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The Aro Confederacy (1690-1902) was a political union orchestrated by the Igbo subgroup, the Aro people, centered in Arochukwumarker in present day Southeastern Nigeriamarker. Their influence and presence was distributed across Eastern Nigeria into parts of the Niger Deltamarker and Southern Igala during the 18nth and 19nth centuries. It is claimed that their influence extended through parts of present-day Cameroonmarker and Equatorial Guineamarker. The Arochukwumarker Kingdom was an economical, political, and an oracular center as it was home of the powerful Long Juju oracle, High Priests, the Aro King Eze Aro, and Chiefs.

The Rise

The Confederacy of Arochukwu expanded with alliances with several related Igbo and eastern Cross River Statemarker neighbors. Several large families of the Aro people began slave trading activities around Igbo and Ibibio lands. Among many of the ethnic groups of eastern Nigeria, anyone who enters a shrine and begs the deity of the shrine for help instantly becomes an osu (sometimes called a "juju slave"), a slave of the shrine and a social outcast. The priests of the Ibini Ukpabi oracle (also known as the Long Juju Shrine), popular in midwest and southeast Nigeria, exploited this in order to force travelers and pilgrims into slavery. Agents of the oracle would pose as bandits and chase their victims into the shrine, hoping they would beg the intervention of the god and become osu, so the priests could then sell them off for profit.

As this continued, Aro businessmen from Arochukwu migrated across southern Nigeria and also to Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea and founded numerous settlements. There they spread the Aro trading monopoly.

The Confederacy Era

This activity became very popular as coastal Niger Deltamarker city-states became important centers for the export of slaves. Such city-states included Opobo, Bonnymarker, Brass, Calabarmarker, as well as other slave trading city-states controlled by the Ijawmarker, Efik, and Igbo. The Aros formed a strong trading network and incorporated hundreds of communities that formed into powerful kingdoms. The Ajalli, Arondizuogu, and Bende Kingdoms were the most powerful Aro states in the Confederacy after Arochukwu. Some were founded and named after Commanders and Chiefs like Izuogu Mgbokpo and Iheme whom led Aro forces to destroy and conquer Ikpa Ora and founded Arondizuogu.

Decline

In the late 19th century, European colonists moved into Igboland. The Royal Niger Company of Britainmarker bore friction with the Aros because of their alleged human sacrifice, trading network, and economic control of the hinterland. Aro control was threatened with Europeans pressuring their territory and populations and with Christian missionaries like Mary Slessor. This led to a war known as the Anglo-Aro War which began in 1901 with an Aro invasion of British-controlled city of Obegu. The British retaliated with the Aro Expedition and repeated invasions on the Arochukwu Kingdom, resulting in its collapse in 1902.

Contrary to the belief that the Ibini Ukpabi was destroyed, the shrine still exists, and is intact in Arochukwu and serves mainly as a tourist site.

References

  • http://www.arookigbo.com
  • http://countrystudies.us/nigeria/7.htm
  • http://www.nigeriafirst.org/article_3791.shtml
  • http://apuncna.com
  • http://www.aronewsonline.org/html/articles_on_arochukwu.html



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