The Sultanate of Dar al-Kuti
by Richard A Bradshaw and Juan Fandos Rius, 15 December 2007
This Muslim-ruled kingdom which lay within the territory of
present-day Central African Republic (CAR) lasted from approximately
1830 until 17 December 1912.
In the early 1800s the name Dar al-Kuti was given to a stretch
of the Islamic frontier southwest of Wadai (a strong kingdom east of
Lake Chad and west of Darfur, which lost its independence in 1909
when French troops took Abéche).
To the west of Wadai at this time lay another kingdom named
Baguirmi or the Baguirmi Sultanate (1522-1897). The sultans of
Baguirmi were called mbang, "the sun". (Defeated by Rabih
of Ouaddai-Chari in
1893, the mbang of Baguirmi, Gaourang, solicited and obtained French
Protectorate status in 1897). Both Wadai and Baguirmi sent slave
raiding expeditions into the lands of the Nilo-Saharan-speaking Sara
people of southern Chad, and these slave raiders eventually reached
the northern borderlands of present-day CAR by the early nineteenth
The mbang of Baguirmi in the early nineteenth century,
Bourgomanda, had two sons, Abd el-Kader and Djougoultoum. When the
elder, Abd el-Kader, became sultan in 1826, he intended to have the
eyes of his younger brother and potential rival put out, and so
Djougoultoum fled to Wadai.
The kalak of Wadai, a title of Nilotic (Sudanese) origin
used by the kings of Wadai, sent Djougoultoum to the land of the
Rounga people (Dar Rounga), which was a military frontier region
between the Azoum and the Aouk rivers. Djougoultoum married Fatme,
daughter of Boker, the sultan of Dar Rounga, and in 1830 he
established an even more southerly border zone called Belad al-Kuti
as a slave-raiding zone south of the Aouk.
Belad al-Kuti, or Dar
al-Kuti, became a formal, tribute-paying province of its northern
Muslim neighbour, Dar Runga, which was in turn part of Wadai's
Châ, on the Diangara river, a tributary of the Aouk, became the
capital of this new province. Djougoultoum was named by Wadai as Dar
al-Kuti's governor, but he probably enjoyed considerable
independence in this southern frontier zone. The dates recorded for
Djougoultoum's reign (1830-1870) are probably not exact, but he was
the first ruler of Dar al-Kuti.
The Zulu Kings
RULERS OF CENTRAL AFRICA:
Sultanate of Dar al-Kuti
Sultanate of Rafaï
Sultanate of Bangassou
Sultanate of Zémio
Zobeir Dynasty of Ouaddai-Chari
Central African Republic
Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza
Republique Centrafricaine at
www.rcainfo.org (dead link)
The Bradshaw's Archives
Map showing the position of Dar al-Kuti
Kobur, a respected faqij trader, became the Muslim
governor of Dar al-Kuti in the late 1860s or early 1870s. (A
faqij or fuqaha' was a teacher who was familiar with the
rudiments of Islam and who supplemented his income by engaging in
petty commerce by selling Muslim charms and offering Qur'anic
instruction.) Kobur's growing wealth and power probably derived in
large part from his sale of ivory, the province's chief export.
Gaining control of Dar al-Kuti
Mounted raiding parties from Wadai periodically appeared in Dar
al-Kuti to collect tribute and take slaves in the Nduka and Banda
lands adjacent to Kobur's realm.
Dar al-Kuti comprised only fourteen villages (perhaps counting
only its large villages) and the land could be crossed from east to
west by foot in two days. Kobur's domain was therefore quite small,
and as a result he was careful to cultivate cordial relations with
the larger, more heavily populated Muslim zones to the north, as
well as with his non-Muslim Nduka neighbours. Dar al-Kuti engaged in
a limited degree of slave-trading, but intense raiding had not yet
begun during Kobur's reign. Dar al-Kuti and its ruler were still in
a very precarious position.
Sultan al-Sanusi in 1902
The greatest threat to Dar al-Kuti at this time came from Rabih
Fadlallah (circa 1842-1900), a Sudanese warlord and
slave-trader who was active in the north-eastern and central regions
of present day CAR between 1879 and 1890. Rabih's raiders enslaved
and sold many Banda people (who spoke an Adamawa-Ubangi language of
the Niger-Congo family), and also invaded Dar al-Kuti and Dar Rounga.
Seeking a local 'protégé' who was less religious and less
indebted to Wadai than Kobur, Rabih had Kobur deposed in a coup
d'état in 1890, and proclaimed Muhammad al-Sanusi to be the sultan
of Dar al-Kuti and Dar-Rounga with the titles of emir ('commander or
ruler') and sheikh (tribal elder, lord, Islamic scholar).
Al-Sanusi, born in circa 1850 at Wadai, was named after
the Sanussiya brotherhood whose many desert lodges lay along the
trade route between Libya and northern Chad. Al-Sanusi moved to Châ
when he was very young to join his uncle Kobur who, after being
removed from power by Rabih in 1890, retained a formal position as
one of al-Sanusi's advisors for two years. Kobur had ten sons, some
of whom lived into the 1920s, and all of whom were respected
faqijs in Dar al-Kuti.
Rabih made every effort to solidify al-Sanusi's power and
transform him into a client. After annexing Dar Rounga in 1890, the
Sudanese warlord sought to expand his new client's sphere of
influence and to eliminate any challenge that might come from
During the next two decades, Dar al-Kuti became an almost
autonomous state with its own sphere of influence extending over
much of northeastern CAR, an area about half the size of France.
However, Châ was attacked and destroyed by a Wadaian army under
Cherfeddine, the aguid of Wadai, in October 1894. After this, al-Sanusi
kept on the move for two years until he founded a fortified
settlement at Ndélé.
On 28 August 1897, al-Sanusi accepted a French protectorate over
Dar al-Kuti (see Traité de commerce et d'alliance entre cheik
Mohammed-es-Senoussi et la France –representé par l'administrateur
Although the convention was revised twice in order to broaden
French influence in the country, on 18 February 1903 and again on 26
January 1908 (see Traité entre le sultan Senoussi et la France
completant le traité signé le 24 aôut 1897; Traité revisant le
traité passé le 18 février 1903, traité signé par le Capitaine
Mangin, representant le Lt-Colonel Largeau, et Mohamed-es-Senoussi),
Dar al-Kuti maintained self-rule until the death of al-Sanusi
himself on 12 January 1911 in Dar al-Kuti.
After this, the French took control of most of Dar al-Kuti. Al-Sanusi's
son, Kamoun, fled east after his father's death to Ouanda-Djallé,
where he resisted the French until 17 December 1912, when Captain
Souclier took Ouanda-Djallé and Kamoun sought refuge in the Sudan.
The name Dar al-Kuti was used thereafter for a colonial
administrative division that corresponded to the former sultanate.
It was used for the last time from 1937 to 1946 (Département du
Dar el-Kouti). Since 1946 the region has been renamed three
times: the Autonomous District of N'Délé (1946-1961), the Autonomous
Subprefecture of N'Délé (1961-1964), and the Prefecture of
Bamingui-Bangoran since 1964.
Boucher, Edmond A J - Monographie du Dar-Kouti-Oriental,
1934 (typescript, copied and updated from the original by Pierre
Cordell, Denis D - Dar al-Kuti and the Last
Years of the Trans-Saharan Slave Trade, The University of
Wisconsin Press, Madison, WI, USA, 1985
Dampierre, Eric de - Un ancien royaume Bandia
du Haut-Oubangui, Plon, Paris, 1967
Kalck, Pierre - Central African Republic,
Praeger Publishers Inc, New York, 1971
Kalck, Pierre - Historical Dictionary of the
Central African Republic, Third Edition, Scarecrow Press Inc,
Lanham, MD, USA, 2005
Kalck, Pierre - Un explorateur du centre de
l'Afrique, Paul Crampel (1864-1891), L'Harmattan, Paris, 1993
Sultan Bangassou - Source: Cantournet, Jean.
Des affaires et des hommes. Noirs et Blancs, commerçants et
fonctionnaires dans l'Oubangui du début du siècle, Société
d'Ethnologie, Paris, 1991
Sultan al-Sanusi - Source: L'Illustration,
1er Fevrier 1902
Sultan Hetman - Source: Republique Centrafricaine
Sultan Auguste Fatrane and Sultan Mohamed
Senoussi - Source: Assemblée Nationale de la République
Centrafricaine, 1964-1969. Bangui: Imprimerie Centrale d'Afrique,
Images and text copyright © Richard A Bradshaw, Professor of History,
Centre College, Kentucky, USA, and Juan Fandos Rius, Encyclopaedist and
historian of the Central African Republic. An original
feature for the History Files.