The first Kingdom was founded by the Kanuri and the kingdom is believed to be one of the oldest in the world. The kingdom was founded in the 8th century and survived until the 20th century.
The Kanem-Borno inhabited the Lake CH basin. The inhabitants were migrants from a Negroid, Berber and Arabs.
History has it that this migrant came into existence as a result of the intermarriage between the migrant nomads from the Sahara desert and Agricultural settlers of the Savanna region.
The Kanem-Borno Empire established its capital at Njimi. The first ruler of the kingdom was sef/saif； who was probably of the Berber origin. He (the king) took the title “Mai” hence adopted the Kanuri as a language.
The first “Mai” was Mai Ummi Jilmi, whose reign saw to the introduction of Islam into the Kanuri Kingdom. The King, having embraced Islam died in Egypt while making a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Mai Jilmi was succeeded by Dunama I who reigned between 1097 and 1155 A.D. He too was a devout Muslim and made pilgrimage to the holy land. Dunama I was a very powerful king of Kanuri kingdom and also succeeded in expanding the territory of the kingdom.
After his death came the Dunama II, another powerful king who did not only succeed in the great territorial expansion of the kingdom but also built a hostel in Cairo, Egypt for Kanem pilgrims, as well as the Empire’s students studying in the holy land. His death and that of his predecessor led to the fall of the one-time powerful kingdom. The ‘Mais’ belonged to the ruling dynasty and they had some other advisers. The Dunama II reigned between 1221-1249 and his death brought to end of the empire.
The Political Structure of the Kingdom
The political structure of the kingdom was monarchical as the Mai (king) controlled the legislative, executive and judicial functions of his administration. His decisions were supreme as nobody dared to challenge his authority.
The king wielded absolute powers. Note that the senior wife of the ‘Mai’ also wielded enormous power.
The queen was called ‘Magira’ and the mother (Called Magara”) wielded a lot of power in the government.