A branch of the Zagawa Berbers called Beni Sefi created Kanem-Bornu

“Kanem-Borno, a former Muslim kingdom located northeast of Lake Chad, was created by a branch of the Zagawa people called Beni Sefi, with the likely collaboration of the Tubu, around the year 800. While Kanem is part of Chad today, Bornu located in Kanem’s southernmost part and west of Lake Chad, is part of Nigeria, a result of the imperial territorial divisions that occurred between the French and the British during the 1880s and 1890s.”

“The first Beni Sefi dynasty seems to have taken power around 1075, under the Sefuaw dynasty, which was headed by Mai (King) Hummay (1075-1180). A mythical man named Idris Sayf Ibn Dhi Yezan is said to have converted to Islam during the second half of the eleventh century and exerted pressure on the rest of the kingdom to embrace Islam as the state’s religion. During the thirteenth century, the Sefuwa were able to designate a specific capital for the Kingdom, Njimi.”


“As the mais solidified their power, Kanem expanded considerably during the thirteenth century, controlling the Bornu principality and virtually all that constitutes northwest Chad today, particularly during the reign of Mai Dunama Dabbalemi (1221-1259). Under this rule, the sultanate encompassed Wadai and the Adamawa Plateau in northern Cameroon. Parts of Nigeria, Niger, and Sudan were also incorporated into the sultanate.”

“The greatness of Kanem was predicated upon two major factors. First was Kanem’s ability to control the trans-Saharan trade route, resulting from its location at an important trade crossroads. During the first zenith of its power during the thirteenth century, Kanem’s market exchanged, sold, and bought such items as salt, horses, ostrich, feathers, camels, hides, cotton, cloth, perfumes, copper objects, kola nuts, ivory, jewelry, and, evidently, slaves.” 

“The year 1804 presaged the decline and eventual demise of Kanem-Bornu as a Kingdom. Islamic warrior and leader ‘Uthman dan Fodio sacked the captial with his Hausa-Fulani crusaders, and in 1814, Shehu Mohammed el-Amin el Kanermi, a scholar warrior, virtually replaced until 1853, but could not maintain the kingdom as a choesice whole.”

“Meanwhile, the displaced mai was forced to move the captial to Kukwa, in Bornu. To the Sefuwa dynasty’s chagrin, Rabih ibn Fadl Allah, a former slave from Sudan, turned into a formidable potential conqueror of all of Central Africa, and dislodged the mais from Kukawa, a city he sacked in 1893. Kanem-Bornu was finally conquered by the French and the British who had appeared in the area during the 1880s and 1890s and divided the imperial spoils one Rabih had been killed at Kuseri (present Cameroon) in 1900.”

“The Tubu assited by the Turkish or Ottoman Empire and the Senoussyia Muslim order, resited the French for a time but, by 1920, the latter had prevailed and Kanem became part of the military colony of Chad. Today, it is one of Chad’s 14 prefectures, and with support from Niger, Kanem has at times been a source of several rebel movements against the central government. Bornu is an emirate in northeastern Nigeria.”

Source: Encyclopedia of African History 3-Volume Set edited by Kevin Shillington

Africas Legacies Of Urbanization: Unfoldi: Unfolding Saga of a Continent


“In the interior of western Africa around the same time, Askia the Great, of Mande ethnicity, established a new ruling dynasty in Songhai by overthrowing the preceding Lemta Tuareg dynasty associated with Sonni Ali. As Songhai expanded, a number of new towns were established or came under its control. One of its early conquest involved Kebbi, a small kingdom lying between the middle Niger and Hausaland whose capital at Same [northwestern Nigeria] was surrounded by seven stone walls (Bovill 1958: 105, 107-108).”

“Aska’s conquest took his empire to the west of Bornu [northeastern Nigeria]. Songhai’s expansion of greatest importance involved its conquest of Hausaland [Niger, northern Nigeria], located at southern end of ancient caravan routes that rant to Timbuktu [Mali] as well as Oualate and Taghaza [southeastern Mauritania]. When King Sonni Ali came to power in 1464 as founder of Songhai, with its capital at Gao [Mali], ancient Mali perceived Songhai as far more menacing threat to it well being than occasional incursions by Europeans along Africa’s Atlantic coast suggest that European incursions in coastal areas initially were without great consequence on the jockeying for economic and political advantage among indigenous states deep in the interior. The Portuguese, Spaniards, and Turks were not the only peoples obsessed with discovering the source of Sudanese gold in the early 16th century. It was because of a similar obsession that the sultan of Moroccan dispatch Leo Africanus south of the Sahara on two reconnaissance trips during this period. In order for Askia to maintain his hold on these Hausa city-states, he also had seized nearby Agadez [Niger] and expelled much of its Tuareg leadership.”

“Even well north of the Sahara, it was only with ambivalence and in stages that Europeans and Africans increasingly began to view each other as rivals and opponents as well as trading partners. It was against this background for example that in Morocco by 1511, Sufi opposition developed against that country’s Wattasid dynasty that rule from Fez largely as a result of its habit of making treaties and trading with Europeans. In 1525, this opposition was sufficiently strong that a Said dynasty managed to eject the Wattasides from Marrakesh. By 1541, Morocco Sadi dynasty was able to force the Portuguese from most of the ports that were occupying along the Atlantic coast of Morocco. As Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur greatly feared attack from several of his European neighbors as well as from Turkey, which had a presence in nearby Algiers and also felt threatened by European involvement along the Atlantic coast of western Africa south of the Sahara, he made the fateful decision in the late 16th century to order an attack intended to capture the Songhai Empire.”

In addition to Moulay Ahmad al-Mansur’s hope of gaining control of Songhais gold mines, he looked forward to controlling its most important cities namely Timbuktu and Gao. While a minority of the 4,000 troops that he sent on this mission were of Moorish and Moroccan background, its majority was composed of soldiers of various European ethnicities, including Maltese, Spaniards, Greeks, French, and English. In general, these European soldiers fell into the following categories, renegades, prisoners of war, European slaves in Africa, and mercenaries, and they were placed under the command of a Spaniard eunuch named Judar or Djouder, who the Moroccans had captured as an infant and converted to Islam.

Beginning with Judar Pasha, it was in this way that between 1591 and 1654, a number of Moroccan pashas of Timbuktu who were nominally subject to Marrakesh came to rule at Timbuktu alongside puppet Songhai Askias. At the latest, the death of Askia Nuh in 1597 effectively brought to an end to an independent Songhai Empire. In addition to transforming Songhai’s leaders into mere pashas of Morocco, the subjugation of Songhai provided a cover for the relocation of multitudes of its citizens from Songhai to Morocco, where during a long period many of them were reduced to slaves. Though treated differently from these common slaves among their compatriots, many people belonging to Songhai’s considerable intelligentsia were forced to remain in Morocco for a time as prisoners or hostages.

Tuaregs took advantage of the fall of Songhai to expand their control over populations scattered from the Niger to Lake Chad.

Even while Morocco was intervening in Sudan, it began to feel the impact of European hostility toward Moors spilling into its own cities Beginning in 1609 and continuing for at least five years, for example, Moroccan cities received many former Muslims from Spain who, on being expelled from Europe, settled in such cities as Rabat and Sala or Sale. Motivating their expulsion from Spain was widespread suspicion on the part of many Spaniards that many Moriscos (i.e. Christian Moors) were clandestine adherents to Islam despite their having converted to Christianity under pressure.

In many of the larger cities of Maghreb during the 17th and 19th centuries, were between 10 and 20 percent of the populations consisted of slaves, that situation had no quantitative equal in Europe. Still, the activities of European pirates and slave traders in Europe and elsewhere were as barbarous as the various oppressive systems that were indigenous to Africa.

In 1628, or three years after the accession to the English throne of Charles I, Britain still hoped that Roe’s treaty might provide a solution to piracy between it and such ports of northwestern Africa as Algiers, Tunis, Tetuan, and Sale. In the 1630s and 1640s, a large proportion of the Corsair ships raiding the coast of England came from Sale, piloted through the English Channel by Irish or English captives. In 1631, Morat Rais, who was renegade working for the Arabs though he was of Dutch ancestry, raided the Irish town of Baltimore, and Africans from the city of Sale took 500 English captives in 1636 leading to a retaliatory English expedition on Sale under Captian William Rainsborough the following year…”

“Between 1712 and mid-century, the Arma descendants of mostly European troops that Morocco had sent south of the Sahara to overthrow the Songhai Empire had lost their grip on power in this area that Segou, by now a real empire, seized large areas previously taken by Morocco from Songhai, including the cities of Bamako, Jenne, and Timbuktu.”

Citing Africas Legacies Of Urbanization: Unfolding Saga of a Continent By Stefan Goodwin