Kanem–Bornu Empire

The Kanem–Bornu Empire existed in areas which are now part of Chad and Nigeria. It was known to the Arabian geographers as the Kanem Empire from the 8th century AD onward and lasted as the independent kingdom of Bornu (the Bornu Empire) until 1900. The Kanem Empire (c. 700–1380) was located in the present countries of Chad, Nigeria and Libya.[2] At its height it encompassed an area covering not only most of Chad, but also parts of southern Libya (Fezzan) and eastern Niger, northeastern Nigeria and northern Cameroon. The Bornu Empire (1380s–1893) was a state in what is now northeastern Nigeria, in time becoming even larger than Kanem, incorporating areas that are today parts of Chad, Niger, Sudan, and Cameroon. It existed from 1380s to 1893. The early history of the Empire is mainly known from the Royal Chronicle or Girgam discovered in 1851 by the German traveller Heinrich Barth.

Kanem Empire

c. 700–1380
Flag of Kanem Empire
Flag of Kanem also known as Organa from Dulcerta atlas 1339
Influence of Kanem Empire around 1200 AD
Influence of Kanem Empire around 1200 AD
Common languagesKanuri Teda
traditional beliefs, later Islam
King (Mai) 
• c. 700
• 1382–1387
Omar I
Historical eraMiddle Ages
• Established
c. 700
• Invaded and forced to move, thus establishing new Bornu Empire
1200[1]776,996 km2 (300,000 sq mi)
Succeeded by
Bornu Empire


Theories on the origin of Kanem

Kanem was located at the southern end of the trans-Saharan trade route between Tripoli and the region of Lake Chad. Besides its urban elite it also included a confederation of nomadic peoples who spoke languages of the TedaDaza (Toubou) group.

In the 8th century, Wahb ibn Munabbih used Zaghawa to describe the Teda-Tubu group, in the earliest use of the ethnic name. Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi also mentions the Zaghawa in the 9th century. Kanem comes from anem, meaning south in the Teda and Kanuri languages, and hence a geographic term. During the first millennium, as the Sahara underwent desiccation, people speaking the Kanembu language migrated to Kanem in the south. This group contributed to the formation of the Kanuri people. Kanuri traditions state the Zaghawa dynasty led a group of nomads called the Magumi.[3]

This desiccation of the Sahara resulted in two settlements, those speaking Teda-Daza northeast of Lake Chad, and those speaking Chadic west of the lake in Bornu and Hausa-land.[4]:164

Founding by local Kanembu (Dugua) c. 700 AD

The origins of Kanem are unclear. The first historical sources tends to show that the kingdom of Kanem began forming around 700 AD under the nomadic Tebu-speaking Kanembu. The Kanembu were supposedly forced southwest towards the fertile lands around Lake Chad by political pressure and desiccation in their former range. The area already possessed independent, walled city-states belonging to the Sao culture. Under the leadership of the Duguwa dynasty, the Kanembu would eventually dominate the Sao, but not before adopting many of their customs.[5] War between the two continued up to the late 16th century.

Diffusionist theories

One scholar, Dierk Lange, has proposed another theory based on a diffusionist ideology. This theory was much criticised by the scientific community, as it seriously lacks of direct and clear evidences. Lange connects the creation of Kanem-Bornu with exodus from the collapsed Assyrian Empire c. 600 BC to the northeast of Lake Chad.[6][7] He also proposes that the lost state of Agisymba (mentioned by Ptolemy in the middle of the 2nd century AD) was the antecedent of the Kanem Empire.[8]

Duguwa or Dougouwa Dynasty (700-1086)

Kanem was connected via a trans-Saharan trade route with Tripoli via Bilma in the Kawar. Slaves were imported from the south along this route.[4]:171[9]

Kanuri tradition states Sayf b. Dhi Yazan established dynastic rule over the nomadic Magumi around the 9th or 10th century, through divine kingship. For the next millennium, the mais ruled the Kanuri, which included the Ngalaga, Kangu, Kayi, Kuburi, Kaguwa, Tomagra and Tubu.[4]:165-168

Kanem is mentioned as one of three great empires in Bilad el-Sudan, by Al Yaqubi in 872. He describes the kingdom of "the Zaghāwa who live in a place called Kānim," which included several vassal kingdoms, and "Their dwellings are huts made of reeds and they have no towns." Living as nomads, their cavalry gave them military superiority. In the 10th century, al-Muhallabi mentions two towns in the kingdom, one of which was Mānān. Their king was considered divine, believing he could "bring life and death, sickness and health." Wealth was measured in livestock, sheep, cattle, camels and horses. From Al-Bakri in the 11th century onwards, the kingdom is referred to as Kanem. In the 12th century Muhammad al-Idrisi described Mānān as "a small town without industry of any sort and little commerce." Ibn Sa'id al-Maghribi describes Mānān as the capital of the Kanem kings in the 13th century, and Kanem as a powerful Muslim kingdom.[10][3][4]

Sayfawa or Sefououwa Dynasty (1085-1846)

The Kanuri-speaking Muslim Saifawas gained control of Kanem from the Zaghawa nomads in the 9th century.[9]:26,109 This included control of the Zaghawa trade links in the central Sahara with Bilma and other salt mines. Yet, the principal trade commodity was slaves. Tribes to the south of Lake Chad were raided as kafirun, and then transported to Zawila in the Fezzan, where the slaves were traded for horses and weapons. The annual number of slaves traded increased from 1,000 in the 7th century to 5,000 in the 15th. Mai Hummay began his reign in 1075, and formed alliances with the Kay, Tubu, Dabir and Magumi. Mai Humai was the first Muslim king of Kanem, and was converted by his Muslim tutor Muhammad b. Mānī. This dynasty replaced the earlier Zaghawa dynasty. They remained nomadic until the 11th century, when they fixed their capital at Nijmi.[11][12][13][3][4]:170-172

According to Richmond Palmer, it was customary to have "the Mai sitting in a curtained cage called fanadir, dagil, or tatatuna...a large cage for a wild animal, with vertical wooden bars."[14]

Humai's successor, Dunama (1098-1151), performed the Hajj three times, before drowning at Aidab. His wealth included 100,000 horsemen and 120,000 soldiers.[4]:172[14]:91,163[9]:35

Mai Dunama Dabbalemi

Kanem's expansion peaked during the long and energetic reign of Mai Dunama Dabbalemi (1210-1259). Dabbalemi initiated diplomatic exchanges with sultans in North Africa, sending a giraffe to the Hafsid monarch, and arranged for the establishment of a madrasa of al-Rashíq in Cairo to facilitate pilgrimages to Mecca. During his reign, he declared jihad against the surrounding tribes and initiated an extended period of conquest with his cavalry of 41,000. He fought the Bulala for 7 years, 7 months, and 7 days. After dominating the Fezzan, he established a governor at Traghan, delegated military command amongst his sons. As the Sefawa extended control beyond Kanuri tribal lands, fiefs were granted to military commanders, as cima, or 'master of the frontier'. Civil discord was said to follow his opening of the sacred Mune.[9]:52-58[14]:92,179-186[4]:173-177[12]:190

Shift of the Sayfuwa court from Kanem to Bornu

Bornu Empire

Flag of Bornu Empire
Flag of Bornu, also known as Organa, from Vallseca atlas of 1439
Bornu Empire extent c.1750
Bornu Empire extent c.1750
Common languagesKanuri
King (Mai) 
• 1381–1382
Said of Bornu
Historical eraMiddle Ages
• Established
• Disestablished
1800[15]50,000 km2 (19,000 sq mi)
1892[16]129,499 km2 (50,000 sq mi)
• 1892[16]
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kanem Empire
French Chad
Rabih az-Zubayr

By the end of the 14th century, internal struggles and external attacks had torn Kanem apart. War with the So brought the death of four Mai: Selemma, Kure Gana, Kure Kura, and Muhammad, all sons of 'Abdullāh b. Kadai. Then, war with the Bulala resulted in the death of four Mai in succession between 1377 and 1387: Dawūd, Uthmān b. Dawūd, Uthmān b. Idris, and Bukar Liyāu. Finally, around 1387 the Bulala forced Mai Umar b. Idris to abandon Njimi and move the Kanembu people to Bornu on the western edge of Lake Chad.[4]:179[14]:92-93,195-217[17][12]:190-191

But even in Bornu, the Sayfawa Dynasty's troubles persisted. During the first three-quarters of the 15th century, for example, fifteen mais occupied the throne. Then, around 1460 Mai Ali Gazi (1473-1507) defeated his rivals and began the consolidation of Bornu. He built a fortified capital at Ngazargamu, to the west of Lake Chad (in present-day Nigeria), the first permanent home a Sayfawa mai had enjoyed in a century. So successful was the Sayfawa rejuvenation that by the early 16th century Mai Idris Katakarmabe (1507-1529) was able to defeat the Bulala and retake Njimi, the former capital. The empire's leaders, however, remained at Ngazargamu because its lands were more productive agriculturally and better suited to the raising of cattle. Ali Gaji was the first ruler of the empire to assume the title of Caliph.[18][11]:159[9]:73[4]:180-182,205[14]:94,222-228

Mai Idris Alooma

Bornu territory by 1500

Bornu peaked during the reign of Mai Idris Alooma (c. 1571–1603), reaching the limits of its greatest territorial expansion, gaining control over Hausaland, and the people of Ahir and Tuareg. Peace was made with Bulala, when a demarcation of boundaries was agreed, upon with a non-aggression pact. Military innovations included the use of mounted Turkish musketeers, slave musketeers, mailed cavalrymen, and footmen. This army was organized into an advance guard and a rear reserve, transported via camel or large boats and fed by free and slave women cooks. Military tactics were honed by drill and organization, supplemented with a scorched earth policy. Ribāts were built on frontiers, and trade routes to the north were secure, allowing friendly relations to be established with the Pasha of Tripoli and the Turkish empire. Ibn Furtu called Alooma Amir al-Mu'minin, after he implemented Sharia, and relied upon large fiefholders to ensure justice.[4]:207-212,497-500[12]:190-191[11]:159[14]:94,234-243[9]:75

The Lake Chad to Tripoli route became an active highway in the 17th century, with horses traded for slaves. About two million slaves traveled this route to be traded in Tripoli, the largest slave market in the Mediterranean. As Martin Meredith states, "Wells along the way were surrounded by the skeletons of thousands of slaves, mostly young women and girls, making a last desperate effort to reach water before dying of exhaustion once there."[11]:159-160


Most of the successors of Idris Alooma are only known from the meagre information provided by the Diwan. Some of them are noted for having undertaken the pilgrimage to Mecca others for their piety. In the eighteenth century Bornu was affected by several long-lasting famines.[19][4]:500-508[14]:94-95,244-258 Aïr was independently operating the Bilma salt mines by 1750, having been a tributary since 1532.[3]:292[12]:190-191

Borno in 1810
Borno in 1810

The administrative reforms and military brilliance of Aluma sustained the empire until the mid-17th century when its power began to fade. By the late 18th century, Bornu rule extended only westward, into the land of the Hausa of modern Nigeria. The empire was still ruled by the Mai who was advised by his councilors (kokenawa) in the state council or "nokena".[20] The members of his Nokena council included his sons and daughters and other royalty (the Maina) and non-royalty (the Kokenawa, "new men"). The Kokenawa included free men and slave eunuchs known as kachela. The latter "had come to play a very important part in Bornu politics, as eunuchs did in many Muslim courts."[21]

During the 17th century and 18th century, Bornu became a centre for Islamic learning. Islam and the Kanuri language was widely adopted, while slave raiding propelled the economy.[12]:190-191

Fulani Jihad

Around that time, Fulani people, invading from the west, were able to make major inroads into Bornu during the Fulani War. By the early 19th century, Kanem-Bornu was clearly an empire in decline, and in 1808 Fulani warriors conquered Ngazargamu. Usman dan Fodio led the Fulani thrust and proclaimed a jihad (holy war) on the irreligious Muslims of the area. His campaign eventually affected Kanem-Bornu and inspired a trend toward Islamic orthodoxy.[14]:259-267[22]

Muhammad al-Kanemi

Young woman from Bornu
Young woman from Bornu, mid 19th century

Muhammad al-Amin al-Kanemi contested the Fulani advance. Kanem was a Muslim scholar and non-Sayfawa warlord who had put together an alliance of Shuwa Arabs, Kanembu, and other seminomadic peoples. He eventually built in 1814 a capital at Kukawa (in present-day Nigeria). Sayfawa mais remained titular monarchs until 1846. In that year, the last mai, in league with the Ouaddai Empire, precipitated a civil war, resulting in the death of Mai Ibrahim, the last mai. It was at that point that Kanemi's son, Umar, became Shehu, thus ending one of the longest dynastic reigns in international history. By then, Hausaland in the west, was lost to the Sokoto Caliphate, while the east and north were lost to the Wadai Empire.[23][12]:233[11]:194-195[14]:268

Shehu of Borno

Group of Kanem-Bu warriors
Kanembu warriors and their mounted chief in an illustration from Heinrich Barth's Travels and Discoveries, Vol. III, 1857.

Although the dynasty ended, the kingdom of Kanem-Bornu survived. Umar eschewed the title mai for the simpler designation shehu (from the Arabic shaykh), could not match his father's vitality, and gradually allowed the kingdom to be ruled by advisers (wazirs). Bornu began a further decline as a result of administrative disorganization, regional particularism, and attacks by the militant Ouaddai Empire to the east. The decline continued under Umar's sons. In 1893, Rabih az-Zubayr led an invading army from eastern Sudan and conquered Bornu. Following his expulsion shortly thereafter, the state was absorbed by the new Northern Nigeria Protectorate, in the sphere of the British Empire, and eventually became part of the independent state of Nigeria. From the arrival of the British, a remnant of the old kingdom was (and still is) allowed to continue to exist in subjection to the various Governments of the country as the Borno Emirate.[24][12]:307,318-319[22]:51

Rabih's invasion meant the death of Shehu Ashimi, Shehu Kyari and Shehu Sanda Wuduroma between 1893 and 1894. The British recognized Rahib as the 'Sultan of Borno', until the French killed Rabih on 22 April 1900 during the Battle of Kousséri. The French then occupied Dikwa, Rabih's capital, in April 1902, after the British had occupied Borno in March. Yet, based on their 1893 treaty, most of Borno remained under British control, while the Germans occupied eastern Borno, including Dikwa, as 'Deutsch Bornu'. The French did name Abubakar, the Shehu of Dikwa Emirate, until the British convinced him to be the Shehu of the Borno Emirate. The French then named his brother, Sanda, Shehu of Dikwa. Shehu Garbai formed a new capital, Yerwa, on 9 Jan. 1907. After WWI, Deutsch Bornu became the British Northern Cameroons. Upon Sheha Abubakar's death in 1922, Sanda Kura became Shehu of Borno. Then upon his death in 1937, his cousin, Shehu of Dikwa Sanda Kyarimi, became Shehu of Borno. As Vincent Hiribarren points out, "By becoming Shehu of the whole of Borno, Sanda Kyarimi reunited under his personal rule a territory which had been divided since 1902. For 35 years two Shehus had co-existed." In 1961, the Northern Cameroons voted to join Nigeria, effectively joining the frontiers of the kingdom of Bornu.[22]:51,63,71,87,106,133,137,144-145,157,164[14]:268-269

See also


  1. ^ Shillington, page 733
  2. ^ "Kanem-Bornu". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 24 September 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d Levtzion, Nehemia (1978). Fage, J.D. (ed.). The Sahara and the Sudan from the Arab conquest of the Maghrib to the rise of the Almoravids, in The Cambridge History of Africa, Vol. 2, from c. 500 BC to AD 1050. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 667, 680–683. ISBN 0521215927.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Smith, Abdullahi (1972). Ajayi, J.F. Ade; Crowder, Michael (eds.). The early states of the Central Sudan, in History of West Africa, Volume One. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 168–172, 199–201. ISBN 0231036280.
  5. ^ Urvoy, Empire, 3–35; Trimingham, History, 104–111.
  6. ^ Lange, Founding of Kanem, 31–38.
  7. ^ "Reviews of Dierk Lange – Ancient Kingdoms of West Africa". dierklange.com. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  8. ^ Lange, Dierk (2006). "The 'Mune'-Symbol as the Ark of the Covenant between Duguwa and Sefuwa" (PDF). Newsletter. Borno Museum Society (66–67): 15–25. Retrieved 16 May 2019 – via dierklange.com. The article has a map (page 6) of the ancient Central Sahara and proposes to identify Agisymba of 100 CE with the early Kanem state.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Urvoy, Y. (1949). Historie De L'Empire Du Bronu (Memoires De L'Institut Francais D'Afrique Noire, No. 7 ed.). Paris: Librairie Larose. p. 21.
  10. ^ Levtzion, Nehemia (1973). Ancient Ghana and Mali. New York: Methuen & Co Ltd. p. 3. ISBN 0841904316.
  11. ^ a b c d e Meredith, Martin (2014). The Fortunes of Africa. New York: PublicAffairs. pp. 71, 78–79, 159–160. ISBN 9781610396356.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h Shillington, Kevin (2012). History of Africa. Palgrave Macnikkan. pp. 94, 189. ISBN 9780230308473.
  13. ^ Koslow, Philip (1995). Kanem-Borno: 1,000 Years of Splendor. New York: Chelsea House Publishers. pp. 14, 20–21, 23. ISBN 0791031292.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Palmer, Richmond (1936). The Bornu Sahara and Sudan. London: John Murray. pp. 166, 195, 223.
  15. ^ Oliver, page 12
  16. ^ Hughes, page 281
  17. ^ Smith, "Early states", 179; Lange, "Kingdoms and peoples", 238; Barkindo, "Early states", 245–6.
  18. ^ Nehemia Levtzion, Randall Pouwels. The History of Islam in Africa. Ohio University Press. p. 81.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  19. ^ Lange, Diwan, 81-82.
  20. ^ Brenner, Shehus, 46, 104–7.
  21. ^ Ajayi, J. F. Ade.; Espie, Ian, eds. (1965). A Thousand Years of West African History: A Handbook for Teachers and Students. Ibadan, Nigeria: Ibadan University Press. p. 296.
  22. ^ a b c Hiribarren, Vincent (2017). A History of Borno: Trans-Saharan African Empire to Failing Nigerian State. London: Hurst & Company. pp. 19–20. ISBN 9781849044745.
  23. ^ Brenner, Shehus, 64–66.
  24. ^ Hallam, Life, 257–275.


  • Alkali, Nur, and Bala Usman, eds., Studies in the History of Pre-Colonial Borno (Zaria: Northern Nigerian Publishing, 1983)
  • Barkindo, Bawuro: "The early states of the Central Sudan: Kanem, Borno and some of their neighbours to c. 1500 AD." in J. Ajayi and M. Crowder (ed.), History of West Africa, Bd. I, 3rd ed. Harlow 1985, 225–254.
  • Barth, Heinrich: Travel and Discoveries in North and Central Africa, vol. II, New York, 1858, 15–29, 581–602.
  • Brenner, Louis, The Shehus of Kukawa, Oxford 1973.
  • Kanem-Borno, in Thomas Collelo, ed. Chad: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1988.
  • Dewière, Rémi, "Regards croisés entre deux ports de désert", Hypothèses, 2013, 383–93
  • Cohen, Ronald: The Kanuri of Bornu, New York 1967.
  • Hallam, W.: The life and Times of Rabih Fadl Allah, Devon 1977.
  • Hiribarren, Vincent, A History of Borno: Trans-Saharan African Empire to Failing Nigerian State (London: Hurst & Oxford University Press, 2017).
  • Hughes, William (2007). A Class-Book of Modern Geography (Paperback ed.). Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing. p. 390 Pages. ISBN 1-4326-8180-X.
  • Lange, Dierk: Le Dīwān des sultans du Kanem-Bornu, Wiesbaden 1977.
  • -- A Sudanic Chronicle: The Borno Expeditions of Idris Alauma (1564–1576), Stuttgart 1987.
  • -- "Ethnogenesis from within the Chadic state", Paideuma, 39 (1993), 261–277.
  • -- "The Chad region as a crossroads", in: M. Elfasi (Hg.), General History of Africa, vol. III, UNESCO, London 1988, pp. 436–460.
  • -- "The kingdoms and peoples of Chad", in: D. T. Niane (ed.), General History of Africa, vol. IV, UNESCO, London 1984, pp. 238–265.
  • --: "An introduction to the history of Kanem-Borno: The prologue of the Dīwān", Borno Museum Society Newsletter 76–84 (2010), 79–103.
  • --: The Founding of Kanem by Assyrian Refugees ca. 600 BCE: Documentary, Linguistic, and Archaeological Evidence, Boston 2011.
  • Lavers, John, "Adventures in the chronology of the states of the Chad basin", ed. by Daniel Barreteau and Charlotte de Graffenried (presented at the Datation et chronologie dans le bassin du lac Tchad. Dating and chronology in the lake Chad basin, Bondy: Orstom, 1993), pp. 255–67
  • Levtzion, Nehemia, and John Hopkins: Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History, Cambridge 1981.
  • Nachtigal, Gustav: Sahara und Sudan, Berlin, 1879–1881, Leipzig 1989 (Nachdruck Graz 1967; engl. Übers. von Humphrey Fisher).
  • Oliver, Roland & Anthony Atmore (2005). Africa Since 1800, Fifth Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 405 Pages. ISBN 0-521-83615-8.
  • Shillington, Kevin (2005). Encyclopedia of African History Volume 1 A–G. New York: Routledge. pp. 1912 pages. ISBN 1-57958-245-1.
  • Trimingham, Spencer: A History of Islam in West Africa, Oxford 1962.
  • Van de Mieroop, Marc: A History of the Ancient Near East, 2nd ed., Oxford 2007.
  • Zakari, Maikorema: Contribution à l'histoire des populations du sud-est nigérien, Niamey 1985.
  • Zeltner, Jean-Claude : Pages d'histoire du Kanem, pays tchadien, Paris 1980.

Further reading

  • Barkindo, Bawuro, "The early states of the Central Sudan: Kanem, Borno and some of their neighbours to c. 1500 A.D.", in: J. Ajayi und M. Crowder (Hg.), History of West Africa, Bd. I, 3. Ausg. Harlow 1985, 225–254.
  • Dewière, Rémi, Du lac Tchad à La Mecque. Le sultanat du Borno et son monde (16-17e siècle), Paris, Publication de la Sorbonne, 2017.
  • Lange, Dierk: Le Dīwān des sultans du Kanem-Bornu, Wiesbaden 1977.

External links

Aissa Koli

Aissa Koli also called Aisa Kili Ngirmaramma was a queen regnant in the Kanem–Bornu Empire in 1497–1504 or 1563–1570.

There are some discrepancies about the parentage and dates of her rule. The Arabic historians did not record her rule, but they are noted to have ignored female rulers; it is also noted that her successor Idris Aloma imposed a Muslim bureaucracy on the pagan population and that this Islamic records ignored her because of her sex. She is however preserved in local African tradition as her male counterparts.

Aissa Koli was reportedly the daughter of King Ali Gaji Zanani. Her father ruled for one year and was succeeded by a relative, Dunama, who died the year of his succession. During Dunama's reign, he had declared that all the sons of his predecessor should be killed, and Aissa's five-year-old half-brother Idris was therefore sent away to Bulala in secret by his mother. When Dunama died, Aissa succeeded him as ruler in the absence of any male heir, as she was unaware that her half-brother was still alive. According to another version, Aissa was instead the daughter of King Dunama.

Queen Aissa ruled for seven years, which was the stipulated term for all rulers, as the custom was not that a monarch reign for life, but only for a fixed period, and she thereby fulfilled a full term. When her term was up, she was informed of the existence of her half-brother, by then twelve-year-old Idris. She called him back and had him crowned as her successor, and continued as his adviser for the first years of his reign.

Bilala people

The Bilala are a Muslim people that live around Lake Fitri, in the Batha Prefecture, in central Chad. The last Chadian census in 1993 stated that they numbered 136,629 persons. Their language, Naba, is divided in four dialects and is in the Nilo-Saharan group; it is shared by two of their neighbours, the Kuka and the Medogo. These three peoples are collectively known as Lisi and are believed to be descendants of main ethnic groups of the Sultanate of Yao.

They first appeared in the 14th century near lake Fitri as a nomadic clan led by scions of the Sayfawa dynasty. They were originally a political entity that came about as a result of fusion of the Kayi (old Zaghawa = current Kanembu, the clan exist even today in Kanem) and Ngizimis Kanembu clan, which exists event today in Dibbinintchi, Lake Tchad inhabitants of the Fittri region. Settled east of the Kanem Empire, in today's Chad, they shattered the empire's power, killing five of six of Kanem's mais (kings) between 1376 and 1400.

At the end the Bulala conquered Kanem and forced the Kanem mais to migrate to Bornu. As a result, the Bulala put their hands on Kanem, founding in the 15th century the Muslim sultanate of Yao. The Kanem-Bornu Empire counter-attacked a century later under Ali Gaji. Kanem was retaken by Ali's son after a great battle at Garni Kiyala, forcing the Bulala to move east, where they were to remain a menace for centuries to Kanem-Bornu. It continued also to be a flourishing kingdom: the traveller Leo Africanus even thought that the Bulala's reign was richer than Kanem-Bornu for its prosperous trade with Egypt.

Their power survived in diminished forms until the onset of colonialism, when they submitted to the French.

Culture of Niger

The culture of Niger is marked by variation, evidence of the cultural crossroads which French colonialism formed into a unified state from the beginning of the 20th century. What is now Niger was created from four distinct cultural areas in the pre-colonial era: the Djerma dominated Niger River valley in the southwest; the northern periphery of Hausaland, made mostly of those states which had resisted the Sokoto Caliphate, and ranged along the long southern border with Nigeria; the Lake Chad basin and Kaouar in the far east, populated by Kanuri farmers and Toubou pastoralists who had once been part of the Kanem-Bornu Empire; and the Tuareg nomads of the Aïr Mountains and Saharan desert in the vast north. Each of these communities, along with smaller ethnic groups like the pastoral Wodaabe Fula, brought their own cultural traditions to the new state of Niger.

In religion, Islam, spread from North Africa beginning in the 10th century, has greatly shaped the mores of the people of Niger. Since Independence, greater interest has been in the country's cultural heritage, particularly with respect to traditional architecture, hand crafts, dances and music.

Music of Niger includes the guitar music of the Tuaregs of Agadez as performed by Group Inerane, Group Bombino and others.


Dirkou is a town in the Bilma Department, Agadez Region of north-eastern Niger. It lies in the northern Kaouar escarpment, a north-south line of cliffs which form an isolated oasis in the Sahara desert. As of 2011, the commune had a total population of 14,998 people.The town is just south of Séguédine, and around 90 km north of Departmental capital Bilma. While isolated in modern Niger, it once lay on the important central soudan route of the Trans-Saharan trade which linked coastal Libya and the Fezzan to the Kanem-Bornu Empire near Lake Chad. Its population is made up primarily of traditionally sedentary Kanuri people, as well as semi-nomadic Tuareg and Tubu people.The Central Intelligence Agency operates a drone base near Dirkou.

Dunama IX Lefiami

Dunama Lefiami was the sultan of the Kanem-Bornu Empire, located in what is now Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad during the early nineteenth century.


The Girgam (or Diwan) is the royal chronicle of the Kanem-Bornu Empire, written in Arabic. Girgam is also used as the name for written historical records in some kingdoms west of Bornu, including Daura, Fika and Mandara, defined as "chronicle or 'list of ancestors'" or simply "date"."A very meagre and incorrect abridgement" of the Girgam was provided by a local associated with the Sefuwa dynasty to the German traveller Heinrich Barth in 1851, in Kukawa, the nineteenth century capital of Bornu. Barth reported that a translation was published in 1852.It provides the names of 69 rulers of Kanem-Bornu and some supplementary information concerning the length of their reigns, their ascendancy, and often some events of their reigns. The information given by several Arab authors (Ibn Sa'īd, al-Maqrīzī and al-Qalqashandī) confirm the validity of the data provided by the Girgam. On the basis of these sources, a nearly accurate chronology of the rulers of Kanem-Bornu can be established between the tenth and the nineteenth centuries. Since the fall of the Sefuwa dynasty in 1846, "the new dynasty of the Kánemíyín [Kānemī] endeavours to obliterate as much as possible the memory of the old Kanúri [Sefuwa] dynasty, and has assiduously destroyed all its records wherever they could be laid hold of." The two copies of the chronicle obtained by Barth are the only ones that are known to have survived.

History of Nigeria before 1500

Long before 1500 much of modern-Nigeria was divided into states identified with contemporary ethnic groups. These early states included the Igbo Kingdom of Nri, the Benin Kingdom, Yoruba kingdoms, the Hausa cities, and Nupe. Additionally numerous small states to the west and south of Lake Chad were absorbed or displaced in the course of the expansion of Kanem, which was centered to the northeast of Lake Chad. Bornu, initially the western province of Kanem, became independent in the late 14th century. Other states probably existed but the absence of archaeological data prevents accurate dating. In the south, the earliest Kingdom was the Igbo Kingdom of Nri which emerged in 900 AD.


Hummay (Umme, Houmé or Hume) was the first Muslim king, mai, of the Sefuwa dynasty within Kanem-Bornu Empire from 1085-1097, replacing the Sefuwa-Duguwa dynasty.The dynasty founded by him was to survive until 1846. His rule had important consequences because of the spread of Islam during his reign. This provoked some dissension, causing the Zaghawa to break from the empire and move east.

Idris Alooma

Idris Alooma, Idris ibn 'Ali (Alooma), or Idriss Alaoma, (r. 1570–1602/03 or 1580-1617) was Mai (king) of the Kanem-Bornu Empire, located mainly in Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria. His name is more properly written Idris Alawma or Idris Alauma. An outstanding statesman, under his rule Kanem-Bornu touched the zenith of its power. Idris is remembered for his military skills, administrative reforms and Islamic piety. His feats are mainly known through his chronicler Ahmad bin Fartuwa.

Kanembu people

The Kanembu are an ethnic group of Chad, generally considered the modern descendants of the Kanem-Borno Empire. The Kanembu number an estimated 655,000 people, located primarily in Chad's Lac Prefecture but also in Chari-Baguirmi and Kanem prefectures. They speak the Kanembu language, from which is derived the Kanuri language, with many speaking Arabic as a second language.

Kanuri people

The Kanuri people (Kanouri, Kanowri, also Yerwa, Bare Bari and several subgroup names) are an African ethnic group living largely in the lands of the former Kanem and Bornu Empires in Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon. Those generally termed Kanuri include several subgroups and dialect groups, some of whom identify as distinct from the Kanuri. Most trace their origins to ruling lineages of the medieval Kanem-Bornu Empire, and its client states or provinces. In contrast to the neighboring Toubou or Zaghawa pastoralists, Kanuri groups have traditionally been sedentary, engaging in farming, fishing the Chad Basin, and engaged in trade and salt processing.


Kukawa (previously Kuka) is a town and Local Government Area in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno, close to Lake Chad.

The town was founded in 1814 as capital of the Kanem-Bornu Empire by the Muslim scholar and warlord Muhammad al-Amin al-Kanemi after the fall of the previous capital, Ngazargamu, conquered in 1808 in the Fulani War. The town had great strategical importance, being one of the southern terminals of trans-Saharan trade routes to Tripoli.

The town was visited by German explorer Heinrich Barth in 1851 who arrived from Tripoli seeking to open trade with Europe and explore Africa, and again in 1892 by the French explorer Parfait-Louis Monteil, who was checking the borders between areas of West Africa assigned to the French and the British.

The town was captured and sacked in 1893 by the Sudanese warlord Rabih az-Zubayr, and then by the British in 1902.

Historically the city was much larger than today, with a population estimated by the British at 50,000-60,000 in the late nineteenth-century.

On 16 January 2015, "caretaker chairman of Kukawa Local Government Area, Musa Alhaji Bukar Kukawa", speaking on behalf of the Kukawa residents who were displaced to Maiduguri following the 2015 Baga massacre, "called on the federal government to intensify military operations so that they can return to their homes."Towns in the Kukawa Local Government Area include Cross Kauwa and Baga.but there is no place called kukawa apart from the local government

It is one of the sixteen LGAs that constitute the Borno Emirate, a traditional state located in Borno State, Nigeria.

List of Chadians

This is a list of notable people from Chad.

Muhammad al-Amin al-Kanemi

Shehu al-Hajj Muhammad al-Amîn ibn Muhammad al-Kânemî (Arabic: محمد لرشيد ابن محمد الكامانی‎) (1776–1837) was an Islamic scholar, teacher, religious and political leader who advised and eventually supplanted the Sayfawa dynasty of the Kanem-Bornu Empire. In 1846, Al-Kanemi's son Umar I ibn Muhammad al-Amin became the sole ruler of Borno, an event which marked the end of the Sayfawa dynasty's eight hundred year rule. The current Shehu of Bornu, a traditional ruler whose seat remains in modern Borno State, Nigeria, is descended from Al-Kanemi.

Religion in Chad

The majority of Chadians are Muslims, with Christians making up a substantial minority of 40-45%. Among Chadian Muslims, 58% professed to be Sunni, 11% Shia, 4% Ahmadi and 23% just Muslim. Muslims are largely concentrated in northern and eastern Chad, and animists and Christians live primarily in southern Chad and Guéra.

Islam was brought in the course of the Muslim conquest of the Sudan region, in the case of Chad complete in the 11th century with the conversion of the Kanem-Bornu Empire. Christianity arrived in Chad with the French, by the end of the 19th century.The constitution provides for a secular state and guarantees religious freedom. Muslims are largely concentrated in northern and eastern Chad, and animists and Christians live primarily in southern Chad and Guéra.

Islam was brought in the course of the Muslim conquest of the Sudan region, in the case of Chad complete in the 11th century with the conversion of the Kanem-Bornu Empire. Christianity arrived in Chad with the French, by the end of the 19th century.The constitution provides for a secular state and guarantees religious freedom.

Sayfawa dynasty

Sayfawa dynasty, Sefouwa, Sefawa, or Sefuwa dynasty is the name of the Muslim kings (or mai, as they called themselves) of the Kanem–Bornu Empire, centered first in Kanem in western Chad, and then, after 1380, in Borno (today north-eastern Nigeria).

The dynasty was rooted in the Tubu expansion by the Kanembu."The legendary eponymous ancestor of the Saifawa, as the Maghumi are called, only became in Muslim times Saif, the 'lion of Yaman.' The pre-Muslim dynasty is known as the Duguwa Dynasty.


Séguédine is a town in central eastern Niger, lying at the far northern tip of the Kaouar escarpment, an inhabited oasis in the midst of the Sahara Desert. It is a Commune of Bilma Department, Agadez Region.

While isolated in modern Niger, it once lay on the important central soudan route of the Trans-Saharan trade which linked coastal Libya and the Fezzan to the Kanem-Bornu Empire near Lake Chad. Its population is made up primarily of traditionally sedentary Kanuri people, as well as semi-nomadic Tuareg and Tubu people.

Umar of Borno

Umar I ibn Muhammad al-Amin (Arabic: اولعمر ابن محمد لرشيد‎) or Umar of Borno (died 1881) was Shehu (Sheik) of the Kanem-Bornu Empire and son of Muhammad al-Amin al-Kanemi.


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