Kingdom of Baguirmi

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Baguirmi horseman by Dixon Denham, 1823.

The Kingdom of Baguirmi, also known as the Baguirmi Sultanate (1522–1897), was an Islamic kingdom or sultanate that existed as an independent state during the 16th and 17th centuries southeast of Lake Chad in what is now the country of Chad. Baguirmi emerged to the southeast of the Kanem-Bornu Empire. The kingdom's first ruler was Mbang Birni Besse. Later in his reign, the Bornu Empire conquered and made the state a tributary. Under the reign of Abdullah IV (1568–1608), Islam was adopted, and the state became a sultanate, using judicial and administrative procedures. The title of Mbang was still used along with Sultan. Later, a palace and court were constructed in the capital city of Massenya.

The Mbang Abd ar Rahman Gwaranga (Left), c. 1918.

Baguirmi's political history was a function of its strength and unity in relation to its larger neighbors. Absorbed into Kanem-Bornu during the reign of Alooma, Baguirmi broke free later in the 17th century, only to be returned to tributary status in the mid-18th century. During periods of strength, the sultanate became imperialistic. It established control over small feudal kingdoms on its peripheries and entered into alliances with nearby nomadic peoples. Early in the 19th century, Baguirmi fell into decay and was threatened militarily by the nearby Ouaddai Kingdom. Although Baguirmi resisted, it accepted tributary status in order to obtain help from Ouaddai in putting down internal dissension. When Rabih az-Zubayr's forces burned Massenya in 1893, the twenty-fifth sultan, Abd ar Rahman Gwaranga, sought and received protectorate status from France in 1897.

The Baguirmi language is still spoken today, with 44,761 speakers as of 1993, primarily in the Chari-Baguirmi Region. The empire now exists as an informal entity in the Baguirmi Department, with its capital at Massenya. The rulers have the title Mbang.

See also[edit]


  • Lebeuf, Annie M. D. (1978) 'L'ancien royaume du Baguirmi' Mondes et cultures, 38, 3, 437–443.
  • N'Gare, Ahmed (1997) 'Le royaume du Baguirmi (XVe - XXe siècles)'. Hemispheres, 11, 27–31.

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Library of Congress Country Studies. - Chad