Civilizations in Africa

Kanem-Bornu

   The Sahel region of the Sudan, that is the region immediately south of the Sahara desert in central and western Africa, saw four of the greatest African empires. The largest and longest lasting was Ghana, followed by Mali and its successor, Songhay. Near central Africa, however, arose another great empire called Kanem around 1200. Kanem was originally a confederation of black tribes, but by 1100, a group of tribes called the Kanuri settle in Kanem and in the thirteenth century the Kanuri began to conquer the surrounding areas.

   They were led by one of the great figures of African history, Mai Dunama Dibbalemi (1221-1259), who was the first of the Kanuri to convert to Islam. Dibbalemi declared jihad, or "holy war," against surrounding chieftaincies and so precipitated one of the most dynamic periods of conquest in Africa.

   At the height of their empire, the Kanuri controlled territory from Libya to Lake Chad to Hausaland. These were strategic areas: all the commercial traffic through north Africa had to pass through Kanuri territory. As a result of the military and commercial growth of Kanem, the Kanuri slowly changed from a nomadic to a sedentary people.

   In the late 1300's, civil strife within Kanuri territory began to seriously weaken the empire so that by the early 1400's, Kanuri power shifted from Kanem to Bornu, a Kanuri kingdom south and west of Lake Chad. When Songhay fell, this new Kanuri empire of Bornu grew very rapidly. The Kanuri grew powerful enough to unite the kingdom of Bornu with Kanem during the reign of Idris Alawma (1575-1610). Idris Alawma was a fervent Muslim and set about building a Muslim state all the way west into Hausaland in northern Nigeria. This state would last for another two hundred years, but in 1846, it finally succumbed to the growing power of the Hausa states.
Contents






























Civilizations in Africa

Egypt: A Learning Module

Kush

Axum

The Iron Age South of the Sahara

Ghana

The Islamic Invasions

The Almoravids

Mali

Songhay

The Hausa Kingdoms

Kanem-Bornu

The Forest Kingdoms

The Swahili Kingdoms

Great Zimbabwe / The Mwenemutapa Empire

Internet Resources on Africa

About "Civilizations in Africa"

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1996, Richard Hooker
Updated 11-15-96