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Extent of the Songhai Empire, AD 1500

Sonni Ali, also known as Sunni Ali Ber or "Sunni Ali", was born Ali Kolon[1]. He reigned from about 1464 to 1492. Sunni Ali was the first great king of the Songhai Empire, located in west Africa and the 15th ruler of the Sonni dynasty. Under Sunni Ali's infantry and cavalry, Songhai extended to cover a great portion of the Niger River area and gained control of crucial trading cities such as Timbuktu (captured in 1468) and Jenne (captured in 1475). Sonni conducted a repressive policy against the scholars of Timbuktu, especially those of the Sankore region who were associated with the Tuareg whom Ali expelled to gain control of the town.

He built a fleet to patrol the Niger river. During Sonni Ali's reign, Songhai surpassed the height of the Mali Empire, engulfing areas under the Mali Empire (and the Ghana Empire before it). On November 6, 1492, Sunni Ali's horse slipped and fell into the Koni River, Ali and his horse were swept over the falls and drowned.[2]. He was succeeded by his son, Sonni Baru.

Opinions vary on whether Sonni Ali can correctly be described as a Muslim. He ruled over both urban Muslims and rural non-Muslims at a time when the traditional co-existence of different beliefs was being challenged. His adherence to African animism while also professing Islam leads some writers to describe him as outwardly or nominally Muslim.[1][2]

Preceded by
Silman Dandi
King of Songhai
1464–1492
Succeeded by
Sonni Baru

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References

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