By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare


Sunni Ali (sometimes spelled Sonni Ali), was born in Ali Kolon. Ali’s regal reign would last about 28 years (1464-1492). Ali was the 15th ruler of the medieval West African Sunni dynasty and the first ruler of the Songhai empire.


Under the command of emperor Sunni Ali, a plethora of regions and cities were conquered and then fortified, like Timbuktu, and Djenne. The newly captured territories would be subjected to Ali’s repressive policies. Timbuktu had their scholars targeted and in some cases, they were expelled from the city, particularly those scholars associated with the Taureg people (an ethnic Berber people) from the Sankore region. Under his authority a massive naval fleet that traveled through the Niger River was organized. Ali’s fleet was sucessful in winning him territories that formerly belonged to the Mali Empire and the Empire of Ghana.


According to some researchers Ali died on November 6, 1492. Some Muslim scholars believed Ali drowned while crossing the Niger River, while others believe that he was killed by his sister’s son, Askia Muhammad Ture. Ali’s son, Sunni Baru would take the throne formerly held by his imperial minded father. However, Baru would be successful challenged for the throne by, Askia, because Baru was not believed to of been a devoted Muslim, therefore not a moral leader of a predominantly Muslim country.

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