Tunka Manin or Tunkamenin, born around 1010 AD, was a ruler of the Ghana Empire who reigned from 1062 to 1076 AD. His predecessor was King Bassi. Tunka had obtained the kingship because he was the son of the former ruler’s sister and also due to the fact that the Soninke people followed the matrilineal system of inheritance.
The Ancient Ghana Empire was believed to have been founded by the Soninke dynasty between AD300- 400. By the 10th century, it extended its territory west to the river Senegal, South of the Bambouk region, east to the Niger and north to the Berber town of Awadaghost.
By the 11th century it covered the area of the modern state of Senegal, Mali and Mauritania.
Manin is renowned for his involvement with the local communities, and also for his success economically, as he increased trade, especially that of salt, greatly within the empire. Manin is said to have surrounded himself with an air of divinity and magic, which he used to motivate his people to protect him well.
Tunka Manin was extremely wealthy as he wore exquisite cloths made of silk and cotton, and he decked himself in gold and ivory. His opulence and that of the people of the empire soon became the envy of its neighbours.
Ancient Ghana was attacked by an Islamic movement known as Almoravid and later by the Mandingo neighbors under the ruler Sundiata Keita in 1240.
Tunka Manin successfully held off the Almoravid attacks on the Ghana Empire, and even expanded it farther. Al-Bakri noted that Manin controlled some 200,000 warriors.
However, in 1076, the Almoravids succeeded in destroying the capital of the Ancient Ghana Empire known as Kumbi Saleh which was founded by Kaya Maahan in AD770 and therefore taking over rule of the former empire.
The people in Manin’s town admired him for being a constitutional leader, and for defeating the Almoravid armies.
At exactly 1240, the Ghana Empire finally disintegrated, paving the way for the rise of another empire – the Mali Empire. But Tunka Manin was long gone at this period. However, the factors that led to the empire’s decline started during his reign.
Firstly, the monopoly which the empire enjoyed with its control of the trade in gold weakened suddenly when the Sanhaja Berbers joined the fray. This led to a serious unhealthy competition.
Secondly, the sporadic attacks on the empire by its enemies, notably the Almoravids and the Muslim State of Tekrur, the Susus and the Mandingos tremendously affected the defense capacity of the empire and later weakened its economy as a result of unceasing bombardments. These attacks occurred during 1062 to 1076 when Tunkamenin was in power.
Lastly, the sporadic attacks on the empire by its enemies, notably the Almoravids and the Muslim State of Tekrur, the Susus and the Mandingos tremendously affected the defense capacity of the empire and later weakened its economy as a result of unceasing bombardments. These attacks occurred during 1062 to 1076 when Tunka manin was in power.