The Arab And Berber Conquest Of North Africa And It’s Implications

Egypt like Abyssinia or Mesopotamia has a long history, in fact its history had been on record for over 4000 years and it could be therefore difficult to discuss anything about Egypt before the advent of Islam or the Arabs rather we should basically concern with how the Arabs conquered Egypt. The conquest of Egypt by Amar Ibn al-As in 640AD was usually proceeded by a famous story in which Amar Ibn al-As visited Egypt in pre-Islamic times for commercial venture. However, after the conquest, Egypt was united by Amar himself. In December 639AD Amar Ibn al-As left for Egypt with a force of 4000 troops. However, Umar the second caliph; leader of the Muslim World was skeptical and reconsidered his orders to Amar thinking it foolhardy to expect to conquer such a hard country as Egypt with a mere 4000 soldiers. But Amar was determine to forge ahead with the initial order. The siege of Egypt was done through the Eastern gateway (Al-Farama). It should be noted that Egypt was under the Byzantine (Eastern Roman Empire), naturally therefore the Roman soldiers stood as a formidable force against the Arab forces.

The battle of pelisium was fought in Jenuary 640AD at the Eastern gate way of Egypt between the Muslims and the Byzantine. In February 640AD an assault led by Huraiza Ibn Wala successfully captured the fort and the city of pelisium. By March 640AD the city of Belbeis fell to the Arabs. After the capture of Belbeis, two Christian monks accompanied by Cyrus the patriarch and governor of Alexandria and the famous Roman General, Aretion came out to negotiate with Amar Ibn al-As. Amar gave them three conditions;

i. To either convert to Islam or

ii. Pay jizya (poll tax) or

iii. To fight the Muslims. The opted for a fight. The resulted in the victory of the latter and the death of Aretion.

By May 630AD the Arab forces advanced on the well fortified city of Babylon and the Romans had prepared it for a siege. Outside the city, a ditch had been dug, and a large force positioned in the area between the ditch and the city walls. The fort was a massive structure 60ft high with walls more than 60ft thick and bastions. Amar’s force of 4000 men attack the Roman position unsuccessfully. In view of the Byzantine’s preparation Amar requested a reinforcement from the caliph who in response sent 4000 strong in two installments making a total of 8000 Arab forces rose to 12,000 which is quite a strength to resume the offensive. After a stalemate between the muslims and the Byzantine forces at Babylon, the battle was in favour of the Arabs. The situation forced the Byzantine forces to enter into negotiation did not yield tangible result. After the failure of the Babylonian treaty the muslims acted and the city of Babylon was captured on 21 December 640AD, on the following day Cyrus of Alexandria entered into a treaty with the Arabs.

By the treaty, muslim sovereignty over the whole of Egypt, and effective on the Thebaid, was recognized, and the Egyptians agreed to pay Jizya (poll tax) at the rate of 2 diners per male adult. By this treaty Egyptians were to enjoy security of lives and property as well as the freedom of religious practice of their choice.

The muslims laid to seige to Alexandria the real capital of Egypt in March 641AD. A new field commander was appointed of the Arabs by the caliph, he is Ubaidah Ibn as-Samit. In September 641AD Ubaidah launch a successful assualt on Alexandria and captured it. The Muslims built a new capital at al-Fustat, very close to Babylon which later became the muslim capital of Egypt because the former capital Alexandria is exposed to maritime attack. This situation is more like our case here in Nigeria whereby the capital of Lagos is very much exposed to maritime attack and thus it is wise to look for a good capital position in the interior of the federation that will serve as the capital of the Federation of Nigeria, thus the choice of Abuja came to be acceptable.

Muslim Conquest Of North Africa

The Muslim conquest of North Africa continued the century of rapid Arab muslim military expansion following the death of prophet Muhammed in 632AD. By 640 the Arabs controlled Mesopotamia, had invaded Armenia, and were concluding their conquest of the Byzantine Syria. Damascus was the seat of the Umayyad caliphate. And by the end of 641AD all of Egypt was in Arab hands. Then, with the destruction of the persian army at the battle of Nihawand in 642, the conquest of the persian Empire was essentially finished. It was at this point that Arab military expeditions into North Africa was first luanched by local initiative from Egypt continuing for years and resulting in the spread of Islam.

In 644 at Madinah, caliph Umar was succeeded by Uthman Ibn Affan, during whose twelve year rule Armenia, Cyprus, and all of Iran were added to the growing Islamic Empire; Afghanistan and North Africa received major invasions; and muslim sea raids would range from Rhodes to the southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. The Byzantine navy would be defeated in the eastern Mediterranean sea.

The first invasion of North Africa, ordered by the caliph, Usman IbnAffan was launched in 647AD. Marching from Medina, Arabia, 20,000 Arabs were joined in Memphis, Egypt, by another 20,000 and led into the Byzantine Exarchate of Africa by Abdullah ibn al-sa’ad. Tripolitania in what is modern Libya was taken. Count Gregory, the local Byzantine Governor,gathered his allies, co’nfronted the Islamic invasion force and was defeated at the battle of sufetula, a city 150 miles south of carthage. Gregory’s successor, Gennadius, secured the Arab withdrawal in exchange for tribute. The campaign lasted fifteen months and Abdullah’s force returned to Egypt in 648AD.

All further Muslim conquests were soon interrupt, however, by a civil war between rival Arab factions that resulted in the murdered in 661 AD. The Umayyad Dynasty of largely secular and heredity Arab caliphs then established itself at Damascus and caliph Muawiya I began consolidating the empire from the Aral sea to the western border of Egypt. He put a governor in place in place in Egypt at al-Fustat, creating a subordinate seat of power that woulld continue for the next two centuries. He then continued the invasion of non-muslims neighbouring state, attacking sicily and Anatolia (Turkey) in 663. In 664 kabul, Afghanistan, fell to the invading muslim armies.

Second invasion was launched from 665 to 689AD. It began, to protect Egypt “from flank attack by Byzantine Cyrene”. So “an army of 40,000 strong advanced through the desert to Barca, took it and marched to the neighbourhood of Carthage”. A defending byzantine army of 30,000 was defeated in the process. Next came a force of 10,000 Arabs led by the Arab general Uqba Ibn Nafi and enlarged by thousands of others. Departing from Damascus, the army marched into North Africa and took the vanguard. In 670 the city of Kairouan (about eighty miles or 160 kilometers south of modern tunis) was established as a refuge and base for futher operations. This would become the capital of the Islamic province of Ifriqiya, which would cover the coastal regions of what are today western western Libya, Tunisia,and eastern Algeria.

After this, Uqba “plunged into the heart of the country, traversed the wilderness in which his successors erected the splendid capitals of Fes and Morocco, and at lenght penetrated to the verge of the Altlantic and the great desert”. In his conquest of the Magherb (western North Africa) he besieged the coastal city of Bugia as well as Tingi or Tagier, overwhelming what had once been the traditional Roman province of Muaritania Tingitana.

But here he was stopped and partially repulsed. In their struggle against the Byzantines and the Berbers, the Arab chieftains had greatly extended their African dominions, and as early as the years 682 Uqba had reached the shores of the Atlantic, but he was unable to occupy Tangier, for he was forced to turn back towards the Altlas Mountain by Count julian. Uqba was recalled from the shores of Altlantic, on his return, his forces were ambushed by a Berber-Byzantine coalition near Biskra under the leadership of kusaita, Uqba was defeated and killed in this battle in 683AD.

“The third general and governor of the Maghreh Zubair Ibn Quid, avenged and encounter the fate of his predecessor. He vanquished the natives in many battles in 686 AD, he was overthrown by a powerful army Constantinople had sent to the relief of Carthage”.

Meanwhile, a new civil war among rivals of the monarchy was raging in Arabia and Syria. It resulted in aseries of four caliphs between the death of the rebel leader. This development brought about a return of domestic order that allowed the caliph to resume the Islamic conquest of North Africa. The third invasion started when the standard was deliverd to Hassan ibn al-Numan governor of Egypt, and the revenue of that kingdom was promised to him with an army of 40,000 men, the arms of hassan were bolder and more fortunate; he reduced and pillaged the metropolis of africa. But they Buzantine empire responded with troops from constantinople, joined by soldiers and ships from Sicily and a powerful contingent from hispania. This forced the invading Arabs to retreat to Kairouan. The following spring, however the Arabs launched a new assault by sea and land, forcing the Byzantines and other allies to evacuate. The Arabs totally destroyed the city and burned it to the ground, leaving the area desolated for the next two centuries. Another battle was fought near Utica and the Arabs were again victorious, forcing the Byzantines to leave that part of North Africa for good.

This was followed by a Berber rebellion against the new Arab overlordship; under the leaderahip of their queen and prophetss Khamina (Kahina), the independent tribes acquired some degree of union and discipline: they attacked the invading Arabs with an enthusiasm similar to their own. The veteran bands of Hassan were inadequate to the defence of Africa; the conquests of an age were lost in single day; and the Arabian chief, overwhelmed by the torrent, retired to the confines of Egypt. After five years, Hassan received fresh troops from the caliph, meanwhile the people of North Africa’s cities chafed under a Baber reign of destruction. Thus hassan was welcomed upon his return, and the royal prophetess Kahmina was slain in the first battle. By 698 the Arabs had conquered most of North Afrca from the Byzantines.

The area was divided into three province; Egypt with its governor at al-Fustat, Ifriqiya (Ifrikquiya) with its governor at Kairouan,and the Magherb (modern Morroco) with its governor at Tangiers.

Musa bin Nusair, a successful Yemeni general in the campaign, was made governor of Ifrikquiya and given the responsibility of putting down a renewed Berber rebellion and converting the population to islam. Musa and his two sons prevield over the rebels and enslaved 300,000 captives. The caliph’s portion was 60,000 of the captives. These the caliph sold into slavery, the proceeds from their sale going into the public treasury. Another 30,000 captives were pressed into military service. Musa also had to deal with constant harassment from the Byzantine navy. So he built a navy of his own which went on to conquer the christain islands of Ibiza, Majorca and Minorca. Advanncing into the Maghreb, his forces took Algiers in 700.

Completion of the conquest; By 700AD, all of North Caliphate. The only possible exception was Ceuta at the african pillar of Hercules. Ceuta represented the last Byzantine outpost in africa and that count julian was an exarch of Byzantine governor. Possible reasons given as to why Ceuta was not reduced to military conquest is that, julian being an able diplomat who was adept in Visigothic, Berber and Arab politics, might well have surrendered to Musa on terms that allowed him to retain his title and command. At this time the population of Ceuta included many refugees from a visigothic civil war that hade broke out in Hispania (Modern Portugal and Spail). These included family and confederates of late king Wittiza, Arian christains fleeing from forced conversions at the hands of the Visigothic Catholic Church, and petsecuted jews. Perhaps it was they, through count julian, who appealed to the North African Muslims for help in the overthrowing Roderic, the new king of the Visigoths.
Musa received an unexpected message from julian, “Who offered his place, his person and his sword” to the muslim leader in exchange for help in the civil war. Though julian’s “estates were ample, his followers bold and numerous”, he had little to hope and much to fear from the new reign. And he was too feeble to challenged Rideric directly. So he sought Musa’s aid. For Musa, julian, “by his Andalusian and Mauritanian commands…held in his hands the keys of the spanish Monarchy”. And so Musaorderd some initial raids on the southern coast of the Iberian peninsula in 710AD. In the spring of that same year Tariq ibn Ziyad-a Berber, a freed slave, and a muslim general – took Tangier. Musa thereupon made him governor there, backed by an army af 1,700 strong.

The next year, 711, Musa directed Tariq to invade Hispania for Islam. Disembarkingbfrom Ceuta aboard ships provided by julian. Tariq plunged into the Iberian peninsula, defeated Roderic, and went on to besiege the Visigother capital of Toledo.

He and his allies also took cordoba, Ecija, Granada, Malaga, seville, and other cities. By this process, Tariz was conquering Iberia for Islama rather than taking sides in Visigothic civil war. And in so doing he established beyond all doubt that Ceuta, the last christain stronghold in North Africa, was now part of the Arab empire. By this means the Umayyad conquest of Hispania brought to a close the total Islamic conquest of North Africa.


The Omani Empire was a commercial empire along the coast of East Africa. The rulers of this empire directly control the activities in the coastal city states of kilwa, Mombasa, Pempa, Pate, Lamu, and also supervised the trading activities that extended into the interior of East Africa. Because of centuries of trading across the Indian ocean, the population and culture of the East African coast had long been mixed, Indians, Arabs, Bantu and other European traders had come to trade, settling and marrying with African’s setting the Swahili culture. The Swahili’s were Muslims and spoke different dialect that combines Bantu grammar with Arabic or Indian loan words.

Oman is situated in the South eastern corner of Arabia, it is the only Arab country most closely associated with the East African coast. its capital was Muscat and its rulers were titled imams. The Oman’s playec substantial role in the growth of both the Indian ocean trade and foundation of the commercial settlements of east Africa. By 1509, except for Malindi, which had accepted an allience with Portugal to challenge Mombasa, all the chief coastal towns from brava to Sofala and the Islands of Zanzibar and Pemba had either agreed to play tribute to the Portugues or had been economically and politically destroyed by them. Mogadishu, Madagascar, and the Comoro Island had escape the conquest. Thus the Portuguese within eight years of their arrival had established Widespread control over the coast, had defeated the Muslim fleet in the Battle of Diu in India, and had seriously disrupted the Indian Ocean trade.

It was not until 1650 that the Omani themselves were able to eject the Portuguese from their capital Muscat and from the whole Arabian seaboard. The Omani ruler, Sultan bin seif, pursued the Portuguese into east Africa from Arabia. Mombasa was the first to appealed to Sultan bin seif to rescue them from the greedy grasp of the Portuguese. By the end of ther 17th century the Omani’s captured the Portuguese base at fort jesus in Mombasa and by 1730 Portuguese power north of cape Delgado had collapsed. After the successful ejection of the Portuguese, the Omani rulers began to claim the overlordship of all the east African coast towns and Islands freed from Portuguese control. Governors known as “Wali’s” were appointed by Omani rulers in the more important of the towns, but usually by selecting the heads of theleading local families, e.g the Mazrui of Mombasa.

The extension of Omani authority over east africa was the work of sayyid said who was born in 1791. He wasthe son of Sayyid Sultan b-Ahmed (1802-1804). He was 13 years old when his father was murdered in 1804. He was immediately install to power as the new Imam. His causin Sayyid Bed was appointed regent untill said comes of age. Meanwhile the real power rest with his aunt, Bibi Muaza, a very powerful woman who was reported to be behind the murder of Sayyid Bedr in 1807. This paved the way for effective takeover of power by Sayyid said after consolidating. his position on the throne, he began to revive Omani hereditary claims to overlordship of what the Omani regarded as the ‘Arab’ towns of the east Africa coast. The principal resistance came from the Mazrui of Mombasa. But in 1837 said’s forces attack and won the city, this was followed by Said’s change of official residence in 1840 from Muscat to Zanzibar. From 1840, therefore, Sayyid said, sultan of Zanzibar, became the dominant sovereign on the coast down to cape Delgado. When said moved to Zanzibar he was followed by many of his compatriots who hoped to exploit the economic potentials of the area.

Clove plantation had been introduced successfully in 1828 from the Island of Mauritius and sa’id encouraged their cultivation for export. Coconut Plantations were also developed successfully to provide an export crop. Many Arabs therfore acquuired extensive plots of land, developed plantations and worked them with slaves labour. Cloves were not the only export commodities of Omani empire. Others included ivory, slaves, gum copal, cowries and agricultural products such as rice, coconut, maize millet etc. In return, Omani imported goods from India, China, America, and Europe. These include manufactured cotton cloths, Chains, Wires, beads, guns, gun power, glass, knives, China earthen wares and axes, intoxicants. Said himself tried very hard to encourage production and trade. Himeself was the chief marchant and cultivator the chief ship builder, the chief judge, the chief of security etc.

Sayyid sa’id empire of Omani was primarily a commercial empire and not a tightly centralize state. He however let the ruling sheikh’s of Swahili towns in power and only appointed governors (the Wali’s) to keep peace in the state and report to him if there is any problem. Sayyid said, in order to have audience with his poeple held two durbar’s or public audience each to listen to the opinions and petitions of his subbjects, he also for peace keeping in his empire appointed Qadi’s or judges, to work in the sharia law court. He rule the coast with adequate strenght, the commercial aspect of the Omani empire was more important and complex.

He did everything in his power to facilitate and encourage trade.

First he appionted a custom master to impose and collect a custom tax of five percent on all trade, this law on uniform tax held the floor of trade between the city states which previously had each tried to fix tax as high as possible. He also in order to poster good trade invited over six thousand wealthy indias to come and settle in Zanzibar to act as financiers over the caravan traders in the interior, the indias called the Banyanians were to loan money to the Swahili and Arab traders. Sayyid sa’id had patronized the indias in Oman and was not less intersted in their input of capital and expansion of trade in east Africa. The sultan granted the Indians religious tolerance, sought their commercial advise, and gave them control over finance, including the collection of customs. Through his control over customs the sultan recieved a large annual cash income to finance his administration and to launch commercial expeditions. By granting the supervision of customs to Indians, he was assured of financial expertise. Indians also controlled the large financial houses which extended credit to Arab and Swahili merchants who organized caravans to secure ivory and slaves.

Under Sa’id, Zanzibar became the trading emporium in East Africa and a power in the world politics.

The sultan negotiated commercial treaties with the United states in 1833, Britian in 1839, France in 1844 and Germany. Consuls from these countries took up residence Zanzibar during the 1840s. To increase the volume of trade that flowed from the hinterland in items like ivory, slaves, gum copal, coconuts, copra and palm oil, Sa’id was interested in extending and providing security to the whole long distance trade into the hinterland. He improved the inland trade by developing the caravan routes which became famous in the 19th century. Thus manifested after 1840 there was a spectacular increase in Arab hinterland enterprise. More and bigger caravans were organized and new areas opened for exploitation; trading settlements were founded in the hinterland. The caravan routes was divided into three groups; the first ran from Bagamoyo to Tabora from there to the Lakes Tanganyika and Victoria; another group of routes was from Kilwa to Lake Nyasa and beyond to Katanga; lastly, the most northely route ran from Tanga to Lake Victoria. The demand for slaves in clove plantation was an important factor in the expansion of the slave trade in 19th century. Slaves were still in great demand in Arabia and the entire Middle East, the Americans and some of the islands where plantation economy was being carried out. In most cases, internal trade or long distance caravan trade were started by the indigenous peoples. By the time Sa’id came to Zanzibar the Arabs and Swahiti had taken over the trade. One important aspect of Arab penetration under Sa’id was the establishment of Arab ‘colonies’ in the hinterland and the interlacustrine regions.

These ‘colonies’ began as collecting centres for slaves, ivory and food for caravan. Sayyid Sa’id guaranted peace and security throughout his domain especially where they were vital for trade to flow. His administration was a simple affair. The indigenous inhabitants managed their own affairs, except for a poll tax which they paid to said through their chief. The real business of government was concerned within the Arabs, the Indians, the half castes and the plantation slaves. There were no official advisers, no council of ministers, except for the governor and the customer master there were no administrative officers. Even the business of collecting tax and custom duties was in the hands unofficial private contractors ‘India businessmen’ On the whole, therefore it can be claimed that the Omani rule in east Africa was no more than a system of economic penetration with considerable political activity in a number of regions where African resistance was negligible.

The fall of Omani empire came with the move by the British government to stop the slave trade in Zanzibar and the entire east Africa.

For many reasons the British government was willing to deal patiently with the Omani Arab ruler, Sayyid said. The British government on the whole was prepared to use persuasion rather than force.

Persuasion implied a recognition of Sa’id’s overlcrdship of east Africa. Thus in 1822 the Moresby treaty was signed and the Arab ruler undertook to prohibit all external traffic in slaves in the ‘dominion and dependencies”.

Sayyid sa’id died in 1850, he was succeeded by Sultan Bargash who ascended the throne with the aid of the British who reduced him to a mere puppet. For instance he was made to issue a procamation in 1873 prohibiting slavery in his domain and closed all the slave markets throughout Omani commercial empire of east Afrca. To abolish the slave trade was to undermine the whole economic system of the east. Africa empire. By 1890 east Africa was partitioned between Britian and Germany.


The influence of Islam has been and is still enormous.

After the Arab conquest of Egypt in AD 640, that country became overwhelmingly Muslim, though a sustantial christain community survives, Arabic became the language of daily life as well as of learning and Islamic law set the patttern of the existnce.

From Egypt Islam traveled up the Nile and became the region of Funj sultanate in the Northern part of the present Sudan. In the Maglureb also Islam became dominant after the Arab conquest, and from there it was carried along the caravan routes accross the sahara to establish itself in the states of the sudanese belt (West Africa ). From there it turn it has been and still being carried out south to the forest lands.

Today it is estimated that roughly 45 percent of the population of nigeria which has far more people than any other African state in muslim.

In East Africa also Islam was brought by Arab traders and refuges to the coastal city states. It established itself firmly there and spread inland along the caravan routes. In the 19th century Muslim communities had begun to arise as far as the inter-Laucustrine region. One of the greatest events in the history of Africa was the Islamic religion in the black soil. It is as important as the coming of christainity to the forest belt ot the southern and coastal belts. For both religions have had a tremendous influence on the people of Afrca. Islam brought about a complete change in the cultural economical lifeof the peoples of the Sudan.

The advent of Islam meant much closer contact across the sahara between the Arab World of North Africa and Arabia and the Negro World. This means the spread of Arabic (Muslim) culture with its civilizing influence, the most important effects perhaps being the introduction of Arabic writting and language. It brought to Africa the benefit of Arabic learning. For instance, what we have learnt in the previous chapters about the Sudanes kingdoms before the nineteenth century comes mainly from books written by Arab geographers and traders or Negro scholars writting in the Arabic language, of greater importance is the fact that Islam and the Arabic language, became a cultural unity to the Sudan which has remained to this day.

Muslim culture are the fundamental reason for the difference between the people of the Savannah belt and the forest belt of Africa today. It must be emphasized that Islam is not just a religious creed, it goes further than this. Islamic law as contained in the Quran regulates every aspect of life of Muslim communities.

Accordingly, the Qur’an is a ‘book of law and precept, regulating the eating and driking habites of believers, containing laws of marriage, divorce and inheritance and establishing a political community based on adherence of Islam which cuts accross clan. Family, tribal and ethnic groupings” the introduction of Islam into the Sudan, therefore gave rise to the growth of states based on Islamic system of government and law, similarly, the language was also politically important. Large states run with efficient and systematic methods of government because written messages could easily be sent to the governors of provinces. Of the political importanve of Islam in the Sudan, Muhammed al-maghilis book, “the obligation of princes” is especially significant. This treaty on government was written by this famous Muslim, scholar and preacher for the king of Kano in the early sixteenth century. The book “reveals high ideals and the writer’s keen appreciation of the practical difficulties of government” It can therefore be seen that Islam was also of great commercial significant to the Sudanese kingdoms before the nineteenth century.

Although trade existed between North Africa and Sudan before the coning of Islam, its introduvtion into Africa strengthened the economic ties between the Muslim ties between the Muslim peoples on both side of the sahara desert.


THE SOKOTO JIHAD one of the major Islamic movements that took place in the Western Sudan in the 19th century was the jihad of the Othman Dan Fido or Sokoto jihad, there were other jihads that took place West Africa led by devoted Muslim scholars; the Masina jihad led by seku Ahmad and the Tokolor jihad led by Alhaji Umar and of similar inportance was the emergence of Samori Toure’s mandinka empire or Imamate. The leaders of these jihads were mostly Fulan’s who had been migrating a long time and had been practicing Islam for a long. It is generally agreed that after the destruction of songhai empire by the Moroccans invasion of 1591, Islamic practice and expansion decline and the absence of one strong centralized state led to the emergence of states which were always fighting against one another. These wars brought insecurity and threat. Jihad is a religious dutty prescribed by the Quran abnd endorses by the sunna or recieved traditions of the sayings of the prophet Muhammed. It is however a “collective duty” incumbent upon the Muslim community at large as opposed to an individual duty. That to say the duty is accomplish is some members of the community undertake it on behalf of the whole. Therefore the cause of these jihads had to do with reforming Islam in Weat Afrca.

Much of this movement has been concerned with trying to give or provide an understanding of the jihad. This the main problem in dealing with the Sokoto jihad. What was the nature of jihad , in other words what cause the jihad?

A number of views or interpretations have been given about the nature of the Sokoto jihad; thus

(i) It was a racial movement of the Fulani’s.

(ii) Religious interpretation; a movement that was on a pure Believed i.e pure practise of Islam.

(iii) political reasons.

(iv) It was an uprising of the socially and economically disadvantage section of the society against the rule, and

(v) It was an intellectual movement “involving in the minds of the jihad leaders a conception of the ideal society and the philosophy and revolution”.

There may be other interpretations of the jihad in Sokoto of 1804, were these five constituse the main or major reason so far made.

Reasons For The Sokoto Jihad

The first interpretation, the explanation of the sokoto jihad in terms of a racial movement of the Fulani is based on a number of circumstances; one of the circumstance is that, the jihad movement was inspired and led by the Fulani’s who finally dominated the resultant caliphate, that is to say the political set up that emerged at the end of the jihad.

But the Fulani had specific grievances against the Hausa kings. Although the Fulani had been settled in Hausa land since the 15th century, they were still by 1800 regarded as aliens. Thus although manyn learned Fulani Muslims served the Hausa rulers as scribed, judges and advisers, and although many of th town Fulani were wealthy cattle owners, the Fulani were still denied direct participation in the Hausa governments. This was a situatuon that could only lead to frustration but which could also foster Fulani solidarity. Another basis of this interpretation is that the Fulani were the most Islamised. It is on this basis that the scholars who hold this view of Sokoto jihad arrived at their interpretation of the event. But before this interpretation of the Jihad can be accepted as convising, it is necessary to prove that Jihad was carried out in order to achieve the domination of the fulani. Purely on the level of theory it is really difficult to say with any degree of certainty whether the Fulani supported the Jihad purely cn racial or other considerations. It is possible that many Fulani join the Jihad from a sense of racial solidarity given the fact that the Fulani were conscious of their separate identity that they seldom had internal conflict and that their scholars were in contact.

Again the Jihad itself was not fought exclusively by the Fulani’s alone, none Fulani’s also join in the Jahid and this makes it difficult to see the Jihad as a completely racial uprising of the Fulani . Similarly, non Fulani’s were also given positions in the newly established caliphate, for example, Abdu-la-salam of Gimbana , Yaqub Ibu Datti of Bauchi and Sarki Jatan of Zaran enjoyed positions of authority in the new set up. But under Whole, it is a fact that the Jihad leaders were mainly Fulani’s. The regionsinterpretation of the Sokoto Jihad is based on really two circumstances of Islim in Hausa land. One of this reasons that led scholars to arrive at this interpretation of the jihad was the position of Islim in Hausa land.

The other circumstance is the religiosity of the laeders of the sokoto jihad and their action. As regards the first circumstance, i.e. the position of Islam in Hausa land, Islam was introduced into Borno in the 11th century and in Hausa land in the 15th century. The agents of the intoduction of Islam in these two places were foreign muslim scholars and merchants. In their early stages the converts to the new religion were mainly the rulers and their courtiers. It seems that this group of people were attracted to Islam to be the advantaged of the new religion, this may have been the advantages of reading and writting perhaps in the Arabic language, the identification of an internationally accepted religion as well as the possibility of using the laws and other stipulations of the new religion and achieving greater political integration of their polities.

Since the introduction of Islam in Hausa land in 15th century the religion remain the preserve of the few top echelons of the society well into 17th c. But Islam practice by these rulers and their courtiers was not pure Islam, it was syncred that is to say that the practice of Islam was mixed with the observance of certain aspects of culture and tradition that wole not acceptable to Islam. But by the 17th c, Islam had also made converts among the generality of the people in Hausa land, iit has also led to development of education in the sciences of the religion. The importance of this to development is that Islam became better understood and as a result was accepted on the basis of awareness of it’s injuctions. It also created a grwowing class of educated elite in the new science of the religion. Members of the new educated elite are the ulama’n (learned men). It was this growing group of learned men most of whose members had very little or nothing to do with the court but the drag towards rapid Islamization that is in terms of the number of people that were Islamised. This group were also responsible for bringing about a deeper understanding of Islam. Members of this group undertook preaching teaching and generally pursed scholarship and thereby on doing so produced more learned men in the process and a generality that progessively became better inform about the sharia and Islamic values. Members of this group were also responsible for producing works or book on Islamic sciences, as a result of their activities. There had emerged by the second half of the 18th century communities of muslims scattered in units all over what later came to be known as Northern Nigeria. In addition there came to be known centres of learning like Birni Ngazargamu, Agades, kano, katsina, etc as well as numerous settlement of learned men with their followers known as Za’awiyya (scholarship community). This learned men traveled over long distances while their students move from one learned teacher to another to gain education as well as acquire the permit to teach. As a result of this developments of the 2nd half of the 18th century, there were efforts to ensure the pure practice of Islam, in this regard the learned men condemn as “Bida” (innovations) many practices that were not sanction by Islam or were anti ethical. It was against this background of Islam or the circumstance of Islam in Hausa land up to the 18th century, that the jihad movement of othman Dan Fodio took place. As regards the religiosity of the leaders of the jihad and their actions, it is pointed out that the leaders of the Sokoto jihad sheirkh Muhammed Ibn Salih also known as Othman Dan Fodio, his brother Abdullahi and his son Muhammed Bello were all deeply religious people who based their actions and utterances on the Sharia.

In the case of Othman Dan Fodio in particular, the essence of his religiosity is perhaps reflected in the fact that he bagan his preaching and teaching in 1774/75 just about 30 years before his activities culminated into the Jihad. Throughout this period he travels too far and wide doing nothing but calling on Muslims to purify the practice of Islam in accordance with the Sumi orthodoxy.

POLITICAL REASONS: The tension and bitterness which the religious situation created were aggravated by its political implications. The rulers in Hausa land were corrupt, despotic and oppressive. For example taxes were arbitrarily imposed on the subjects, a fate which both the Fulani and the Hausa peasantry shared. He condemned the law courts for administering laws that did not confirm with Islamic standards of justice. The main penalties meted out which were un_Islamic were heavy fines. Bribes were usually offered to judges before cases taken to their courts were decided. The jihad was led by the Fulani, and the government of Sokoto caliphate after the jihad was dominated by the Fulani. This has led many people to see the Jihad as an attempt by the Fulani to overthrow their Hausa overlods. In other words, the Jihad is seen as a political movement by the Fulani to establish themselves as the master of Hausa land. Such was the position of El_kanemi of Borno. It is a fact that once the fighting broke out in Gobir, the Fulani in Hausa communities and in Borno also started revolting against their rulers.

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL: Social-economic grievances helped to worsen the situations. Unfortunately it turned out to be the case that most of the Muslims came from the under privileged abd oppresed classes in society at the time in Hausa land. Not only the Fulani’s, and also the Hausa and even the Tuaregs suffered from the oppression and corruption of the Habe rulers. Othman Dan Fodio claimed that the Habe rulers imposed taxes which were not only too heavy but also Un-Islamic and so oppresed thepeople. That they lived the lives of luxury and sinfullness in their court and over used the labour of their subjects. He condemned as un-Islamic the custom of a man’s property going over to the king when the owner died. He also criticized the rulers for forcing Muslims into their armies and ordering those who refused to pay heavy fines. He condemned the rulers for selling muslims into slavery, making sacrifieces to trees and believing in spirit. He Habe rulers were also condemned for prohibiting muslims from doing things that were expected of them, such as the wearing of turban by men and the veil by women. The imposition of the Jangali (cattle tax) is seen as un-Islamic.

INTELLECTUAL REASONS: The Jihad was an intellectual movement of the educated elite.

Both othman Dan Fodio, Abdullahi and Muhammed bello leaders of the Jihad were distinguished scholars who also spoke of an ideal Islamic society in which all men lived in peace under Islamic laws. The Jihad was also accompanied by cultural changes. There was remarkable increase in scholarship and other forms of intellectual activities. This is showed in the writings of the Jihad leaders. Otherman Dan Fodio, Muhammed Bello and Abdullahi on their own, are said to have produced 258 books and pamphlets.

This literacy output is particularly noteworthy when it is remembered that a large number of these books were written in the midst of active campaigning. Several other scholars produced such literacy works. The period also saw phenomenal increases in the number of schools which were opened. More people were bought into Islam. The religion itself affected all spheres of life of the society, from mode of dressing, marriage manners to that of economic transactions. Islamic liberies also grew up at Sokoto and Segu. With the spread of Islamic religion and the abundance of literature work in Arabic, Arabic developed as the official language of literature and correspondence.


Muhammed Ibn Salih also known as Othman Dan Fodio was born at Gobir in 1754 to a Fulani family of the Toronkowa clan. At the age of seven he was assigned to a Quar’anic teacher. He learned under many scholars including his father and uncle. As an itinerant scholar he traveled far and wide to learn under famous sholars of the time such as Jibril Ibn Umar of Agades from whom he acquired knowledge of Islamic law, theology and mysticism; Abdulrahman Ibn Hammade taught him syntax and grammar; Uthman Binduri imparted to him his seal for right living and action, and a host of other tuturs imparted on him varying knowledges. By the time he was twenty years Othman Dan Fodio had finished his studies and settled down to teach and preach (1774/5). He started teaching and preaching in the course of which he traveled in the Rima basin-Gobir, Zanfara kebbi and elsewhere. When he returned to Degel his base in the state of Gobir he was accompanied by large number of followers. Here also other new scholars and students began to subscribe to him. Gradually a Muslim community that was independent and critical of the Gobir government grew up. By the late 1770’s there were already signs of strain in Dan Fadio’s relationship with the Gobir rulers, as the activities of Othman Dan Fodio and his supporters increased, it became a source of worry to the king of Gobir. At the end of the year 1788-1789, he was summoned by the king of Gobir, Bawa Jan Gwarzo, for the Eid el-kabir. Othman Dan Fodio used the opportunity to obtain five concessions from Bawa, the king of Gobir. They were;

1. To allow me (Othman) to call people to God (preach) freely in your domain

2. Not to stop anybody who intends to respond to my call.

3. That people wearing the turban should be respected.

4. That people should not be subjected to oppresive taxation, and

5. To free all (political) prisoners.

The king (Bawa) granted these concessions, it further increased the fame of Othman Dan Fodio, resulting in more and more people joining his rank. However, Bawa’s gesture failed to arrest the situation for example seeing how numerious his fellowers had become and in view of determining situations, by 1794 and 1795 he began to consider the possibility of breaking up with the establishment government of the land. Thus he began urging his followers to arm themselves. He than excommunicated himself and his community from the jurisdiction of the king of Gobir. This act of Dan Fodio was seen as a threat by Nafata who had succeded Bawa as the king of Gobir. Nafata sanctioned the muslim community with the following proclamations;

1. No man should become a muslim unless a muslim-born .

2. All converts should revert to their original faith.

3. Men should no longer wear turban and women should no more veil themselves.

4. Nobody except Othman himself should preach Islam.

The new king thus reversed the policy of his father, Bawa Jan Gwarzo, issued ten years ago which gave semi-autonomy to Othman Dan Fodio and his folowers. This marked the begining of tension between Dan Fodio and his followers with the rulers of Gobbir. In 1802 Nafata was succeeded by Yunfa. Yunfa turned out to be even more harsh to Dan Fodio.

To avoid any attack, Othman Dan Fodio and his community moved from Degel to Gudu on February 23, 1804. This movement is known as “Hijra”. With this movement the line of the conflict was drawn between Yunfa and his subjects on the one hand and Othman Dan Fodio and his community on the other. The muslim community shortly after aknoweledge Othman Dan Fodio as Amir al-Mumini (the commander of the faithful). The significance of this development is; firstly; it marked the final break with Gobir as the muslims renounced their allegience to the king of Gobir. Secondly it marked the begining of what became known as thew Sokoto Caliphate.

The first clash between Gobir forces and Othman Dan Fodio’s men took place in April 1804 at Tabkin Kwotto. Although the Gobir army was superior in numbers, with ahundred heavily -armed cavalry, thesuperior morale and determination of the sheikh’s forces won the day and Yunfa’s forces were deafeted. The Jihadist were also victorious in the other early battles fought between April and June 1804 at Makankari and Konni. From Gobir, the conflict spread to other Hausa states. By April 1805, Kebbi, the capital of Birnin Kebbi had fallen, followed by Zamfara. Between 1805 and 1807, the jihadists had captured Katsina, Duara, Kano and Zaria. Gombe, Adamawa, llorin Nupe and Kontagora fell later. By 1810 nearly all Hausa land had been captured by the Jihadists who organized it into an empire (Khalifate) with capital at the new town of Sokoto and headed by Othman Dan Fodio as amir al-muminin (leader of faithful).

He divided the caliphate into two, one half the eastern axis had its capital of Sokoto, he gave to his son Muhammed Bello. The other half the western axis with capital of Gwandu went to Abdullah his brother.

The Impact Of Sokoto Jihad

The Sokoto jihad itself was a continuation of earlier efforts made by pious scholars in isolated parts of the central Sudan to reform Islam with a view to estabvlishing a government based on Islamic principles. For instance in 1725 some Islamic reformers led by a Fulani called Alfa Ibrahim bi Nuhu successfully rose against the pagan rulers of Futa Jaon and established there an imamate, that is a state under an imam, a religious leader who claimed to rule in the name of Allah. Sometimes later a similar move occured in Futa Toro, a state west of Futa Jalon and on the Southern bank of the river Senegal. There the reformers, led by a man called Suleiman Bai, declared a Jihad against the pagan rulers of the state in 1769. In 1776 the latter were overthrown and a state along the lines of Futa Jalon was established by the victorious reformers. Later still another imamate was founded at Bondu in the region between Futa Jalon and Futa Toro.

The Jihad led to establishment of the Sokoto caliphate. The caliphate was made up of fifteen major emirates and spreads over 180,000 square kilometers. It became the largest political unit in the western Sudan after the Songhai empire.

The Jihad spread Islam in Hausa land and other parts of West Africa. It suppresed indigenous religion and replaced it with Islam. By 1850 Islam became the official state religion of most states in West Africa.

The Jihad further united the Hausa states which were hitherto hostile to each other. They became the nucleus of the caliphate which invluded non-Hausa people like the Nupe, Gwari, llorin and Adamawa.

It further established internal peace and order. In this way economic activities were encouraged, artisans, farmers, traders and cattle rearers could go about their daily activities without any fear.

It promoted education, the leaders of the Jihad were themselves teachers who go about teaching and preaching by so doing promoted education. The leaders of the Jihad were scholars who wrote several volume of books. Sheikh Othman Dan Fodio, his brother Abdullahi, aqnd his son Muhammmed Bello were said to have produced over 200 known works. Islamic universities grew up in major cities of WestAfrica such as Birni Ngazargamu, Katsina, Gao, segu,,Agades and so on. Islamic libraries grew up at Segu and Sokoto.

This further led to the spread of Islamic religion and the abundance of literary works in Arabic, Arabic developed as the official language of literature and correspondence.

Further still, the Jihad led to a change of the ruling dynasty in Kanem-Borno which resulted in the repeated capturing of the seat of power, Mai Ahmed the last Mai of the dynasty fled the capital and invited Muhammed el-kanemi to defend the empire against the Jihadist.

After a successful defence, it further marked the end of the Saifawa dynasty and the ascending of the shehu dynasty. In the same vein the Jihad was responsible for the collaps of the Oyo empire.

Lastly, the Sokoto jihad influenced other similar Jihad movements that later occured in West Africa such as the Masina Jihad lead by Seku Ahmadu, Tokolor Jihad of Alhajj Umar in Bamdara.

In 1812 the shehu, who had in 1809 moved to Sifawa, about 20miles south os Sokoto, divide the administration of the nascent empire between his brother Abdullahi and his son Muhammed Bello. The latter, whose territories include Zamfara, Kastina, Kano, Daura, Bauchi and Katagum based him-self at Sokoto which he had established in 1809 while Abdullahi, who was to control Nupe, Dendi, Borgu, llorin and Liptako, stayed at Bondinga two miles from Sifawa until the Shahu’s death in 1817 when he moved to Gwandu.

The Shehu himself had never taken an active part in the military campaign. He was already fifty years old when the Jihad began and was by nature, a scholar and teacher, rather than a worrior or administrator. He was given the title Amir al-mu’minin (commander of the believers) the supreme title of the muslim leader of a wide area, by general conset, at the outset of the Jihad. From then on his main role was to advise and counsel his army commanders and administrators on how to undertake the Jihad according to the strict dictates of the Islamic law, and how to administer their provinces in the same way.

The shehu always looked to the saying and deeds of the prophet and his immediate followers as inspiring, example for emulation, he nevertheless looked more to the later law-books, written centuries after the prophet’s death to see who the scholar had interpreted the divine law and what rules they had laid down for working of the judiciary, the collection of taxes, the administator of markets, the organisation of the treasury and so on. He thus accepted of the Islamic state as part of the essence of the religion.

The history of the Jihad after the death of the shehu and the accession to power of his son Bello as successor in 1817 is the history of the individual emirates rather than that of Sokoto. Although sokoto maintained an overall hagemony, most of the emirates were in practice, semi-autonomous, tribute-paying subordinates under the shadow of the authority of the sultan of Sokoto.


The Masina Jihad was a direct consequence of the Sokoto Jihad. It was therefore greatly influenced by the Sokoto Jihad, the leader of the Jihad was Seku Ahmadu. Before launching his Jihad in Masina he had stayed in Sokoto or Hausa land and was a strong supporter of Dan Fodio. He even faught the Jihad in llorin. So wwhen he came back he fought for the things Othman fought for. One can therefore say that the Jihad in Masina had the causes as the Jihad in Sokoto.

Masina lies west of Hausa land and south of the riverine regon of the Niger which lies upstream fro Timbuctu is crossed by several branches of the river Niger. Within the area at the begining of the ninteenth century resided a number of different people including the muslim Fulani and Mandika, side by side with the pagan Bambara, Bozo and some pagan pastoral Fulani. The ruling clan of Masina was the Fulani Dialo who were rivalved by another clan, the Dangare to which Seku Ahmadu belonged. Secondly it was an area of direct confrontation between Muslims and non-Muslims and therefore a potential area of disturbance. So when he came back he fought for the things Othman fought. We can therefore say that the Jihad in Masma had the cause as in the Jihad of Sokoto.

Seku Ahmadu was born in 1775, he recieved a traditional Islamic education. By 1805 he had been in Hausa land at the time when Othman Dan Fodio was embarking upon his Jihad. This provided him with the aspiration to challenge the leaders of his own area and later to proclaim his own Jihad. On his return from Sokoto he settled in a small village near Jeme but was send away from there by the arma. He then settled in Sedere where he established Islamic scholars.


RELIGIOUS: Like Othman Dan Fodio, Seku Ahmadu accused the leaders of mixing the practice of Islam with idol worshuping, in his preachings and teachings. He therefore fought the Jihad to purify Islam.

POLITICAL: Seku Ahmadu accused the leaders of bad administration and corruptions. According to him the leaders were not ruling as stipulated in Qur’an. He therefore wanted the administration to be Islam basis.

SOCIO-ECONOMIC: Socially; He accused the leaders apart frim corruption that they were the masses by their unjust and un-Islamic taxation. He also accused the leaders of oppresion Ahmadu Seku therfore was seen by the commoners as their saviour. Many came to support him. But he was hated by the leaders who saw him as a threat to their position. The leader of sebere who stayed by then was called Ardo. This man wanted to destroy him. Asked the king of Segu to whom he paid tribute to. To come and testroy Seku Ahmadu. On seing that his life was in danger Ahmadu and his supporters flew from Sebere to Handullahi in 1818. The flight from Sebere to Hamdullahi is referred to as the “Hijra” (emigration). In Hamdullahi, he gathered all his supporters and declared war on the Ardo called Dlallo and the king of Segu. He defeated them. After their defeat, other rulers surrendered. Scholars in Jenne even invited him to rule their city., by 1819 therefore he had his powers, he brough all areas under his power together to form the Masina state.


He divided the area into seven emirates under emires who were learned Muslims. All these emirs were under him. All the affairs of the state were done in an Islamic way. His state is referred to as a theocratic state.

A theocratic state is a state ruled by the religions group. The empire of Seku Ahmadu was remarkable, not for its size, which was not enormous by Sudanic standards, nor its longevity for it was largely broken up by Al-hajj Umar in 1862. rather it was remarkable for its well-organized administration.

Executive, legislative and judicial power in the state was vested in a Grand council which consistted of forty learned men with a further sixty assistant arbitrators. At the head of this body was a privy council of three, consisting of Seku Ahmadu and two members of the Grand council, The age of the councilors was to be about forty years. In case of conflict within the Grand council, forty were chosen at random from the sixty arbitrators and their decisions was final; no decision was to be taken that was not in accordance with Islamic law.

He also appointed an emir and a qadi to each province and organized a state treasury, taxes being raised by harvest tithes, war booty, fines and confiscations and legacies. Before his death he nominated his son Ahmadu ll as successor and he ruled until his death in 1852.

Ahmadu himself nominated his son as successor but it was during the reign of Ahmadu lll that the great conqueror Al-hajj umar invaded. Although Ahmadu lll allied himself with the Bambara of Segu and the Kunta Arabs, he was defeated by Al-hajji Umar in 1862 who put him to death.


The Tokolor jihad of Al-hajj Umar like the Masina Jihad was also a direct consequence of the Sokoto Jiad, it was led by a Fulani though some scholars have described Umar as a tokolor. Born in 1794 in Futa Toro, Umar Ibn sa’id Tal, was a great soldier as well as a scholar, like Uthman Dan Fodio, he started his studies under his father Sa’id Tal. Umar traveled widely in the Sudan in search of learned scholars under whom he would finish the studies. This took him to Mauritania, Futa Toro and Futa Jalon. He went on pilgrimage to Mecca in 1820 and stayed there for twenty years. He witnessed two great Islamic struggles, that of the Wahabiyya against the Turks in Arabia and that of Muhammed Ali of Egypt seeking to modernized the country while still making it bear Islamic chsracter. On his return from Mecca he stayed with Al-Kanemi of Borno whose scholarship appealed to him tremendously. From Borno, he travelled to Sokoto and remained with Muhammed Bello for many years. He aided Bello in his campaigns in the Sokoto. Caliphate and was reported to have married two women in Sokoto to which one was said to be Bello’s daughter. He also visited Seku Ahmadu’s son Ahmadu ll of Masina before he finally settled down.

It was during his stay in Mecca that he was initiated into the Tiyyaniyya brotherhood by Sidi Muhammed Ghali who was a deputy of the founder of the order Ahmmadu al-hajj Umar became a great adherent of the brotherhood and was himself made a deputy (Khalifa) and attained the highest rank within the order.

The brotherhood preached that all members of the order were equal. There is no doubt that the successful jihad of Uthman Dan Fodio or Sokoto Jihad encourage Al-hajj Umar to think of raising the Jihad in his own territory. There is really no evidence to show that the bad government and harsh and oppresive social and economic conditions which prevailed in Hausaland and masina that led to Jihad movement in those places also existed in Tokolor. The Tokolor Jihad has thus been regarded as a Tokolor war of imperialam to dominate other neighboring territories. The reasons for the Jihad are, therefore, difficult to assess. But two thing are important to note.

The first is that Umar acquired tremendous revolutionary experience in Mecca where he stayed for twenty years. He witnessed two great Islamic struggles, that of the Wahabi against the Turks and that of Muhammed Ali of Egypt seeking to Modernized Egypt while still making it bear Islamic character. And his initiation into the newly formed Tiyyanijja brotherhood by Sidi Muhammed Ghali, a deputy of the founder of the order, Ahmed of the al Tijjani. Secondly, Umar stayed with Almad of the al Tijjani. Secondly, Umar stayed with Al-kanemi of Borno for several years. He visited Seku Ahamdu of Massina before he finally settled down.

In 1939 he settled in Futa jalon with a following of deciples and for the next nine years prepared himself for his jihad by gathering together an army of deciples (talaba), he also began to purchase firearms from the Atlantic Coast. In 1848 he made the hijra (emigrated) from Futa Jalon to Dinguiray accompanied by his disciples.

In 1862 after spending fourty days of mediation, he launched his jihad. The Tokolor people became his strongest supporters. In 1854 he entered Nyoro but the French were a force to reckoned with in the area, and three years later the French took the town of Medina which Umar had been blockading. He now turn his attention to the Bambara state of Segu amnd kaarta and captured the town in 1861. In capturing Segu as falling within his sphere of influence. Ahmad III had in regarded this as justifying war, invaded Masina and captured it in 1862 killing Ahmadu III in that process. For the next two years, Umar found himself entrpped in Masina trying to suppress local rebellions. He in fact lost his life on one of his many campaigns there in 1864.

At his death, Umar’s far flung empire had no administrative system to hold it together. On his death, he was succeeded by his son’s who unfortunately did not process the personality and prestige of the the father. While they were locked in succession disputes, they failed to check the political ambitions of the provincial rulers who plot to establish themselves as independent of the provinces.

Another important factor that contributed to the fall of the Tokolor empire was the French invasion. The French distrusted Umar and refuse to co-operate with him. In 1855, they went further to curtailed the growing powers of Umar in more concrete terms by building a fort at Medina on the edge of Umars empire to prevent him from further westward movement.

The French under Gillieni started to take serious interest in expansion into the interior. They began to construct territorial size of the Tokolor empire. Finally, the French went into full scale military attack to destroy Umar’s empire. They captured Segu, Nioro, jenne and then the entire Masina empire.


Samori Ibn Lafiya Toure, was born about 1830 tro a sonike family which live in the village of Sanankoro near KanKan. Samori was at first a trader but later decided to become a warrior. It is said that this change in his career was brought about by the carrying away of his mother into slavery by Sori Birama king of Bisandugu in 1852. Because of his great love for his mother, Samori joined Sori Birama’s army in other to establish himself independently. He began to dream of building an empire out of the many small mutually hostile Mandinka chieftains in the region of the upper Guniea. His abilities as a strong leader attracted many to serve under him. Those who were less willing to join him he persuaded, by force or diplomacy, to rally to his side.

He began his carear of conquest in 1866 when he defeated Fa-modu the chief of Kumadugu, and made Bisandugu his capital. From here he extended his authority over the small principalities of Toron, Konia and Wasulonke.

In 1873, he captured Kankan and in the following year, he took the Muslim little of Almami. Somori continued to extend his power towards the Tokolor empire of Alhaji Umar to the west, the Futa Jalon to the west , the kingdom of Sikasso to the east and south of the forest borders of sierra Leone and Liberia.

Samori’s imperial expansion soon brought him into conflict with neighbouring African rulers such as the Tiebba of Sikasso and Ahmadu of the Tokolor empire But it was his clash with the Fench that brought him disaster. From 1882, he strongly resisted French penetration into the hinterland from their base in senegal. In 1883, the Fench succeeded in occupying Bamako and in 1891, they occupied Bisandugu, his capital and Samori was forced to move ggradually east wards from the region of upper Ivory Coast, where he established a new capital at Dabakala. Samori was therefore forced to make peace. According to him an offer of safe conduct by the French he surrendered himself to them but the latter disrespecting their promise condemned and deported Samori to Gabon. Here he died in exile in 1900. So ended the career of the man who was regarded as the architect of the Mandinka empire.

Administration: Several split the empire into provinces the three central provinces were directly controlled by Samori and his ministers, while out lying areas were governed by an appointed military, who shared his authority with a qadi (Judge) who was also the local head of the religious community. This direct control was carried down to the level of the village groups of which formed a district within each province.

Samori’s administrative organization also reflected an attempt to maintained national unity while Samori remained the supreme political religious and judicial head of the empire there was a state council consisting of the political, religious and military heads of the provinces.

There were ten large provinces in the empire. Authority in each province was vested in one of the Al-mami’s relatives who was assisted by a war chief and a religious leader.

The provinces were further divided into about 162 districts. Each district consisted of some twenty villages. Each village was ruled by its traditional religious and war leaders. Each acted as a check on the other. Legal matters were settled at various levels according to their importance. Through the provincial governments, the villages supplied men and provisions for the army.

Another feature of Samori’s government was his policy of detribalization. He eliminated tribal loyalty and sentiment by deliberately grouping people of different ethnic groups into the same district.

One other feature of Samori’s administration was that he placed great emphasis on meritocracy and abolished class distinction. In fact only the best men regardless of their origin were appointed to high positions in the army.