Agadez, Sulatanate of

Agadez, Sulatanate of
   The origin of the sultanate is found in the Chronicles of Agadez and the oral histories of certain Tuareg tribes: the Kel Owey, Kel Ferwan, and Itesen. The sultanate is still a living institution, a body of men and women whose functions in the city and surrounding region are both very much of the moment and deeply embedded in the past. According to these sources, the sultanate developed as a major caravan trade entrepôt at the fringe of the Sahara Desert, a crossroad on the routes to the Hausa in the south, Tibesti and Bornu in the east, and Gao in the west. According to oral traditions, the Tuareg tribes had been embroiled in internecine strife for so long that they finally sent an emissary to the Ottoman court (to Fezzan, north of Aïr, present-day Libya) seeking the appointment of a king. The sultan could not provide a legitimate son ready to act as king in Aïr and sent Younous, his son by a slave-concubine, who arrived in Aïr with a large entourage, hence the origin of the low status of the sultans of Agadez.
   In 1424, Younous was removed from power by his son Ag Hassan, who himself was deposed by his brother Alissoua in 1430. Alissoua was the one who selected Agadez (actually Tagadest or Eguedech) as the capital of the sultanate. In the beginning, the sultanate was largely nomadic but finally settled first at Tadeliza, then Tin Chaman, and finally Agadez. The sultan had no real authority except moral power over those clans that accept his authority. Most power is in the hands of the anastafidet (the leader of the Kel Owey) and the second most important political person in Aïr after the sultan. Despite the sultan's authority, his direct rule was limited to the black population, with the bulk of the religious Ineslemen clans not paying tribute. As a major trade hub, the northward routes linked Agadez to Tamanrasset, Touat, Tassili, and Fezzan; the southward routes led to Hausa land, Benin, and Bornu; the westward routes led to In Gall and on to Timbuktu; and the eastward routes led to Bilma, Tibesti, and Kufra. A percentage of all commodities passing through Aïr went to the sultan as well as a portion of the azalay trade, a fact that made most sultans very wealthy. In 1740, however, the town was sacked by the Kel Owey, contributing to its decline. Also around this time, Assodé disappeared. With the emergence of the salt trade, Agadez regained some of its former importance but never became again the powerful state it had once been. In 1850, Heinrich Barth reported that the town was in an advanced state of ruin.
   During the French conquest of Aïr, the French removed the ruling sultan of Agadez, Othman Ben Abdel Qadr, and replaced him in 1907 with Ibrahim ed-Dasouqy, who was himself sacked by the French and exiled to Konni. The next sultan, Tagama, ruled until 1916, when he joined rebellious forces against French colonial rule. After breaking the siege of Agadez, the French massacred and executed hundreds of religious and civil leaders. Tagama was murdered, and Ibrahim ed-Dasouqy was reappointed sultan. On his death, Umar became sultan and ruled until the 1960s. By custom, the sultan, descending from the lineage of Younous, is appointed by the five major tribes of the area under the chairmanship of the Itesen.
   Today, Ibrahim Oumarou is the 126th sultan of the Aïr, and his 40-year reign has been exceeded in length only by that of his father.
   Among the sultan's duties are dealing with drought, tribal rebellion, uranium prices, and mining issues. Other matters brought before his court touch on marriages, inheritances, intertribal complaints, and tax grievances. The sultan hears disputations with the qadi (judge) and imam (prayer leader) and the massou oun-goriwa, the chiefs of Agadez's 16 government districts. Decisions are final.

Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen) . . 2014.

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