The Kanem-Bornu Empire: linking ancient Chad, Libya, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria

Kanem-Bornu court in the 1700s
Kanem-Bornu court in the 1700s

When the Zaghawa (people of Kanem) arrived in the area around Lake Chad, they found independent walled-cities states from the Sao civilization, a civilization which had flourished around the 6th century, with its center around the Chari river, south of Lake Chad.  The Zaghawa adopted some of the Sao customs, but fight among the two lasted from the 7th century until the 16th.  The conquest of Kanem by the Zaghawa was done under the Duguwa dynasty which was started by King Sef (also known as Saif… some people eager to change African history state that the Zaghawa were from Yemen… but we all know that they were local people) about 700 CE. The dynasty, Sayfawa or Sefuwa, is named for King Dugu, one of Sef’s sons, who was ruling about 785 CE.  Abandoning their nomadic lifestyle, the Zaghawa established a capital at N’Jimi (meaning “south” — the location of this town is still unknown, but it is believed to be around Lake Fitri).  Under the rule of Dugu, Kanem expanded to become an empire.  The Zaghawa kings, called maï, were regarded as divine and belonged to a ruling establishment known as the Magumi. They were recognized for a great amount of horses.  Kanem’s expansion peaked during the reign of Maï Dunama Dabbalemi (ca. 1221-59) and extended northward into the Fezzan region (Libya), westward into Kano (Nigeria), eastward to Ouaddaï (or Wadai), and southward into the Adamawa grasslands (Cameroon). They converted to islam around the 11th century CE.

Group of Kanem-Bu warriors in the 1800s
Group of Kanem-Bu warriors in the 1800s

By the end of the 14th century, internal struggles and external attacks had torn Kanem apart. Between 1376 and 1400, six Maïs reigned, but were killed by foreign invaders.  Finally, around 1396 the Bulala invaders forced the once strong Sayfawa dynasty to abandon Njimi and move to Bornu on the western edge of Lake Chad.  Around 1472, Maï Ali Dunamami fortified the Bornu state, and established the capital at Ngazargamu, which had more fertile lands. Over time the inter-marriage between the Kanembu and the Borno people created a new people, the Kanembu, and a language called Kanuri.

The Kanem-Bornu empire peaked during the reign of Maï Idris Alooma (ca. 15711603) who is remembered for his great military and diplomatic skills.  His main adversaries were the Hausa to the west, the Tuareg and Toubou to the north, and the Bulala to the east. One epic poem tells of his victories in 330 wars, and over 1,000 battles.  He was a true military genius, and some of his innovations included the use of fixed military camps (with walls), permanent sieges, and “scorched earth” tactics, armored horses and riders, the use of Berber camels, of skilled Kotoko boatmen, and of iron-helmeted musketeers trained by Turkish military advisers. He had very strong diplomatic ties with Tripoli, Egypt, and the Ottoman empire, which at some point sent a 200-member ambassadorial party across the desert to Alooma’s court in Ngazargamu.  The state revenues came from tribute from vassal states, trans-saharan trade route, and slave trade. Many products such as cotton, natron (sodium carbonate), kola nuts, ivory, ostrich feathers, perfume, was, and hides were exported north via the Sahara desert.

Map of the Kanem and Kanem-Bornu empires
Map of the Kanem and Kanem-Bornu empires

By the end of the 17th century, the empire started declining, and by the 18th century, it only extended westward into the land of the Hausa. By the early 19th century, the declining empire could not sustain the advance from the fulani warriors of Usman Dan Fodio who proclaimed the jihad war against the non-muslims.

To learn more about the Kanem-Bornu empire, check out:, Daily Kos- Ancient Africa,, The empire by the lake. Don’t forget to check out the book “Kanem-Borno: One Thousand Years of Splendor (Kingdoms of Africa)”  by Philip Koslow.  Back in those days, Lake Chad covered an area of about 10,000 m2… today it has sadly shrunk down to 1,300 m2, and is still shrinking! I could not find a really good map of the Kanem or Kanem-Bornu empire, so I used Google maps  and known maps from history books to make my own with some of the boundaries cited earlier. I have overlaid the Kanem and the Kanem-Bornu empires on the same map to give a better idea. Enjoy!

Cesaria Evora: the Barefoot Diva– the Love of Cape Verde

Cesaria Evora
Cesaria Evora

I was quite shocked to learn of the ‘passing’ of Cesaria Evora… It hurts… the barefoot diva, the lady who sang ‘sodade‘ and ‘Angola‘, is no longer. The lady who started singing in her later days, and gained stardomship at the age of 50+, the lady who always performed barefoot on stage is no longer. She exemplified endurance and perseverance. Someone else could have given up… someone else could have said ‘there is no point singing, if I can barely make a living’. She knew all of that, but she also knew that she had a gift for singing and bringing the morna (Cape Verde music) to the international scene. She sang, and went on worldwide tours in her late 60s… giving concerts, etc… at an age when most people would have retired. She was truly an example of strength, confidence, endurance and perseverance. Her life was really all about endurance!

The album titled 'Cesaria Evora'
The album titled 'Cesaria Evora'

She lost her dad at the age of 7, and was placed in an orphanage at the age of 10 by her mother who could not raise all her 6 children.  She started singing at the age of 16 in a sailors’ tavern. She won international acclaim for her album ‘La Diva aux Pieds Nus‘ in 1988, and the album ‘Miss Perfumado‘ released in 1992 sealed her international aura.  In 1997, she won the Kora All African Music Awards for best Artist of West Africa, Best Album, and Merit of Jury.  In 2004, came the Grammy in the world category (such a silly category… mixing musicians from Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America in one pot… unthinkable) for her album ‘Voz D’Amor‘. Keep singing, and check out her website Cesaria Evora, a video biography on BBC, An article by the Guardian newspaper, USA Today, NY Times, LA Times, So long Cesaria, we will keep singing ‘sodade‘ and dancing the morna, praising ‘Angola‘ and ‘Cabo Verde.’

The Biafran Civil War and the French Connection

Flag of the Biafra republic
Flag of the Biafra republic

With the death of C. Odumegwu Ojukwu, the leader of the breakaway Biafra Republic, I decided to talk about another chapter of the ‘françafrique’ book, i.e. the Biafran war.  At first everybody thought that it was just a Nigerian war, but it is more than that.  It is also a war about France’s position in Nigeria, and their support of the Biafra military, as well as their manipulation of the media.  How the word ‘genocide’ was used to influence public opinion… Jacques Foccart himself happily admitted choosing that word so as to get the attention of President de Gaulle and the French media.  Sadly this war, which lasted from 1967 to 1970, cost many Nigerian lives, for the French and European oil greed. Interesting how history repeats itself as in Sudan vs. South Sudan today!

Biafra before & after (source:
Biafra before & after (source:

The other day, I was talking to a Nigerian friend of mine, who did not even know that the French had played a major role in that war… see how we (Africans) barely know our history?  He was telling me about the Igbo, Haussa, and Yoruba, and forgot that the French were the ones supplying guns to the Biafrans for the war…  He did not even know that most of the Biafran leaders who ran away sought refuge in Côte d’Ivoire… why? why not Ghana, Benin, or Cameroon? why a French-speaking country further away? Again the French influence.  Somebody told me that Cameroon refused to help because then president Ahmadou Ahidjo in support of his Northern brothers refused to help supply guns… maybe, but why didn’t Ghana do it? or neighboring Benin? Why was the help coming from Gabon, who apparently had no interest in the story? well, because one of the biggest French military base in Africa was in Gabon (and Ivory Coast), and probably because a president in his right-mind would not accept that his territory be used to create war in someone else’s country, and also because someone like Kwame Nkrumah could already see the French connection in the deal.

Biafran note for 1 pound
Biafran note for 1 pound

The Biafran war is similar to the Angolan or Mozambique wars or so many other wars in Africa, where many of the strings were pulled by external forces while the African puppets danced on the scene and got killed from the ignorance, and greed of their own leaders.  Please watch this great documentary which sheds some light on the Biafran war, another chapter of the great françafrique.  It is so interesting how Corsica has been wanting their independence from France for ages, but is still not independent to this day.  Look at the United States of America, 50 states, as big as a continent,… but an entire country! Why not in Africa? in Africa, division rather than union is encouraged!

The New York Times wrote an article on Colonel Ojukwu, the one who proclaimed the Biafran republic. A beautiful article by Dr. S. Okechukwu Mezu talks of this Nigerian/Biafran leader. As for the Biafran war, check out: AfricaMasterWeb, ICE Case studies, there are many books written on the Biafra republic and the entire history (you can check out some books on Amazon) I read Half of a Yellow Sun, but I believe that there are better ones on the Biafran war out there (feel free to share if you know of really good ones)… there is a nice article titled Biafra war memories no victor no vanquished, and My memories of the Nigerian-Biafran Civil War

Pourquoi les Roussettes dorment la tete en bas!

Des roussettes - la tete en bas!
Des roussettes - la tete en bas!

Vous est-il jamais arrivé de vous reveiller la tête en bas, toute retournée avec des idées confuses ou brouillées? …  Rien de mieux que ce beau conte africain sur la raison pour laquelle les roussettes dorment la tête en bas! Amusez-vous bien!


Les animaux ont chacun leur façon de se reposer : certains se couchent par terre, d’autres se réfugient dans des terriers, d’autres se perchent sur les branches.  Seuls les membres de la famille des chauves-souris, et en particulier les grandes roussettes, s’accrochent aux branches la tête en bas, le derrière tourné vers le ciel.  Et pourtant, autrefois, elles se perchaient normalement sur les branches, la tête en haut, comme les oiseaux.

Voulez –vous  savoir pourquoi ? Oui, alors voici ce qui est arrivé. Continue reading “Pourquoi les Roussettes dorment la tete en bas!”

Franc CFA: Une Monnaie de Singe / CFA Franc: a Slave Currency

10,000FCFA (BEAC-1992)
10,000FCFA (BEAC-1992)

Suite à l’article sur la dévaluation imminente (ou pas) du Franc CFA, j’aimerais juste parler de l’histoire de cette monnaie de singe, car c’est vraiment incroyable que 15 pays africains aient soit-disant la même monnaie, le Franc CFA, et qu’ils ne puissent pas l’utiliser d’une zone à l’autre. Un Sénégalais ne peut pas aller à Yaoundé faire des achats avec ses CFA, car le CFA de l’Afrique de l’Ouest ne vaut rien en Afrique centrale, et vice versa.  Résultat: seulement 7-10 % de rapports commerciaux (import-export) existent entre les zones BEAC (Banque des Etats de l’Afrique Centrale) et BCEAO (Banque Centrale des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest). Tous les échanges des anciennes colonies sont tournés vers la France! Donc, aucun échange réel entre pays parlant la même langue, ayant la même monnaie, et separés par moins de 2 h de vol! C’est comme si l’Euro de France ne valait rien en Allemagne ou en Espagne, et la monnaie devait être convertie!

Carte des pays de la zone CFA
Carte des pays de la zone CFA

Le Franc CFA ou franc des colonies françaises d’Afrique (plutard, les Français ont essayé de changer l’appellation pour endormir les consciences) fut instaurer pour la première fois en 1945 à la fin de la deuxième guerre mondiale.  C’est une monnaie de singe, car les anciennes colonies françaises versent au trésor de Paris 65 % de leurs revenus, et ensuite paient 20% pour assurer les fluctuations des marchés et couvrir les frais de la Banque de France.  De nos jours, ces anciennes colonies versent 50 % plus les 20%!  Imaginez-vous un seul instant: j’ai 100,000FCFA, et je dois remettre a quelqu’un 65,000 FCFA, et ajouter en plus 20,000 FCFA de frais…. Il ne me restera plus que 15,000 FCFA…  si mes poches hurlent de douleur…  imaginez un peu ce que 70 % ou 85% en plus ou en moins ferait au budget d’un pays tout entier?  Soit la pauvreté extrême, ou un certain équilibre budgétaire.

J’ai collectionné certains articles sur l’histoire du Franc CFA: Franc CFA- Wikipedia, Mamadou Koulibaly: Pourquoi le Franc CFA doit disparaitreLe Franc CFA un outil de controle politique et economiqueLe Franc CFA toujours contrôlé par ParisLe Franc CFA en Sursis … Lisez et regardez! Vous risquez d’être pris de dégoût! Le professeur Nicolas Agbohou que vous verrez dans cette vidéo a écrit un très bon livre a ce sujet: ‘Le Franc CFA et l’Euro contre l’Afrique.’

=========================== (In English →) Continue reading “Franc CFA: Une Monnaie de Singe / CFA Franc: a Slave Currency”

Fire and Rhythm (Fogo e ritmo) by Agostinho Neto

Agostinho Neto
Agostinho Neto

Agostinho Neto was the a medical doctor, a poet, and most importantly the first president of Angola. Today, I would like you to sit back and enjoy a poem written by this great African leader

Fogo e ritmo

Sons de grilhetas nas estradas

cantos de pássaros

sob a verdura úmida das florestas

frescura na sinfonia adocicada

dos coqueirais


fogo no capim

fogo sobre o quente das chapas do Cayatte.

Caminhos largos

cheios de gente cheios de gente

em êxodo de toda a parte

caminhos largos para os horizontes fechados

mas caminhos

caminhos abertos por cima

da impossibilidade dos braços.





Ritmo na luz

ritmo na cor

ritmo no movimento

ritmo nas gretas sangrentas dos pés descalços

ritmo nas unhas descarnadas

Mas ritmo


Ó vozes dolorosas de África!


Fire and rhythm

The sound of chains on the roads

the songs of birds

under the humid greenery of the forest

freshness in the smooth symphony

of the palm trees


fire on the grass

fire on the heat of the Cayatte plains

Wide paths

full of people full of people

an exodus from everywhere

wide paths to closed horizons

but paths

paths open atop

the impossibility of arm



tum tum


Rhythm in light

rhythm in color

rhythm in movement

rhythm in the bloody

cracks of bare feet

rhythm on torn nails

yet rhythm


Oh painful African voices



President J.J. Rawlings denounces the Transfer of President Gbagbo to the Hague tribunal

President J. J. Rawlings of Ghana
President J. J. Rawlings of Ghana

I have learnt with dismay reports that deposed President Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivoire has been transferred to The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday, November 29th, following a speedy indictment, in total violation of relevant internationalcode of procedures and in total disregard for the demands of peace in Cote d’Ivoire.

This transfer followed a procedure so hasty that it could be rightfully described as abduction.

My suspicion grows even more, when the prosecuting attorney claiming to be targeting six officials in Cote d’Ivoire, unduly focuses on Gbagbo, the one who is least likely to escape due to his being already in custody.

This eagerness to indict and transfer Gbagbo, who did not run in the face of the bombing of his palace like a common criminal, defies logic and the quest for true reconciliation and sustainable peace in Cote d’Ivoire.

After fifty years of independence, Africa should have all the know-how to bring justice to its own citizens and do away with imported justice.

President Laurent Gbagbo
President Laurent Gbagbo

What kind of prosecution would rather be in haste to bring to justice the victim of an attack, and be lenient on the perpetrator of the attack?

No one is trying to evade justice. But when such justice is drenched in a sea of humiliation and abuses, so as to be governed by self-righteous hatred with its untenable logic, it only befits human conscience to stand up against it for the good of all.

We will not be silent about this because we must not be silent about it as participating members in this human drama.

John Rawlings

Pour la version francaise cliquer sur Continue reading “President J.J. Rawlings denounces the Transfer of President Gbagbo to the Hague tribunal”

Dévaluation imminente du Franc CFA

Billet de 10000 FCFA (1992)
Billet de 10000 FCFA (1992)

Un article du journal Notre Voie vient d’annoncer la dévaluation imminente du Franc CFA, prévue pour le 1 er Janvier 2012.  Bien que cela m’étonne, c’était à envisager, vu que l’Europe va mal, que la France est en faillite, quoi de mieux que de dévaluer le FCFA et multiplier son argent par 2, et les dettes des pays francophones envers la France qui vont aussi être multipliées.  Les seules personnes à déplorer là-dedans sont bel et bien ces africains, intello ou ignorants, qui ont applaudis lorsque les bombes françaises tombaient sur les civils ivoiriens et le président Gbagbo, tous ceux-là qui ont gloussé de joie quand le peuple libyen se faisait bombarder par 42 nations (l’OTAN) pendant plus de 8 mois.  Ils ont applaudis, disaient-ils, parce que le ‘dictateur’ Gbagbo devait partir… dommage car c’est bien Gbagbo qui avait commencé à imprimer une monnaie ivoirienne (le MIR).  Ils applaudissaient parce que, disaient-ils, le ‘dictateur’ Kadhafi devait partir… dommage car c’est bien Kadhafi qui avait crée et financé le fonds monetaire africain et la Banque centrale africaine qui devaient ouvrir leurs portes ce Décembre… dommage car c’est bien Kadhafi qui préconisait l’indépendance réelle de l’Afrique et une monnaie telle l’or pour les échanges.  Au lieu de cela, les africains sont restés silencieux ou ont gloussé de joie quand deux pays souverains africains étaient bombardés par des forces externes sans aucune déclaration de guerre.  N’avions-nous pas vu le peuple ivoirien se réunir à l’appel de Charles Blé Goudé le 26 Mars pour une veillée en support à leur président? N’avions-nous pas vu le peuple libyen se reunir a Bab-Al-Aziziyah le 1er Juillet, liant leurs mains et leurs drapeaux verts sur plusieurs kilomètres, en support a leur Guide? Que dire de quelqu’un qui applaudit quand la maison de son voisin vole en flammes? Que dire de quelqu’un qui ne bouge pas d’un pouce lorsque la maison de son voisin brûle? Ou lorsqu’elle est pillée de toutes parts? Est-ce un lâche? Est-ce un idiot? Non… plutôt un fou!

1000cfa (BEAO - 1983)
1000cfa (BEAO – 1983)

Aujourd’hui la dévaluation du Franc CFA est imminente… que faire de ce continent plein de lâches et fous? Qu’est-ce-que le peuple qui a supporté Gbagbo ou Kadhafi doit faire… car là-dedans il y a bien eu des gens censés, il y en a qui ont denoncé et continue de denoncer… Que faire quand il y en a parmi nous qui sont hypnotisés par le mot ‘démocratie’ sans vraiment comprendre ce que c’est que la democratie? … le 26 Mars nous avons vu le peuple ivoirien à Abidjan clamer son amour du beau et de l’indépendance; le 1er Juillet nous avons vu le peuple libyen clamer sa joie et son amour du Guide… c’est ça la vraie démocratie… et non la fusicratie (‘Je ne t’aime pas, je te tue’… ou plutot ‘je désire ton or, alors je te bombarde’).

25000 FCFA (Banque Malgache-1994)
25000 FCFA (Banque Malgache-1994)

J’ai appris il y a de cela quelques jours que la compagnie aérienne Swiss ne s’arrêterait plus au Cameroun, que Air Ivoire avait été vendue à Air France… et j’ai crié le ciel pour cette grosse malédiction, car comme je le disais en Avril lorsqu’on bombardait la Cote d’Ivoire, ‘si on ne fait rien la recolonisation de l’Afrique aura bel et bien commencé!‘  Que penser de ce continent ou on doit prendre Air France pour se déplacer d’une capitale africaine à une autre? Comment comprendre que l’on prenne Air France pour aller de Yaoundé à Brazzaville? de Dakar à Abidjan? ou de Lomé à Ouagadougou? ou de Niamey à Nouakchott? Quelle incongruité? et avec la dévaluation, mes freres africains seront servis! … bonjour l’asservissement total! Comment traiter avec la Chine avec une monnaie de singe? Comment prétendre vouloir de nouveaux rapports et se tourner vers la Chine pour les profits commerciaux quand on doit encore verser 70% de ses revenus à la métropole à cause de cette monnaie? Quelle incongruité! Oh je pleure pour toi, pauvre Afrique… tu es trop pleine de lâches et de fous! Je vous invite a voir cette vidéo sur l’histoire du Franc CFA (N’oubliez pas de regarder Parties 2, and 3).