Kanem-Bornu was a central sahelian empire centered around Lake Chad, which occupied northern Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon. Kanem-Bornu is distinguish as having the longest serving dynasty in human history.
Kanem-Bornu Empire


Kanem-Bornu began with the Sefuwa heads centralizing authority, in the nineth century of the Kanembu. A Sefuwa head name Humé converted to Islam and expanded the kingdom. Kanem was the center of the empire where the mais or king resided. During the 1400s, the Kanem Empire was invaded by the Bulala, a subject ethnic. The capital was moved to Bornu. From Bornu, the empire regrouped and re-newed expansion, eventually recapturing lost territories, including Kanem.

Idris Alooma

In 1571, Mais Idris Alooma embarked on the greatest political expansion and innovation seen in the empire. He expanded the empire from the borders of Darfur to the east, to the borders of Hausaland to the west. Alooma established diplomatic ties with Tripoli and Cairo, under Ottoman rule. He exchanged presents with the sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Kanem-Bornu was the first polity south of the Sahara to use and import firearms. The army of Idris was trained by Turkish and Arab mercenaries.


Kanem-Bornu's size varied with the alliances made with various vassal states. Weaker kingdoms were force to pay tribute and to acknowledge the authority of the mais. The mais was not a dictator. He ruled with a council. The council comprised of prominent members of the Sefuwa clan, who were governors of the various territories. These administrators had special titles in use for centuries and are still in in use today, such as galadima and chroma.


Unlike other sudanic empires, Kanem-Bornu did not have access to gold mines. The empire's trade depended on export of kola nuts, ivory, slaves, animal hide, and salt. Kanem-Bornu was located in a strategic area of trade. The empire linked western sudanic trade with that of Cairo and Tripoli. Most caravan with Cairo as destination, would pass through her territory. Her markets were as important as Hausaland and other western sudanic markets. The empire imported horses, metal ware, and salt from the north. Slaves were exchanged for horses.


During the seventeenth and eighteenth century, Kanem-Bornu experienced serious threats. With the importation of firearms, wars became more deadly. Droughts famine repeatedly hit the empire. The influence of the Hausa Kingdoms grew, diminishing the authority of the mais. In 1841, the mais was pushed aside. The Sefuwa Dynasty came to an end.

Works Cited
Shillington, Kevin (2005). History of Africa. Revised 2nd ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 182-184, ISBN 0-333-59957-8
Collins, Robert O. and Burns, James M. (2007). A History of Sub-Saharan Africa. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 89-94, ISBN 978-0-521-68708-9.