Songhai Empire Timeline

Songhai Empire Timeline

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Songhai, African Empire, 15-16th Century

West Africa is home to many of Africa's oldest kingdoms. These kingdoms played an important role in the development of trade and economic growth of the region. As old kingdoms came to be replaced by new smaller ones many changes were experienced. The transformations were influenced by conquest and warfare along with patterns of trade. West African societies were shaped by competition for wealth and the search for independence from more powerful kingdoms.

The earliest African civilizations south of the Sahara desert were in West Africa. These civilisations developed at a time when most of Europe was experiencing the Dark Age, after the fall of the Western half of the Roman Empire around 476 A.D. the people of West Africa could already smelt iron ore to make tools for warfare and agriculture. Iron farming tools made agricultural methods far more efficient. This led to improvements in agriculture and greater productivity of the land, as prosperity grew the population expanded giving rise to larger towns. Broad rivers linked people in these larger towns by way of canoe travel. These rivers also maintained the fertility of the soil all year round.

At the same time kingdoms were developing in this region. One of the earliest kingdoms to emerge here was ancient Ghana to the far West. By the year 300 A.D, this kingdom had been ruled by about 40 kings, showing that its political administration was well developed to allow new kings to take office without destroying the kingdom by fighting destructive civil wars. The economy of Ghana was based on iron and gold mining along with agriculture. Products were traded with Berber societies north of the Sahara desert. At the same time (1230-1300) the Mali kingdom of the Mande people, to the east of Ghana, was growing and increasing its control of trade in the region. This brought the two kingdoms into conflict. Finally, the Ghana kingdom was taken over by the Mali kingdom. The Mali kingdom was able to establish its influence with ease due to the surrounding savannah terrain. This enabled the easy and speedy dispatch of soldiers across the region to conquer neighbours. The adoption of the Islamic faith by the Mali people in about the 1500s during the rule of Kankan Musa, created a point of unity for this kingdom.

Quarrels over who should succeed the throne and rebellion by the Fulani people in Senegambia and the Songhai people in Gao led to the collapse of the Mali kingdom in the 16th century. Songhai became independent of Mali, and rivalled it as the leading power in West Africa.

Culture, Religion and Monarchy

The Songhai had settled on both banks of the middle Niger River. They established a state in the 15th century, which unified a large part of the western Sudan and developed into a brilliant civilisation. It was ruled by the dynasty or royal family of Sonni from the thirteenth century to the late fifteenth century. The capital was at Gao, a city surrounded by a wall. It was a great cosmopolitan market place where kola nuts, gold, ivory, slaves, spices, palm oil and precious woods were traded in exchange for salt, cloth, arms, horses and copper.

Islam had been introduced to the royal court of Songhai in 1019, but most people remained faithful to their traditional religion.

Sonni Ali reorganised the army, which was equipped with a fleet on the Niger River. The commander of the fleet was known as the ‘Master of the Water’. Foot soldiers captured the best men of the defeated armies. An elite cavalry was fast and tough. They wore iron breastplates underneath their battle tunics.

The foot soldiers were armed with spears, arrows and leather or copper shields. Military music as produced by a group of trumpeters. The total army comprised 30 000 infantry and 10 000 horsemen. The Songhai defence system was the largest organised force in the western Sudan not only was a political instrument, but also an economic weapon by virtue of the booty it brought in. They conquered the cities of Timbuktu and Jenne.

Muslim scholars at Timbuktu called Sonni Ali ‘tyrannical, cruel and impious’. The Sonni’s were driven from power by the Muslim Askiya dynasty.

The new monarchy based at Gao had centralised and absolute and sacred power. It was possible to approach him only in a prostate position. He sat on a raised platform surrounded by 700 eunuchs. People paid taxes to the king in return for internal and external security. The royal court was responsible for the administration and the army. Large estates belonged to nobles. They were worked by servile labour that did the fishing, animal raising for milk, meat and skins, and the agricultural work.

The Songhai kingdom was the last major one in the region. Its fall did not bring an end to kingdoms in West Africa. Kingdoms that survived were Guinea, Benin in Nigeria, Ashanti in present day Ghana and Dahomey, north of Benin. These kingdoms continued the Trans Saharan trade with the Arab states in North Africa. The Trans Saharan trade was complex. It was not limited to trade and the exchange of gold, copper, iron, kola nuts, cloth, and salt. It was also about close co-operation and interdependence between kingdoms south of the Sahara and kingdoms north of the Sahara. Salt from the Sahara desert was just as important to the economies and kingdoms south of the Sahara as gold was for those in the north. Therefore, the exchange of these commodities was vital for the economic and political stability of the region.

Travel and trade in Songhai

Trade significantly influenced the course of history in West Africa. The wealth made through trade was used to build larger kingdoms and empires. To protect their trade interests, these kingdoms built strong armies. Kingdoms that desired more control of the trade also developed strong armies to expand their kingdoms and protect them from competition.

Long distance trade helped the local economy and supported internal trade. Merchants travelling between towns across the Sahara needed places to rest and stock up with food for the journey across the Sahara desert. Food would be provided by local markets that relied on local farms for supplies. This practice allowed merchants to plan long trips knowing that local markets would provide food and shelter. For this reason, many kingdoms in West Africa encouraged agricultural improvements to meet this need. Often this meant uniting smaller farmers, traders and societies into stronger trading blocs. For example, the Kuba kingdom in present day Congo brought together different cultures under a single authority and used the Congo River as a main transport link to other distant kingdoms. As a result, smaller traders joined with each other like the Chokwe and Lunda kingdoms under a single broad-based trade. This led to the increase of ivory and rubber trade between these kingdoms and with Portuguese traders.

Present day Kuba King. Source: Daniel Laine (2001) National Geographic, from

The slave trade was also important for the economic development of West Africa. For a very long time, West African kingdoms had relied on slaves to carry out heavy work. The Songhai kingdom under the rule of Askia Mohammed used slaves as soldiers. Slaves were trusted not to overthrow their rulers. Slaves were also given important positions as royal advisers. Songhai rulers believed that slaves could be trusted to provide unbiased advice unlike other citizens who held a personal stake in the outcome of decisions. Another group of slaves was known as palace slaves or the Arbi. The Arbi slaves served mainly as craftspersons, potters, woodworkers, and musician. Slaves also worked on village farms to help produce enough food to supply the growing population in towns.

The Asante kingdom of the Akan people grew in about the 15th and 16th century into a powerful kingdom in the most southern parts of West Africa, present day Ghana. This growth was made possible by the rich gold mines found in the kingdom. The Akan people used their gold to buy slaves from the Portuguese. Since 1482, the Portuguese who were interested in obtaining Asante gold, had opened a trading port at El Mina. As a result, their first slave trade in West Africa was with the Akan people. The Portuguese bought the slaves from the kingdom of Benin, near the Niger Delta in Nigeria. Slave labour made it easy for the Akan people to shift from small scale agriculture to large scale agriculture (Giblin 1992). The shift transformed the Asante kingdom and it developed a wealthy agricultural and mining economy.

The Akan people needed slaves to work their gold mines and farms. Passing traders and a growing population in the Asante towns demanded increasing supplies of food. The slave trade with the Portuguese continued until the early 1700s. The Akan people supplied the Portuguese with slaves to work on sugar plantations in Brazil. A small number of slaves were kept in the Asante kingdom. However, by this period, the Atlantic slave trade dominated trade with West Africa. Kingdoms like the Asante and Dahomey used their power to raid societies like the Bambara, Mende, and Fulanis for slaves. The kingdom of Benin is the only known kingdom in West Africa to abolish slave trading in Benin. The slave trade ban was succesful and forced the Portuguese to search for slaves elsewhere in West Africa. However, Dutch traders took over the role. From the 1600s the Dutch dominated the West african and Atlantic Slave trade.

The Portuguese and Dutch governments were unable to colonise West African kingdoms because they were too strong and well organised. As a result, the slave and ivory, rubber and gold trades remained under the control of Asante, Fon, and Kongo kingdoms. In 1807, the British government abolished the slave trade. Because West African kingdoms did not co-operate with the British, the slave trade across the Atlantic Ocean continued. However, the slave trade declined in areas where the British had influence, for example the Gold Coast.

Industrial development in Britain led to increasing trade with West Africa in agricultural products like palm oil, rubber, and cocoa. To supply Britain with these products, the Asante kingdom kept the slaves they had captured for the Atlantic slave trade and used them as farm workers instead. This led to the growth of slavery in West Africa because each kingdom wanted to profit from this new trade. West African slavery came to a slow end towards the end of the 19th century when many of these kingdoms were colonised by the French and British. Former slaves became the landless lower classes.

The states of the Niger Delta extend for about three hundred miles along the Gulf of Guinea from the Benin River on the West to the Cross River on the East. Due to the many rivers, which cross over each other, the main source of transport was by canoe. Societies found in this area include the Ibo, Ijaw, Jekiri Efik and Calabari.

Unlike other West African states, Niger ones were different in character. They were small states that maintained contact through war, trade and migrations. The Atlantic trade brought about great prosperity in this region. These states were known for their skill in politics and for their “middleman” skills in commerce. Their long history of internal trade had brought these small states together and led to economic growth of Bonny (also known as Igbani) and Warri states.

The Kingdom of Dahomey (also known as the Fon Kingdom of Dahomey) was the southern part of the Republic of Benin, a country that divides the dense forest of Nigeria from those of modern Ghana. Dahomey was the most prominent coastal state in the region. It was ruled by a king on the authority of the queen mother who held the power to appoint an heir. The king and queen mother ruled Dahomey from their capital Abomey. Dahomey began emerging as a great power in the early 18th century because of the slave trade. It also managed to overtake other coastal states competing for control of both the slave and inland trade. The Fon army was unusual in West Africa because its soldiers were women feared by other neighbouring coastal states.

In about 1650 there was a great demand from the West Indies sugar plantations for African slaves. The Fon people used their position as sea-merchants to ensure that they held a monopoly of the slave trade. The Dahomey kingdom also relied on its strong military to dominate weaker inland states and to conquer coastal states. States looking to trade in the region were expected to pay a fixed amount of tax and fixed prices for slaves. Custom duties were paid in respect of each ship as well.

By the 18th century the Fon king had absolute power and under his rule Dahomey became strong enough to capture neighbouring coastal states. The Fon were still paying tribute to the Oyo kingdom and this meant that they had to appease the Oyo with guns and other goods each year. In 1725, Dahomey conquered the Oyo kingdom, and three years later they pushed south to Savi and Whyad, Jakin was taken in 1732 but it was only in 1740 that the Fon won complete control when Whydah became a Fon colony. This ushered in control of the coast and even visiting Europeans had to gain prior permission to go ashore.

Atlantic System, Contact with Europeans

The arrival of the Portuguese in the 15th century in search of new trading opportunities changed the trade networks in West Africa. An important change was the new direction of the slave trade across the Atlantic Ocean instead of the Sahara desert. This increased the power of small West African kingdoms like the Asante and Dahomey kingdoms. It also contributed to the fall of the Songhai Empire, because the slave and gold trade were no longer going through the Songhai kingdom. As a result, the Songhai rulers could not claim tribute and taxes from these kingdoms.

The other change came from the growing slave trade. African slaves were captured from Africa to work as slaves in the Americas in the early 1500’s. Portugal, Spain, France and Britain were the key players in this slave trade, which lasted for more than 400 years. Because Portugal was the first to establish itself in the region and to enter treaties with West African kingdoms, it had the monopoly on the slave and gold trade. As a result, Portugal was responsible for transporting over 4.5 million Africans, approximately 40 percent of the slaves taken from the continent before the 1700s. During the 18th century however, Britain was responsible for almost 2.5 million of the 6 million African slaves traded. Due to expanding market opportunities in Europe and the Mediterranean, they increased trade across the Sahara and later gained access to the interior using the Senegal and Gambia River, which bisected long-standing trans-Saharan routes. The Portuguese brought in copper ware, cloth, tools, wine and horses and later included guns, in exchange for gold, pepper, slaves, and ivory. The growing trade across the Atlantic came to be called the triangular trade system.

The Triangular Trade System

The Atlantic Slave Trade (also known as the triangular trade) was a system of trade that revolved around three areas. The first point of the triangle would begin in Africa, where large shipments of people were taken across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas (The Caribbean, North and South America) to be sold to work in colonies on plantations as slaves. Once the slaves were offloaded in the Americas, the same ships would then load products from plantations such as sugar, cotton and tobacco. These products would be sold in Europe. From Europe the ships would carry manufactured goods such as cloth, iron, rum and guns, which they would use in exchange for slaves and gold.

Most captured slaves were taken between 1450 and 1500, from the West African interior with the co-operation of African kings and merchants. There were occasional military campaigns organised by Europeans to capture slaves, especially by the Portuguese in what is now Angola. This accounts for only a small percentage of the total. In return, the African kings and merchants received various trade goods including beads, cowry shells (used as money), textiles, brandy, horses, and perhaps most importantly, guns. These guns became a very important trade commodity when West African kingdoms were increasingly organising their militaries into professional armies. During this period England sold close to 100 000 muskets a year to West African kingdoms.

Slaves crossing the Atlantic Ocean endured inhumane conditions aboard the ships transporting them. They would travel naked and cramped into the hold of the ship chained together at the ankles and packed together side-by-side in holds which were about 1.5 m high with hardly any light and fresh air. They were provided with buckets, which they had to use as toilets. This resulted in many slaves becoming sick and dying. Cases of fevers and small pox were common during the voyages. The health of slaves on board was made worse by the lack of medical attention. Slaves would be regularly hosed down with water each morning and those that had died overnight, would be thrown overboard.

The slave trade was abolished in 1807 by the British government. The French only abolished their slave trade in 1848. The continued Atlantic slave trade forced the British government to take responsibility to end slave trading. They captured European ships and released slaves on board. This was made more difficult by the unwillingness of West african kingdoms to give up the slave trade. The British government tried to influence the Asante rulers to stop practising slavery in their kingdom with no success. As a result, from the 1870s, the British government began to colonise the Asante people in order to prevent the use of slave labour, but also as an excuse to take control of the rich gold mines of the Asante and to protect British commercial interests against French expansion in the region. Click here to read a lesson about colonial rule and African responses.

A royal mausoleum for the ruler of Songhai, Askia Muhammed (1493-1528) built in Gao in the once powerful capital of the Songhai Empire. Picture source:

The foot soldiers were armed with spears, arrows and leather or copper shields. Military music as produced by a group of trumpeters. The total army comprised 30 000 infantry and 10 000 horsemen. The Songhai defence systemwas the largest organised force in the western Sudan Not only was a political instrument, but also an economic weapon by virtue of the booty it brought in. They conquered the cities of Timbuktu and Jenne.

Muslim scholars at Timbuktu called Sonni Ali 'tyrannical, cruel and impious'. The Sonni's were driven from power by the Muslim Askiya dynasty.

The new monarchy based at Gao had centralised and absolute and sacred power.

It was possible to approach him only in a prostate position. He sat on a raised platform surrounded by 700 eunuchs. People paid taxes to the king in return for internal and external security. The royal court was responsible for the administration and the army. Large estates belonged to nobles. They were worked by servile labour that did the fishing, animal raising for milk, meat and skins, and the agricultural work.

The following information will still be developed for this topic:
- Travel and trade in Songhai at the height of its power ( Arab, Italian and Jewish merchants at Timbuktu)
- Learning and culture
- Fall of the Empire: Moroccan invasion of 1591.
- Women in Songha
- Contact with Europeans Please contribute activities and content for this section by clicking on the ‘contribute’ button.

800 - Gao was established
1110 - Timbuktu was established
1290 - Empire of Mali established and conquered Timbuktu and Gao
1375 - Timbuktu appeared for the first time on a European map
1400 - Gold trade flourished - from west Africa, through Timbuktu and Gao, to Europe
1450 - Large settlement of scholars and traders in Timbuktu
1468 - Songhay Empire established by Sunni Ali. Took over Timbuktu and Gao
1493 - Muhammed Ture, a Muslim, founded the Askia dynasty and took over Songhay Empire.
1530 - Portuguese came to Timbuktu in search of wealth. Only one man survived.
1591 - Timbuktu and the Songhay Empire conquered by Moroccans.

Activity Put these events up on the board in the wrong order. Students should try to recall the correct order in their note books.

History of the Jews in Africa

The most ancient communities of African Jews are the Ethiopian, West African Jews, Sephardi Jews, and Mizrahi Jews of North Africa and the Horn of Africa.

In the seventh century, many Spanish Jews fled persecution under the Visigoths to North Africa, where they made their homes in the Byzantine-dominated cities along the Mediterranean coast. Others arrived after the expulsion from Iberia. Remnants of longstanding Jewish communities remain in Morocco, Tunisia, and the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla. There is a much-diminished but still vibrant community on the island of Djerba in Tunisia. Since 1948 and the war to establish Israel, which aroused hostility in Muslim lands, most other North African Jews emigrated to Israel.

Of the seventh-century immigrants, some moved inland and proselytized among the Berber tribes. A number of tribes, including the Jarawa, Uled Jari, and some tribes of the Daggatun people, converted to Judaism. [1] Ibn Khaldun reported that Kahina, a female Berber warlord who led the resistance against the Muslim Arab conquests of North Africa in the 680s and 690s, was a Jew of the Jarawa tribe. With the defeat of the Berber rebellion, none of the Jewish communities was initially forced to convert to Islam. [2]

Ethiopia Edit

In 1975, the Israeli religious authorities and government recognized the Beta Israel of Ethiopia as legally Jewish. Hundreds of persons who wanted to emigrate to Israel were air-lifted under the leadership of Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Begin had obtained an official ruling from the Israeli Sephardi Chief Rabbi (or Rishon LeTzion) Ovadia Yosef that the Beta Israel were descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes. Rabbis believed they were probably descendants of the Tribe of Dan rabbinical responsa discussing issues related to the people date back hundreds of years. With this endorsement, in later decades tens of thousands of Beta Israel Jews were air-lifted to Israel. Significant immigration to Israel continues into the 21st century, producing an Ethiopian Jewish community of around 81,000 immigrants, who with their 39,000 children born in Israel itself, numbered around 120,000 by early 2009.

Due to certain aspects of Orthodox Jewish marital laws, Rabbi Yosef ruled that upon arrival in Israel, the Beta Israel had to undergo a pro forma conversion to Judaism. They had to declare their allegiance to a halachic way of life and the Jewish people, in conformity with practices followed by Orthodox Rabbinical Judaism. He did not demand the normal formal requirements that the halacha imposes on potential gentile proselytes, (such as a brit milah or immersion in a mikveh). Few Ashkenazi rabbinic authorities consider the conversions to be actual conversions, not pro forma.

Over time, due to their community's isolation from those in Europe and the Middle East, the practices of the Beta Israel developed to differ significantly from those of other forms of Judaism. In Ethiopia, the Beta Israel community was for the most part isolated from the Talmud. They did have their own oral law. In some cases, they had practices similar to those of Karaite Judaism, and in others more similar to rabbinical Judaism.

In many instances their religious elders, or priestly class, known as kessim or qessotch, interpreted the Biblical Law of the Tanakh in a way similar to the rabbinite Jewish communities in other parts of the world. [3] In that sense, the Beta Israel had a tradition analogous to that of the Talmud, although at times at variance with the practices and teachings of other Jewish communities.

One significant difference is that the Beta Israel lacked the festivals of Purim and Hanukkah, probably because they branched off from the main body of Judaism before these non-Biblical holidays began to be commemorated. Today, most members of the Beta Israel community living in Israel do observe these holidays.

They are a community in transition. Some of the kessim accept the rabbinic/Talmudic tradition that is practiced by non-Ethiopian Orthodox Jews. Many of the younger generation of Ethiopian-Israelis have been educated in yeshivas and received rabbinical ordination (semikha). A certain segment of traditionalist kessim insist on maintaining their separate and distinct form of Judaism, as it had been practiced in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Many of the Ethiopian Jewish youth who have immigrated to Israel or been born there have assimilated either to the dominant form of Orthodox Judaism, or to a secular lifestyle.

The Beit Avraham of Ethiopia have some 50,000 members. This community also claims Jewish heritage. Several scholars think that they broke off from the Beta Israel community several centuries ago, hid their Jewish customs, and outwardly adopted Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity.

Beit Avraham have traditionally been on the lower rungs of Ethiopian social life. They have held occupations similar to those of the Beta Israel, such as crafts. Recently, the Beit Avraham community has attempted to reach out to the world Jewish community. They formed the Ethiopian North Shewa Zionist Organization in an attempt to save their Jewish identity. [4] This group identifies as the Falashmura. As they do not have reliable proof of Jewish ancestry, Israeli religious authorities and other religious Jewish communities require them to complete a formal conversion to be recognized as Jews. Those who do so are considered converts.

Somalia Edit

The Yibir are a tribe that lives in Somalia, eastern Ethiopia, Djibouti, and northern Kenya. Though they have been Muslim for centuries, some of them assert they are descendants of Hebrews who arrived in the Horn of Africa long before the arrival of Somali nomads. These individuals assert that Yibir means "Hebrew" in their language. [5]

Outside the Yibir, there is essentially no known current or historic Jewish community in Somalia. [6] [7]

Bilad el-Sudan Edit

The historical presence of Jewish communities in Africa is well-attested. Today, the descendants of these Jews live in nations such as Sierra Leone, [8] Liberia, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, and many other areas. According to the 17th century Tarikh al-Fattash and the Tarikh al-Sudan, several Jewish communities existed as parts of the Ghana, Mali, and later Songhai empires. One such community was formed by a group of Egyptian Jews, who allegedly traveled by way of the Sahel corridor through Chad into Mali. Manuscript C of the Tarikh al-Fattash described a community called the Bani Israel in 1402, it lived in Tindirma, possessed 333 wells, and had seven princes as well as an army.

Another such community was that of the Zuwa ruler of Koukiya (located at the Niger River). His name was known only as Zuwa Alyaman, meaning "He comes from Yemen". According to an isolated local legend, Zuwa Alyaman was a member of one of the Jewish communities transported from Yemen by Abyssinians in the 6th century CE after the defeat of Dhu Nuwas. Zuwa Alyaman was said to have traveled into West Africa along with his brother. They established a community in Kukiya at the banks of the Niger River downstream from Gao. According to the Tarikh al-Sudan, after Zuwa Alyaman, there were 14 Zuwa rulers of Gao before the rise of Islam in the second half of the eleventh century.

Other sources stated that other Jewish communities in the region developed from people who migrated from Morocco and Egypt others later came from Portugal. Some communities were said to have been populated by certain Berber Jews, like a group of Tuareg known as Dawsahak or Iddao Ishaak ("children of Isaac"). They speak a language related to Songhai, live in Ménaka Region in northeastern Mali and were formerly herders for Tuareg nobles. [9] In addition, some migrated into the area away from the Muslim rule of North Africa.

The well-known 16th Century geographer Leo Africanus - an Andalusian Berber convert to Christianity - mentions a mysterious small village of African Jews southwest of Timbuktu, who traded in exotic spices, weapons, and poisons. [ citation needed ]

North Africa and the Maghreb Edit

The largest influx of Jews to Africa came after the Spanish Inquisition after the Fall of Granada and the end of Islamic Spain. The mass exodus and expulsion of the Iberian Jews began in 1492, Sicilian Jews were affected soon afterwards. Many of these Sephardi Jews settled primarily in the Maghreb under Muslim and Ottoman patronage. Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria as well as Egypt became home to significant Jewish communities. These communities were later incorporated into the Ottoman millet system as Africanized Ottoman Jews, bound by the laws of the Talmud and Torah but with allegiance to the Caliph of Constantinople.

Tanzania Edit

The Nyambo are a tribe that lives in Tanzania, northern Tanzania, and Southern Uganda as Ankole. Though they have been Christians for centuries, they assert they are descendants of Hebrews who arrived in the Horn of Africa long before the arrival of Somali nomads. Some say that Nyambo means "Hebrew" in their language. [5]

Songhai Edit

In the 14th century many Moors and Jews, fleeing persecution in Spain, migrated south to the Timbuktu area, at that time part of the Songhai Empire. Among them was the Kehath (Ka'ti) family, descended from Ismael Jan Kot Al-yahudi of Scheida, Morocco. Sons of this prominent family founded three villages that still exist near Timbuktu—Kirshamba, Haybomo, and Kongougara. In 1492, Askia Muhammed came to power in the previously tolerant region of Timbuktu and decreed that Jews must convert to Islam or leave Judaism became illegal in Songhai, as it did in Catholic Spain that same year. As the historian Leo Africanus wrote in 1526: "The king (Askia) is a declared enemy of the Jews. He will not allow any to live in the city. If he hears it said that a Berber merchant frequents them or does business with them, he confiscates his goods."

The Kehath family converted with the rest of the non-Muslim population. The Cohens, descended from the Moroccan Islamicized Jewish trader El-Hadj Abd-al-Salam al Kuhin, arrived in the Timbuktu area in the 18th century, and the Abana family came in the first half of the 19th century. According to Prof. Michel Abitbol, at the Center for the Research of Moroccan Jewry in Israel, in the late 19th century Rabbi Mordoche Aby Serour traveled to Timbuktu several times as a not-too-successful trader in ostrich feathers and ivory. Ismael Diadie Haidara, a historian from Timbuktu, has found old Hebrew texts among the city's historical records. He has also researched his own past and discovered that he is descended from the Moroccan Jewish traders of the Abana family. As he interviewed elders in the villages of his relatives, he has discovered that knowledge of the family's Jewish identity has been preserved, in secret, out of fear of persecution. [10]

São Tomé e Príncipe Edit

King Manuel I of Portugal exiled about 2,000 Jewish children under the age of ten, to São Tomé and Príncipe around 1500. Most died, but in the early 17th century "the local bishop noted with disgust that there were still Jewish observances on the island and returned to Portugal because of his frustration with them." [11] [ unreliable source? ] Although Jewish practices faded over subsequent centuries, there are people in São Tomé and Príncipe who are aware of partial descent from this population. Similarly, a number of Portuguese ethnic Jews were exiled to Sao Tome after forced conversions to Roman Catholicism. From São Tomé and by other means groups of Jews settled down the west coast of Africa, as far south as Loango. [12]

In 2002 Parfitt wrote "the myth of the Lost Tribes has penetrated every corner of the African continent. The use and re-use of this myth and myths about Jews serving an immense array of ideological and spiritual needs has had a striking impact on Africa. The spread of the myth connecting Africa with the Jews has been spectacular. It arose in the European and Middle Eastern imagination in the early Middle Ages and may be attributed in part to the ignorance of much of the world brought about by the breakdown of communications between the Islamic Middle East and Christian Europe. It became an axiomatic feature of Medieval thinking about the world. It was used and re-used, exploited and re-invented by colonialism in many distinct loci in Africa where it served missionary and colonial interests and is now a largely ignored but potent and immanent aspect of the imagined past of a surprising number of Africans." [13]

Madagascar Edit

In early modern times it was widely believed that Israelites had settled in Madagascar. Works by the French scholar Alfred Grandidier and Augustus Keane, the British professor of Hindustani at University College, London provided what they saw as conclusive proof of these ancient connections. [14] These ideas were absorbed into the national consciousness of the people of Madagascar. In 2010 a small community of Malagasies began practicing normative Judaism, and three separate communities formed, each embracing a different version of Jewish spiritual practice. [15] In May 2016, 121 members of the Malagasy Jewish community were converted in accordance with traditional Jewish rituals appearing before a beit din and submerged in a mikvah. The conversion, organized with the help of the Jewish organization Kulanu, was presided over by three Orthodox rabbis. [15]

Ivory Coast Edit

Communities have been forming in Ivory Coast in recent years and have been slowly growing throughout the region. The capitol city of Abidjan has two synagogues, each with a population of about 40-70 congregants. [16] In addition, large groups of indigenous peoples referred to as Danites claim descent from the lost tribe of Dan and many from this ethnic group have shown interest in Judaic practices. [16]

Cameroon Edit

Rabbi Yisrael Oriel, formerly Bodol Ngimbus-Ngimbus, was born into the Ba-Saa tribe. He says there were historically Jews in the area and that the word "Ba-Saa" is from the Hebrew for 'on a journey' and means "blessing". Rabbi Oriel claims to be a Levite descended from Moses and reportedly made aliya in 1988, and he was then apparently ordained as a rabbi by the Sephardic Chief Rabbi and appointed rabbi to Nigerian Jews.

Rabbi Oriel claims that in 1920 there were 400,000 'Israelites' in Cameroon, but by 1962 the number had decreased to 167,000 due to conversions to Christianity and Islam. He said that although these tribes had not been accepted halachically, he believes that he can prove their Jewish status from medieval rabbinic sources. [17]

The father of Yaphet Kotto, an American actor, was a Cameroonian Jew. Kotto identified as Jewish. [ citation needed ]

Ghana Edit

From the eighteenth century on what is now Ghana was a favorite locus for theories positing Israelite origins for various ethnic groups in the area. These theories were widespread and were taken up by powerful people in the twentieth century. [18] The House of Israel community of Sefwi Wiawso, Sefwi Sui has identified as Jewish since the early 1970s. [19] The Ga-Dangme tribe in the southern Region of Ghana assert that their ancestors are descendants of the tribe Gad and Dan who migrated south through Egypt. They observe many Hebraic traditions such as circumcision of their male child they also cannot name their male child until he has been circumcised. They also have many ancient Jewish names that are traditional names.

Kenya Edit

Theories suggesting Israelite origins particularly of the Masai abounded in the nineteenth century and were gradually absorbed into religious and societal practices throughout the area. [20] The chief proponent of Masai Israelite origins was a German officer Moritz Merkel whose detailed research is still in use today. [21] Of the many Judaic manifestations in the religious sphere is a small emergent community in Laikipia County, Kenya, which has abandoned Christianity and taken up Judaism. There are an estimated 5,000 of them at the present time. Although at first Messianic, they concluded that their beliefs were incompatible with Christianity and are now waiting to be instructed in traditional Judaism. [22] Some of the younger children of this community have been sent to the Abayudaya schools in Uganda to be instructed in Judaism and other subjects. Luos in Kenya are another of the groups considered by some to be of Israelite origin. They claim to have migrated hundreds of years ago from the north along the river Nile from Egypt through South Sudan and then into Kenya. [23]

Nigeria Edit

There have been claims that the Igbo, Esan and Yoruba tribes of what is today Nigeria are of Jewish origin since the eighteenth century. [24] At the present times Israelite associations are mainly attributed to the Igbo many of whom claim Israelite origins. Most of the Jews of Nigeria are to be found among the Igbo ethnic group. Certain Nigerian communities with Judaic practices have been receiving help from individual Israelis and American Jews who work in Nigeria with outreach organizations like Kulanu. [25] [26] The number of Igbos in Nigeria who identify as Jews has been estimated at around 4,000 (2016), with 70 synagogues. Many have converted from Christianity. [26] Other sources put a higher figure, claiming some 30,000 Igbos were practicing some form of Judaism in 2008. [27]

South Africa Edit

Uganda Edit

For centuries it was believed that Jews inhabited the central portions of Africa. Some Africans in recent times were keen to adopt Judaism. One of these was Samei Kakungulu - one of the most remarkable Ugandans of his generation, a brilliant military strategist and a man of great spiritual and intellectual curiosity. In 1919 having declared 'we now will be known as Jews' he was circumcised along with his first son whom he called Yuda. His second son was subsequently circumcised on the eighth day, in the Jewish fashion, and was named Nimrod. In 1922 Kakungulu published a 90-page book, which was essentially a guide to Judaism. He died a Jew (albeit one with some residual belief in Jesus) and his followers in Mbale, known as the Bayudaya, despite persecution at the time of Idi Amin when many of the community converted to Christianity or Islam, are today some thousand strong. In the twenty first century the Abayudaya are considered observant followers of Judaism, many having taken a formal orthodox conversion, with strong links with Jewish communities in the United States and Israel, and increasingly strong links with Black Jewish communities in Africa and elsew here. [28] In a relatively new movement, the Abayudaya of Uganda have converted to Judaism since 1917, influenced by the American William Saunders Crowdy, who said that African Americans were descended from the Jews. [29]

Zambia Edit

A number of European Jews settled in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). At its peak in the early 1960s, there were 1,000 Jews living in the country, many in Livingstone. The number began to fall after independence and there were estimated to be around 50 remaining by 2012. [30]

Zimbabwe Edit

Anglo-Jews Edit

The Zimbabwe Jewish Community was mainly of British citizenship, whose arrival coincides with the first white colonists in the 1890s. [31] At its peak in the early 1970s, it numbered some 7,500 people (80% were of Ashkenazi descent), who lived primarily in the two communities of Salisbury and Bulawayo. Smaller rural communities also existed for short periods in Que Que, Umtali and Gatooma. The community declined in part due to age, but most Jewish residents in Zimbabwe left after violence and social disruption. In 2007, the local Jewish community had declined to 270. The community had strong links with Israel. In 2003, the Bulawayo Shul was burnt down in an anti-Semitic act of violence. [32]

Mauritius Edit

According to the 2011 census carried out by Statistics Mauritius, there are 43 Jews in Mauritius. [33]

Early Songhai Kings and Leaders

As a result of the growth in size and population of the Songhai people, kings and influential leaders emerged. This phenomenon started between the 10 th and 11 th centuries.

The first few rulers of the Songhai people were called Malik or Zuwa, which translates into “king”. Their queens were called Malikah or Melike. Many of their titles were derived from Arabic words.

According to accounts from the Tarikh al-Sudan (the History of the Sudan), the Great Za was considered one of the earliest Songhai kings. King Za most likely hailed from the second early dynastic rulers of Songhai. Some historians have claimed that Za wasn’t even a Songhai by blood. It is believed that he was born in Yemen but later moved across Africa into the Songhai tribe. King Za turned out to be a very wise and powerful ruler. He was responsible for laying the foundations of what would become a colossal empire centuries later.

Some influential, early Songhai kings and tribe leaders also came from the Sanhaja tribes, commonly called the Tuareg. This tribe were predominantly a camel-riding group that crisscrossed and knew the Sahara Desert like it was the back of their hands. Over time, they made camps and settlements along the Niger River. It is likely that some of them went on to rule the early Songhai people.

All in all, the diverse groups and culture that settled along the Niger River bend helped foster a strong Songhai tribe. They also benefited from trading with North African tribes. Trading hubs and spots began to spring up along the Niger River. The most traded goods back then would certainly have been gold, kola nuts, dates, leather, salt and slaves. That’s right, slaves! Long before the pre-colonial Europeans and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, slave trade was not uncommon in Africa.

A Crash-Course on The Ancient African Kingdoms

Again, Aksum (also spelled Axum) was one of those Empires where you could argue the start date, depending on if you want it to be a real Empire, or just a tribe holding sway over an unusually large swath of land (for a tribe at these times). If you want to go by when it was renowned as a real Empire, the start date would be about 1 AD. Aksum was located In Eastern Africa, largely along the Red Sea, mostly in modern day Ethiopia. This kingdom was renowned for being Christian, along with the usual things, such as trade of gold, salt, and ivory. Before I continue, remember that Aksum was on the African side of the Red Sea, which is remarkably close to the Middle East, which is where the Islamic Holy City, Mecca, is located. In the 600s, Muslims invade from across the Red Sea. The largely promoted reason was because the people of Aksum practiced the "blasphemous" religion Christianity, but another reason was the Muslims wanted the vast hoards of treasures the Empire possessed. This invasion was basically the fall of the Kingdom.

1450-1750 CE AP World History Timeline

German monk, priest, professor of theology and seminal figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money

Dias voyage into Indian Ocean

first expedition to sail around the southern tip of Africa from the Atlantic and sight of the indian ocean

Columbus' 1st Voyage

discovery other the americas by accident. was the beginning of spanish and colonization in the new world

Treaty of Tordesillas

divided the newly discovered lands outside europe between portugal and spain

Safavid Dynasty

iranian kingdom est by ismail safavi, who declared iraan s Shi'ite state

John Calvin

influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism

Spanish Conquest of Mexico

made mexico a part of spain

Reign of Suleyman the Magnificent

tenth and longest-reigning Emperor, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire

Mughal Dynasty

muslim state exercising dominion over most of india in the 16th and 17th century

Foundation of Society of Jesus

Christian male religious order of the Roman Catholic Church. The members are called Jesuits founded by Ignatius of Loyola's

Council of Trent

distinguished proper catholic doctrines from protestant errors. Reaffrimed the supremacy of the pope and called for a number of reforms

Regin of Akbar

sultan of the mughal empire in india. he expanded the empire and pursued a policy of conciliation with hindus

Galileo Galilei

was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who played a major role in the Scientific Revolution

Emperor Wanli

His era name means "Ten thousand calendars". Born Zhu Yijun, he was the Longqing Emperor's third son.

Spanish Armada

was the Spanish fleet that sailed against England under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia in 1588, with the intention of overthrowing Elizabeth I of England and putting an end to her involvement in the Spanish Netherlands and in privateering in the Atlantic and Pacific.

Tokugawawa Shogunate

the last of the 3 shogunate in japan

Thirty Year War

series of war fought in Europe, one of the longest and most destructive conflicts in Euro History

John Locke

widely known as the Father of Classical Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers.

Qing Dynasty

over threw the ming empire, controlled parts of large parts of asia.

Peace of Westphalia

peace treaties ended the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) between Spain and the Dutch Republic, with Spain formally recognizing the independence of the Dutch Republic

Seven Year War

a world war that took place between 1756 and 1763. It involved most of the great powers of the time and affected Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines. In the historiography of some countries, the war is alternatively named after combatants in the respective theaters: the French and Indian War (North America, 1754–63), Pomeranian War (Sweden and Prussia, 1757–62), Third Carnatic War (Indian subcontinent, 1757–63), and Third Silesian War (Prussia and Austria, 1756–63).


By uniting a diverse array of cultural, religious, and ethnic groups under a single government, the Songhai blurred traditional divisions between Sahelian cultures. After the collapse of the empire, territorial boundaries were unclear and minor nations spent centuries vying for control over the region and the trans-Saharan trade. From the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, European colonial fleets annexed the Sahel and eventually dominated the region under colonial governments. Through war and European domination, most of the intellectual and cultural developments of the Songhai were destroyed.

Hunwick, John O. “Timbuktu and the Songhay Empire: Al-Saʿdī’s Ta͗rīkh al-sūdān down to 1613 and Other Contemporary Documents.” Boston: Brill, 1999.

Roland Oliver and Anthony Atmore. The African Middle Ages, 1400–1800. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

Thornton, John. “Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400–1800.” New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Amadou Toure

2002 April - Amadou Toumani Toure elected president by landslide. Poll is marred by allegations of fraud.

2002 September - France says it will cancel 40% of debts owed to it by Mali, amounting to some 80m euros ($79m, £51m).

2002 October - Government resigns, without public explanation. New "government of national unity" is unveiled.

2003 August - Clashes between rival Muslim groups in west kill at least 10 people.

2004 April - Prime Minister Mohamed Ag Amani resigns and is replaced by Ousmane Issoufi Maiga.

2004 September - Agriculture minister says severe locust plague has cut cereal harvest by up to 45%.

2005 June - World Food Programme warns of severe food shortages, the result of drought and locust infestations in 2004.

2006 June - The government signs an Algerian-brokered peace deal with Tuareg rebels seeking greater autonomy for their northern desert region. The rebels looted weapons in the town of Kidal in May, raising fears of a new rebellion.

2007 April - President Toure wins a second five-year term in elections.

2007 July - The ruling coalition, Alliance for Democracy and Progress (ADP), strengthens its hold on parliament in elections.


Accounts of the origin of the Mossi kingdom and parts of their history are very imprecise with contradictory oral traditions that disagree on significant aspects of the story. [1] The origin story is unique in that a woman plays a key role as the progenitor of the royal line. [2]

The origins of the Mossi state are claimed by one prominent oral tradition to come from when a Mamprusi princess left the city of Gambaga because of a dispute with her father. This event dates in different oral histories to be anytime between the 11th and the 15th centuries. [1] According to the story, the princess Yennega escaped dressed as a man when she came to the house of an elephant hunter from the Boussansi tribe named Ryallé. He initially believed she was a man but one day she revealed that she was a woman and the two married. They had a son named Wedraogo or Ouédraogo who was given that name from the horse that Niennega escaped from Gambaga on. Wedraogo visited his grandfather in Dagomba at the age of fifteen and was given four horses, 50 cows, and a number of Dagomba horseman joined his forces. With these forces, Wedraogo conquered the Boussansi tribes, married a woman named Pouiriketa who gave him three sons, and built the city of Tenkodogo. The oldest was Diaba Lompo who founded the city of Fada N'gourma. The second son, Rawa, became the ruler of Zondoma Province. His third son, Zoungrana became the ruler in Tenkodogo after Wedraogo died. Zoungrana married Pouitenga, a woman sent from the chief of the Ninisi tribes, and the resulting intermarriage between the Dagomba, the Boussansi, and the Ninisi produced a new tribe called the Mossi. Zoungrana and Pouitenga had a son, Oubri, who further expanded the kingdom by conquering the Kibissi and some Gurunsi tribes. Oubri, who ruled from around 1050 until 1090 CE, is often considered the founder of the Ouagadougou dynasty which ruled from the capital of Ouagadougou. [1] [3]

Following Oubri, centralization and small-scale expansion of the kingdoms were the primary tasks. The Ouagadougou dynasty retained control in Ouagadougou, but the other kingdoms established by the sons of Wedraogo retained independence in Tenkodogo, Fada N'gourma, and Zondoma. Under the fifth ruler, Komdimie (circa 1170), two revolutions were started by members of the Ouagadougou dynasty with the establishment of the Kingdom of Yatenga to the north and the establishment of the Kingdom of Rizim. War between Komdimie and Yatenga lasted for many years with Yatenga eventually taking over the independent Mossi state of Zondoma. At the same time, Komdimie created a new level of authority for his sons as Dimas of separate provinces with some autonomy but recognizing the sovereignty of the Ouagadougou dynasty. This system of taking over territory and appointing sons as Dimas would last for many of the future rulers. [3]

Increasing power of the Mossi kingdoms resulted in larger conflicts with regional powers. The Kingdom of Yatenga became a key power attacking the Songhai Empire between 1328 and 1477 taking over Timbuktu and sacked the important trading post of Macina. When Askia Mohammad I became the leader of the Songhai Empire with the desire to spread Islam, he waged a holy war against the Mossi kingdoms in 1497. Although the Mossi forces were defeated in this effort, they resisted attempts to impose Islam. With the conquest of the Songhai by the Moroccans of the Saadi dynasty in 1591, the Mossi states reestablished their independence. [3]

By the 18th century, the Mossi kingdoms had increased significantly in terms of economic and military power in the region. Foreign trade relations increased significantly throughout Africa with significant connections to the Fula kingdoms and the Mali Empire. These relations included military attacks on many times with the Mossi being attacked by a variety of African forces. Although there were a number of jihad states in the region trying to forcibly spread Islam, namely the Massina Empire and the Sokoto Caliphate, the Mossi kingdoms largely retained their traditional religious and ritual practices. [4]

Domestically, the Mossi kingdoms distinguished between the nakombse and the tengbiise. The nakombse claimed lineage connections to the founders of the Mossi kingdoms and the power of naam which gave them the divine right to rule. The tengbiise, in contrast, were considered the people who lived in the region who became assimilated into the kingdoms and would never get access to naam. However, because of their connection to the area they do have tenga which allows them to decide over issues related to land. The rulers' naam and the support of tenga were connected in a two-way dimension of power in society. [1]

Being located near many of the main Islamic states of West Africa, the Mossi kingdoms developed a mixed religious system recognizing some authority for Islam while retaining earlier ancestor-focused religious worship. The king participated in two great festivals, one focused on the genealogy of the royal lineage (in order to increase their naam) and another of sacrifices to tenga. [2]

In addition, although they had initially resisted Islamic imposition and retained independence from the main Islamic states of West Africa, there began to be a sizable number of Muslims living in the kingdom. In Ouagadougou, the king assigned an Imam who was allowed to deliver readings of the Qur'an to the royalty in exchange for recognizing the genealogical power of the king. [2]

The first European explorer to enter the empire was German Gottlob Krause in 1888. This was followed by a British expedition in 1894 led by George Ekem Ferguson who convinced the Mossi leaders to sign a treaty of protection. Despite this, the French entered the area in 1896 and renounced the treaty of protection to conquer the Mossi Kingdom and make it part of the Upper Volta colony. [3] The French had already conquered or taken over all of the surrounding kingdoms which trapped the Mossi kingdoms. [1] The last king of Ouagadougou, named Wobgo or Wobogoo, was warned a day before the French forces were going to attack the city and so sent a small force to meet them in battle as he fled the city. The French fired four shots in the air which caused the Mossi force to scatter, but Wobgo was able to escape capture. The French made Wobgo's brother, Kouka, the king of Ouagadougou and allied with Yatenga to try and capture Wobgo. When the French and British agreed on the boundary between their colonies, Wobgo lost his main support system and retired with a British pension in Zongoiri in the Gold Coast where he died in 1904. [1] [5]

As a result of the significant centralization of the kingdoms, the French largely kept the administration making the Moro-naba in Ouagadougou the primary leader of the region and creating five ministers under him that governed different regions (largely adhering to the Mossi kingdom borders). [3]

The Mossi kingdoms were organized around five different kingdoms: Ouagadougou, Tenkodogo, Fada N'gourma, and Zondoma (later replaced by Yatenga) and Boussouma. However, there were as many as 19 additional lesser Mossi kingdoms which retained connection to one of the four main kingdoms. [1] Each of these retained significant domestic autonomy and independence but shared kinship, military, and ritualistic bonds with one another. Each kingdom had similar domestic structures with kings, ministers, and other officials and a high degree of centralization of administrative functions. There were prominent rivalries between the different kingdoms, namely between Yatenga and Ouagadougou. [1] Ouagadougou was often considered the primary Mossi kingdom ruled by Moro Naba, but was not the capital of the Mossi kingdoms as each retained autonomy. [1] [6]

A year after Ali's death, Muhammad Ture staged a coup d'etat against Sonni Ali's son Sonni Baru and founded a new dynasty of Songhai rulers. Askiya Muhammad Ture and his descendants were strict Muslims, who reinstated orthodox observance of Islam and outlawed traditional African religions.

As with his life, his legacy has two very different interpretations in the oral and Muslim traditions. In the centuries which followed his death, Muslim historians recorded Sonni Ali as "The Celebrated Infidel" or "The Great Oppressor." Songhai oral tradition records that he was the righteous ruler of a mighty empire that encompassed more than 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) along the Niger River.


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