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Samori’s affiliation to the Tijaniyya

  • This is another factor that connected him to gain more support. The Tijaniyya Brotherhood emphasized equality which appealed to the Mandinka people.
  • This explains Samori’s flexibility to network and create influential power bases.
  • And because of his involvement in trade among the Dyula his influence was felt and was able to establish economic networks which were essential for empire building.
  • His expansion was enabled by the support he received from many Mandinka states and because of his common man appeal he gained support from common people in alliance with the Dyula traders.
  • Later he was able to engage in conquest by military means building his empire during the 1860s.
  • Due to his military prowess Samori was able to attract a lot of followers who viewed him as a source of security in a military hostile environment of conquest and Jihads.
  • During the same years Samori followed a brilliant strategy of divide and rule, among the Muslims and pagan, by 1881 he was master of a larger empire, which included the gold- bearing area of Boure.
  • In 1881 after had defeating the Sise army, his empire continued to expand until 1887-8.
  • As his empire was gradually becoming larger, he came into conflict with the Kankan which was a very wealthy Dyula city which he subdued in 1880 after the state rejected his invitation to support him in another struggle.
  • After the conquest of the Kankan, Samori had established an entity powerful in the region. His authority or control stretched from the forest edge northward to include the Boure goldfields and the upper Niger as far as downstream as Bamako.
  • In 1884 he took the Islamic title ‘Almami’ cementing religious unity. Islam was used as a unifying factor. In spite of its importance, however, Islam was not the only religion tolerated. Only once, in the late 1886, did Samori attempt forced conversions when he announced that all his subjects must become Muslims.
  • It is argued that this caused much disgruntlement and it was this decision which led to the ‘Great Revolt’ of 1888-89. Realizing his mistake he relaxed his demands and from then onwards he did not allow forced conversions to Islam strengthening his position. Samori’s empire is argued to be less Islamic than those created by the early Jihads. Before his conversion to Islam, he had joined some of the earlier fighting in the non-Muslim side of things.

Economic Organisation

  1. Trade
  • It is not doubted that Samori Toure constructed his state upon a firm foundation of trade in gold, horses, ivory, and firearms amongst other items.
  • His involvement in long distance trade with close links with the Dyula traders was not only strategic for political reasons but allowed him to promote mercantilism or free enterprise.
  • Like many Dyula chiefs during this period, he was concerned about control of trade routes, keeping them open and in favourable conditions for Dyula traders.
  • Mandinka control of trade of the region was not only beneficial for livelihoods security but also state security given the state access to the supply of firearms which in the expansion period enabled Samori Toure to seize power.

2. Tax

  • Samori was able to ensure the collection of taxes which gave his state the resources to provide his army meaning that trade began to play an important role to the political and economic stability of the state.
  • Taxes were paid in gold and villagers were expected to pay tribute using agricultural products.
  • A reliable tax collection system enable Samori Toure to be able to fund the administration of his vast empire, to purchase firearms from Sierra Leon through the exchange with gold that was obtained from Boure gold fields.
  • The sale of Ivory also brought more income required to cover military and administration costs.

3. Agriculture

  • Agriculture was also very important and was highly organized the ‘Almami’s fields were a feature of every village and provided the basis of the supply of food to the army.
  • The slave plantations were to support an active maritime trade in the period. Agriculture was greatly valued to ensure food security.
  • During this period, state security was a priority and would decide economic success in the sense that a united empire with capacity to defend itself was secure from external threats and ensured peace between small scale states promoting long distance trade.

4. Slave Trade

  • The Mandinka Empire was also very involved in slave trade with the sale of slaves argued to have brought substantial revenue.
  • Samori is alleged to have sold prisoners of war to the north in numbers ranging from 2 200- 7 000 a year.
  • Although Samori is criticized for having perpetuated slave trade after its abolition in 1807, his control of the trade also largely contributed to the economy.

5. Social Organisation

  • Classless society: Samori Toure created a society based on equality. In order to ensure unity through creating a fair social system.
  • Positions open to men of talent: He also tried to abolish distinctions between privileged and non-privileged classed by giving everyone a chance to rise through the army to the highest places in the state.
  • Samori was against discrimination and was aimed at destroying ethnic favouritism by making sure that all levels of government were ethnic inclusive making sure that different families and ethnic groups worked together.
  • Mixed Marriages: Marriage across tribal or ethnic boundaries were promoted and this also broke the boundaries of tribalism and gave way to a sense of national unity.
    By adopting such a policy Samori was able to erode tribalism and ethnicism among his officials and soldiers by creating all ethnic inclusive groups into units which had no relation to their place of origin.
    A distinction of the privileged and non-privileged was not tolerated but rather discouraged through the promotion of individual talents and gifts opening opportunities for everyone to rise up the social ladder to the highest level in the state.
    Less emphasis was placed on village groups but rather on larger political units like thecanton which united villages.
    The Mandinka law provide a base of unity, way of thinking and of Islam. Islam was a unifying factor. The ‘Oadis’ or religious personnel were involved alongside the ‘Sofas’ in the administration affairs of the state.
    All these were promoted in to rank on the basis of merit making it possible for people fro humble background to assume important post.
    The process of social mobility from the lower status to higher based on meritocracy in the standards of the time created fairness.
    Some of these principles emanating from the Tijaniyya Brotherhood that emphasized equality a foundation upon which peace and unity was based.
    All this unity which Samori had converted in the pre-colonial days gave his state that unity which was necessary to withstand French aggression later in the period.

Samourie Toure as a selective modernizer

  • Samori was a selective modernizer whose great emphasis was placed on education and Koranic schools were widespread in the empire.
  • Although the education can be said to have been more religious in nature, measure by the standards of that period it was commendable.
  • The type of education was appreciated by the people of Mandinka. It is argued that the Koran teaching which were insisted upon did not worry his subjects overmuch.
  • The Almami-Emir was the commander of the faith teachings from the Koran was aided by trained Trarza Moor working in each village mosque to provide spiritual guidance demonstrating the state commitment to religious devotion.
  • In as much as Mandinka unity was based on law the Islamic ideology was more influential to the end of ‘Sofas’ being equally important to ‘Qodas.’
  • The only duty which the Alimami strictly enforced on his leading subjects was to send their children regularly to school.
  • He ensured that his rule was carried out by unexpected summoning, and personally interrogating, some child of good family, even from the most distant parts of the empire. If the child’s ignorance showed that he has not been following the marabouts’ course of instruction, a heavy fine was imposed on the parents.
  • It can therefore be commended that Mandinka Empire was under the leadership that had the political will to make social progress for the benefits of the Mandinka people.

Political Organization

  • It is more likely that the leadership of a solider is more also of a command system of administration.
  • Automatically that means Samori Toure was rather the commander in chief of his Mandinka Empire and his attitude towards state security was exceptional.
  • Unlike other African rulers of his time, he was a soldier who went to the battle fields and the army’s military strategist hence his understanding of the value of modern arms.
  • It was therefore inherent that his state organization was more military oriented as justified in a political environment of both African and European imperialism but his rule was not absolute
  • It should be emphasized that although, Samori was head of state he was not a despot because he governed with the help of a Council of Advisers.
  • He was assisted to run the state by an inner council of provincial heads political, religious, and military leaders.
  • Samori created this Council of Advisors, each with ministerial task and he consulted them regularly, thus advisory and executive functions were combined to build state administration based on consensus.
  • The ‘Almami’, ruled the three central provinces and the outlying areas were divided into five provinces which were under provincial heads.
  • Samori was therefore accountable to the overall administration of his state.
  • He emphasized transparency and accountability on the part of his official who were promoted to higher offices on the basis of loyalty and good performance.
  • But also demoted for inept performance or disloyalty. It was Samori’s political strength to ensure an efficient and effective state administration system.
  • He also developed an efficient civil service. Samori’s military and religious qualities were clearly reflected in the same political and administrative system.
  • The military and religious personnel the ‘Sofas’ and ‘Qadis’ were prominent figures in the administration of the empire.
  • In order to have control of the state administration system Samori made sure that it was centralized structure in such a way that Samori was economically represented in every village by a ‘sofa’ appointed on merit

Military Organization

  • The ‘sofa’ was responsible for mobilizing troops and supplies and the supervision of cultivation in the ‘Almami’s fields found in every village.
  • He had direct control of the centre and the forest border of the south, military commanders of outlying provinces, rulers of conquered states were often persuaded to become allies.
  • The army played a key role and each province had a military commander at its head to ensure effective mobilization of soldiers in time of war.
  • The role of the ‘Sofa’ did not undermine former traditional rulers who were also given a role.
  • The army had highly trained cavalry and infantry units. Recruited from all parts of the empire based on merit and as means of unifying the state.
  • Blacksmiths were trained to repair and manufacture weapons.
  • By 1888, Samori’s army was between 30 00 and 35 000 with about 3 000 to 4 000 men employed in the arms workshop.
  • It was well armed, well paid and well fed. Samori equipped his army with efficient and modern weapons imported from Sierra Leon.
  • By 1888 Samori’s empire was the third largest political unit of Western Sudan after the Sokoto Caliphate.
  • The Mandinka Empire was a well-organized and well-knit fabric of which however, did not easily escape the net of French colonialism randomly cost over West Africa after 1882.

Imperialism and the decline of Mandinka State

  • In 1882 Samori came into his initial collision with the French and from then onwards the ‘mighty’ Mandinka empire was on its progressive decline.
  • There is an argument that whenever an expanding European imperial encroachment clash with African expanding imperialism conflict was inevitable.
  • However for the Mandinka Empire, this war of resistance took 16 years mainly because the state did not only militarily mobilized but economically organized for war such that the resistance took so long.
  • It is argued that the war which Samori fought against the French was therefore a total war and modern in nature, since both natural and human resources were totally mobilized.
  • When the Mandinka first clashed with the French in 1882, the French inflicted an attack on Kenyara deep in Samori’s empire.
  • But the Mandinka army with determined resistance repulsed the French who ingloriously retreated’ testing the first infliction of Samori’s military prowess.
  • Even if the French retreated Samori experienced the first medicine of European superior modern military equipment.
  • In 1885, the French once again made an attempt to capture the Boure Gold fields but did not succeed, but Mandinka forces suffered great losses.
  • It has always been the case with African resistance against colonial invasion that it would be undermined by attacks from other African rivals.