4 pre-colonial African armies that couldn’t be cracked for centuries

Farida Dawkins September 28, 2018

Malian Army… peashooter85.com

The Meme, Wagadou and Mali Army

The Battle of Kirina encompassed the Meme, Wagadou, Mali and other rebellious states in a war between The Mali Kingdom and the Kaniaga Kingdom circa 1235.

The military culture and organization of the Mali Empire grew in power and sophistication until reaching its peak between 1250 and 1450.

The kingdom possessed a semi-professional full-time army to guard its borders. There were also two armies divided by the Northern and Southern commands dubbed the ton-ta-jon-ta-ni-woro otherwise known as the sixteen slave carriers of quiver.

Each tribe in the empire was expected to furnish a quota of horon to fight for the Mansa or emperor.

Map on the Mali Empire during its height…WikiCommons

The ton-tigi or quivermaster were a part of an elite force of commanders called the farari or brave men; these men also had an infantry they supervised called the kèlè-koun or dùùkùnàsi. The Mandekalu horsemen fought alongside the ton-tigi and fought with lances, sabers and long swords. They used imported chain mail and iron helmets for protection. 

The Mandelaku infantry utilized stabbing spears, reed shields, poisoned arrows and tamblins or javelins in close contact.

The Farari was an elite core of the army. The two tiers were the farima or “brave man” and the farimba or great brave man.

The Mali Army was documented as having included 100,000 men; with 10,000 of them belonging to the infantry.

Mansa Sakura and Mansa Mahmud IV were the only sitting mansas to lead their army into battle.

The formation of the army has roots in the Mandinka culture. The Kingdom began as a minute Mandinka kingdom around the Niger River and extended to Niani after the fall of the Ghana Empire. Historians also say that the empire’s rapid expansion was supported by the strong blacksmith and metallurgy culture of Manden.

The Mandinka’s adeptness of iron manipulation paved the way for the Mali Empire’s expansion into modern-day Guinea, Mauritania, Senegal. By 1300, the Mali Empire already stretched from the Atlantic to the border of the Kanem Empire now known as Chad and Nigeria. The empire’s influence was so strong that the elements of its prowess were evident in the Songhay and Jolof Empires.

Mali horsemen with their horses in full armor…Vikingsword

Before losing power to the Bambara Empire in 1670, the Kingdom sustained wealth via gold, water, trade and heavy taxations on items going through Timbuktu.

The Mali empire fought the Difunu during the Diawara revolt in the 15th century, the Tuareg in 1433, The Portuguese during the 15th century, The Songhai Empire in the 15th century, the Tangela War from 1480 to 1512, the Battle for Bambuk sometime after 1510 and the Battle of Jenné in 1599.  


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