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Home Forums African Royalty HOW DID AFRICAN ROYALTY BEGIN?

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    Melina Gift

      There are quite a number of monarchies defined as either nominal or actual self governing states, territories or nations of Africa. A monarch can be a ruler of a state, or area of a group of people.

      These monarchs often have titles as a king, queen, emperor or empress. The word Royalty or Royal family is often used to refer to the head of state and their children.



      The African continent is made up of 54 countries in which there are different settlements or built up areas made up of smaller villagers with central areas. Before colonisation these settlements were governed by monarchs in other words the Royal families. In 146 BC, the Roman Empire governed many of these settlements and its territory covered most of North Africa and there was named an African emperor of Rome, Emperor Septimus Severus.



      The kingdoms in Mali, Ghana, Egypt, and Ethiopia amongst others ruled over hundreds of thousands of people and controlled a vast network of trade routes.



      There was a need for an identity which prompted the early settlements of west africa and the largely nomadic community in North africa to form states which had the capacity to support formal establishments. This resulted in the rise of a strong leadership with authority to meet the need for them. According to wikipedia, this resulted in the emergence of the monarchy of Mali in the 1200s, a political system which was pioneered by Sundjata Keita. Also kingdoms of Takur in Senegal and Kanem on the banks of the lake of Chad were founded.



      In a bid to exercise power or sovereignty as a king or queen, these African monarchs created superiority myths through rituals and symbolism and also practices which were intended to portray them as mediators between the gods and the people.



      By doing so, this placed them in privileged positions above the common man and made the people feel they represented their interests and were above partiality, favouritism and prejudices.



      This was the case of the Lozi people of Zambia as monarchical privileges were established and prerogatives by beautiful regalia, ornamented crowns, jewelries to distinguish them from others. They also established special thrones and commissioned building of shrines for their ancestors.



      There was also the conquest theory which created the existence of African royalty. This involved people of one culture subjugated by people of other cultures and resulted in societies with sharply divided classes of rulers and subjects.



      Furthermore, African royalty began through the spread of geographical extension of borders of a kingdom. It was more like a conquest but the difference was that there was an expansion of agriculturalists to control other agriculturalists of similar ethnic background and level of culture.



      In the Sahelian kingdoms, there were a series of mediaeval empires centred on the Sahel, the area of grasslands south of the Sahara. The first major state to rise in this region was the Ghana empire (Wagadu), the name was the regnal title given to the ruler of the Wagadu Empire. When Ghana collapsed in the face of invasion from Almoravids, a series of brief kingdoms followed, notably that of the Sosso (Susu); after 1235, the Mali Empire rose to dominate the region.



      In Western Africa in Nigeria, the Oyo Empire (1400-1895) was established by the Yoruba in the 15th century and grew to become one of the largest West African states. It rose to prominence through wealth gained from trade and its possession of powerful cavalry.



      However, the other ways which came about African royalties and a number of which are still recognized in this present time. In addition to independent African states being republics, some indigenous tribes retain their monarchies recognised by national governments.



      Lesotho, Morocco and Eswatini are sovereign states with monarchs as their head of state. In Lesotho, which is an enclave of south africa, it is a constitutional elective monarchy. The current monarchy was established in 1824 when Moshoeshoe I, a tribal chieftain united warring tribes into Basotho kingdom. After his death in 1870, the British cape colony took control and the kingdom was placed under nominal control. The native tribes engaged in a revolt and full British control was not established until 1884 under the name Basutoland. In 1996, the current monarch, King Letsie III ascended the throne and the current constitution which was passed in 1993 recognises the king as the constitutional monarch and the head of state, with power being exercised by the parliament.




      Located in the Northwestern corner of Africa, Morocco has a long and established history dated back. Its territory was controlled by the Roman Empire, the Vandals, and the Byzantine Empire which later came under the control of the Arabs in the seventh century. In 1999 the present King, Mohammed IV ascended the throne. The current constitution which was passed in 2011, Morocco practises a constitutional monarchy though the king maintains  a fair amount of power. The king is recognised as the Head of the Superior Council of the Ulema (In Islam, the ulama are the guardians, transmitters, and interpreters of religious knowledge in Islam, including Islamic doctrine and law), as well as the Morocco’s supreme court.



      Eswatini, formerly Swaziland, located in the southeastern corner of Africa which constituted a confederation of African tribes. In 1902, Eswatini was under the control of the British which later gained control of its internal affairs in 1967 and got their independence the following year. The present ruler, King Mswati III ascended the throne in 1986 and practices an absolute monarchy system in which the citizens have limited ability to participate in the political process. Although the 1998 constitution allowed for some level of democratic rule.

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