The Sara people are a Central Sudanic ethnic group native to southern Chad, the northwestern areas of the Central African Republic, and the southern border of North Sudan.[3] They speak the Sara languages which are a part of the Central Sudanic language family.[4] They are also the largest ethnic group in Chad.[5][6]

A Sara woman
Total population
~4 million
Regions with significant populations
The Republic of Chad, the Central African Republic, and the Republic of North Sudan
 Chad5,311,303 (30.5%)[1]
 Central African Republic423,281 (7.9%)[2]
Sara languages, French
Christianity, Sara animism (traditional African religion), Islam
Related ethnic groups
Bilala people and other Central Sudanic peoples

Sara oral histories add further details about the people. In summary, the Sara are mostly animists (veneration of nature), with a social order made up of several patrilineal clans formerly united into a single polity with a national language, national identity, and national religion. Many Sara people have retained their ethnic religion, but some have converted to Christianity and Islam.[7]


Many Sara people live in the region southeast of Lake Chad, which is irrigated by the Chari and Logone rivers.[7]

In ChadEdit

The Sara (Kameeni) are the largest ethnic group in the Republic of Chad, they're concentrated in the Moyen-Chari, the Logone Oriental, the Logone Occidental, and parts of the Tandjile regions. After their arrival, they continued to be the target of violent raids by northern Fulani and Arab people.[7][8][9]

Body scarring rituals have long been a part of Sara culture, affirming community solidarity; both men and women subscribe to it.[10]

The local Muslim groups of what is now Chad, referred to the Sara as "Kirdi", with the term "Kirdi" denoting a non-Muslim person. The Muslim raiders of what is now Chad were autonomously called "Bagirmi", and this geo-political conflict between the Kirdi and the Bagirmi continued through the nineteenth century.[11][12]

The French colonial empire entered the ongoing hostilities in the early twentieth century, and the Sara people became a part of the French Equatorial Africa, more specifically as part of the "le Tchad utile". The Sara society was transformed by this development, both in terms of culture such as French-based education and training, but also socio-economically because of forced labor and conscription to serve the French military during the World Wars.[11] At the time of independence from France in 1960, the southerners of Chad were more assimilated into French institutions than the northerners.[11] This led to their political dominance of the country after 1960. They were also a part of the civil war with populations in north and central Chad, each population aligning with a different ideology.[12]

In the Central African RepublicEdit

The Sara people make up ten per cent of the population of the Central African Republic, making it the fourth largest ethnic group in the country. They live in the northwest part of CAR.


The Sara people natively speak the Sara languages. This dialect cluster belongs to the Nilo-Saharan family.


The Sara people are mainly Christian and animist, with a minority of Muslims.


Analysis of classic genetic markers and DNA polymorphisms by Excoffier et al. (1987) found that the Sara are most closely related to the Kunama people of Eritrea. Both populations speak languages from the Nilo-Saharan family. They are also similar to West African populations, but biologically distinct from the surrounding Cushitic and Ethiopian Semitic Afro-Asiatic-speaking groups.[13]

Notable Sara peopleEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Chad". Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  2. ^ "Central African Republic". Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  3. ^ Sara people, Encyclopædia Britannica
  4. ^ Sara languages, Ethnologue
  5. ^ Chad: Society and People, CIA Factbook, US Government
  6. ^ Christine Zuchora-Walske (2009). Chad in Pictures. Twenty-First Century. p. 47. ISBN 978-1-57505-956-3.
  7. ^ a b c James Stuart Olson (1996). The Peoples of Africa: An Ethnohistorical Dictionary. Greenwood. p. 510. ISBN 978-0-313-27918-8.
  8. ^ M. J. Azevedo (2005). The Roots of Violence: A History of War in Chad. Routledge. pp. 10–11. ISBN 978-1-135-30080-7.
  9. ^ Kevin Shillington (2013). Encyclopedia of African History 3-Volume Set. Routledge. p. 228. ISBN 978-1-135-45670-2.
  10. ^ Mario Zamora et al (1981), Image and Reality in African Interethnic Relations: The Fulbe and their Neighbors, US Department of Education, pages 136-137, 162-167
  11. ^ a b c David Levinson (1996). "Sara". The Encyclopedia of World Cultures - 10 Volume set, 1st Edition. Gale. ISBN 978-0816118403.
  12. ^ a b Anthony Appiah; Henry Louis Gates (2010). Encyclopedia of Africa. Oxford University Press. pp. 253–256. ISBN 978-0-19-533770-9.
  13. ^ Excoffier, Laurent; et al. (1987). "Genetics and history of sub-Saharan Africa". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 30: 151–194. doi:10.1002/ajpa.1330300510. Retrieved 1 September 2016.


  • René Lemarchand, The Politics of Sara Ethnicity: A Note on the Origins of the Civil War in Chad, in: Cahiers d'Études africaines, Vol. 20, Cahier 80 (1980)
  • René Lemarchand, Chad: The Misadventures of the North-South Dialectic, in: African Studies Review, Vol. 29, No. 3 (Sept., 1986)
  • Mario Azevedo, The Human Price of Development: The Brazzaville Railroad and the Sara of Chad, in: African Studies Review, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Mar., 1981)
  • Mario Azevedo, Power and Slavery in Central Africa: Chad (1890-1925), in: The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 67, No. 3 (Autumn, 1982)
  • Robert Jaulin, La Mort Sara, Paris, 10/18, 1971 (1967)