Toubou or Tubu  (Tibu, Tibbu, Tebu, Tubu, Tebou, Umbararo) people  are distinct semi-nomadic and Nilo-Saharan speaking ethnic group found mostly in northern Chad, but also in southern Libya, northeastern Niger and northwestern Sudan where they are a minority. The Toubou are well-known as "desert warriors" living in the eastern and central Sahara. They are a dark-skinned people of mixed ancestry, most likely of Nilotic descent.

                                Toubou woman from Chad with a ear ring in her nose

The Toubou traditionally derived their wealth and power from their razzias that raided caravans and as animal herders who despised agriculture.

                                   Toubou elder

A majority of Toubou can be found in the Tibesti Mountains (Old Tebu: "Rocky Mountains," whence the Toubou's own name.) on the Libyan-Chad border, but they have also moved deeply into the deserts where they live in small family groups in isolated oases. Tuaregs acknowledge that the Toubou are a very tough people who often have hostile fights amongst themselves and with their neighboring tribes.

                                     Toubou spear

 Animal rustling and killing are fairly acceptable in their culture and even respected in some ways. It is quite common for Toubou women to fight among themselves. Women usually carry daggers, and up to a hundred years ago wore swords as well.

                                       Toubou woman from Chad

Toubou people who are mostly Muslims has a population of about 520,000 who were mostly herders and nomads, though many are now semi-nomadic. Their society is clan-based, with each clan having certain oases, pastures and wells. They are divided in two closely associated people, the Teda and the Daza.
 In Libya under Muamar Gaddafi’s rule, Toubou suffered high rates of "massive discrimination." They were stripped of their citizenship by Gaddafi who claimed they were not Libyans, but Chadians. They were also denied access to resources such as healthcare and education by local authorities in Libya.

Many of Chad's leaders have been Toubou, including presidents Goukouni Oueddei and Hissène Habré.

                        Toubou man and former Chadian president Hissène Habré.

Toubou people speak Tebu language which belongs to the Nilo-Saharan language family. It is spoken by two groups of the Tebu people (also Toubou, Tibu, Tibbu, Tubu, Tebou, etc.), the Daza and the Teda.
Tebu is predominantly spoken in Chad and southern Libya by about 520,000 people. Its two main dialects, Dazaga and Tedaga.

                                     Toubou women
According to Toubou oral tradition they were Nilotic people who left the Nile areas  durin "The Kedh Gurrai." The story of the “Kedh Gurrai” (great migration to the south) states that there was a big war which caused people to disperse in different directions. Some stayed, some moved away, and this was also when people converted to different religions; this migration is believed to have happened around 14th Century AD.
Africa | On the way to Nokou, Eastern Chad | © Jacques Taberlet
Toubou woman Chad

As semi-nomadic people, Toubou life centers on their livestock (their major source of wealth and sustenance) and on the scattered oases where they or their herders cultivate dates and grain. In a few places, the Toubou (or more often members of the Haddad group who work for them) also mine salt and natron, a salt like substance used for medicinal purposes and for livestock.
Chad, Africa by Victor Affaro, via Flickr
Toubou man

Family, socio-political culture and Society
The Toubou family is made up of parents, children, and another relative or two. Although the husband or father is the head of the household, he rarely makes decisions without consulting his wife. When he is absent, his wife often takes complete charge, moving family tents, changing pastures, and buying and selling cattle. Although Toubou men may have several wives, few do. Families gather in larger camps during the months of transhumance. Camp membership is fluid, sometimes changing during the season and almost never remaining the same from one season to the next.
After the family, the clan is the most stable Toubou institution. Individuals identify with their clan, which has a reputed founder, a name, a symbol, and associated taboos. Clans enjoy collective priority use of certain palm groves, cultivable land, springs, and pastures; outsiders may not use these resources without clan permission. Social relations are based on reciprocity, hospitality, and assistance. Theft and murder within the clan are forbidden, and stolen animals must be returned.
Within the overall context of clan identity, however, Toubou society is shaped by the individual. Jean Chapelle, a well-known observer of Chadian societies, notes that "it is not society that forms the individual, but the individual who constructs the society most useful" for him or her. Three features of Toubou social structure make this process possible. The first is residence. In general, clan members are scattered throughout a region; therefore, an individual is likely to find hospitable clans 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 potential clan, it provides another universe of potential ties.

 Toubou family

Marriage creates a third set of individual options. Although relatives and the immediate family influence decisions about a marriage partner, individual preference is recognized as important. In addition, once a marriage is contracted between individuals of two clans, other clan members are forbidden to change it. The Toubou proscribe marriage with any blood relative less than four generations removed - in the words of the Toubou recorded by Chapelle, "when there are only three grandfathers."
Africa | Portrait of a souvenir seller. western Ennedi. Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti. Chad |  © Jacques Taberlet.
Toubou woman  souvenir seller. western Ennedi. Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti. Chad | © Jacques Taberlet.

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. Toubou legal customs are based on restitution, indemnification, and revenge. Conflicts are resolved in several settings. Murder, for example, is settled directly between the families of the victim and the murderer. Toubou honor 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, or blood price, usually in the form of camels.

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.

Only among the Teda of the Tibesti region have institutions evolved somewhat differently. Since the end of the 16th century, the derde (spiritual head) of the Tomagra clan has exercised authority over part of the massif and the other clans who live there. He is selected by a group of electors according to strict rules. The derde exercises judicial rather than executive power, arbitrating conflict and levying sanctions based on a code of compensations.

History of Discrimination and violence against Toubou
During the civil conflict in Chad (1966–1993), 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 Subprefecture. 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 Daza Anakaza, replaced Goukouni in 1982, and lost eventually power to Idriss Dédy, a Zaghawa.
Toubou woman from Chad

The Toubou minority in Libya suffered what has been described as "massive discrimination" under the leadership of Muammar Gaddafi.
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 dozen who protested the destruction were arrested, and families who refused to leave their homes were beaten.
Toubou woman from Libya

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.
Africa | “Sahara” de Sylvio Acatos. Photographies de Maximilien Bergmann. Editions Silva, Zurich, 1969.  | Toubou woman.  Today most Toubou people live in northern Chad and Niger.

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 regime


                                   Toubou tribe boy

Toubou man Goukouni Oueddei, former President of Chad

Toubou man

Toubou man Goukouni Oueddei, former President of Chad

Africa | Toubou woman from Kaouar.  Niger | Scanned postcard; photo by Maurice Ascani, published by CFAO, Niamey, 1988

Toubou man and former Chadian president Hissène Habré.

Toubou child in Ounianga Kebir,Chad



  1. These people don't look mixed as you claim. What exactly makes them mixed? They look black!

    1. compered to other nilo Saharans they are mixed

    2. "Black" does not mean one look, its many. They seem intermixed with various African ethnic groups.

    3. Thats a bit blinkered same as all whites arent the same ie russians compared to Irish.I can see Yoruba ,bantu,fulani and definite European in the mix

  2. They are mixed ,they were mixed 2000 years ago.check out the neat aqualine nose high cheek bone and fantastic smokey eyes of some of those women,

    1. Somatically speaking they are Negroid. Stop trying to play internet scientist claiming their a mix because some Toubou women have an aquline nose. Making stupid comments is not going to get you anywhere with me. If we examined very aspect of the their phenotype including how much melanin is contained in their skin- whether or not their hair follows a spiral or straight pattern-how common a flat broad nose is in comparison to a aqualine nose-the evidence would concluded they are irrefutably Negroid. Stop wasting your time replying with idiotic comments. I am not going to entertain it!

    2. They're not. Africans possess EVERY phenotypical trait there is, humanity emerged from Africa. High cheekbones is a feature that a LOT of Africans have, it's not limited to ANY ethnic group at all. Secondly, "aquiline" noses are a trait which evolved so that people living in arid climates could properly "moisturize" the air before it enters the lungs, and also keep the moisture when exhaling. This is basic anthropology, so that means that "aquiline" noses are an African trait too. As Makel Layton said, these people are THOROUGHLY AFRICAN. Africans are not monolithic in terms of phenotypical traits. The only common denominator is the pigment in our skin, and that's about it.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. strolling through the net , I met this blog and loved . hugs from Brazil

  4. Bonjour à tous, Svp j'aimerais avoir une petite précision sur la 5e avant dernière photo (la femme avec son enfant). Si vous avez une idée sur sa zone de prise, et aussi si possible le nom de la dame. Il y'a quelques personnes qui donnent des noms et localisations un peu différents et je voudrais en savoir un peu plus. Merci de votre compréhension


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