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Location of Bornu on a German map from 1891 (top right)

Bornu was an empire in central Sudan , which lay on the territory of today's states Nigeria , Niger and Chad . At the beginning of the 19th century it had an area of ​​approximately 242,701 km² in its greatest extent together with the Kanem, which is dependent on it, and Lake Chad, which is enclosed by both . The real kingdom of Bornu , surrounded by the neighboring kingdoms of Mandara , Adamaua , Sokoto and the Tuareg region in the Sahara, had an area of ​​approximately 148,405 km². Borno has been a federal state of the Federation of Nigeria since 1979 .

Kanem-Bornu: Developments from the 13th to the end of the 18th century

Bornu in 1750
Bornu in Central Africa around 1750

Bornu, west of Lake Chad, has been part of the Kanem Empire since ancient times . The name does not appear until the middle of the 14th century among Arab authors, but Dunama Dibalemi (1203–1242) had his seat of government temporarily in Bornu. In addition, the Bayajidda legend of the Hausa, which goes back to pre-Christian times, indicates an early dominance of the Chad Empire over the Hausa states and a necessary military presence west of Lake Chad. In this respect, the statement of the Diwan , according to which the Umar b. Idris (1376-1381) left the ancestral capital of the Sefuwa in Kanem, Njimi, under the pressure of the Bulala and withdrew to Kaga in Bornu, not to be understood as an exodus to a new country. Rather, the Sefuwa gave up their ancestral province east of Lake Chad in order to finally settle in their safer and more lucrative second province west of Lake Chad. Here, however, a dynastic conflict broke out between the successors of the two brothers Idris b. Nikale (1335-1359) and Dawud b. Nikale (1359-1369), which could only be settled by Ali Gaji (1455-1478). To consolidate his rule over Bornu, Ali Gaji built the new capital Gazargamo around 1460 . Although the Sefuwa continued to focus on Kanem and they also made military campaigns there from time to time, it was only Idris Alauma (1564–1596) who finally succeeded in subjugating the country and installing an obedient Bulala king in the new provincial capital Mao. However, he himself or a later king sent a Hausa slave official associated with the royal house, the Dalatu, to replace the insecure Bulala. He became the founder of the new Dalatoa dynasty , which remained dependent on the Sefuwa until the beginning of the 19th century.

Three dynasties - the Sefuwa, the al-Kanemi and Rabih Fadlallah

Born in Germany, mid-19th century

The situation in Bornu changed dramatically as a result of the Fulani Jihad, which Usman dan Fodio proclaimed in 1804 in the western outskirts of the house state Gobir . After conquering most of the home states, the jihadists also attacked Bornu and in 1808 drove the Sefuwa out of their capital, Birni Gazargamo. Only with the help of the able-bodied Kanembu scholar Muhammad al-Amîn al-Kânemî was the Sefuwa finally able to put a stop to the attacks by the Fulani. From 1820, however, the supremacy of their former Savior became increasingly oppressive. When al-Kanemi died in 1837, his son Umar (1837–1881) was appointed as his successor, according to his wishes. In 1846, the Sefuwa made a last-ditch effort to drive the Kanemi out of power by calling on the King of Wadai for help. But the plot was exposed, and all members of the Sefuwa royal family were executed if they could not escape. Sultan Umar became known through the support he gave to the German travelers Barth , Vogel , Beurmann , Rohlfs and Nachtigal ; In 1870 King Wilhelm of Prussia therefore sent him a number of presents.

In 1893 the Arab slave hunter Rabih b , who came from Upper Egypt and was close to the Mahdists , conquered . Fadlallah Bornu, after having previously brought parts of Eastern Sudan under his control. He drove out or killed the members of the al-Kanemi dynasty and established a reign of terror. He came into conflict with the colonial interests of France. On April 22, 1900 Rabih lost his life and empire in the battle of Kousséri on Lake Chad against French colonial troops under Colonel François Joseph Amédée Lamy . The area that produced the 1,000-year-old Saif dynasty was divided among the colonial powers France, Great Britain and Germany. Under the system of indirect rule, the British recognized Bukar Garbai , a great grandson of al-Kanemi, as the Shehu of the part of Bornu they administered. French troops occupied the area south of Lake Chad and installed another descendant of al-Kanemi as ruler in Dikwa . In accordance with the agreement between France and the German Reich in 1901, the area was taken over as Deutsch-Bornu by an expedition of the German Schutztruppe under the leadership of Curt von Pavel and incorporated into the residency of the German Tschadseeländer . The French were left with the area north of the Komadugu Yobe up to Lake Chad, which was placed under direct military rule.

Bornu in the 19th century

Empire Bornu in 1810

The country as a whole was a vast plain; mountain ranges rise from 200 to 300 meters only in the west and south. The soil is for the most part sandy and not very fertile, but capable of cultivation, especially in the rivers' banks of the rivers, which used to be heavily forested and regularly irrigated by floods, where the majority of the population lived.

Among the waters, the Lake Chad, by which Bornu-Kanem is separated, the Komadugu Yobe or Waubé and the Shari , which formed the eastern border of the historical Bornu, are considered to be the most important.

Bornu's products are generally those of the Sahel region. The tree growth consists almost entirely of acacias and tamarinds , palm trees are only found directly on the river banks. Millet , sorghum , maize , cotton and indigo are among the most excellent cultivated plants .

In the past, herds of elephants , lions , giraffes , buffalo and antelopes were common in Bornu . The forests were populated with monkeys of various kinds, civets, and colorful birds; but snakes , scorpions and wild animals of the steppe were also numerous. During the dry season, schools of gazelles and ostriches ran through the country . The tame domestic animals were even more numerous: cattle, sheep and goats.

The strictly Muslim population, whose number Heinrich Barth and Gustav Nachtigal both estimate at five million, consisted of a mixture of different peoples: Kanuri (1.5 million), Kanembu , Kojam and Tibbu (150,000), Makari , Keribina and Musgo (750,000 ), Manga and Bedde (750,000), Haussa and Fulbe (500,000), Mandara , Malgwa (Gamergu), Marghi (250,000), Arabs , Tuareg and others (250,000), Ngizzem , Kerrikerri , Babir (250,000).

The main exports of the country were slaves; were introduced salt , calico , cloaks and sugar . Common currency in the country was the kauris , of which about 4000 were worth to a Mariatheresienthaler ; for larger sums, one used the romp (blue shirts). Market traffic has since been facilitated by complete freedom of trade and industry.

The capital and residence of the Sultan was Kuka (Kukawa), with 60,000 inhabitants; the other most populated cities were Ngornu on Lake Chad and Dikwa south of the lake, each with 30,000 inhabitants. Mention may continue Maschena , Nguru , Dora, Gudjeba , Makari and Logone .

Bornu today

A federal state in Nigeria, Borno , has borne the name of the historical empire since 1976 . Here the Bornu Shehu in Maiduguri continues to exercise his traditional rule. The formerly German part of Bornus with the capital Dikwa was ceded to Nigeria after the independence of Nigeria and Cameroon following a referendum. The former French territory is now part of the Republic of Niger.


Web links

Commons : Bornu  - collection of images, videos and audio files