 robbery of a Tama man and an ensuing gunfight that caused 20 deaths and 9 serious injuries was cited as the event that triggered increased violence.[33] After that, the Zaghawa increased the frequency and violence of their theft of Tama cattle.[34] In 2006, dozens of Tama were killed by Zaghawa militants and thousands of Tama were displaced after Zaghawa attacks on Tama villages.[17]

In August 2006, 3,300 Tama civilians fled from Dar Tama to Sudan because some Zaghawa accused a Tama man of raping one of their women.[20] In October, 1,800 refugees fled to Mile and Kounoungo,[7][20] UN-sponsored refugee camps.[21] Human Rights Watch could not corroborate allegations of Tama attacks on Zaghawa civilians.[35] The Chadian government and police did little to investigate or condemn the increasing violence.[36]


  1. ^ a b c d Human Rights Watch, p. 11
  2. ^ "Operational Guidance Note, Republic of the Sudan" (PDF). UK Border Agency. August 2012. p. 23. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 October 2012. Retrieved 14 September 2012.
  3. ^ a b Rebecca Hamilton (2011). Fighting for Darfur: Public Action and the Struggle to Stop Genocide. Macmillan. p. 13. ISBN 0230100228.
  4. ^ a b Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates (2010). Encyclopedia of Africa. Oxford University Press. p. 454. ISBN 0195337700.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  5. ^ Olson, p. 544
  6. ^ a b c Olson, p. 42
  7. ^ a b c d Jonathan Loeb; Benjamin Naimark-Rowse; Matthew Bowlby; et al. (July 2010). "Darfurian Voices" (PDF). 24 Hours For Darfur. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-25.
  8. ^ a b "Chad: Tama ethnic group; language; population; political affiliations and rebel group support; traditional lands". Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. 1 November 1998. Retrieved 14 September 2012.
  9. ^ a b c d e Facts On File, Incorporated (2009). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Africa and the Middle East. Infobase Publishing. p. 682. ISBN 143812676X.
  10. ^ Olson, p. 5
  11. ^ Olson, p. 135
  12. ^ Olson, pp. 168–9
  13. ^ Olson, p. 198
  14. ^ Olson, p. 285
  15. ^ Olson, p. 372
  16. ^ Olson, p. 396
  17. ^ a b c Human Rights Watch, p. 14
  18. ^ Olson, pp. 198, 396
  19. ^ Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, p. 25
  20. ^ a b c d Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, p. 26
  21. ^ a b Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, p. 66
  22. ^ a b Dennis D. Cordell, ed. (1990). "The Society and Its Environment". Chad: A Country Study. Library of Congress Country Studies (2nd ed.). Library of Congress. p. 37. ISBN 0-16-024770-5. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  23. ^ a b Barth, p. 650
  24. ^ Barth, p. 644
  25. ^ Barth, p. 646
  26. ^ Harold Alfred MacMichael (1922). A History of the Arabs in the Sudan: And Some Account of the People who Preceded Them and of the Tribes Inhabiting Darfur. 1. CUP Archive. p. 85.
  27. ^ Rex S. O'Fahey (2008). The Darfur Sultanate: A History. Columbia University Press. pp. 74–75. ISBN 0231700385.
  28. ^ Said S. Samatar (1992). In the Shadow of Conquest: Islam in Colonial Northeast Africa. The Red Sea Press. pp. 125–6. ISBN 0932415709.
  29. ^ John L. Collier, ed. (1990). "Historical Setting". Chad : A Country Study. Library of Congress Country Studies (2nd ed.). Library of Congress. p. 17. ISBN 0-16-024770-5. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  30. ^ Gérard Prunier (2008). Darfur: A 21st Century Genocide (3 ed.). Cornell University Press. p. 21. ISBN 0801475031.
  31. ^ a b "Fighting between president's and defence chief's ethnic groups". WOW, Gambia News Gateway. 27 August 2007. Retrieved 14 September 2012.
  32. ^ Human Rights Watch, p. 25
  33. ^ Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, pp. 28–9
  34. ^ Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, p. 32
  35. ^ Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, p. 28
  36. ^ Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, pp. 34–5