Wassoulou Empire

Last updated

Coordinates: 10°51′36.2″N14°25′26.6″W / 10.860056°N 14.424056°W / 10.860056; -14.424056


Wassoulou Empire

Flag of the Wassoulou Empire.svg
Map Wassoulou.jpg
Wassoulou Empire at its peak
Capital Bissandugu
Common languages Mandinka
Sunni Islam
29 September 1898
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Blank.png Baté Empire
Blank.png Toucouleur Empire
Blank.png Kong Empire
French West Africa Flag of France (1794-1815, 1830-1958).svg
Sierra Leone Colony and Protectorate Flag of Sierra Leone (1916-1961).svg

The Wassoulou Empire, sometimes referred to as the Mandinka Empire, was a short-lived (18781898) empire of West Africa built from the conquests of Malinke ruler Samori Ture and destroyed by the French colonial army.

In 1864, Toucouleur ruler El Hajj Umar Tall died near Bandiagara, leaving the then-dominant Toucouleur Empire tottering and a number of chiefs rushing to break their own pieces away from the newly weakened federation. By far the most successful among them was Samori Touré of what is now southwestern Guinea.

Army organization

Samori's army was well equipped with European firearms and a complex structure of permanent units. His army was divided into an infantry wing of sofa (Mandinka for infantry, usually slaves) and a cavalry wing. By 1887, Samori could field 30,000 to 35,000 infantry and about 3,000 cavalry. [1] Infantry were divided into units of 10 to 20 men known as a "se" or "kulu". Cavalry were divided into bands of 50 horsemen called a "sere". [2] Kulus were under the command of a Kun-Tigui, meaning chief. Ten kulus equaled a bolo (100–200 men). The bolo, which in the Banmana language translates to "arm", was strictly an infantry unit. [3] The bolo kun-tigui commanded this unit.


Samori's campaign swept first through his neighbors, the Bérété and the Cissé, and then into the Wassoulou region (the border of today's Guinea and Mali). In 1876, he secured the Buré gold mines, and by 1878, his position was secure enough to officially declare himself faama (military leader) of a new Wassoulou Empire.

Later conquests included Kankan, a key Malinke trading center, and sections of what are now Sierra Leone and northern Côte d'Ivoire.

The Mandingo Wars

From 1880 until his death, Samori's ambition was opposed by the expansion of the French. He entered into combat with the colonial army, defeating them on several occasions, including a notable victory on 2 April 1882, at Woyowayanko in the face of French heavy artillery.

Nonetheless, Samori was forced to sign several treaties ceding territory to the French between 1886 and 1889. Samori began a steady retreat, but the fall of other resistance armies, particularly Babemba Traoré at Sikasso, permitted the colonial army to launch a concentrated assault against his forces. On 29 September 1898, he was captured by the French Commandant Goudraud and exiled to Gabon, marking the end of the Wassoulou Empire.

Related Research Articles

The modern state of Guinea did not come into existence until 1958, but the history of the area stretches back well before European colonization. Its current boundaries were determined during the colonial period by the Berlin Conference (1884–1885) and the French, who ruled Guinea until 1958.

Mali is located in Africa. The history of the territory of modern Mali may be divided into:

Samori Ture Emperor of the Wassoulou Empire

Samori Ture, also known as Samori Toure, Samory Touré, or Almamy Samore Lafiya Toure, was a Muslim cleric, a military strategist, and the founder and leader of the Wassoulou Empire, an Islamic empire that was in present-day north and south-eastern Guinea and included part of north-eastern Sierra Leone, part of Mali, part of northern Côte d'Ivoire and part of southern Burkina Faso. Samori Ture was a deeply religious Muslim of the Maliki jurisprudence of Sunni Islam.

Ségou Region Region of Mali

Ségou Region is an administrative region in Mali, situated in the centre of the country with an area of 64,821 km2. The region is bordered by Sikasso Region on the south, Tombouctou and Mopti on the east, Burkina Faso to the southeast and the Koulikoro Region to the west. In 2009 it had 2,336,255 inhabitants, making it the second most populous region of Mali. Its administrative capital is the town of Ségou.


Wassoulou is a cultural area and historical region in the Wassoulou River Valley of West Africa. It is home to about 160,000 people, and is also the native land of the Wassoulou genre of music.

The Kénédougou Kingdom, also referred to as the Kenedugu Kingdom, was a pre-colonial West African state established in the southern portion of present-day Mali.

Bissandugu Sub-prefecture in Kankan Region, Guinea

Bissandugu is a city in southwestern Guinea on national road nb 1.

Falaba Place in Northern Province, Sierra Leone

Falaba is a rural town in Solima chiefdom, Falaba District in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone. The population of Falaba is largely from the Yalunka, Kuranko and couple of Mandingo ethnic groups. Falaba is virtually all Muslim and it is known for its deeply religious Muslim population. Farming is the major economic activity in Falaba.

Manga Sewa was a Yalunka paramount chief in British Sierra Leone who blew up a magazine and much of Falaba, the capital of Solimana, killing himself, his family and other leaders, rather than let it fall to Samori Toure's army.

Kouroussa Sub-prefecture and town in Kankan Region, Guinea

Kouroussa or Kurussa is a town located in northeastern Guinea, and is the capital of Kouroussa Prefecture. As of 2014 it had a population of 39,611 people. A trade center and river port from at least the time of the Mali Empire, Kouroussa has long relied upon its position near the upstream limit of navigation of the Niger River to make it an important crossroads for people and goods moving between the Guinea coast and the states of the western Soudan and Niger River valley. The town and surrounding area is a center of Malinke culture, and is known for its Djembe drumming tradition.

Sofa is a Mandinka term for slave soldiers who served in the army of the Mali Empire. Sofas would also fight, in varying capacities, in the armies of later Mandé states such as the Bamana and Wassoulou empires.

Almami is a title of West African Muslim rulers, used especially in the conquest states of the 19th century. Similar to Amir al-Mu'minin, usually translated "Commander of the Faithful" or "Emperor of the Believers". In the Arabic world, Amir al-Mu'minin is similar to Caliphs and to other independent sovereign Muslim rulers that claim legitimacy from a community of Muslims. It has been claimed as the title of rulers in Muslim countries and empires and is still used for some Muslim leaders.

Pre-imperial Mali

Pre-imperial Mali refers to the period of history before the establishment of the Mali Empire, a pre-colonial African empire located mostly in present-day Mali, in c. 1235.

African empires Umbrella term for some pre-colonial African kingdoms

African empires is an umbrella term used in African studies to refer to a number of pre-colonial African kingdoms in Africa with multinational structures incorporating various populations and polities into a single entity, usually through conquest.

Outline of Guinea Overview of and topical guide to Guinea

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Guinea:

The military history of the Mali Empire is that of the armed forces of the Mali Empire, which dominated Western Africa from the mid 13th to the late 15th century. The military culture of the empire's driving force, the Mandinka people, influenced many later states in West Africa including break-away powers such as the Songhay and Jolof empires. Institutions from the Mali Empire also survived in the 19th century army of Samory Ture who saw himself as the heir to Old Mali's legacy.

African military systems (1800–1900)

African military systems (1800–1900) refers to the evolution of military systems on the African continent after 1800, with emphasis on the role of indigenous states and peoples within the African continent. Only major military systems or innovations and their development after 1800 are covered here. For events prior to 1800, see African military systems to 1800. Coverage of the 20th century and beyond is provided in African military systems after 1900. For an overall view of the military history of Africa by region, see Military History of Africa. See individual battles, empires and leaders for details on activities after 1800.

Mandinka people of Sierra Leone is a major ethnic group in Sierra Leone and a branch of the Mandinka people of West Africa. Most Sierra Leonean Mandingo are the direct descendants of Mandinka settlers from Guinea, who settled in the north and eastern part of Sierra Leone, beginning in the late 1870s to the 1890s under the rule of prominent Mandinka Muslim cleric Samori Ture. Also later a significantly large population of Mandinka from Guinea migrated and settled in Eastern Sierra Leone and Northern Sierra Leone in the early to mid 20th century. The Mandingo people of Sierra Leone have a very close friendly and allies relationship with their neighbors the Mandingo people of Guinea and Liberia, as they share pretty much identical dialect of the Mandingo language, tradition, culture and food.

The Battle of Kansala or Final Battle or Siege of Kansala was a military engagement between forces of the Kaabu Empire and the Imamate of Futa Jallon. The battle ended Mandinka hegemony over Africa’s Atlantic coast begun by the Mali Empire.


  1. Boahen, 1990
  2. Boahen, 1989
  3. Ogot, 463