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Article

Maitseo Bolaane

Kgosi of the Bangwaketse, was born at Tswaaneng, southern Gangwaketse, in Botswana. The eldest son of Kgosi Gaseitsiwe’s senior wife, Bathoen I was heir to the Bangwaketse chieftaincy. His mother was of the Batlhware people. He learned to read and write at a London Missionary Society mission (LMS) school. As the son of Kgosi, he became leader of the Maisantwa regiment, initiated in 1864 (Ngcongco 1977: 277). Bathoen became chief of the Bangwaketse in July 1889 after the death of his father, Gaseitsewe. The key events of Bathoen’s life related to the growth of British colonial power in this period. In 1885 Botswana became a British protectorate. Khama of Bangwato, Bathoen of Bangwaketse, and Sebele of Bakwena were key players during the period (1890–1891 when Britain s control over Botswana developed from a vague protectorate over the southern part to a more clearly defined though still in practice ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

political, military, and religious leader and first Caliph of the Sokoto Caliphate, was born in the town of Morona, now located in Niger, in 1780 or 1781. His father was the revolutionary Islamic cleric and leader Uthman Dan Fodio (1754–1817), and his mother was Hawwa bint Adam ibn Muhammad Agh. Bello received an advanced education in Islamic theology and law thanks to his father, and supported his father’s call for a strict adherence to orthodox Sunni interpretations of Islamic practices. Bello praised his father as a loving parent: “His face was relaxed and his manner gentle. He never tired of explaining and never became impatient if anyone failed to understand” (Boyd, 1989).

When Uthman Dan Fodio launched a series of holy wars against the nominally Islamic sultans of Hausa cities such as Kano in northern Nigeria and southern Niger Bello became an active lieutenant of his father ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

Muhammad Bello was born in Gobir, in what is now Niger. He helped his father, Usuman dan Fodio, overthrow the Hausa states and build the powerful Sokoto Caliphate, which ruled over the northern half of present-day Nigeria. In the early nineteenth century Bello’s father, a Fulani Muslim religious leader, called on the rulers of the Hausa states to abandon their corrupt ways. He organized a popular movement among the Fulani and among Hausa peasants and merchants, advocating a purer form of Islam and the application of the Shari’a, or Islamic law. Usuman first tried peaceful means, but his peaceful movement only provoked repression from the Hausa rulers. In 1804 Usuman and his followers called for a jihad, or holy war, to overthrow resistant rulers. Among those who led the military campaign was Usuman’s 23-year-old son, Muhammad Bello A capable military leader and administrator Bello was crucial ...

Article

Stephen J. Rockel

, Tanzanian leader, was mtemi (chief) of Unyanyembe, the most important of the nineteenth-century Nyamwezi chiefdoms in central Tanzania before the rise of Mirambo’s empire. Unyanyembe, with its rapidly growing town of Tabora, was to become one of the major commercial centers in East Africa during a period of rapid economic growth based on long-distance caravan trade.

In the early nineteenth century Unyanyembe was still a small chiefdom, and Tabora did not yet exist. Around 1840 Fundikira’s father, Swetu, son of Sambwe, from the Nyangwila section of the Kimbu (a related ethnic group who are southern neighbors of the Nyamwezi) moved with his people to the northwest and annexed the area around what was to become Tabora, setting up his capital at Itetemia. Thus the ruling house in Unyanyembe retained a strong Kimbu identity, and Kimbu rituals dominated.

Swetu died in the early 1840s just as a great expansion in ...

Article

Gbudwe  

Stephanie Beswick

prominent Zande leader in southern Sudan, was born about 1860; his father was the Avongara leader Bazingbi (“conqueror of the world”) and his mother, a slave woman. He is also known as “Mbio” or “Yambio.” He gradually rose to leadership in rivalry with several half-brothers and numerous other Zande princes. As a young man he participated in his community’s conquests eastward across the Yubo River into Western Equatoria and the area of Yambio, the town that now bears his name. Attempts to extend the Zande conquests east to the White Nile, however, were repulsed by the Dinka and Bari. Because Gbudwe could no longer expand eastward, he planned new invasions toward the territories along his northern borders. These efforts brought him into conflict with the Turco–Egyptian regime in Bahr al-Ghazal that had succeeded at the fall of al-Zubayr Rahma Mansur in 1875. In 1881 Gbudwe obliterated a large ...

Article

Known as Knainas (Khama the Good), Khama was baptized a Christian in 1860. In 1872 he attempted to seize the chieftainship from his father, Sekgoma I, because Sekgoma opposed Christianity, but he was forced into exile. Three years later, however, Khama overthrew his father and became chief of the Bamangwato. Khama was a reformer who embraced the new European values that were spreading through the region at this time. He abolished a number of old tribal customs that he considered anti-Christian, including circumcision, rainmaking, and bride-wealth (payment made by the groom to the bride’s family). He also allowed the London Missionary Society to establish a mission on his territory. Khama was opposed to Afrikaner attempts to expand into Bechuanaland from the independent Boer state of the Transvaal, and in 1876 he asked for British protection.

In 1885 Khama welcomed British general Charles Warren who established the Bechuanaland ...

Article

Eric Young

Samuel Maharero, born Uereani Maharero, was the first son of Chief Maharero, who between 1860 and 1889 led the Herero in a series of wars with the Nama. Vehemently opposed to settlement by Europeans, particularly Afrikaners and Germans, in what is today Namibia, the elder Maharero repeatedly and unsuccessfully requested British “protection” during his reign. He finally gave in to German occupation in 1885.

Samuel and his brothers were educated at the Rhenish mission school in Otjimbingwe in the early 1860s. Samuel’s brother, Wilhelm, the chief’s second son and intended heir, was killed in battle with the Nama. Thus when his father died in 1890, Samuel Maherero assumed the chieftainship—a succession that divided the Herero, as some believed one of his cousins should have become chief.

For the next two years Maharero continued in his father s footsteps leading his people in wars against the Nama To gain ...

Article

Mirambo  

Stephen J. Rockel

the most famous of the Nyamwezi chiefs (mtemi, Kinyamwezi) in Tanzania, and perhaps the greatest of all nineteenth-century East Africans, was the son of Kasanda Mtula, mtemi of the small state of Uyowa in western Unyamwezi, and of Nyakasi, a daughter of the ruling family of neighboring Bukune. His birth names, from his grandfathers, were “Mtula” and “Mtyela,” but he became known as “Mirambo” (“corpses”) because of his widespread military conquests.

Mirambo grew up during the great expansion of long distance trade in East Africa based on exports of ivory and other African products and imports of manufactured goods especially cloth metal goods and firearms In the middle decades of the century an economic boom reshaped institutions and practices across the region as rising prices for ivory and the shrinking costs of manufactured cloth worked to expand market forces stimulating entrepreneurship accumulation and migrant wage labor Competition for ...

Article

Mpezeni  

Bizeck Jube Phiri

paramount chief of the Ngoni (in present-day Zambia), was the eldest son of Zwangendaba (Zongendaba); his mother was Nshlanze Sosera Ngumayo. It was during the migration of the Ngoni northward around 1830 that Ntutu Mpezeni was born. Ntutu Mpezeni was about nine years old when the Ngoni crossed the Zambezi River. Indunas are in agreement that he was carried across the Zambezi as was befitting of a paramount chief’s heir. Legend also has it that prior to crossing the Zambezi River, Zwangendaba had given Mpezeni a small shield and an assegai and that he had killed his first duiker buck. Zwangendaba continued his wandering until his death in 1945, after which Ntutu Mpezeni took over as leader of the Ngoni. Mpezeni led the group from Fipa country into what is now the Chipata district of Zambia.

Before leaving the land of the Bemba people Mpezeni captured Chanda Mukulu sister ...

Article

David Owusu-Ansah

was Ankaasehene (chief of the Asante village of Ankaase) and Kyidomhene of the Kumasi (in what is now Ghana). There is no information available about Yamoa (Yaw Amoah) Ponko’s mother, but the biographical information refers to two siblings in the persons of Yamoa Asuman and Nti Kusi. Gyesi Kuo, their father, was said to have migrated in the early eighteenth century from Denkyira after it was displaced as the dominant Akan state. In the service of the Golden Stool (believed by the Asante to hold the soul of the nation), Gyesi Kuo was rewarded with the minor Ankaase Kra Amponsem stool (stools being symbols of rule), which also belonged to the Kyidom division of Kumasi. It was by his association with his father’s stool and by enriching it as the stool’s occupant that Yamoa Ponko would begin his ascent to prominence in the history of Asante.

Historian T C McCaskie ...

Article

coastal Gabonese leader, was the son of an Asiga clan leader living on the south bank of the Gabon Estuary. He was known to French visitors to the Gabon Estuary as Denis and to English visitors as King William. The Asiga comprised one of the leading Mpongwe Omyènè-speaking clans in the Gabon Estuary in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Rapontchombo profited greatly from the rise of slave exports from Gabon to the Portuguese colonies of São Tomé and Principe, Brazil, Cuba, and the United States after the Napoleonic wars. When the British navy began patrolling West African waters to stop the trans-Atlantic slave trade, many slave merchants turned to Gabon. With no formal European presence, it was relatively easy to acquire and smuggle slaves. As oga clan chief Rapontchombo acted as the leader of a council of officials and leading male free notables rather than an autocratic ...

Article

Gabonese political leader, was born in 1844 on the southern tip of the Gabon Estuary across from Libreville, the colonial capital of Gabon. His father was Dénis Rapontchombo (c. 1790–1876), an Omyènè-speaking Mpongwe clan leader who signed the first treaty accepting French rule with naval officers in 1839. His mother, Ngué Mbinda, was a free Mpongwe woman. He was educated by French Roman Catholic missionaries in Libreville. His intelligence and royal lineage made him the hope of the Catholic mission personnel by the 1870s, who found polygyny and the continued allegiance of Mpongwe people to local spiritual traditions disappointing. With Dénis’s advanced age, Rapontchombo increasingly acted as the head political authority among Mpongwe people. He also worked as a clerk for the French navy in Libreville. When Dénis died in 1876, Rapontchombo became the chief oga Omyènè clan leader of the Mpongwe clans living in the ...

Article

Lynda R. Day

leader of the Kpa Mende Confederacy who wielded greater authority than any other Sierra Leonean woman of her time, was born about 1849 near Taiama in Gbo. She was originally known by her birth name, Soma, and had three brothers named Ali Kongo, Lamboi, and Goba. Her father and maternal grandfather were leaders in the Kpa Mende expansion westward from the Gorama chiefdom. With both a father and a grandfather who were prominent war leaders, Yoko met one of the most important criteria for leadership in this era, descent from the ruling elite of Mende country.

As a girl, Yoko was initiated into the women’s society, the Sande also known as Bundu there she gained a wide reputation as an excellent dancer Some sources mention a first husband the warrior Gongoima who may have been her cousin her father s sister s son Other sources describe her first marriage ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

warlord and slave merchant active in the region now known as the Central African Republic. His father, Tikima, was an influential Zande chief of the Nanga clan who married one of his daughters to the Sudanese slave trader and Egyptian official Abd Allab ibn al-Zubayr. This governor visited Tikima’s domains on the Mbomou River around 1860, and his brief visit helped to cement close ties between Tikima and the Khartoum-based slave traders who worked in southern Sudan and the eastern half of the modern Central African Republic. It is unclear how many children Tikima had, but given the common practice of Zande rulers to marry hundreds of women, Zemio Ikpiro must have had numerous potential competitors for the throne once Tikima died around 1872 With the scant amount of historical research on Zande communities in the modern Central African Republic it is unclear how Zemio Ikpiro took power ...