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The Kanuri people belong to an African group majorly found in Borno State, Nigeria and other parts of Africa such as Niger and Cameroon. The people trace their origins to ruling lineages of the medieval Kanem-Bornu Empire, its client states or provinces. As a result of civil war, rebellion and outright invasion by the Bulala, the Kanemi people were forced out of the Kanem Empire in the fourteenth century. The people established a new empire southwest of Lake Chad after nearly ten decades of bitter conflict. The total population of the Kanuri people in Africa is estimated at 10 million (2013 estimates).


The people speak the Kanuri language which is divided into dialects. These include, Manga, Tumari, Bilme and the more distinct Kanembu language.


Inheriting the religious and cultural traditions of the Kanem-Bornu state, the peoples are predominantly Muslims.


The people are majorly engaged in farming. They cultivate mostly millet which is the main source of income for the people. There are also fishermen in the Chad Basin. Others engage in trade and salt processing.


The main food of the people is millet in soups or rice and corn. They do a little hunting for the purpose of getting meat. They rear cattle for beef and harvest leaves and fruit to eat.

The traditional marriage rite in this group of people is in accordance with Islamic injunctions to express ‘love’ between the couple. There is reverence for the ‘waliyyi’ (bride giver) which could be the father or guardian. The rites also include the observance of ‘sadau’, which is the act of asking and acceptance between the family of the bride and groom, and their witnesses.

The traditional dressings include male garments worn by men. These are the Kulwu, Gemaje, Dankiki and Yange which also have sub-groups. The traditional Kanuri trousers are exceptionally large and are made up of at least four to six yards of fabric. The women are usually dressed in colorful scarves or turbans with their lips painted black. They also adorn themselves with beautiful henna design and jewelries.


Famous Kanuri people include; Kashim Ibrahim (politician), Ibrahim Imam (politician), Shettima Ali Monguno, Baba Gana Kingibe, Sani Abacha (ex-Nigerian head of state), and Ali Modu Sheriff (ex-governor of Borno state).

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