Historical Personalities & Issues

Compiled & Edited by Phillip True, Jr.

Chapter Fourteen

SUNNI ALI BER (1464-1492)

Sunni Ali, whose real name was Ali Kolon, began as a common soldier in the army of KanKan Musa, Mandingo ruler of the Mellistine Empire, into which he had been forcibly enlisted, after the defeat and en- slavement of his people, the Songhays.

Forced even to fight his own people, Sunni Ali was overcome with rage at the cruelties of the Mellestine emperor and swore that one day, he would take up arms to free his people. As for the empire of KanKan Musa, it exceeded in wealth and magnificence, anything he had ever imagined, and yet, common soldier that we was, Sunni Ali dared to believe that some day it should be his.

Sunni Ali, together with his brother Selmar Nar, laid careful plans for escape. Rallying his people around him, Sunni Ali attacked Jenne, and captured it by storm on January 30, 1468. He took city after city, until the forces of KanKan Musa had been entirely driven out of Songhay territory.

It appears that Sunni Ali, ruled his entire kingdom from horseback. Felix Dubois made the following statement about Sunni Ali: "He was a soldier only, and a true Black soldier who marches from conquest to conquest, absorbing all the population by war without thinking to organize and create durable work....his lance travels from east to west, tracing the grandeur of the Songhay, unknown to him, it is true. But the task is being prepared for an organizer that is to come very rapidly, to lead the Songhays to the heights of splendor, power and prosperity."

On November 6, 1493, Sunni Ali's horse slipped and fell into the Koni River, Ali and his horse were swept over the falls and drowned. The legacy of his greatness still exist today.


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