Introduction The Ghana Empire, also known as the Kingdom of Ghana or the Wagadugu Empire was situated in what is now South-Eastern Mauritania, Senegal and Mali, it was a booming empire that existed around the 6th century up until the 11th century, with the kingdom’s golden age starting around 800 CE and lasted for nearly three centuries. At its peak of power, it is known as one of, if not the richest Kingdom as compared to surrounding kingdoms in both Africa and Europe, reports stating that even its dogs wore golden collars, and its horses, which were adorned with silken rope halters, slept on plush carpets is a major indicator of its amazing wealth. Adding to account of the economic and cultural deterioration of Europe during the same period, known as the Dark Ages.
The start of this Empire was credited to its strategic and economically competitive location, which allows trade to flourish from the numerous travellers, merchants and traders that travelled through the area, to further give interest to travelling merchants, Ghana’s location was a “gold mine”. The Soninke people was the first to notice the potential and took advantage of this location and thus created Ghana, its abundance of Gold and Iron was a precious commodity at that time, added with the availability of kola nuts (the latter “secret ingredient” of Coca-Cola), and ivory to cities along the Mediterranean, which caters for Ghana’s high demand in salt. During that time, a breakthrough in transportation of goods occurred with the success of people taming camels that are suited to life throughout the Sahara desert and able to carry a sizeable amount of trading goods.
The leader in Ghana was the king, whom, notably was also known as the ghana, or war chief. His every word was law. He served as the commander in chief of a highly organized army to protect Ghana and its flourishing trade. The king was also in charge of controlling all trade activities, and the head administrator of justice. While mayors, civil servants, counsellors, and ministers were appointed by the king to assist with administrative duties, the king was still the man in charge.
Each day, the king is stated to hold a court to address the complaints of the citizens. Small conflicts such as neighbour dispute or cases of violation rights were all a part of the court. And the daily event is stated to be a peaceful one, most of the time, violence may happen when issues of criminal nature takes place, and two of the most serious criminal offenses were the denial of debt and the shedding of blood.
Ghana was also an influential figure itself towards many of its smaller neighbours, as the king appointed governors in order to control the conquered lands there, little went unreported to the king. In areas where order and obedience prevailed, and taxes were properly paid, autonomy was granted. But governors are always keeping a close eye on lands that were struggling for independence and defied the king’s laws.
With the growth in trade, comes foreign influence, which includes the Muslim influence that arrives from traders from the North. The king of Ghana welcomed Muslim traders, in fact they encouraged it by allowing them to establish their own Muslim towns, however, they did not adopt the Muslim religion.
The fall of Ghana was contributed towards the military attacks by the Berbers in the north, the Berbers were a poor society at that time that is aiming to gain a piece of Ghana’s trade access. But it took a religious turn when a religious movement named the Almoravids emerged during the 1050’s, they waged war on all non-Muslims. In 1076, the Almoravids launched a military offensive against Ghana and successfully captured its capital, forcing the people of Ghana to convert to Islam or face execution. Almoravid control over Ghana lasted only around ten years, sadly, the Empire of Ghana never recovered to its former glory.
Ghana’s rise and fall was an indication of the war between economic and religious movement, the demands of trade sparked a great empire and the hunger for religious righteousness decimates a great empire.