oa Africa Insight - Songhai

Volume 17, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0256-2804



The origins of the kingdom of Songhai remain a matter for academic dispute. According to one legend ""Songhai"" was the name of a negro people living along the middle reaches of the Niger River, between Gao in the west and Bussa in the east. These people comprised two hostile factions - the Sorko, who were fishermen, and the Gabibi, who were farmers. In the seventh century AD the Gabibi enlisted the help of the Lemtuna Berbers to overthrow the dominant Sorko faction. The first Songhai dynasty was then founded, with Kukija as its capital. Songhai soon developed into one of the most prosperous trade centres in West Africa - considered by contemporaries as equal to Ghana in importance. Already in the ninth and tenth centuries al-Yaqubi and al-Masudi, two great Arab scholars, were descriptionbing Songhai as one of the most important kingdoms of the western Sudan.

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