The Zaghawa

The Zaghawa of Sudan

cattle driveThe Zaghawa are scattered throughout the African countries of Sudan, Chad and Niger. Also called the Beri, the Sudanese Zaghawa are a semi-nomadic tribe that is found living primarily along the border between Sudan and Chad. Numbering approximately 171,000, they are a camel and cattle herding group who also engage in a fair amount of agriculture.

The Zaghawa are an ancient society that dates back to the seventh century. During that time, they had their own kingdom ruled by chieftans and divided into strict social classes and family clans. The various clusters of Zaghawa tribes are still divided into clans, yet the development of the nations of Sudan, Chad and Niger has weakened the chiefs and the overall Zaghawa social system.

The problem of water is a major preoccupation for the Zaghawa, who during normal years must wait nine dry months for a short rainy season which lasts between the end of June and the end of August. To survive, many herdsmen drive their animals north to graze during the dry season, and return south when it rains.

In addition to using the milk of their cattle, sheep and camels and selling some animals for income, the Zaghawa also grow vegetables such as tomatoes, onions and okra in small gardens surrounding their homes and raise crops such as millet and tubers (starchy root vegetables). Many Zaghawa are merchants who travel southward and eastward to find food and manufactured goods that are not available in their own region. Sugar, tea, oil, blankets, plastic products and soap are all purchased or exchanged for cattle, sheep, wild grasses and the gum of the acacia tree. Some men also work as blacksmiths, although craftsmen would be a better collective name for these artists who make metal tools, weapons and jewelry; create pottery; carve wooden stools and musical instruments; weave cotton; and tan hides to make various leather items.

The adoption of Islam, which was introduced into the region in the 1600s, contributed to the weakening of the Zaghawa clan system. Villages have become hospitable to outsiders, and sacrifice and ancestor worship have either been abandoned or modified and reinterpreted in order to be acceptable to Islam. Although Islam is widely accepted and the study of Islamic law is highly respected, the Zaghawa still hang on to many of their traditional superstitions. To avoid the curse of the “evil eye,” a rather vague yet terrifying phenomenon, they wear charms, construct their houses in a certain fashion and cover their babies’ faces in public.

Most Zaghawa have not heard a clear presentation of the Gospel.

As you intercede for this Sudanese people group, remember to:

  • Pray for a mighty moving of God’s Spirit among the Zaghawa people.

  • Ask God to create a hunger within the hearts of the Zaghawa to know the Truth.

  • Pray that God will speak to the Zaghawa through dreams, visions or any other method He desires.

  • Pray for a strong witness and good Christian resources among the Zaghawa in their own language.

  • Pray that God will save key Zaghawa leaders who will boldly declare the Gospel.

  • Pray for an end to Sudan’s civil war, which has lasted over a decade and left many Sudanese people homeless and starving.