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Mohammed Hassen Ali

Oromo king of the Gibe region, in southwestern Ethiopia, was crowned in 1878. A year after his accession to power, Abba Jifar invaded the neighboring Oromo state of Gera with around twenty thousand men. This attack on a flimsy pretext was a show of force for the neighboring Oromo leaders, demonstrating his determination to dominate the political landscape of the Gibe region through threat or use of military power, diplomacy, and marriage alliances. He was not destined to dominate the Gibe region as the king of Shewa soon occupied it. Though Abba Jifar could mobilize tens of thousands of men for war, his army suffered from major weaknesses and lack of modern firearms and training.

In fact Abba Jifar came to power at a time of dramatic change in modern Ethiopian history when the clouds of conquest and destruction were hanging thick and low over the future of all ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

king of the West African monarchy of Dahomey (now the Republic of Benin), was born around 1844, one of the many sons of Glele, king of Dahomey. There is great debate in oral traditions collected in the twentieth century regarding his early life. Some claimed that Behanzin, known as Kondo before he ascended to the throne, lived with Hehegunon, a powerful member of the royal family. Others contended Behanzin was raised by the deposed Dahomean ruler Adandozan, perhaps to discredit him. It is generally believed that Behanzin did not have a close relationship with his father. European travel accounts before the 1870s do not mention Behanzin and instead suggest that Glele s son Ahanhanzo was the undisputed heir However Ahanhanzo died under mysterious circumstances during the mid 1870s Some of Ahanhanzo s descendents blamed Behanzin for Ahanhanzo s death while other accounts contend that smallpox took his life ...

Article

Cetshwayo was the son of Mpande, who was king of the Zulu from 1840to1842 , and the nephew of Shaka, who ruled from 1816 until 1828 and greatly expanded the Zulu kingdom. Cetshwayo was raised in the northern part of the Zulu kingdom near present-day Nongoma, South Africa. In 1856 he defeated and killed his half-brother Mbuyazi, whom Mpande had favored as the successor to the throne. After the British colonial forces in the nearby colony of Natal mediated between father and son, Cetshwayo publicly declared his loyalty to Mpande and was ceremonially proclaimed king in 1873.

For a time the British backed Cetshwayo in a land dispute between the Zulu and neighboring Afrikaners, white settlers of Dutch origin. The British began to withdraw their support, however, after annexing the Afrikaner territory of the Transvaal in 1877 since they no longer had a need for ...

Article

Michael R. Mahoney

Zulu king, was born in emLambogwenya, in what is today KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa, to the future King Mpande ka Senzangakhona and his wife Ngqumbazi. In 1839, shortly after Mpande defected from his brother King Dingane’s side in the war between the Zulus and the Boers, he officially declared that Cetshwayo would be his heir, even presenting him as such at a meeting of the Boer legislature that year.

As Cetshwayo grew up, he became involved in the various intrigues in the Zulu royal house. One of the main issues in these intrigues was the relative status of Mpande’s twenty-nine wives, each of whom came from a prominent family either within the Zulu kingdom or neighboring it. It has long been customary in polygamous households in this region for the husband to name one of his wives as inkosikazi, or chief wife with her eldest son being heir ...

Article

Walima T. Kalusa

king of the Bemba people (in present-day Zambia), was born perhaps around the 1810s. As a youth, Chitapankwa (“raider”) was reportedly as rebellious as he was ambitious. He married Kafula, a daughter of his uncle Chitimukulu Chileshe Chepela, against whom Chitapankwa had once fought but made peace with when Chief Tafuna of the Lungu apparently refused to help the ambitious young man remove his uncle from office.

Chileshe was succeeded around 1860 by his infirm and weak-minded brother, Bwembya. As the Bemba now faced mounting military threats posed by Zwangendaba’s Ngoni from South Africa, Chitapankwa easily persuaded the bakabilo (councillors) to depose Bwembya. He then usurped the chitimukuluship kingship But Chitapankwa too faced stiff opposition from other Bemba royals of the crocodile clan Abena Ng andu especially his own brother Sampa Bemba oral tradition memorializes Chitapankwa as having fought and defeated his brother but as having placated him ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

king of the Senegalese Wolof-speaking kingdom of Cayor, was born in the village of Keur Amadou in 1842. He was the son of Sakhéwère Sokhna Mbaye and Ngoné Latyr Fall. Fall was a female member of the royal family.

When his older brother, King Birma Ngone Latyr, died in 1859, the French colonial government, under the leadership of Louis Faidherbe, decided to place Madiodio Fall as the damel (king) of Cayor. Macodou Koumba Yandé Mbarrou, the choice of most nobles in the kingdom and Diop himself, led a civil war against Fall. The French government then sent a military expedition to intervene on behalf of Fall. Diop and his military commander, Demba War Sall, defeated Fall and his partisans in a bloody battle at Koki in 1861, and again at Ngol Ngol in 1863 Diop could not compete with heavy artillery and machine guns and so ...

Article

Faku  

Tim Stapleton

king of the Mpondo, was born near Qawukeni in what is now the northeastern section of South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province. His father was Ngqungqushe, ruler of the Mpondo Kingdom. Since Faku’s mother, Mamgcambe, was an ordinary royal wife, he was not initially considered an heir. However, when Ngqungqushe was killed in an attack on the nearby Bomvana in the 1810s, the late king’s councilors replaced the inexperienced yet legitimate heir, Phakani, with the more mature Faku largely because of his mother’s generosity and influence. During the intense raiding of the 1820s, Faku centralized the Mpondo state and increased its military potential. He banned the circumcision initiation ritual for young men as it removed them from military service and caused health problems.

Although some historians have portrayed the Mpondo as victims of Zulu aggression during this period under Faku s leadership they successfully defended themselves from invaders and launched predatory ...

Article

Jon Abbink

last king of the Kafa kingdom, in what is now southern Ethiopia, was born into the Bushasho elite of the Mingo clan, which had ruled Kafa since the seventeenth century, and he grew up in the Kafa town of Bonga. His father and predecessor as king was Galli Sherocho, who ruled from 1868 until his death in 1890, and his mother probably was Abette Yirge, who might have been a princess of the neighboring Gera kingdom. In 1890 he was installed as king (tato) in a special ritual in the capital Andaracha, led by Kafa nobles and royal advisers (mikirecho). He had been preferred above the oldest son of his father and the senior wife.

The Kafa kingdom over which Gaki Sherocho ruled was an original African state formation with a strong centralizing tradition and a pivotal role in the wider mercantile economy of southern ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

mbang (king) of the Chadian Baguirmi kingdom, was born in the middle of the nineteenth century. In his youth, his predecessor Ab Sakin battled numerous internal and external foes to retain his title as mbang. Bagurimi had long been dragged into disputes between its neighbors: the kingdom of Bornu to the west and the kingdom of Wadai to the east. Since the successes of Wadai’s dynamic ruler Sabun in the early nineteenth century, Wadai had treated Bagurimi as a vassal state. Ab Sakin tried to break free from Wadai, and a Wadaian army destroyed the Bagurimian capital of Massenya in 1871 in retaliation. Ab Sakin continued to fight against the Wadai and other claimants to the throne of Baguirmi. Yusuf, Sultan of Wadai, decided to impose a new king on Baguirmi more favorable to Wadai’s influence. At Ab Sakin’s death in 1884 Yusuf ensured the victory of Abdul ...

Article

Glele  

Joseph C. E. Adande

king of Dahomey (r. 1858–1888), was born Badohou, the son of Gezo, the ninth king of Dahomey, and Zognindi, a free-born woman from Adakplamè. Some sources give the date of his death as 1888. Among the thirteen kings who ruled the kingdom of Danxome (Dahomey; present-day Benin) from 1625 to 1899, those of the nineteenth century, and Glele in particular, were the most famous.

The history of the kingdom of Dahomey is recorded in and by the Kpanlingan, which is both the official recorded poetic text and the person reciting it. Each king has his own kpanlingan Glele s is the longest In this text written down by Claude Savary for the first time only in the twentieth century we find numerous images emphasizing how powerful Glele was He is said to be Axosu kololo We dede kololo ma no mia the great king you cannot ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

king of the Tio kingdom of the Téké people, was born at the village of Ngon, near the Gamboma River in modern Republic of the Congo. He belonged to a royal lineage since his probable grandfather, Opontaba, had been king. His kingdom engaged in several wars against Bobangui slave traders who lived north of the Malebo Pool on the Congo River in the mid-nineteenth century. The pool served as a vital meeting place for slave and ivory trading and had been controlled by Téké leaders for several centuries. Bobangui forces ultimately forced Iloo to make some concessions toward their demand for trading rights on the pool in the 1850s or 1860s. Between 1865 and 1870 Iloo was elected king by a group of powerful noble leaders The monarchy did not pass down directly from father to son among the Téké Kings were chosen by negotiations between a council of ...

Article

Elsie A. Okobi

merchant and king of Opobo, was born in the village of Umuduruoha in the densely populated Igbo heartland of eastern Nigeria (now in Imo State). He was born into the Isu clan, and his father, Ozurumba, was most likely a farmer who supplemented that work by trading or with a skilled profession such as blacksmithing. His mother’s name was Uru. At the approximate age of twelve, Jaja was sent to live with relatives in Nkwerre, from where he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. From Nkwerre he was brought to Akwete and sold to a trader named Odiari from the Royal Canoe House of Opobo. (Canoe houses had begun in the delta as trading and fighting communities capable of manning and maintaining a war canoe; the trading center city-states of the eastern delta—Brass, Nembe, Bonny—each consisted of several organized canoe houses.)

Given the name Jubo Jubogha Jaja stayed with his ...

Article

Ezekiel Gebissa

ruler of Leeqaa Qellem, an Oromo kingdom in western Ethiopia in the early twentieth century, was born around 1855 in the village of Gidaami. His father, Tulluu Guddaa, was an elected abbaa duulaa, or war chief, of the Oromo gadaa (indigenous democratic system of government based on age segments) government in what is now Wallaga in southwestern Ethiopia. The family belonged to the Wanaga group of the Leeqaa clan of the Maacaa Oromo, who had settled in Wallaga in the late seventeenth century. By the late eighteenth century, the region’s economy had come to rely on agriculture and trade with the Beni-Shangul region to the north and the Sudan. Two distinct social classes subsequently emerged: the warra qabiyyee, the propertied class who had accumulated wealth, and the warra galaa, the laboring class, consisting of everybody else. The abbaa qabiyyee literally father of assets gradually came to ...

Article

Shane Doyle

king of Bunyoro (in present-day western Uganda), was the son of Kamurasi and designated heir to the throne of Bunyoro. When Kamurasi died in 1869, however, most of the Bito royal clan and Huma pastoralist elite rallied around Kabarega’s brother, Kabigumire. There followed a long succession war, which left Bunyoro vulnerable to external influence, especially that of Buganda and slavers and traders from the Sudan. Kabarega was ultimately successful and took the throne in 1871, partly due to this foreign support; but he then devoted his reign to reestablishing Bunyoro’s independence.

Kabarega has been credited by nationalist historians with revolutionizing Bunyoro’s political and military structures. Bunyoro had been in decline for several centuries by 1871 having suffered a series of princely secessions and military defeats at the hands of her southern neighbor Buganda Kabarega instituted a more centralized and meritocratic administrative system ending the practice of installing ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

ruler and founder of the Toro kingdom in present-day Uganda, was born sometime around the turn of the nineteenth century in the East African kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara. His father was Kyebambe III Nyamutukura, the mukama (king) of Bunyoro-Kitara. Kyebambe III Nyamutukura lived to an advanced age and proved unable to resist efforts by some of his sons and other members of the Bunyoro-Kitara royal dynasty of Babito to secede from the kingdom.

Many oral traditions collected in Bunyoro Kitara and Toro in the twentieth century claimed Kaboyo was the favorite son of Kyebambe III Nyamutukura even though he chose to encourage people in Toro a southern province of Bunyoro Kitara to form a new independent state sometime in the 1820s or 1830s Kaboyo was said to have gone to the capital of Bunyoro Kitara to attract allies for his new state and then to have brought back some troops and ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

king of the Ugandan monarchy of Toro, was probably born in the late 1860s or early 1870s at a time of radical changes in Toro; his full name was Rukirabasaija Daudi Kasagama Kyebambe.

Mukama Kabarega king of the larger kingdom of Bunyoro Kitara to the north of Toro considered his southern neighbor to be a fringe province of his own kingdom Toro had broken away from Bunyoro in the early nineteenth century and so Kabarega considered Kasagama and his family to be rebels Over the course of the 1870s and 1880s Kabarega had killed most members of Kasagama s Babito dynasty Kasagama himself grew up in the Buganda kingdom as a result Advancing British officers accompanied by Sudanese mercenaries in the 1890s sought to weaken and finally conquer Bunyoro Frederick Lugard a British officer who later would become one the architects of British colony policy in Africa led an expedition ...

Article

Phillip A Cantrell

mwami (king) of Rwanda from 1860 to 1895, was the descendant of a long line of monarchs who ruled a steadily expanding Tutsi kingdom in central Rwanda. During his thirty-five years as mwami, Kigeri (also known as Rwabugiri) received the first Europeans explorers into Rwanda and vastly enlarged the kingdom, establishing the territorial basis for the modern state. His efforts to centralize his rule resulted in the permanent subjugation of the Hutu majority and the creation of an ethnic/racial divide that haunts Rwanda down to the present.

Determined to expand the power of his throne Kigeri mobilized the populace into armed regiments to engage in wars of expansion against neighboring kingdoms in every direction even southward into present day Burundi As the kingdom grew Kigeri centralized and expanded the powers of the Tutsi monarchy Hereditary clan chiefs who in many cases were Hutu chiefs were replaced by royal ...

Article

Ryan Ronnenberg

king of the Shambaa kingdom in the Usambara Mountains of what is now northeastern Tanzania, succeeded his father, Kinyashi Muanga Ike, in approximately 1815 and ruled until his death in 1862. While Shambaa historical tradition credits his ancestor Mbegha as the founder of the Shambaa kingdom, and his grandfather Bughe and father for conquering and unifying much of the land in the Usambara Mountains he would come to govern, it was Kimweri who presided over the region’s “golden age,” when it was at the pinnacle of its power.

Kimweri inherited a kingdom that had been thwarted during his father s reign both in dispatching its rival Mshihwi to the far north and in expanding to the south Kimweri s success followed a peace agreement with Mshihwi which permitted him to concentrate his efforts to create a more firmly integrated Shambaa kingdom centered about its capital of Vugha and later ...

Article

E. J. Alagoa

Amanyanabo (king) of Nembe in the Niger Delta from 1889 to 1898, is celebrated in Nigerian history for his attack and destruction of the headquarters of the Royal Niger Company at Akassa on 29 January 1895. He was one of the traditional leaders who mobilized their communities to resist the European seizure of African resources from the late nineteenth through the early twentieth century. In the Niger Delta region, King William Dappa Pepple had been exiled to Britain in the 1850s and King Jaja of Opobo to the West Indies in 1887 for their opposition to British interests Koko directly mounted a military challenge to an evidently superior economic and military power and he successfully evaded capture to die a natural death within his own kingdom Indeed his courageous confrontation played a part in the British withdrawal of company rule in Nigeria He features in Niger Delta ...

Article

Enocent Msindo

king of Matabele (in present-day Zimbabwe), was born in the late 1830s to Mzilikazi Matshobana Kumalo (clan name), the first Ndebele king who occupied Matabeleland of Zimbabwean in 1838, having migrated with his clan from Natal, South Africa, in the 1820s. As a child of a minor Swazi wife, Lobengula became king by chance because the would-be heir Nkulumane’s whereabouts were unknown, perhaps because he had been killed for trying to usurp power or because he had exiled himself in Natal. Therefore, when Lobengula came to power, he was initially viewed as an illegitimate successor (especially by the Zvangendaba royal faction). This background would perhaps influence his style of rule, which was a mixture of the authoritarian style of his predecessor and a more consultative approach that Ndlovu-Gatsheni (2003) controversially called the “democratic” style of governance characteristic of Ndebele settled life. Lobengula was inaugurated on 22 January 1870 ...