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Eric Bennett

Sani Abacha attended primary and secondary school in his home state of Kano and then joined the army in 1962. As a soldier he attended the Nigerian Military Training College in Kaduna State (1962–1963) and then went to England for further military schooling. Abacha achieved steady promotions as a soldier and by the mid-1980s had entered Nigeria's military elite. In 1983 he was among those who overthrew Shehu Shagari, leader of the Second Republic, in a coup that led to the military rule of Muhammadu Buhari. In 1985 Abacha participated in a second coup, which replaced Buhari with General Ibrahim Babangida, who appointed Abacha minister of defense in 1990. As head of state, Babangida announced that free elections would be held in the early 1990s. In 1993 however after Babangida nullified the results of these belated free elections Abacha staged a third coup and ...

Article

Ariel Bookman

Nigerian novelist, poet, dramatist, educator, and political activist, was born Christopher Uchechukwu Andrew Abani, on 27 December 1966, in Afikpo, Nigeria. Abani’s life has been dramatically shaped but not defined by the political violence associated with the Nigerian state. Born in the Igbo heartland of southeast Nigeria to an Igbo father and British mother, Abani was six months old when the Biafran War began. His mother fled to Britain with him and his siblings, an experience that he would later narrate in poetic form in Daphne’s Lot (2003). Returning to Nigeria after the war, Abani demonstrated precocious literary talent, publishing his first short story at age ten and finishing his first novel, Masters of the Board (1984), at sixteen. The novel, a political thriller, imagines a Nazi plot to return to power by using unwitting Third World governments as its pawns.

Abani was arrested in ...

Article

Sierra Leonean public intellectual, was born in the southwest Nigerian city of Abeokuta in 1848. His father was from the Krio community in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Many people from Freetown were former slaves originally of Yoruba descent, and still others traded in southern Nigeria by the 1840s. His father may have been a Muslim notable in Freetown, but his Christian missionary uncle took him under his wing. His parents agreed to send him to the Church Missionary Society (Anglican) mission school in Freetown. Though he did not stay long in school, Abayomi-Cole proved to be a formidable intellect. He mastered Arabic, Latin, Hebrew, and Greek. In the 1870s and early 1880s, Abayomi-Cole made a living as a teacher. His lively intelligence attracted the interest of the Evangelical United Brethren Church, which appointed him a catechist in the Sierra Leonean town of Shenge in the Shebro district in 1885 ...

Article

Mohammed Hassen Ali

king of one of the five Oromo states of the Gibe region in southwestern Ethiopia during the first half of the nineteenth century. He was the richest prince, whose reign marked the golden age of the Gibe states. He was born in 1802 in Sappa, the first capital of the kingdom of Limmu Ennarya, where he received a rudimentary form of Islamic education. As a young man, the tall, handsome, well-built, and eloquent Abba Bagibo is said to have possessed a considerable share of his father Abba Mogol’s vigor. He spent many years in learning the art of war in his father’s army. It was during those years of training that Abba Bagibo demonstrated his exceptional qualities of leadership, organizational ability, management of information, and wise use of resources.

In 1825 Abba Bagibo overthrew his father seized power and adopted a commercial policy that made his new capital Saqqa ...

Article

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

Mohammed Hassen Ali

last king of the kingdom of Jimma in Ethiopia, scholar, was born in Jiren, the political capital and commercial center of southwestern Ethiopia. As a young man Abba Jobir received the best Muslim education under several prominent Muslim scholars who settled in Jimma during the reign of his famous grandfather Abba Jifar II (r. 1878–1932).

His grandfather was the most famous, wealthiest, and most popular Oromo king throughout Ethiopia during the second half of the nineteenth century. He was a very foresighted politician who had an excellent grasp of the importance of firearms in warfare. He sent agents to the expanding kingdom of Shewa and realized that King Menilek had superiority in weapons; therefore, he peacefully submitted to Menilek. Although four other Oromo kings who resisted Menilek were destroyed, Abba Jifar II signed a peace treaty with the Christian king of Shewa in 1882 In exchange for local ...

Article

Israel Gershoni

the third and last khedive of Egypt, ruled the country from 1892 to 1914. ʿAbbas was the seventh ruler in Mehmet ʿAli’s dynasty, which was established in the early nineteenth century. ʿAbbas came to the throne at the very young age of eighteen in January 1892 after his father, Khedive Tawfiq (r. 1879–1892), died unexpectedly. Born in Cairo ʿAbbas was educated by tutors at the Thudicum in Geneva and later in the Theresianum Military Academy in Vienna.

Unlike his father, a weak ruler who was considered a puppet of the British colonial rule, the young ʿAbbas strove to restore the original khedival status as sovereign ruler, patterned after the model established by his grandfather Ismaʿil (r. 1863–1879 and to assert Egypt s unique status as a semiautonomous province within the Ottoman Empire ʿAbbas s aspirations clashed with British rule particularly with the authority of the powerful agent ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Algerian politician and public intellectual, was born on 24 October 1899 in the village of Chahna, located six miles south of the Algerian town of Taher. His parents belonged to a peasant family, and his father, Said Ahmed ben Abbas, was a local chief and cattle trader. Abbas had eleven siblings. His father was the state-appointed leader of Chahna from 1889 to 1928.

As a boy Abbas attended primary schools at Jijel and then entered secondary school at the lycée at Skikda in 1909. After Abbas passed his baccalaureate examinations, he entered the French army medical service for three years. Afterward, Abbas enrolled in the pharmacy school of the University of Algiers. In 1931 he set up his own pharmacy in Sétif after having graduated from university Abbas strongly supported the ideal of equal rights for Arab and Berber Muslims and European Christians in Algeria under French ...

Article

Baye Yimam

Ethiopian intellectual, novelist, playwright, and poet, was born on 1 July 1933 in Gojjam Province, Ethiopia. He was one of the prominent literary figures in modern Ethiopian literature, the author of some twenty-three books between 1956 and 1977; two are in English and the rest in Amharic, his native language. The works comprise eight novels, five plays, three poetry collections, and another five on various subjects, including translation of biographies and works on land tenure.

His mother Yirgedu Belay died young leaving him to be raised by his father Gubegna Ambaye It was her expressed wish that Abbe should go to school which Ambaye fulfilled by sending him to a church school as was usual He attended different schools in Gojjam and Begemeder for twelve years and attained a high level of excellence in the traditional curriculum which included Geez poetry hymnody and liturgical dance all rooted in the ...

Article

secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia El Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario Front) and president of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, was born on 17 August 1947 near Smara (he is also reported to have been born in Marrakech around 1948). His name is also spelled Mohamed Abdelaziz. He is a member of the Foqra faction within the tribal confederation of Rguibat.

In 1958 the French and Spanish colonial forces launched a military campaign against the southern liberation movement. His family was forced to resettle in Tan-Tan. In the early 1960s he did his primary and secondary schooling in Smara and Bou Izakarn. By the late 1960s he had moved to Casablanca and then Rabat, where he continued his university undergraduate education at Mohamed V University. In 1970 he became a member of the Rabat based Embryonic Movement for the Liberation of ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

political leader and legendary founder of the Chadian kingdom of Wadai, was born in the late sixteenth century. Since the early nineteenth century, a number of competing narratives have emerged about his origins. Several Wadai notables told the North African traveler Muhammad al-Tunsi during his stay in the kingdom in 1810 and 1811 that Saleh ʿAbd al-Karim came to their land from Mecca via Egypt. Thus he was an Arab whose family may have fled the Ottoman occupation of the Hejaz in 1517. In the mid-nineteenth century the German travelers Heinrich Barth and Gustav Nachtigal both recorded stories about ʿAbd al-Karim’s origins, which stated that the founder of Wadai was a member of a Sudanese Arab clan or a member of a Guimir community located on the modern Chadian-Sudanese frontier. However, a number of elderly Wadai men interviewed by historians in the 1960s and 1970s claimed that he ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

builder of the Almohad Empire and great Moroccan military leader and able administrator, led the Almohad movement for tawhid, absolute monotheistic unity, after the death of the Mahdi Ibn Tumart, the Almohad founder, in c. 1130. His full name was ʿAbd al-Muʾmin ibn ʿAli ibn ʿAlwi bin Yaʿla al-Kumi Abu Muhammad.

After defeating the Almoravid Empire at Marrakech, he established the administrative and military foundations of the Almohad state while securing a caliphal succession for his descendants, the Muʾminid dynasty. In a matter of decades ʿAbd al-Muʾmin and his followers transformed the Almohads from a vigorous but vulnerable ideological movement in the small Atlas Mountain town of Tinmal to one of the largest and most successful Islamic empires in North African and Andalusian history.

Effectively an outsider ʿAbd al Muʾmin s ancestry was different from the noble Masmuda ethnic groups that made up the core of the Almohad ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Considered a hero of anticolonial resistance by many contemporary Algerians, Abd al-Qadir created an Arab-Berber alliance to oppose French expansion in North Africa in the 1830s and 1840s. He also organized an Islamic state that, at one point, controlled the western two-thirds of the inhabited land in Algeria. Abd al-Qadir owed his ability to unite Arabs and Berbers, who had been enemies for centuries, in part to the legacy of his father, head of the Hashim tribe in Mousakar (Mascara) and leader of a Sufi Muslim brotherhood. In 1826Abd al-Qadir and his father made a pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of the prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam. When he returned in 1828, Abd al-Qadir s own reputation as an Islamic religious and cultural leader grew and both Arabs and Berbers looked to him to lead the resistance against the French who ...

Article

George Michael La Rue

sultan of the Sudanese kingdom of Darfur from 1785 to 1801, was born to Sultan Ahmad Bukr and an unknown woman. The youngest of four sons of Ahmad Bukr who ruled Darfur, many thought him a weak choice. He became a very successful monarch, after overcoming internal opposition. During his reign Darfur’s system of sultanic estates (hakuras) flourished, and the sultanate became Egypt’s main supplier of trans-Saharan goods, including ivory, ostrich feathers, and slaves.

After a series of wars and intrigues involving internal factions, the rival Musabbaʾat dynasty in Kordofan, and Wadai, sultan Muhammad Tayrab ibn Ahmad Bukr made peace with Wadai to the west and successfully invaded Kordofan. This war took the Fur armies far from home (reputedly to the Nile), and the sultan was forced to turn back in 1786 By the time the army reached Bara the sultan was dying and the succession ...

Article

David L. Weeks

military leader, enslaved and later repatriated to Africa, was born in Timbuktu, the son of Ibrahima Sori (d. c.1788), a West African Fulbe king (also called Fulah, Fulani, Peuls), and one of his four wives. ʿAbd al-Rahman's grandfather, a Moor (a North African Muslim), had been king of Timbuktu.

As the son of an almami (Muslim theocratic ruler), ʿAbd al-Rahman was surrounded by wealth and power. He was raised in Futa Jallon, the lush highlands of modern Guinea, in the city of Timbo. After learning to read, write, and recite the Qur’an, Ibrahima went to Jenne and Timbuktu to study with Islamic clerics. At age seventeen, he joined his father's army. His military prowess soon resulted in significant leadership positions. In 1786 Ibrahima married and had a son (al-Husayn).

Fulbe tribesmen traded with Europeans along the African coast 150 miles 240 kilometers away Taking wares ...

Article

Ellis Goldberg

Egyptian jurist, government official, and author of one of the most important and controversial books of the twentieth century on Islam and politics, Islam and the Foundations of Governance. This short book, published in 1925, caused a storm of protest, and ʿAbd al-Raziq was arraigned before a jury of Egyptian religious leaders (including the grandfather of the late-twentieth-century al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri) and officially stripped of his status as a religious scholar (ʿalim).

Abd al-Raziq was born in the Upper Egyptian province of Minya to a well-known and relatively well-off family. He studied at Al-Azhar University. Although he was too young to have known the prominent Egyptian ʿalim Muhammad Abduh (d. 1905), his work appears to have been influenced by Abduh’s break with prevailing orthodoxy. Abduh was the highest jurisconsult (mufti) in Egypt at the time of his death. In 1915 ʿAbd al Raziq became a ...

Article

Anne Elise Thomas

Egyptian composer, musician, and film star, was born in the early 1900s, either in Cairo or in the village of Abu Kibir, Sharqiya Province. There is confusion regarding both the date and the place of his birth. Two official identification cards in his possession listed his birth in 1910 but in the two different locations named above. ʿAbd al-Wahhab’s contemporaries have suggested that he was born sometime between 1896 and 1907 their suggestions are supported by reported incidents of his early musical life and encounters with important historical figures of the 1910s His early years were spent in the Bab al Shaʿrani quarter of Cairo where his father Muhammad Abu ʿIsa ʿAbd al Wahhab was shaykh religious scholar and caretaker of the neighborhood mosque ʿAbd al Wahhab was one of five children born to his father and Fatima Higazi his mother Early on ʿAbd al Wahhab was enrolled by ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

The Almoravids movement of Abd Allah ibn Yasin conquered parts of northwestern Africa and later Spain during the eleventh and twelfth centuries and converted the defeated populations to Malekite (Maliki) Sunni Islam. Little is known of Abd Allah ibn Yasin's life prior to 1035, when as a student he was visited by a Sanhadja Berber chieftain and invited to return home with him to teach his people the true faith of Islam A devout Muslim Abd Allah ibn Yasin was scandalized by the lax and immoral practices of the Sanhadja Berbers He encouraged them to convert to Malekite Sunni Islam imposing a strict interpretation of Qur anic law Eventually he even restructured the Berber s military to conduct jihads holy wars in accordance with the Qur an By 1041 however the Berber chieftains resented the religious scholar s rule and sent him away Abd Allah ibn Yasin and ...

Article

Zahia Smail Salhi

Algerian nationalist, was born in Constantine in East Algeria on 5 December 1889 to a scholarly and religious household. His family claimed to have descended from the founder of Algiers, Bologhine Ben Ziri, and held the position of notables who valued learning both Eastern and Western.

Ben Badis’s brother studied law in French establishments, while he pursued a career in religious studies at the Mosque-University of Zeituna in Tunisia. Prior to that, he studied in Constantine under the patronage of his tutor Hamdane Lounissi, a follower of the Zawiya al-Tijania religious order.

While in Tunisia he came under the influence of the Islamic Salafi movement, which called for the purification of Islam from the effects of charlatanism and obscurantist practices through teaching Muslim communities about the salaf early Muslim leaders and their pure Islamic ways This often involved attacks on the shaykhs of religious orders as well as official imams ...

Article

A. K. Bennison

Moroccan ruler, was one of the sons of Muhammad al-Shaykh of the Saʿdi or Saadian dynasty, which ruled a region roughly coterminous with modern Morocco from 1525 until c. 1610. He was born Abu Marwan Abd al-Malik to a woman called Sahaba al-Rahmaniyya who accompanied her son on his later travels through the Mediterranean. The Saʿdi dynasty came to power at an important historical juncture. During the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, Portugal had constructed numerous trading enclaves (feitorias along Morocco s Atlantic seaboard and imposed its control on much of the Gharb plain In the last decades of the fifteenth century Spain had finally conquered Muslim Granada and established a series of footholds on the Mediterranean coast of Africa At the same time both countries had established vast overseas empires At the other end of the Mediterranean the Ottomans acted as a Muslim counterbalance conquering the ...