Sarraounia Mangou, the Nigerien African queen and sorceress who cleverly fought the French in the 1899 Battle of Lougou

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A 1986 film ‘Sarraounia’ retells her struggle against Voulet and Chanoine’s troops.

In the late 1800s, the French Voulet- Chanoine Mission or Central African-Chad Mission, led by the captains Paul Voulet and Julien Chanoine, were dispatched to Africa by the French government to conquer the territories between the Niger River and Lake Chad and unify all French territories in West Africa.

History says that after leaving French Sudan in January 1899, they became very callous and subjected the native people to all kinds of inhumane treatment.

They were just unstoppable until they met Sarraounia Mangou.

Sarraounia (a title indicating a female chief or a lineage of female rulers) was the Queen of the Azna, a subgroup of the Hausa, who ruled in the Niger Republic, during the late 19th century.

She was born with yellow eyes, like those of a panther and so the panther became the symbol of the Azna.

She became queen at the age of 20, after her father’s death.

Said to possess sorcerous powers, Sarraounia had, before the French invasion, fought wars on behalf of her people.

She first drove off the Tuareg, who often attempted to raid her village, then the Fulani, who wanted to convert the Azna to Islam.

Since she had often won peace with both tribes, she sought their help to fight a common enemy the French but they refused.

She subsequently mobilized her people and resources to confront the French forces of the Voulet–Chanoine Mission, which launched a fierce attack on her fortress capital of Lougou.

Known as the Battle of Lougou in 1899, the Voulet-Chanoine Mission met the strongest force and lost several men to the fighting.

What Sarraounia and her people also did was to raid the French on a nightly basis, appearing from what historians called the almost impenetrable bush where the Azna defended themselves when facing a superior enemy.

They disappeared quickly into the bush after the raid.

As many began talking about the magical prowess of the Queen, many of the army on the French side deserted the camp. Most of them were Africans who were forced into service.

The attacks eventually came to an end and within three months, the expedition commanders Voulet and Chanoine were assassinated by their own soldiers over their refusal to obey orders from France and other atrocities.

But many still attributed their deaths to the magical prowess of Sarraounia

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