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Battle of Kansala
History Page   Senegambian Kingdoms
Part 1

The Battle of Kansala (1868) was mainly a holy Jihad waged by Muslim Fulas against the Mandinka animists of the Kaabu Empire in West Africa. In the preceding 15 years a coalition of forces had built up which consisted mainly of Fula soldiers who were joined by the Muslims of Kabada district in south Jarra and Kiang and the 35,000 strong army of Futa Jallon under the Almamy of Timbo. They were also joined by the Serahule of Manda and some aggrieved Mandinka kings. Aside from the religious aspect of the war there were other reasons why it took place. The Fulani had also had economic grievances against their Mandinka Nyancho rulers whose king was Mansa Janke Wali (also spelt Dianke Walli).

The Fulani army was led by Alfa Yaya of Labé, which began heading towards the fortress of Kansala in 1867. The Fula army was made up of 35,000 soldiers and 12,000 men on horseback. In 1868 they encircled and lay siege to Kansala and for three months there was a stand-off with neither side willing to fire the first shot. The reason was because the Timbo marabout, Abdu Khudus, had said to the Fulas that they could only defeat the Nyanchos' army if they let them fire first. On the opposing army a Jahanka marabout by the name of Foday Barika Drammeh had advised his animist Mandinka "Don't fire at the Fulas until they first shoot at you. If they shoot first, you will drive them back to Futa".

As the stand-off continued the Nyanchos became livid and felt offended by the very presence of the invading Fula army and that not to attack was a sign of weakness. Eventually the stalemate was broken when the Nyanchos fired the first shot which triggered the start of the battle which lasted for 11 days. The Kabunkas (Mandinka soldiers) decapitated many Fulas who were able to climb over the walls which surrounded the fort however, the enemy's sheer numbers gradually ground down the Mandinka defences. When the female Nyanchos saw the Fulani entering the fort they realised that the end was nigh and proceeded to commit suicide by jumping head first into their wells rather than become slaves. After waiting until thousands of Fulas had entered the fort, Janke Wali, told his sons to ignite the seven gunpowder stores which killed many of the enemy troops. The battle was soon over and the king surrendered the capital which ended Mandinka rule in Guinea-Bissau. Of the 35,000 to 40,000 soldiers of the Futa Jallon army only 4,000 returned home.

The Kaabu Empire was eventually divided into two provinces of Kaabu and Fulladu which themselves were tributaries of Futa Jallon.

Part 1

Senegambian Kingdoms

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