Kunta (tribe)

A Kunta in the Timbuktu region c. 1908.

The Kountas or Kuntas (singular: Elkentawi or Alkanata) are described originally as Arabs, descendants of Uqba ibn Nafi,[1] then as berber Zenata.[2]

Established in Mauritania since the eleventh century, the Kounta were instrumental in the expansion of Islam into sub-Saharan West Africa in the 15th century, and formed an urban elite in cities such as Timbuktu which were on the southern end of the Trans-Saharan trade.[3]

"Kunta" is an Arabic word (كُنْتَ), meaning, "you were," (2nd person, male).

Modern history

While the nomadic Kunta clans were "pacified" early by French Colonial forces,the urban Kounta trading and religious groups to the east were instrumental in the Fulani Jihad States of the Sokoto Caliphate, Macina, and the Segou Tijaniyya Jihad state of Umar Tall.

Some leaders of the Kunta in north east Mali have come into conflict with Tuareg and Bambara populations in towns where they once held a near monopoly on political power. In 19981999 and again in 2004 there were brief flare-ups of intercommunal violence between these groups near Gao and Timbuktu a rare event in postcolonial Mali. There has even been a small ethnic Kounta insurgency,[4] begun in 2004 by a former army colonel, though few attacks have been staged and the leadership has been largely rejected by the Kunta community.

See also


  1. texte, Société de géographie commerciale (France) Auteur du (1897-01-01). "Bulletin de la Société de géographie commerciale de Paris". Gallica. Retrieved 2016-07-21.
  2. texte, Comité d'études historiques et scientifiques de l'Afrique occidentale française Auteur du; texte, Afrique occidentale française Auteur du (1922-01-01). "Bulletin du Comité d'études historiques et scientifiques de l'Afrique occidentale française". Gallica. Retrieved 2016-07-21.
  3. John O. Hunwick, Rex S. O'Fahey. Arabic Literature of Africa. Brill, New York (2003) ISBN 90-04-09450-4
  4. Eric G. Berman and Nicolas Florquin. Economic Community of West African States: Small Arms Survey (2006)
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