The empire of Bornu existed in north central Africa from about 1400 to 1900, when it became part of Britain's colonial empire. Bornu had its origins in an earlier state named Kanem that arose around 1200 in what is now southwestern CHAD.
The leaders of Kanem were divided into two competing dynasties: the Duguwa and the Sayfuwu. Driven out of Kanem in the mid-1200s, the Sayfuwu founded the state of Bornu on the southwestern shore of Lake Chad. They increased their power by defeating the local Sao people in the early 1300s. However, dynastic feuds troubled Bornu until the ruler Ali Gaji took power in the mid-1400s. Under his rule, Bornu extended its influence as far as the HAUSA states (now northwestern NIGERIA).
Bornu invaded Kanem in the early 1500s and again in the late 1500s, forcing its rulers to flee to the southeastern part of the kingdom. Under King Idris Alauma, Bornu conquered territory north into present-day LIBYA and drove the Sao onto islands in Lake Chad.
Attacked by the FULANI people in the early 1800s, Bornu managed to defeat the invaders in the 1820s. In the late 1800s the Arab warrior Rabih Zubayr conquered Bornu. Rabih died in 1900, and two years later the British moved into Bornu and made it part of their colony of Nigeria. The kingdom of Kanuri still exists and is possibly the oldest state in Africa. (See also Sudanic Empires of Western Africa.)