A largely semi-desert country, Chad is rich in gold and uranium and stands to benefit from its recently-acquired status as an oil-exporting state.
Chad's post-independence history has been marked by instability and violence, stemming mostly from tension between the mainly Arab-Muslim north and the predominantly Christian and animist south.
Chad became an oil-producing nation in 2003, with the completion of a $4bn pipeline linking its oilfields to terminals on the Atlantic coast.
However, it suffers from inadequate infrastructure, and internal conflict. Poverty is rife, and health and social conditions compare unfavourably with those elsewhere in the region.
The Republic of Chad
Population 11.8 million
Area 1.28 million sq km (495,800 sq miles)
Major languages French, Arabic
Major religions Islam, Christianity
Life expectancy 49 years (men), 52 years (women)
Currency CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc
Transitional Council Chairman: Mahamat Déby Itno
General Déby took over as head of a military council in April 2021, on the death of his father President Idriss Déby in a military operation against rebels.
He is to govern until elections in late 2022.
Idriss Déby came to power in 1990 after toppling the dictator Hissene Habré.
He later set up Chad's first multi-party political system, and went on to win successive elections.
Radio is the main medium, but state control of many broadcasting outlets allows few dissenting views.
The only television station, Tele-Tchad, is state-owned and its coverage favours the government.
Reporters Without Borders has on several occasions condemned the arrest of journalists in Chad, including the publisher of an privately-owned newspaper in October 2015.
Some key dates in Chad's history:
1883-93 - Sudanese adventurer Rabih al-Zubayr conquers the kingdoms of Ouadai, Baguirmi and Kanem-Bornu, situated in what is now Chad.
1900 - France defeats al-Zubayr's army, completing its conquest in 1913. Chad becomes a colony.
1960 - Chad becomes independent with a southern Christian, Francois - later Ngarta - Tombalbaye, as president.
1963 - The banning of political parties triggers violent opposition in the Muslim north, led by the Chadian National Liberation Front, or Frolinat; three years later this revolt develops into a fully-fledged guerrilla war.
1973 - French troops help put down a revolt in the Muslim north.
1977 - Libya annexes the northern Chadian Aouzou strip, and sends in troops in 1980 to support President Goukouni Oueddei.
1990 - Coup leader Hissene Habré toppled by former ally Idriss Déby.
2021 - President Déby dies during military operation against rebel group.