Ruler of Songhai
Sunni Ali was a member of the Sunni Muslim dynasty that ruled the Songhai Empire of western Africa in the 1300s and 1400s. Known for his immense energy and leadership skills, he expanded the borders of the empire.
By the time Sunni Ali came to power, the Songhai kingdom had lost much of its influence over the Middle NIGER RIVER region. Even the key trading center of TIMBUKTU had been taken over by nomadic TUAREG herders. Sunni Ali led a successful campaign to capture territory along both sides of the river, stretching from present-day NIGERIA into what is now central MALI. In 1468 his forces recaptured Timbuktu.
Many of the scholars and leaders of Timbuktu fled the city after its defeat, and some of those who stayed were mistreated and even killed. Muslim leaders looked upon Sunni Ali as a tyrant and a murderer and questioned his devotion to Islam. Nevertheless, the state he founded later grew into one of the most powerful and important empires in the SAHEL. (See also Islam in Africa, Sudanic Empires of Western Africa.)