Bornu Empire      
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(Text by Duane R. Hurst © 2013)

Click on a link to view its information and pictures.
Significant Event:
    Supplanted Kanem Empire in 1380 AD

Main Cities: Mdaga; Ngazargamu
Time: 1380-1893 AD
Language: Kanuri; Kanembu
Personage: Hu (Hawwa); Idris Alooma
Religion: Islam
Related Country: Chad; Nigeria

Map of Bornu Empire
Click Map to Enlarge
Brief History:
      I have included only a few items concerning the history of this kingdom. A good source for more details can be found on Wikipedia or in history books.

      Following a long period of internal dissension, the powerful Sayfawa Dynasty was driven from Kanem and back to a nomadic life. In 1380 AD the Kanembu established a Sayfawa-dominated state of Bornu, which essentially was a continuation of their Kanem Empire. The intermarried Kanembu and Bornu people became known as the Kanuri, centered near Lake Chad and along the Chari River. They also were proficient in making clay figures. King Ali Dunamami defeated various opponents to consolidate his fledgling empire and constructed a capital at Ngazargamu.

      King Ali Gaji (1455-1497 AD) crushed Bulala foes and seized control of the former Kanem capital of N'jimi. Bornu reached its peak during the reign of Idris Alooma (1571-1603 AD). He introduced the use of armored cavalry, camelry, scorched earth tactics and walled military camps. He also hired musketeer mercenaries from North Africa and the Ottoman Empire.
      Alooma constructed mosques and made a hajj to the Kabaa in Mecca. He expanded trade networks, constructed roads around Lake Chad, and promoted security within his empire. Successor kings apparently did little more than make pilgrimages to Mecca.

      During the 18th century, severe droughts caused famines in Bornu. The kingdom expanded into Hausa territory (modern northern Nigeria). By 1750 AD the empire was in decline. From the west, Fulani invaders captured territory and seized Ngazargamu in 1808 AD. A military commander and Muslim scholar, Muhammad al-Amin al_Kanemi, became the first non-Sayfawa ruler in 800 years and ended the Fulani threat. He built a new capital at Kukawa (Borno State) in 1814 AD. His successors failed to strengthen the empire. In 1893 AD, a slave trader named Rabih az-Zubayr led an army from east Sudan and briefly conquered Bornu. British and French forces soon after defeated Rabih and divided Bornu territory between their respective nations.

© Page Publisher: Duane R. Hurst