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Ruramisai Charumbira

emperor/ruler and army general in what is present-day Zimbabwe, was born to the army general Nyandoro, who declined the throne from Mutapa Chisamharu Negomo Mupunzagutu. Gatsi Rusere ascended to the throne as the mutapa (emperor/king) in 1589. He went on to have an illustrious, if tumultuous, reign until his death in 1623. Gatsi Rusere, according to most accounts, was a usurper to the throne as the mutapa. However, he could claim some right to the throne, as his father had been a mukomohasha (army general) in the preceding mutapa’s army. At the time, army generals tended to be uncles of the ruling mutapa and could succeed a mutapa as ruler. In this case, Nyandoro declined mutapaship, preferring his military career; instead, his son Gatsi Rusere maneuvered himself to the throne.

Unlike the preceding mutapa Gatsi Rusere was opposed to Portuguese Christian proselytizing and settlement in the interior of ...


Elizabeth Heath

At a time when the collapse of the once powerful Mali empire left a power vacuum in western and central Sudan, Sunni Ali undertook a series of military campaigns that united the area under a new power—the Songhai empire. Through military acumen and skillful leadership he amassed an empire that, by the time of his death in 1492, spanned most of present-day Mali and parts of pres-ent-day Niger, Nigeria, and Benin. He conquered important trading centers such as Djenné and Tombouctou. Sunni Ali’s empire continued to control the area until the late sixteenth century, when it was destroyed by Moroccan invaders.

A Songhai state had existed since the seventh century, and in 1335 it declared independence from the enfeebled Mali empire. Its rulers, however, had done little to strengthen and expand the state before Sunni Ali ascended the throne in 1464 He immediately launched a campaign against Tuareg ...