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Decline & Fall of Futa Toro
 
Senegambian Kingdoms

Part 1

Introduction:
The Fulani who conquered and settled in Futa Toro were people ready to abandon their nomadic way of life and create their own state. This may have been caused by their extended contact with the more settled Mandinka.

What prevented Futa Toro from expanding its territory was due to a number of mitigating factors. The first is that Ghana's former supremacy in the area had diverted the majority of the gold trade along routes east of Senegal and this went to benefit the successor state of Manding which emerged in the area between Niger and northern Senegal. The second reason is that new Wollof arrivals to Futa Toro began carving out their own mini-kingdoms thus reducing the kingdom to smaller, weaker states.

The Fula and Mandinka founders of Futa Toro had steadfastly held onto their animist beliefs which was at odds with the Muslim commercial class who began to leave the towns thus depriving the state of important tax revenue and reduced its commercial significance.

In the mid 19th century Futa was endangered much more seriously by two external forces. The French began to transform the relations of mutual inter-dependence into relations of colonial domination, particularly under the leadership of Governor Louis Faidherbe (1854-61, 1863-5). The second threat came from a native son, Omar Taal. Omar came from Toro province, whose grievances against the domination of the central region he expressed during his entire career. He left home early in the century, made the pilgrimage to Mecca, and returned with considerable prestige, ambition and following. In the 1850s he launched a holy war against the predominantly non-Muslim Mandinka and Bambara to the east. To achieve his goals he recruited heavily in Senegambia, especially in his native land. The recruitment process, in which Umar evoked the founders of the Islamic regime, reached its culmination in a massive drive in 1858-9. It had the effect of undermining the charter and position of the Almamy even more. The French and Umarian intrusions constitute the fourth portion of the anthology.

The authority of the regional chiefs, and particularly that of the electors, was compromised much less than that of the Almamy. One of these leaders, Abdul Bocar Kan, emerged as the dominant force in the middle valley between 1860 and 1890. He was able to fend off the challenges of Islamic reformers, who now evoked the example of Umar Taal as well as Abdul Kaader. He effectively challenged the authority of the Klan lineage, who in turn came increasingly to rely upon French support.

By the late 1880s it was obvious that the French would conquer all of the land of Futa as part of their subordination of Senegal and conquest of the Western and Central Sudan. The middle and upper valley became essential staging areas for the expansion into the regions today known as Mali, Niger and Upper Volta. Abdul Bocar resisted the conquest, as long and effectively as possible, but succumbed in 1891, the year which effectively marks the end of Futa independence.

  Part 1



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