Why Few and Small Nomad states/empires on the African Hot Steppe/Sahel

Aug 2019
7
Abuja, Nigeria
#1
I know in West Africa the more Nomadic Fulani pulled off the famous conquest of settled peoples by Nomadic peoples during the Fulani Jihads, but they seem to be the exception with any other pastoralist conquerors being settled, even if they take their herds to large areas such as the Kitari/Bushongo Kingdoms, but unlike the Trend we see in Eurasia with several Steppe peoples invading and conquering large states of settled peoples. I also know that in west Africa, in part due to the Nile, large parts of the Hot Steppe/Sahel was Arable, but east of the Lake Chad, until the rise of the Muslim states there, this trend doesn't seem to have been followed. Is there any reason for this, lack of very large states, lack of horses,? or what
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,594
Benin City, Nigeria
#2
I'm not sure what it is you're asking. Are you ignoring the empire of Kanem? It was already a large state according to contemporary Arabic sources, even when it was semi-nomadic and was still ruled by the pagan Zaghawa, before the start of the Muslim Sefuwa dynasty. That was definitely a large Sahelian + Saharan state ruled by a nomadic group.

And then there's this, about a state in the Sahel ruled by a Soninke group called Diafunu (referred to as Zafun in the contemporary Arabic sources):

"Zafun is a vast province in the land of the Sudan, near the Maghrib, and adjoining the land of the veiled people (mulaththamun). The people of Zafun have a powerful and redoubtable king. He has a capital, which they call Zafun. He leads a nomadic life, seeking [pasture] in places where the rains have fallen. This used to be the way of life of the veiled people before they took possession of the Maghrib. The king of Zafun is stronger than the latter and more versed in the art of kingship. The veiled people acknowledge his superiority over them, obey him and resort to him in all important matters of government. One year this king, on his way to the Pilgrimage, came to the Maghrib to pay a visit to the Commander of the Muslims (amir al-muslimin), the Veiled King of the Maghrib, of the tribe of the Lamtuna. The Commander of the Muslims met him on foot, whereas the [King of] Zafun did not dismount for him. A certain person who saw him in Marrakech on the day he came there said that he was tall, of deep black complexion and veiled. The whites of his eyes were bloodshot as if they were two glowing coals, and the palms of his hands were yellow as if tinted with saffron. He was wearing a cut garment enveloped in a white cloak. He entered the palace of the Commander of the Muslims mounted, while the latter walked in front of him." - Yaqut
"The Moors civilized Europe" theory
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,594
Benin City, Nigeria
#3
Mar 2013
3,654
#4
I know in West Africa the more Nomadic Fulani pulled off the famous conquest of settled peoples by Nomadic peoples during the Fulani Jihads, but they seem to be the exception with any other pastoralist conquerors being settled, even if they take their herds to large areas such as the Kitari/Bushongo Kingdoms, but unlike the Trend we see in Eurasia with several Steppe peoples invading and conquering large states of settled peoples. I also know that in west Africa, in part due to the Nile, large parts of the Hot Steppe/Sahel was Arable, but east of the Lake Chad, until the rise of the Muslim states there, this trend doesn't seem to have been followed. Is there any reason for this, lack of very large states, lack of horses,? or what
Probably two main reasons- domesticated horses did not thrive in the region and the lands were arable- probably too arable vs the geography whereas in Euroasia the distances of seasonally arable land were vast and horses survived quite well so that nomadic peoples had large areas of land to fight over mostly only with other nomads and could periodically organize for large invasions of settled peoples nearby and have a military advantage in such invasions due to being principally cavalry so long as the targets of the invasion weren't heavily fortified nor organized.
 
Jul 2012
2,594
Benin City, Nigeria
#5
Probably two main reasons- domesticated horses did not thrive in the region and the lands were arable- probably too arable vs the geography whereas in Euroasia the distances of seasonally arable land were vast and horses survived quite well so that nomadic peoples had large areas of land to fight over mostly only with other nomads and could periodically organize for large invasions of settled peoples nearby and have a military advantage in such invasions due to being principally cavalry so long as the targets of the invasion weren't heavily fortified nor organized.
The underlying premise of the thread, along with some other information in the opening post, is false. Is there some reason you're commenting as if the thread starter's claims are correct?

We do have nomadic powers in Sahelian & Saharan Africa ruling over large areas and they are attested in contemporary sources. We also have reason to believe some of them launched invasions against settled/sedentary people and in one case we even have an explicit description of such an invasion in a contemporary source.
 
Aug 2019
7
Abuja, Nigeria
#6
I'm not sure what it is you're asking. Are you ignoring the empire of Kanem? It was already a large state according to contemporary Arabic sources, even when it was semi-nomadic and was still ruled by the pagan Zaghawa, before the start of the Muslim Sefuwa dynasty. That was definitely a large Sahelian + Saharan state ruled by a nomadic group.

And then there's this, about a state in the Sahel ruled by a Soninke group called Diafunu (referred to as Zafun in the contemporary Arabic sources):



"The Moors civilized Europe" theory
I thought the Kanem were largely Sedentary by the time they became an Empire
 
Jul 2012
2,594
Benin City, Nigeria
#7
I thought the Kanem were largely Sedentary by the time they became an Empire
They were sedentary when they became an empire (in the sense of lording over other established states/kingdoms) yes, but even before that Kanem is already described as a vast/large kingdom, while still under Zaghawa rule and still nomadic.

The Kanuri are traditionally held to have invaded and settled in the original territory of the people of the Sao culture, who were sedentary. I've seen at least one source arguing against the idea of the Kanuri invading and conquering the Sao area when they first arrived to the area but the arguments weren't that convincing.

Anyway to summarize what I'm saying:

1. Kanem was already a large state before it became sedentary, when it was nomadic.
2. It became even larger and became an empire after becoming sedentary.
3. There may have been an invasion and takeover of the lands of the sedentary people of the Sao culture when it was a nomadic state.
 

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