SOCIAL, POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC FACTORS THAT LED TO THE FALL OF SONGHAI EMPIRE
- Social Factors: The sack and subjugation of Timbuktu by external forces exposed the misrule of some emperors; this was coupled with the outbreak of drought and diseases. There was also the division of the empire into a number of separate states and smaller kingdoms exposed them to danger. Many slaves, among them were Doghorani, rebelled against Songhai authorities and freed themselves. This caused constant rebellions and resistance from within the empire. The Moroccan army came to free many Songhai tributary states that had previously been sources of slaves in the trans-Saharan trade routes.
- Political Factors: Several political factors contributed to the fall of Songhai Empire, among these are:
- The inability of the disjointed smaller kingdoms to form a political alliance and reassert a strong central government. The consequence of this was a civil war which broke out in 1591 and further weakened the empire.
- There was also the attack of the salt mines at Taghaza by Judar’s forces which invaded Gao and then finally destroyed Songhai as a regional power.
- Subsequent history of succession to the throne of Songhai Empire came as a result of fractional struggles, palace revolutions or coup. An instance was the case of the Askias who occupied the throne just between the years 1528 and 1591.
- There was also the tyranny of some corrupt leaders of the Songhai Empire which ruined the empire.
- Greed and selfish attitude of some of the leaders who were only concerned about royal gold trade and cared less about the general challenges facing the Songhai Empire was another factor.
- The destruction of many of the empire’s written documents which were of great importance to it, for instance the judicial and administrative archival documents destroyed at Sankore University made rulers not to have access to rich documents at the time of their need.
- Economic Factors: It is an irony that Songhai economic dominance also led to its downfall. Economic matters, coupled with civil war over succession, weakened the authority of the central government. Songhai’s wealth attracted some European countries and they supported the Moroccan invasion and subsequent takeover of major trading centres of the Songhai Empire. The capture of Timbuktu which was one of the very important commercial centres in the Songhai Empire led to decrease in income thereby weakening the empire. It also lost its control over the trans-Saharan trade to the Moroccan army. Rebellion from conquered territories like Gao led to the reduction in the taxes and tributes collected. The freedom of slaves which used to be major source of income to the Songhai Empire was another factor.