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Special report: Summit brings together sons and daughters of Kanuri people from across world

21 February 2024
Reading time: 7 minutes

Participants emphasise the need for cultural preservation, unity and respect for diversity to bridge the past and future of the Kanuri people

The vibrant and rich culture of the Kanuri people was celebrated in style at the first World Kanem Borno Cultural Summit which was held at the weekend in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State in northeastern Nigeria.

Organised by the Borno Emirate Concerned Citizens Forum and Kufu Tilo, a network of Kanuri associations across the world, the summit was attended by cultural leaders, Islamic scholars and dignitaries.

It began with a special prayer session at the Maiduguri Central Mosque on Friday, February 16.

On Saturday delegates delivered presentations and spoke about the importance of preserving the Kanuri heritage and culture and promoting peace and unity.

On Sunday a durbar was held featuring cultural dances and a display of horsemanship by traditional rulers and their contingents. Exhibitions showcased the lifestyle of the Kanuri people from ancient to modern times.


In his keynote address, the Shehu of Borno State, Alhaji Abubakar Ibn Umar Garba Al-Amin Elkanemi, as the host, welcomed the delegates.

He said the summit would showcase the rich Kanuri cultural heritage and promote sustainable peace and stability as part of the post-insurgency recovery plan in Borno State.

The state has been the epicentre of the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS), better known as Boko Haram, insurgency and the home to many victims of attacks by the violent breakaway group, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).

Thousands of innocent citizens have been killed, three million people displaced and houses and property worth millions burnt and destroyed in the past 15 years of conflict.

Now that relative peace had returned, the Shehu said, it was fitting that the first World Kanem Borno Cultural Summit was held in the state because, by bringing the sons and daughters of the Kanuri people together, it would enable delegates to share their cultural heritage, make economic and trade links and promote greater cooperation.

He emphasised the need to preserve the Kanuri cultural identity for future generations.


At the start of the summit, delegates held a special international prayer session at the Central Maiduguri Mosque.

Delegates from neighboring states and countries – including Cameroon, Chad, Niger, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Mali, Ghana, Benin, Dubai, Libya, Gabon, America, England and Turkey – joined in fervent prayer, seeking divine intervention for the sustainable restoration of peace and stability not only in Borno State but also throughout Africa and the rest of the world.

Religious leaders, including sheikhs, ulamas and mallams, participated in the prayer session.

Alhaji Goni Shettima Darman, an Islamic cleric from Borno State, said delegates prayed for peace, unity and stability.

Adam Konto Baba Gida, also an Islamic cleric from Borno State, said delegates asked Almighty Allah to revive the rich cultural heritage and traditional values of the Kanuri people.


On Saturday, February 17, delegates filled the Mohammed Indimi International Conference Hall at the University of Maiduguri to discuss the need to preserve Kanuri heritage in contemporary society.

The theme of the summit was “Towards achieving sustainable peace, fostering unity and development”. Delegates made presentations, held panel discussions and spoke about areas of concern, including cultural preservation and its potential to contribute to the economic growth of the Kanuri people across the world.

The Shehu of Borno emphasised the need to respect humanity which, he said, was a core value of the Kanem-Borno Empire.

“Allah is not happy with those who deliberately inflict suffering and hardship to others.”

He urged both the federal and Borno State governments to ensure that youths were given the opportunity to study Islamic and Western education.

“Youths need to learn to be innovative. Only if they are skilled will poverty and unemployment be eradicated.”

Borno State governor Babagana Umara Zulum highlighted his administration’s commitment to cultural advancement, saying: “We have come together to preserve our rich cultural heritage. The government will look into the possibility of introducing culture as a subject in our primary and secondary schools.”

He emphasised the need to embed the evolution and survival of Kanem-Borno culture in school curricula so that children would genuinely appreciate the history of the Kanuri people.

He called for collaboration to preserve, protect and promote the rich cultural heritage which, he said, would bring about peace and development.

The summit was not intended to be a once-off event and would be held every two years. It would serve as a platform to promote cultural preservation and to foster unity among Kanuri-speaking communities across Africa and the world.

He said the next summit would be held in December 2026.

Hanau Musa Musawa, Nigeria’s minister of art, culture and creative economy, emphasised the rich history of the region and the need to tackle environmental and security issues.

“The history of Kanem Borno dates back to 700 AD. This ancient kingdom has thrived, becoming one of the oldest and most culturally significant in Africa.

“We must address pressing issues facing our communities from disasters to environmental conservation and sustainable development.”

She announced plans to build the Kanem Museum to preserve ancient Borno cultural and heritage artifacts.

“People [tourists] from all over the world will be able to visit, see and appreciate the ancient culture of Kanem-Borno Empire.”

The museum, sponsored by the North East Development Commission (NEDC), would not only safeguard the identity of the Kanuri people but also serve as a centre for research and documentation of the rich history of the Kanuri people, she said.

Alhaji Hassan Zanna Boguma, chairman of Borno Emirate Concerned Citizens Forum, told RNI that the colloquium had featured presentations, panel discussions and speeches that focused on Kanuri culture and heritage.

Issues included the future of the Kanuri language and culture, the economic potential of Borno State, the history and future of agriculture in the region, the impact of climate change and environmental challenges and strategies needed to promote peace and unity.

Ibrahim Umara, a professor of political science at the University of Maiduguri, emphasised the importance of building, promoting and sustaining cultural heritage, socioeconomic development and peace and unity.

“The outcome of the roundtable discussions by the various academic scholars will be forwarded to traditional rulers, government authorities and business tycoons, as well as other relevant stakeholders for proper review and implementation.”


On Sunday, February 18, the Shehu and high-profile dignitaries attended a durbar featuring cultural dances and a display of horsemanship by traditional rulers and their contingents.

Dressed in colourful traditional attire, the procession wowed thousands of spectators who had gathered to witness the event. It was a triumph of pomp and splendour.

Wali Zanna Zakariya, a traditional leader, said: “The durbar was spectacular. It clearly showed that the Kanem-Borno Empire was great and that it is still of great importance in contemporary society.”

Ya Falmata said she had never seen such a grand durbar.

“This is a clear indication that peace and stability have started returning to Borno State after years of conflict. I hope our traditional rulers and the state government will continue to preserve our highly valued cultural heritage for generations to come.”

Abba Wali Shehu Umar Garbai, head of the Mashamari ward in the Jere Local Government Area of Borno State, described the durbar as the “greatest ever”.


The durbar also included several exhibitions showcasing Kanuri culture and heritage. Displays included traditional food and attire.

Aisha Umar Kolo, a member of the Borno Agric Village, said: “Visitors enjoyed the displays of traditional food, clothing, shoes, caps and jewellery.

Shettima Lawan Monguno

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