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Modern Tchad






In the middle ages the territory of today’s Tchad was intersected by caravan trails. Abesehr was a station on such a trail mentioned by Angelino Dulcerta on his portolan. Abesehr was situated at the southernmost border of the Islamic world. It was connected with Tripoli with a road through Sakha and Audjila in Libya along the modern border between Egypt an Libya. From there there was also a connection with Ethiopia. For a long time the region remained unknown in Europe. There were a few petty kingdoms in the region like Berdoa, Kanem-Bornu (later: Borku) and Zaneara. These petty kingdoms were famous for their hoards of gold and their magnificent regalia  and ceremonies. A sixteenth-century emperor of Kanem-Bornu is said to have had horses with golden bits and hounds with golden chains.  Basil Davidson writes about Kanem Bornu:


“Three main periods may be distinguished in Kanem history. There is the early period of formation when the Kanembu under their early chiefs were striving for leadership in the grassland country around Lake Chad. With the eleventh-century conversion of the Sefuwa to Islam, there comes an increasing involvement in the trade of the region, together with a succesful effort at establishing a single overall system of law and order throughout a wide region of trade and pasture. This is the period of the 'old empire' based on Kanem to the east of Lake Chad. It collapses in the fifteenth century with the rebellion of some of its subject peoples, notably the Bulala, and there follows a time of confusion while sovereignties are violently contested. This terminates with the rise of a new empire whose main seat of power has  shifted west of the lake, and lies in the land of Bornu. In 1571, after many adventures, the greatest of all the kings or mais of Kanem-Bornu, Idris Alooma, at last comes into his rights and launches upon a grand career of political achievement that was contemporary with the reign of England's Queen Elizabeth. Idris Alooma unites the whole grassland country from the borders of Darfur in the east, and perhaps Darfur itself, to the kingdoms of eastern Hausaland; maintains diplomatic missions in Tripoli and Cairo; exchanges gifts with the Ottoman Sultan in Istanbul; and rules as the most succesful West African monarch of his day.” [1]







Two versions of the arms of Organa after the Book of Knowledge. The left (from Ms. S.) follows the portolan of Angelino Dulcerto. The right (from Ms.N) is decribed in the text and is a variant of the Dulcerta arms. Later versions are the Dulcerta version.

Kanem Bornu may be identical with mediaeval Organa, as mentioned on the map of Angelino Dulcerta (1339), by The Book of Knowledge (Libro de Conoscimiento) and some 14th and 15th century portolans. On the map of Angelino Dulcerta there is a picture of a city called Regnum de Organa from which a white flag is flown with a green palmtree. This flag  is modified by The Book of Knowledge in which is written: The King of organa has for his device a white flag with a green palm tree and two keys. [2]

The Dulcerta version is repeated again by the Atlas Catalan, today in the Bibliothèque National in Paris. On this portolan a king is depicted, togeher with a city called Organa (ciutat Organa) from which a flag is flown, showing a green palmtree. The king himself, dressed in blue and with a white turban on his head,  is sitting beside it , armed with a broadsword and a shield with a crescent between three bosses, all gold on a red field. 



The city of Organa and a king in the Atlas Catalan, ca 1375.

Detail of the facsimile in the Maritime Museum of Barcelona.



The same part of North Africa is depicted on the map of Gabriel de Vallseca from 1439:



On this portolan the flag with the palmtree has disappeared. The king is now sitting on a carpet and is dressed in green with a red turban. He is armed with a broadsword and a blue shield of fifteenth-century Moroccan shape,  with four golden symbols.  Above his head is a golden banner with a white crescent. [3]

Kanem-Bornu disappeared in the beginning of the 18th century. [4]


Modern Tchad


Starting from Congo the French conquered the region by and by. They reached the river Shari in 1894. At the Berlin Conference of 1899 it was decided that Tibesti, Kanem, Wadai and Abesehr and Borku would be french territories. The region was incorporated in Afrique Equatoriale Française  on 15 January 1910.


Tchad became an autonomous republic within the Communauté Française on 28 November 1958. It became an independent republic with the name of “République du Tchad” on 11 August 1960.  Capital: N'Djamena  (until 4 September 1973: Fort Lamy /Fort Fouréau)



The seal of the republic shows the bust of a woman from Tchad, looking to the right (sinister). Legend: republique du tchad ó unité . travail . progrès ó. (Unity, Work, Progress)


The flag, adopted 6 November 1959 is of the national colours blue, yellow and red in three vertical stripes. They symbolize the sky, life and hope, of the sun as the creator of life, and of the fire of the unirty of the state. The colours reappear in the national achievement. This was designed by the secretary of the International Academy of Heraldry, Hervé Pinoteau and is inspired by an idea of G. Eynde. The achievement was printed on coins to the memory of the first anniversary of the Republic in 1970. No legislation about the achievement is known. It is: 


Arms: Barry indented of eight pieces Or and Azure.

Crest: A rising sun radiant Gules.

Order: Ordre National du Chad

Supporters: D.: A  mouflon (Ovis musimon - Bovidæ) Or, on his manes an arrow Gules; S.: A lion Or, on his manes an arrow Gules.

Motto: unité travail progres , between and separated by arrows Gules, in red lettering on a listel Or.


The red arrow is the symbol of  the Chadian National Union (Union Nationale Tchadienne or UNT) a radical Muslim political party founded in 1958 by Issa Dana,  but now extict.


ð See illustration in the head of this essay.


Cross of the National Order of Chad



© Hubert de Vries 2008.12.18

[1]) Davidson, Basil: Africa in History. Frogmore St. Albans. Hert. 1974. pp. 96-97.

[2]) Book of the Knowledge of all the kingdoms, lands, and lordships that are in the world. (ca 1350). Works issued by the Hakluyt Society. 2nd series N° XXIX. 1912., p. 31, fig 64.

[3] ) Museu Marítim de Barcelona.  In North Africa there are six kingsdepicted: 1. Rex Bubeder; 2. Rex Musameli; 3. Rex Organa; 4. Rex Dnubie; 5. Lo Solda; 6. Desgreliona (?).  These kings could have been the rulers of  Mali, Songhai, Kanem-Bornu, Nubia, Egypt en Ethiopia.   

[4] ) The heir of this empire, the Shehu of Bornu, Al Hadj Nimar el Kanemi, nowadays lives in Nigeria. His portrait in Lainé, D.: African Kings. Berkely, 2000.  p. 40.

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