Power And Diplomacy In Kanem Bornu Empire

Power And Diplomacy In Kanem Bornu Empire

Most of the people that was in Kanem Bornu was mostly farmers and cattle rearers. They practiced African traditional religious belief. With time, they began to interact with the people of North Africa.  During 7th century, North Africa, example Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco was converted to Islam.

Because these North Africa Islamize whoever they interact with, Unlike what Arab did to North Africa, the people of the North Africa used a diplomatic way for the Western Sudan in their conversion to Islam. It was never forceful and the first people that was converted was mostly the traders that interacted with them. Because these traders can now read and write, they became an influential people in the court Kanem Bornu before the Mai. They became the advisers of the Mai. However, that does not mean that if you are not an Islam, you will not be allowed to continue your trade. Of cause they continued their trade because Islamization of Kanem Bornu was diplomatic and not forceful.

Mai Humai was the first Mai to be converted. After him, other subsidiary kings/Mai was converted too. Because of these conversion, it was now possible and easier for the people of North Africa to interact easily with the people of Kanem Bornu. The Islams from the North helped him built a Calvary forces that was very strong which helped him to subjugate their neighbors.

It was during the time of Mai Danama Dibalemion I that Kanem deliberately went  on state expansion. He had many Calvary. The kingdom had its coverage stretched to Fez. He however went on a state expansion to capture the mineral areas and to ensure the prosperity of Kanem Bornu. He captured the salt producing center of Bilma. With this, they had a lake where they can get salt.

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The Calvary also helped to make sure that the internal casualties between them and the “So” people was settled and overcome them war.

When Mai Dunama Dibalema I died, The succession issues arose which weakened the empire. The Fez broke out from the rule of Kanem Bornu. A surge for state independence, The Bulala killed three kings in succession and took over Kanem Bornu. Because of the internal and and external problem, it was difficult for them to maintain the trade route.


Regeneration of Kanem Bornu was not easy as a result of the states that were paying tributes to them as a result of the trade routes have reduced. To do so, they shifted the capital/headquarters to the  Bornu region. The first Mai that led the re-generalization was Mai Ali Gaji.

In the process of re-generalization, Mai Ali Gaji fortified Gazagargamu that it will be difficult to penetrate. The reason he choose Gazagarmu was because he noticed the place was strategically positioned to control trade to state in Hausa land.

Ali Gaji lay foundation for the other part of the Kanem Bornu and when he died, his son took over.



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