The Chad Basin was sparsely inhabited during the Stone Age, and its continual settlement began with the Holocene. The role played by Lake Chad in the history and migration patterns of Africa is still unclear. We studied the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variability in 448 individuals from 12 ethnically and/or economically (agricultural/pastoral) different populations from Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. The data indicate the importance of this region as a corridor connecting East and West Africa; however, this bidirectional flow of people in the Sahel-Sudan Belt did not erase features peculiar to the original Chad Basin populations. A new sub-clade, L3f2, is described, which together with L3e5 is most probably autochthonous in the Chad Basin. The phylogeography of these two sub-haplogroups seems to indicate prehistoric expansion events in the Chad Basin around 28,950 and 11,400 Y.B.P., respectively. The distribution of L3f2 is virtually restricted to the Chad Basin alone, and in particular to Chadic speaking populations, while L3e5 shows evidence for diffusion into North Africa at about 7,100 Y.B.P. The absence of L3f2 and L3e5 in African-Americans, and the limited number of L-haplotypes shared between the Chad Basin populations and African-Americans, indicate the low contribution of the Chad region to the Atlantic slave trade.