The Kanem-Bornu Empire

The Kanem-Bornu Empire was a Central African empire that covered territory in the present-day states of Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Libya and Cameroon, and existed between the 8th century CE and 19th century CE.

The Kanembu people established their capital, N’jimi, around the year 700 CE under the first King Saif. Saif’s son Degu increased the influence of N’jimi, establishing the Duguwa Dynasty. Around 1068, Hummai ibn Salamna overthrew the last king of the Duguwa and established the Saifawa Dynasty. The Saifawa would rule for 771 years, making it arguably the longest dynasty in human history. Hummai introduced Islam to the Kanembu and brought great scientific, political, and technological advances to the region. In the 13th century, King Dunama Dabbalemi greatly extended Kanem territory through expansionist wars and diplomatic missions. Nevertheless, by the end of the 14th century, internal struggles and foreign invasions were tearing Kanem apart.

Around 1380, foreign invasions forced the king to abandon N’jimi and move the Kanembu people to Bornu on the western edge of Lake Chad. From this point on, Kanem was known as the Kanem-Bornu Empire. By 1460, King Ali Dunamami consolidated Kanem-Bornu and built a fortified capital at Ngazargamu (in present-day Nigeria). By the early 16th century, King Idris Katakarmabe was able to defeat the Bulala and retake N’jimi, the former capital. The Saifawa Dynasty had reached a new age of prosperity.

Nonetheless, all empires must one day come to an end. Throughout the 18th century, the Kanem-Bornu suffered repeated famines and were an empire in decline. In 1808, Fulani invaders captured Ngazargamu, and in 1846, the empire fell into a civil war from which it would never recover, marking an end to the thousand-year empire.

By Tre Hunt

(Image: Wikimedia)

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