22.04.

1900: Powerful African Slave Trader and Ruler of the Bornu Empire

1900: Powerful African Slave Trader and Ruler of the Bornu Empire
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons/ "Bornu map 1750" by ArnoldPlaton - Own work, svg version of Bornu locator 1750.png. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 22 April 1900
  • Rabih az-Zubayr ruled the area between the River Nile and Lake Chad, and he annually exported thousands of slaves. In his capital, he built a palace using, according to legend, human blood mixed with sand. On this day Rabih was killed, and his head was put on a stake.

On this day in 1900, a dramatic battle took place in the heart of the African continent, bordering the present state of Chad and Cameroon. 

It happened about a hundred kilometers from the famous Lake Chad, near the town of Kousséri. In that battle, the French army defeated and killed the local strongman Rabih az-Zubayr, who was the master of the Bornu Empire and an influential slave trader.

Rabih az-Zubayr had an unusual career. He was originally a Nubian from the area of present-day Sudan. He was engaged in warfare and slave trading, and managed to dominate a considerable territory in Central Africa, where he ruled as a head of state.

Rabih's head, a battlefield trophy after the fighting on 22 April 1900. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Rabih’s head, a battlefield trophy after the fighting on 22 April 1900. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

 

He ruled the area between the River Nile and Lake Chad, and he annually exported thousands of slaves. He was also the ruler of the former Bornu Empire (on the area of today’s Chad, Nigeria, Mali, and Cameroon), which he managed to conquer using his army – also composed of slaves.

For his capital, Rabih chose the city Dikwa, now in Nigeria. In Dikwa he built a palace using,according to legend, human blood mixed with sand. The cruel Rabih was defeated on this day by the French colonists in the Battle of Kousséri. Rabih was also killed, and his head was put on a stake.

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