Saturday, 3 March 2018

THE EMPIRE OF kANEM (The second empire of the Kanuri kingdom of Kanem part 1)

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The Sefawa power lost in the fall of the first Kanuri Empire was revived by Mai Ali Ghaji, 1472 to 1504. He religiously studied the events that caused the fall of the first Kanuri Empire and he greatly sought to remedy them. First he forced his authority on the ruling classes and councilors of Kanem, then he united the feuding classes and lastly he centered his government at Bornu instead of leading a quick conquest of their ancestral capital N’jimi.

Mai Ghaji brought back the constitution and placed great emphasis on its adherence. During this time the ruling class had its members feuding for control of wealth. Most of these rulers were so ambitious that they prevented equal sharing of income and power. To remedy this, Mai Ghaji used both force and diplomacy in returning the Kanuri Empire to normalcy. He redistributed power and income equally among this feuding rulers thus ending the time of feuding.

The first capital already lost, Mai Ghaji ordered a new one to be built near the confluence of Yobe and Komadugu. He personally supervised the construction of the walled city Ngazargamu. The new capital Ngazargamu provided the people of Kanuri a settled administrative center, a fortified market free from raids and a place of refuge. The market in Ngazargamu grew strong that Northern African merchants were drawn to her stalls.

Mai Ghaji was a devote Muslim who not only followed ardently but cautiously made Islam the religion of the state. Having one state religion will offer unison and easy governance, also same religion with the North Africans made commerce and diplomacy easy and these the Mai exploited. To convince his people to embrace Islam he led by example. Mai Ghaji made reading the Koran a display, he married only four wives  as stipulated in the Koran  and was a religious (Islamic) opportunist.

Unity returned , this unity afforded the Mai a great military power. He repulsed formidable attacks by the armies of Bulala and Jukun; he did not stay defensive but also made conquests. The Kanuri Empire came up, conquering towards the desert which saw the fall of Tibesti, and westward towards Kano. Such new found wealth and power established the Kanuris as a major trading center; again Bornu became a powerful empire.

Before the death of Mai Ghaji the fame of Bornu’s power reached Europe and for the first time the Empire of Bornu was added to world map by Europeans. This empire resurrected by Mai Ghaji saw more elaborate success in the hands of his successors.

Not much is known about the rulers of Bornu between the death of Ghaji and the accession of Idris Alooma. During this time Bornu was under constant attack by the armies of Bulala and the Hausa state of Kebbi. Notable leaders of Bornu who fiercely repulsed these attacks were Mai Idris Katakarmabi, 1504 to 15026, and Mai Mohammed , 1526 to 1546. Mai Idris Katakarmabi led his army into their former capital N’jimi in 1505, defeated the Bulala and forcing them to accept the lordship of the new and efficient power of Bornu.  Mai Mohammed completely crushed the kingdom of Bulala. Kanta of Kebbi was a strong adversary to these Mais and Kebbi remained a thorn on the flesh of Bornu for some time.

One of the greatest warrior and ruler in Africa was Idris Alooma. He was the most famous Bornu ruler, one feared far and near. Mai Idris Alooma, 1572 to 1603, took the empire of Bornu to her greatest height both militarily and otherwise. Just before his birth, his father Mai Ali was killed in battle against the Bulala. His father’s successors, Mais, Dunama and Abdullah sought to kill the young prince but failed. Their failure was due to the determination and political skill of a strong woman, Magira Aisa. She protected the young Idris and also secured the regency of Bornu until the young Idris come of age. She tutored Idris on Islamic kingship thus she prepared him for the great task ahead.
Idris Alooma grew into a fine man of good qualities. He was well built and imposing in physical appearance, ever aspiring to win the confidence of his subjects. He was an Islamic devotee who believed that god ruled his destiny. This belief made him fearless in battle. His fearlessness and eagerness to wield his sword in the thickest parts of battles helped turn defeat to victories in many battles. He was a cautious and calculating man whenever political decision came into play, a master of persuasion. Idris Alooma was known to be a patient man who gave even his opponents’ time to repent of their folly, he would even stretch out diplomatic hands to this fellows. But when diplomacy fails, his sword will bring the knees of his opponents to the ground.

Much of Bornu’s success under Mai Idris Alooma was due to his military achievements. The Mai had great military commanders who were second to none but yet He led his army into battles. He oversaw three hundred and thirty military campaigns, thus he grew to become master strategist. He was quick in exploiting tactical errors of his enemies and also quick in adjusting the dynamics of his men.  He demanded great courage and unrivaled energy from his men, however he was careful not to push them to their limits of endurance. He preferred quick obliteration of his enemies but when such was unattainable the great Mai would resort to siege warfare or earth scorching. He was the first ruler in the region to import firearms. He also hired Turkish musketeers to train his soldiers in effective use of these firearms. He was a lover of cavalry that he kept increasing the number of mounted soldiers even though the imported firearms were causing a revolution within his military ranks. He imported more horses and camels, his cavalry offered quick responses and attacks. He also built up a large navy of strong long boats that were able to carry large numbers of troops and their animals across waterways of the Chad basin. Mai Idris Alooma built up an army with a fierce mobility and attack.