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Kingdom of Bagirmi / Begharmi

The kingdom of Bagirmi emerged to the southeast of Kanem-Borno in the sixteenth century. This Islamic kingdom experienced periods of strength and weakness; when strong it aggressively expanded its territory, but when weak it was subjugated temporarily by neighboring states. Wadai was a non-Muslim sultanate (or kingdom) that emerged to the northeast of Bagirmi in the sixteenth century as an offshoot of Darfur (Darfur Province in present-day Sudan).

Under the reign of Abdullah IV (1568-98), Islam was adopted, and the state became a sultanate, using Islamic judicial and administrative procedures. Later, a palace and court were constructed in the capital city of Massenya. Bagirmi's political history was a function of its strength and unity in relation to its larger neighbors. Absorbed into Kanem-Borno during the reign of Aluma, Bagirmi broke free later in the 1600s, only to be returned to tributary status in the mid-1700s. During periods of strength, the sultanate became imperialistic. It established control over small feudal kingdoms on its peripheries and entered into alliances with nearby nomadic peoples.

Around 1800 it began to expand under its sultan, Sabun. A later ruler, Muhammad Sharif, attacked Borno and eventually established Wadai's hegemony over Bagirmi. Early in the nineteenth century, Bagirmi fell into decay and was threatened militarily by the nearby kingdom of Wadai. Although Bagirmi resisted, it accepted tributary status in order to obtain help from Wadai in putting down internal dissension. When Rabih Fadlallah's forces burned Massenya in 1893, the twenty-fifth sultan, Abd ar Rahman Gwaranga, sought and received protectorate status from the French.





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Page last modified: 16-11-2017 13:56:59 ZULU