Kong Empire (1710-1895), also known as the
Wattara Empire or Ouattara Empire
for its founder, was a pre-colonial African state centered in north
d'Ivoire that also
encompassed much of present-day Burkina Faso.
The region that would become the heart of the Kong Empire was
originally settled by the Senufo
fled to the area to escape the religious persecution of the
to the north. The Senufo
followed traditional African faiths, while many of the Mandinka
were becoming fervent Muslims
. The Senufo
were soon followed by the Dyula
, a Mandinka merchant class prominent
throughout West Africa
. The Dioula, as
they are called in Cote d'Ivoire, reached and settled the city of
in the 12th century.
Despite being outnumbered by the Senufo, they prospered as traders
and advisors in much of the region.
The first semblance of a true centralized state emerged under the
Taraweré clan or jamuu of Jula whom combined Jula and Senufo
traditions to extended their authority over the surrounding region.
Thanks to their Islamic literate tradition and trading experience,
they turned Kong into an international market for the exchange of
northern desert goods (salt and cloth) and southern forest exports
(cola nuts, gold, and slaves).
Kong's attractiveness invited invaders. In around 1710 a Jula
warrior known as Sekou Umar of the Ouattara or Wattara jammu
invaded the area and conquered the city using cavalry. He
established himself as fama (king) and turned Kong into the center
of an empire with regional influence. He imposed Jula as the
official language and Islam as the state religion. He utilized
slaves to work in the manufacture of cloth and cultivation of rice,
millet, sorghum, and cotton. He also improved security along
trading routes with the same cavalry methods used by the Mali Empire
three hundred years earlier. The
empire spread northward with the help of Maghan (prince) Famara
Wattara, brother of Seku Wattara, in 1714. He captured the city
Dioulasso and much of
present day Burkina Faso.
Famara made Bobo Dioulasso capital
of the Gwiriko
region, which would become
its own kingdom later on.
Height of Power
By the 1730s, the Kong Empire was the largest state in West Africa
south of the Niger River
. It stretched
hundreds of miles west and north and included large numbers of
different Islamic and non-Islamic ethnic groups. When Sekou Wattara
died in 1745 and was succeeded by capable famas, the first being
Koumbi Wattara. Under their rule, Kong remained a commercial center
and also became a center of Islamic study. The Kong Friday Mosque
, which predated the
Wattara dynasty in Kong by a century, drew Islamic scholars from
all over the Sahel. Mori Maghari was crowned fama after Koumbi and
also governed with success.
Kong traded with other states in Cote d'Ivoire, most notably the
kingdom of Gyaaman
. Along with a never ending supply of
traders, Kong sent advisors and diviners that were crucial to the
running of the Abron royal court. Their merchants were able to
trade without any taxes on their products. Kong also supplied
troops to Gyamman to fend off the Asante Confederacy to the east.
Decline and Downfall
After the death of Fama Maghari in 1800, successive famas would
struggle with growing resistance from the empire's diverse ethnic
and religious groups. In 1895, Samory
Touré invaded and destroyed the city of Kong after its rulers
resisted his rule and refused to aid him in his campaign against
After Samory's defeat, Kong regained its independence for a brief
period then fell under French colonial rule in 1898. Kong was
divided between two colonies - Côte d'Ivoire and Upper Volta
(now Burkina Faso). The city
of Kong became merely a small town after the French government
routed the nearest rail line 70 km (45 mil) to the west.