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Godfrey Muriuki

warrior and leader, was born in Kenya, though the date is not known. However, by 1900 he was already a prominent individual in the Gichugu area of Kirinyaga District. His prominence was attributed to several factors. He was reputed to have been an intelligent and brave warrior who led Gichugu warriors in raids against their Kikuyu, Embu, and Mbeere neighbors. Through these raids, he was able to accumulate a great deal of livestock, which was regarded as the ultimate symbol of status and wealth.

By the middle of the nineteenth century Swahili and Arab traders had begun to penetrate into the area in search of ivory and the occasional slave Invariably they would befriend prominent individuals from the relevant trading area In Gichugu and its environs Gutu became their local middleman He owed this favor to the Kamba who were renowned ivory traders in this period The ensuing trade between ...

Article

Kahina  

Allen J. Fromherz

semi legendary queen of the Aures Mountain Berbers who resisted the Arab Muslim conquest of North Africa Her name the Kahina meaning the sorceress in Arabic was ascribed to her by Arab chronicles Indeed the main sources describing the Arab conquest of the Berbers are all in Arabic and are written from the perspective of the conqueror Legends ascribed to Kahina therefore must be seen as part of a conquest narrative even as they often portray her as a noble adversary of the spread of Islam Nevertheless it is almost certain that Kahina represented a historic person a woman or perhaps even a group of different queens or chieftesses who resisted the Arab conquest in the late seventh century Her memory is preserved and celebrated even by the most strident Berber converts to Islam In recent years she has become a powerful symbol of Berber nationalism both within and beyond ...

Article

Hassoum Ceesay

fierce Gambian patriot whose resistance to British colonialism is celebrated in legend and song first appears in the historical record in the 1830s when he was king of the precolonial Gambian kingdom of Niani Niani situated in the middle reaches of the River Gambia was where Kamara inflicted the first major defeat against the British colonial forces on Gambian soil at a battle near his capital at Dungaseen He then became the undisputed anticolonial ruler in Gambia The defeat angered and embarrassed the British so much that their governor in Bathurst George Rendall was recalled and later dismissed Kemintang went to war to protect his trade and political rights against British aspirations A minor dispute involving the seizure of river cutters small sailboats that carry groundnuts proved to be the spark that lit a powder keg of rivalries among local rulers like Kemintang and British merchants and their agents over ...

Article

Willie Henderson

also known as Khama the Great and Khama the Good, kgosi (king), warrior, lawmaker, diplomat, and consolidator of BaNgwato power in northeastern Botswana, was born Khama Boikanyo Sekgoma in Mashu around 1835. His father was Sekgoma I, who had been nominated as chief by his father Kgari; Khama was born during Sekoma’s second tenure as chief. Khama’s early conversion to Christianity in 1859 marked his life in significant ways. He set himself against paganism, polygamy, and other traditional practices, including circumcision, and vehemently opposed consumption of alcohol. In the 1860s Khama became the leader of pro-missionary groups within the BaNgwato. In 1862 he married a young convert to Christianity, Elizabeta Gobitsamang, the daughter of a warrior, Tshukudu, who had conspired to overthrow Sekgoma I. In accordance with Tswana custom, she became known as Mma-Besi, named for her firstborn child.

The invasion of Ndebele 1863 sent by Mizilikazi Khumalo under ...

Article

Selma Pantoja

was a queen and warrior of Ngola, a territory now within the borders of the present-day People’s Republic of Angola. She was also known as Ana de Sousa. There are many stories told about this queen, yet many fundamental aspects of her life are unknown. Her place of birth, the kingdom of Ndongo, was mainly occupied by the Mbundu people, who spoke Kimbundu, and bordered on various cultural and linguistic frontiers in West Central Africa. Nzinga grew up during the first attacks by the Portuguese conquerors. She was twenty years old when the Portuguese built a fort in the Ngola territory. In 1618, Nzinga aided in the construction of another fort in the heart of Ndongo, which continued for some time as an independent political entity.

After the death of her father her brother Ngola Mbandi became king The new Mbundu ruler faced devastating wars that slowed the Portuguese ...

Article

Orombo  

J. C. Winter

Mangi (king) of Keny in the southern Rombo region of Kilimanjaro (in present-day Tanzania) from c. 1800 to 1837, also known as Horombo and Rombo, was famous for having initiated a socio-military revolution and religious reformation in Chagga that brought it in line with the western world at the time, thereby ending Mamba’s rule over eastern Chagga. He unified by conquest all of eastern Chagga under his rule, then met with Mangi Rengua of Machame at the Nanga River between Mochi (Old Moshi) and Kiruwa in 1823, and they agreed that each should rule unmolested over his own half of Chagga.

When Orombo became the Mangi of Keny his realm was tiny and insignificant as for the past one hundred years Mamba succeeding Ugweno had dominated eastern Chagga Each mangidom consisted of localized patrilineal clans having noble warrior and cattle keeping lineages whose male and female youths passed ...

Article

Rafai  

Richard A. Bradshaw and Juan Fandos-Rius

Bandia paramount chief of a Zande kingdom that straddled the Chinko River in what is now southeastern Central African Republic (CAR). Rafai was born c. 1855, the eighth son of Bayangi, who, according to oral tradition, was the son of Sangou, the son of Tossi, the son of Kassanga, the son of Ngubenge, the son of Kube. The Bandia, an Ngbandi clan from the southern bank of the Ubangi River region west of the Azande, spread northeast across Azande territory in the late eighteenth century. By c. 1800, the Bandia had become the rulers of a number of states on the forest margins north of the Mbomu River. The Bandia ancestors of Rafai came to rule an Azande population on both sides of the Chinko River.

Rafai was one of the youngest sons of Bayangi and so at birth he appeared to have little chance of ever leading ...

Article

Saladin  

Kurt J. Werthmuller

ruler and founder of the Ayyubid dynasty in Egypt and Syria and famed Muslim conqueror who decimated the Crusader Army of Jerusalem and recaptured the city of Jerusalem in 1187, was born in Tikrit, Iraq. Also known as Salah al-Din, his personal name was Yusuf al-Malik al-Nasir Ibn Ayyub. He was the younger son of the Kurdish governor Ayyub Ibn Shadi, in the service of Imad al-Din Zangi, the first Muslim commanders to begin the long process of turning back some of the victories of the First Crusade; Ayyub presided over the regions of Tikrit and Baalbek and eventually the prestigious city of Damascus in 1146, where Saladin spent much of his childhood and for which he retained a lifelong affection.

We know relatively little of Saladin s youth largely because his various biographers and contemporary chroniclers were only interested in his renowned exploits as a general and ...

Article

Gabrielle Lynch

Kenyan spiritual and military leader (orkoiyot), was born around 1860 in Nandi. Koitalel was the youngest son of Kimnyole arap Turukat, an orkoiyot who could trace his lineage to the first unifying leader of the Nandi. Little is known of Koitalel’s maternal lineage or childhood, except that his father had over forty wives and that his family was relatively wealthy. As an adult, Koitalel also had around forty wives and lived at Kamng’etuny near Nandi Hills, where he led a prolonged resistance against British colonialism.

The position of orkoiik (pl.) refers to men with powers of divination, omen interpretation, prophecy, and medicine. These powers are inherited along clan lines, but are dependent on reputation. Prior to the mid-nineteenth century the orkoiik’s influence was limited to relatively small areas. However, in the mid-nineteenth century, a family of laibons (Maasai spiritual leaders) were welcomed and absorbed as orkoiik ...

Article

Tim Stapleton

Born in what is now southern Namibia around 1825, Hendrik Witbooi was a member of the chiefly family of the Nama people. The Nama had originated from the Khoikhoi and other African groups, but also from some Malaya slaves and European fugitives who generations earlier had fled north away from colonial rule in the Cape. They developed as a decentralized trans-frontier society of horse-mounted raiders who had adopted aspects of Western culture and Christianity. Educated as a Christian by German Lutheran missionaries, Witbooi became literate and thus was one of the few nineteenth-century hereditary African leaders to leave behind a significant collection of personal documents. An eager writer of letters, his correspondence from the 1880s and 1890s reveals a leader determined to dominate his African neighbors and preserve his independence from German colonialism In his letters Witbooi insisted on his equality with the German Kaiser and emphasized ...

Article

Wolbert Smidt

ruler of the independent northern Ethiopian princedoms of Tigray and Semén and a claimant to the Ethiopian throne during the “Era of the Princes,” held the title dejjazmach (roughly corresponding to “general” or “duke”). An alternative scientific transliteration of his name in the Gi’iz script is Wibe Haylä Maryam; his name is also given in European sources as “Ubie.”

Wubé s family originated from the Semén Mountains His father Hayle Maryam son of Gebre was the governor of Semén and belonged to the Orthodox Christian Amhara his family was intermarried with Agew Wubé was among the most powerful and important figures of the late Era of the Princes the period during which the Ethiopian kingdom had disintegrated into several independent princedoms The aim of most competing great lords of that period was the submission of all the other princes and the reestablishment of a strong empire Some tried to rule ...

Article

Jean Ouédraogo

princess, ruler, and military leader, was born in Gambaga of the Dagomba country of northern Ghana. Her father was Naba Nedga and her grandfather Naba Gbewa of Pousga. An intrepid warrior, she married a hunter named Rialle late in life after fleeing the Dagomba. From their union was born a son named Ouedraogo, who is credited by historians with founding the sprawling medieval empire of the Mossi. Grief-stricken upon learning of the news of Ouedraogo’s death on the battlefield near Ouagadougou, Yennenga and Rialle both died within weeks and were buried in Zambanlga, Rialle’s native village.

It may never be possible to definitively elicit the facts dates and events surrounding the life of Yennenga Nonetheless the relevance and continued importance of their matriarch to the Mossi and to West Africa more generally cannot be overstated Despite the variations in the main narrative whose twists and turns remain rooted in the ...