Flora Louise Shaw Lugard.

A tropical dependency : an outline of the ancient history of the western Sudan with an account of the modern settlement of northern Nigeria online

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Mahmoud he was treacherously murdered. Of the
eighty-three notables who accompanied him the majority
were massacred, but a few of the ablest escaped to group
themselves round the new Askia, a younger brother of
Kaofho, who succeeded under the name of Askia Nouh.
One of the eighty-three, Suleiman, a cousin of Nouh,
was selected by Mahmoud and proclaimed as a rival
Askia at the camp near Kuka in Borgu.

From this time until the authority of the Askias
altogether disappeared there were always two Askias —
one at Timbuctoo, appointed and maintained by the
Moors, and used as a puppet when convenient to give
a semblance of legitimacy to their acts ; the other, repre-
senting the wishes of the Songhay people and claiming
legitimate descent, maintained himself in some degree
of independence in the Viceroyalty of Dandi, which,
though it included Kebbi and the practically indepen-
dent Haussa States, still constituted nominally a portion
of the Songhay Empire that never submitted to the

Askia Nouh formed a seat of government in 1592
near the southern border of the province of Kebbi.
During some of his earlier battles Kanta's people, it is
said, could hear the sound of the firing. Nouh was of
a different temperament from the later Askias, and all
the efforts of Mahmoud Zergoun were insufficient to
overthrow the resistance which he organised to the
advance of the Moors. War continued for two years,
during which time the Songhay forces, notwithstanding
their inferior arms, obtained many successes. " Numerous
and terrible," says the Tarikh, "were the combats which
took place in this region." On one occasion, at the
battle of Birni, Mahmoud lost eighty of his best fusiliers.
Famine and climate worked on the side of Askia Nouh.
The Moorish army suffered severely. Mahmoud wrote
to the Sultan that the whole of his cavalry was destroyed.
Six army corps were sent successively in reinforcement.


but at the end of two years Mahmoud, still unsuccessful,
was forced to withdraw, and to turn his attention to Tim-
buctoo and the Western Provinces. He left Djouder
Pasha at Kagho in the capacity of lieutenant-governor,
with the river, along which a chain of fortresses had been
constructed, to serve as an eastern boundary. We can
imagine the deposed commander-in-chief smiling grimly
at the failure of his rival to achieve that which he
himself had judged it best not to attempt.


The events which recalled Mahmoud Zergoun to the
west were of a serious character. The whole country
was in disorder. Shortly after the army had marched
eastward, in September of 1591, riots had broken out at
Timbuctoo, and had continued until the last days of
December. The Moors, having some difficulty in hold-
ing their own, had called in the help of the Tuaregs
of the desert, already employed in ravaging the fertile
territory of the Ras-el-Ma, and, with the help of these
allies, had put the town to fire and sword. Nevertheless,
on the withdrawal of the Tuaregs, the Moors were again
driven to take refuge in the fortress which had been
built for them by Djouder Pasha. They succeeded in
conveying intelligence to Mahmoud of their position, and
he detached from his army a force of 324 soldiers under
one of his best young generals, who, marching to the
relief of the imprisoned garrison, struck terror into
Timbuctoo. The town submitted, and took an oath of
fidelity to the Sultan of Morocco. After this, peace was
for a short time established in Timbuctoo. The roads
were opened, and the military forces of the Moors were
directed against the Zaghrani and other rebels who
were pillaging the surrounding country. Jenn6 also
made its submission, and took the oath of allegiance to
the Sultan of Morocco. But the riots were hardly at
an end in Timbuctoo before similar disturbances broke
out in Jenn6. The Moorish Cadi of the town was taken
prisoner, and sent in chains to a distant stronghold in

the pagan country to the south. The rioters, whose



forces were largely composed of pagans, ruled Jenn6 for
a time, and committed many atrocities. They wished
to elect an Askia for themselves, but were dissuaded
from that design by the representations of the principal
Songhay officials that nobody as yet knew what would
be the issue of the fighting between Mahmoud and
Askia Nouh. Finally, order was restored in Jenn6 by
the same young general whom Mahmoud had despatched
to Timbuctoo, and the heads of the principal rioters,
sent as proofs of the success of his operations to the
political governor of Timbuctoo, decorated the market-
place of that town. Throughout these operations, the
native forces do not appear to have been uniformly
opposed to the Moors. On the contrary, the officials,
at least, appear to have in many instances endeavoured
to support their authority. There was no well-organised
movement of revolt, but the general condition of the
country was fast resolving itself into chaos.

No sooner was Jenn6 reduced to order, than the
Tuaregs, once the allies of the Moors, possessed them-
selves of a Moorish fortress established in the Ras-el-
Ma, and threatened to attack Timbuctoo. The numbers
of the Moorish garrison were much reduced, but hearing
that an army corps sent from Morocco for the reinforce-
ment of Mahmoud Zergoun was on the way, messengers
were sent into the desert to hurry its arrival, and with
its timely assistance the Tuaregs were overthrown. The
reinforcements were then passed on to Mahmoud Zergoun
in the east, and reported to him fully the state of affairs.

Mahmoud Zergoun returned to Timbuctoo in the
autumn of 1593. He first occupied himself with an
expedition against the Tuaregs, who were again ravaging
the Ras - el - Ma, and then turned his attention to the
internal affairs of Timbuctoo. He had probably good
reason to doubt the sincerity of the official attitude of
submission, and so long as riots continued in this and
the neighbouring towns he suspected some understand-
ing between the leading citizens and the rioters.


The first requirement which he made, therefore, was
that all arms which were in the town should be given
up. To ensure a complete surrender, an announcement
was made that on a certain day the houses in the town
would be searched, with the exception of the houses of
the jurisconsults and certain privileged persons. The
natural result of such an announcement was that the
populace, fearing lest much besides arms would be
taken by the soldiery in their search, deposited every-
thing that they had of value with the owners of the
exempted houses.

But the measures of Mahmoud ben Zergoun were
thorough. The jurisconsults — a term which seems in
the narratives of the Soudan to cover all the educated
portion of the population — were precisely the class at
whom he proposed to strike. When the search for arms
in the houses of the populace had been effected, he
caused a further announcement to be made that an oath
of allegiance to the Sultan of Morocco would be publicly
administered in the Sankore Mosque. The taking of
the oath was to be accompanied with all due ceremonial,
and three days were allotted for its completion, October
the 1 8th, the 19th, and 20th of 1593.

The two first days of the ceremony are interesting,
as showing incidentally to what distance the authority
of Songhay at that time extended in the north and
west. The first day was entirely occupied by the swear-
ing of the people from Touat, Fezzan, Augila, and the
northern regions of the desert ; on the second day
the oath was taken by people from Walata, Wadan, and
the western regions ; on the third day none were left
to take the oath but the jurisconsults and distinguished
residents of Timbuctoo, who were to swear in presence
of the assembled people. On that day, when the mosque
was full, the doors were suddenly closed. Every one
was told to leave the mosque, with the exception of
jurisconsults, their friends, and their followers. When
none but these remained in the building, Mahmoud


Zergoun ordered the whole of them to be arrested.
He then divided them into two groups, and sent them
by different roads to the fortress in which they were
to be confined.

Whether by accident or by design, one group was
massacred. Amongst the victims were representatives of
some of the greatest famihes of the town. The houses
of the jurisconsults were then pillaged. Their wives
and daughters were subjected to every indignity, and
the whole of their wealth, including that deposited with
them by the less influential persons of the town, was
appropriated by Mahmoud Zergoun to himself. The
families of the jurisconsults, after suffering these injuries,
were imprisoned, and were kept in confinement for about
six months. During this interval the Fulani ruler of
the semi-independent province of Masina made the most
urgent representations in their favour. Mahmoud, how-
ever, rejected his advice, and resolved to deport them
to Morocco. This resolution involved the deportation of
the whole body of the best society of Timbuctoo. All
that was cultivated, all that was enlightened, all that was
rich, refined, and influential, was driven out, and the
greater number, men, women, and children, were taken
in chains across the desert.

The caravan which conveyed them left Timbuctoo
on 1 8th March 1594. The scenes which were witnessed
were, we are told, very terrible. Fathers, children,
grandchildren, men and women, were made to march
together, "pressed close as arrows in a quiver." They
were exposed to all the brutality of the Moorish sol-
diery, and they had a journey of upwards of two months
through the desert. Amongst the exiles were the most
distinguished men of letters of the Soudan, and the
most delicately nurtured women and children of the
town. Ahmed Baba, the biographer and historian, who
has already been mentioned more than once, and to
whom we are indebted for many of the most interesting
pages of the Tarikk, was among them. Fortunately


for him, his fame was so widespread as to command
respect in all centres of learning. When he arrived in
Morocco he was treated with the respect due to his
great reputation, and, though he was not permitted to
return to Timbuctoo for many years, he was given prac-
tical freedom in Morocco, and allowed to form a school,
where he continued the life of study and of teaching
which he had led in the Soudan. Many others were
less fortunate, and the note is to be found in more than
one biography of his distinguished contemporaries : "He
died a martyr in Morocco."

It is interesting, in the midst of all that the exiles
had lost, to find them chiefly concerned for the de-
struction of their libraries. " I," said Ahmed Baba after-
wards to the Sultan of Morocco, " had the smallest
library of any of my friends, and your soldiers took
from me 1600 volumes." Others, those who in the
happier days had so generously lent their books to all
who needed them, lost every volume that they possessed.
Unfortunately, while other forms of wealth were greedily
appropriated, the contents of the libraries were destroyed.

The sack of Timbuctoo was the signal for the letting
loose of all the evils of lawless tyranny upon the country.
From this time the history of the Soudan becomes a
mere record of riot, robbery, and decadence. The
appropriation to himself of the immense wealth of Tim-
buctoo did not redound to the ultimate advantage of
Mahmoud ben Zergoun. The caravan deporting all the
distinguished exiles of Timbuctoo arrived in Morocco
on the ist of June 1594. With it arrived information
which led the Sultan to understand the extent of the
wealth which had been confiscated, in comparison to
which the 100,000 gold pieces sent to him as the royal
share was as nothing. Informers further carried to
him reports of the independent arrogance of Mahmoud
ben Zergoun, from which it was not difficult to draw
the deduction that he aimed at nothing less than the
independent sovereignty of the Soudan. "When any


one speaks to him of the Sultan," said one report, "he
draws his sword half out of the scabbard, and says,
'Here is the Sultan!'" The indignation of Muley
Hamed knew no bounds, and he despatched a new
Pasha, Mansour Abdurrahman, to the Soudan with
orders to arrest Mahmoud ben Zergoun and put him
to an ignominious death.

With this sentence, of which he was of course quickly
informed, hanging over his head, Mahmoud determined
to make what he could of his position. By the cruel
licence of his rule, the western part of the Soudan had
become too hot to hold him. The Fulani ruler of the
province of Masina, who had interceded urgently, but
vainly, in favour of the noble families of Timbuctoo,
had revolted against the Moors. The once prosperous
territory of Jenne was also in perpetual disorder. After
a short campaign against Masina, of which, though it
was accompanied by widespread massacre of the peace-
ful population and destruction of the crops, the result
was practically nil, Mahmoud resolved to rally all his
forces for a campaign against the still independent
Askia of Songhay in the east, and to put the greatest
possible distance between himself and the avenging
emissary of the Sultan.

Askia Nouh, having in the meantime strengthened
his own position in the province of Dandi, and entered
into close alliance with Kebbi on his northern frontier,
had succeeded in forcing the chain of Moorish fortresses
at a place called Kolen on the Niger, and advanced
into the Bend of the Niger, where he awaited the
coming of Mahmoud. Mahmoud called upon Djouder
to join him with all available forces from Kagho.
But Djouder finding a suitable excuse, Mahmoud, who
seems in the first instance to have been successful and
to have possessed himself again of the territory of
Gurma and Borgu, pressed on in an easterly direction,
taking with him the dummy Askia Suleiman as far as
the rocks of Almena. Unless there exist some other


rocks of Almena not mentioned, so far as I have been
able to ascertain, by any other writer, these must have
been the rocks already alluded to once or twice, in the
province of Zaria, where in very ancient days a colossal
statue is said to have been carved. The spot is in-
teresting, because it marks the farthest extension of the
conquest of the Moors in Haussaland.

Mahmoud camped at the foot of the rocks, which
were strongly held by pagan troops. He determined,
much against the advice of Askia Suleiman, to whom
the country was well known, to endeavour to storm
the position by a night attack. Suleiman represented
that nothing short of certain death could result. Mah-
moud listened to no advice. Death lay behind him
as well as in front. He selected a storming party of
his best men, and in the early hours of the morning
made the attempt. The result was as Askia Suleiman
had predicted — Mahmoud himself was among the first
to fall, pierced by many arrows. In the attempt to
rescue his body his men were put to flight. The
pagans cut off his head and sent it to Askia Nouh,
who in his turn sent it to Kanta, the King of Kebbi,
and it was exposed on the end of a stake in the
market-place of Lika for a very long time. Suleiman
the Askia rallied the Moorish troops and effected a
hurried retreat, ultimately succeeding in joining Djouder,
under whose orders the troops remained until the
arrival of Mansour from Morocco.

In 1595 the combined Moorish troops, under the
command of Djouder Pasha, made one final and suc-
cessful 'attempt to deal with what remained of the
Songhay Empire, and in a great battle which took
place between them and Askia Nouh in the Bend of
the Niger in June of that year, the Songhay army
was hopelessly defeated and put to flight, leaving the
population at the mercy of the Moors. The people
were carried into captivity, and placed by the Moors
under the jurisdiction of Askia Suleiman.


Djouder now became the ruling power o( the Soudan.
The new Pasha Mansour died, poisoned, it is said, by
Djouder's orders, when he was on the eve of a further
expedition against Dandi. His successor, Mohammed
Taba, also about to march into the eastern province,
died, poisoned, again it is said by orders of Djouder.
The next general, Mostafa. died, strangled by orders
of Djouder. There would be no interest in following
further the details o( the history of the Moorish con-
quest of the Soudan. It is enough to say that nominal
Askias continued to succeed each other on the south-
eastern district, which for a long time kept the name
oi' Dandi, while attempts to invade Hauss<iland by a
more northern route were vigorously and successfully
opposed by the independent Sultans of Kebbi. The
domination o( the Moors may therefore be said to have
never spread more than nominally beyond the south-
eastern Bend of the River Niger.

In the west the history of the Moorish dominions
presents a record of ceaseless fighting, accomp.\nied by
the destruction of all that was civilised and admirable
in the Soudan. Djouder, the best of the Pashas, who
knew his own mind and could keep his rude soldiery
in order, even though his methods were somewhat
trenchant, returned to Morocco in 1599. He was a
loyal soldier and servant of his sovereign. He was
also an able administrator, and had he been properly
supported he would have converted the Soudan into a
rich dependency of Morocco. As it was. he was made
the object during his stay in the Soudan of ceaseless
cabals. In 1599 his counsels were, however, needed
nearer to the throne. He was recalled with honour,
and he returned no more to Timbuctoo.

After him Pasha succeeded Pasha, each to be the
victim oi' militarv revolt and civil misrepresentation, while
misrule prevailed in the Soudan until, in 1612. the last
Pasha appointed by Morocco was deposed by the troops,
who put their general in his place. After 1012 i\\c army


in the Soudan elected its own rulers. The tribute to the
Sultan was not paid, the country conquered at so much
cost became independent of Morocco, and the native
populations of the Western Soudan, barred from all
access to civilisation, fell under the despotism of a purely-
military tyranny. From this date their descent in the
scale of nations was rapid and inevitable. By the end
of the seventeenth century they had become practically
what they now are.



Ahmed Baba records that the Sultan Muley Zidan, son
and successor to Muley Hamed, told him at a later
period that, from the time of Pasha Djouder to that of
Pasha Suleiman, his father, Muley Hamed, had sent in
different army corps 23,000 of his best soldiers into the
Soudan, and added : " All this was a pure loss. The
whole of the men perished in the Soudan, with the ex-
ception of 500 who returned to Morocco and died in
that town." As a matter of fact, the Sultan was ill-
informed. His armies, as we have seen, had not perished
in the Soudan, but had simply cut themselves off from
their allegiance, and had formed in the southern countries
an independent system of military brigandage of which
the remains exist to the present day.

But for all practical purposes the Soudan itself was
from this date lost to the world. Its military tyrants
had their own reasons for breaking off relations with
Morocco. Morocco in turn was cut off by the religious
sentiment of the Western world from all connection with
Southern Europe, and the political rivalry of the Turks
deprived her at the same time of the position which
she might otherwise have occupied upon the Barbary
coast. The Saracens, whose rule had once extended
from the borders of China to the western coast of Spain,
had become an outcast race, the seat of whose dwind-
ling monarchy was to be looked for, if anywhere, in
Morocco, and whose representatives, wandering at hazard
through the desert wastes of Africa and Arabia, hardly
knew to which of the cardinal points to set their


faces when they desired to turn themselves towards

While access to the civilised world was barred to
the western portion of the Soudan, the most easterly
states, Bornu and Haussaland, still kept their touch
through the Tripoli- Fezzan route with the old markets
of Egypt and Arabia. Whatever they had of external
civilisation still came to them by that route from the
north-east, and the influence permeated through them
to the rest of the Soudan. But the influence was the
influence of Turkey, and it is unnecessary to dwell
on the difference between the Ottoman Empire from
the sixteenth century onwards, and the civilisation of
the Egyptian and the Arab which it had overthrown.
Rome in the great days of the republic might as fitly
be compared with Italy after the conquest by the Huns.

Nevertheless, though cut off in the sixteenth century,
alike by the triumph of Mohammedanism in the east,
and by the downfall of Mohammedanism in the west
of Europe, from all true touch with northern centres of
civilisation, the Soudan could not unlearn the lesson of
centuries. It continued to keep its face turned blankly
to the north. I have endeavoured to show that through-
out its history the touch of the Soudan with the world
had been maintained ever through the desert to the
north. Everything that was interesting, its new races,
its religions, its science, its literature, its commerce, its
wars, had come to it from the north. It faced north
to civilisation. And behind it to the south there had
always been the unknown, the barbaric, the uninhabitable.
It is no doubt this last qualification which maintained
the character of the equatorial region in regard to the
other two. From about the latitude of 7° southwards
the climate of the Western Soudan became practically
uninhabitable for those finer races which, whether they
derived their origin from Egypt or elsewhere, required
a good climate in which to attain to their natural limits
of perfection. The Copts have a saying that "in the


beginning when God created things he added to every-
thing its second." " ' I go to Syria,' said Reason ; ' I
go with you,' said Rebellion. 'I go to Egypt,' said
Abundance; 'I accompany you,' said Submission. 'I
go to the desert,' said Poverty ; ' I will go with you,'
said Health." Barren though it was, the reputation of
the desert which lay to the north had been a reputation
of health from time immemorial. It had its dangers,
but all that escaped from them alive was the better for
the experience. For those who knew how to traverse
it, its sands were but as the sea, and its edges were
the most favoured portions of the Soudan. In pro-
portion as the fertile belt receded from the desert it
became unhealthy and unsuitable to the habitation of the
higher races.

I have tried to show that, through the whole of the
history of these higher races, their tendency had been to
drive southwards before them everything that was weak
or degraded or outworn. All the lower human types to
be met with in the country went southwards into the
equatorial belt, where frequent rain and the swampy over-
flow of rivers running to the coast develops a malarial
climate unsuitable to higher activities. In the early tradi-
tion, quoted by Herodotus, pigmy races seem to have
inhabited the country of the Middle Niger. At the pre-
sent day they are to be found in the regions of the
Congo. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the
cannibal belt extended along the northern slopes of
the Kong Mountains to about 12° north latitude. Now,
though there are some exceptions, it is rare to find
cannibals north of 7°, and the southern base of the Kong
Mountains may be taken as the limit of habitation of the
pure negro.

The movements of religion will, I think, be proved,
when research has obtained clearer results than can now
be securely claimed, to have corresponded to the move-
ments of race. Fetishism, which is now to be met with
chiefly in the strip lying between the Kong Mountains


and the coast, extended at one period to the north of
Songhay and Haussaland. It has been related in the
early myths of Gao, of Kano, of Daura, that the killing
of the fetish and the substitution of a higher form of
religion was the beginning of their recorded history.
This higher form of paganism, which would appear to

Online LibraryFlora Louise Shaw LugardA tropical dependency : an outline of the ancient history of the western Sudan with an account of the modern settlement of northern Nigeria → online text (page 25 of 41)