The Kanuris : Norms of the North!


The Kanuri people (Kanouri, Kanowri, also Yerwa, Bare Bari and several subgroup names) are an African ethnic group living largely in the lands of the former Kanem and Bornu Empires in Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon. Those generally termed Kanuri include several subgroups and dialect groups, some of whom feel themselves distinct from the Kanuri. Most trace their origins to ruling lineages of the medieval Kanem-Bornu Empire, its client states or provinces. In contrast to neighboring Toubou or Zaghawa pastoralists, Kanuri groups have traditionally been sedentary, engaging in farming, fishing the Chad Basin, and engaged in trade and salt processing.

Kanuri people

Total population
10 million (2013 estimate)

Regions with significant populations

Nigeria, southeast Niger, western Chad and northern Cameroon.


Does not include Mangari

1,100,000 (2013)
most of which are Kanembu subgroup

850,000 (2013)
Includes Mangari, Tumari, Bla Bla

56,000 (1982)

Following the downfall of the Bornu Empire and the Scramble for Africa in the 19th century, the Kanuri were divided under the rule of the British, French and German Empires.

Despite the loss of the Kanuri-led state, the Shehu of Bornu continues as the head of the Bornu Emirate. This traditional Kanuri/Kanembu state maintains a ceremonial rule of the Kanuri people, based in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria, but acknowledged by the 4 million Kanuri in neighboring countries. The Shehu (“Sheikh”) of Bornu draws his authority from a state founded before 1000 CE, the Kanem-Bornu Empire.

The current ruling line, the al-Kanemi dynasty, dates to the accession of Muhammad al-Amin al-Kanemi in the early 19th century, displacing the Sayfawa dynasty which had ruled from around 1300 CE. The 19th Shehu, Mustafa Ibn Umar El-Kanemi, died in February 2009, and was succeeded by Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai El-Kanemi.



Adesina Ebenezer A

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