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Sundiata Keita was the son of Nare Maghan, the ruler of Kangaba, a small state located on a tributary of the upper Niger River. Sundiata left Kangaba, but the reason is unknown: he may have gone into voluntary exile to avoid a jealous half-brother, or he may have been exiled by Sumanguru Kante, king of the Soso, who killed Sundiata’s father and took over his kingdom. Sundiata responded to the requests of his people to return to Kangaba to help them regain independence. He assembled a coalition of Malinke chiefdoms and in 1235 led them to victory in the Battle of Kirina. According to popular tradition, Sundiata triumphed because he was a stronger magician than his opponent. This victory marked the beginning of the Mali empire.

After defeating the Soso, Sundiata consolidated his authority among the Malinke people and established a strong centralized monarchy. According to Ibn Khaldun a ...