Sarraounia Mangou, the Hausa Queen Who Fought the French in the 1899 Battle of Lougou.

Sarraounia Mangou was a Hausa chief/priestess from the Azna subgroup. She was the queen of the Azna, a subgroup of the Hausa, who ruled in the Niger Republic, during the late 19th century.

She became queen at the age of 20, after her father’s death. In Hausa, Sarraounia means “queen” or “female leader.” It refers to a succession of female monarchs who wielded political and religious authority. She was born with yellow eyes, like those of a panther and so the panther became the symbol of the Azna.

She led her people in the Battle of Lougou in 1899 where she faced French colonial forces from the Voulet–Chanoine Mission.

She also drove out the Tuareg raiders and the Fulani who intended to convert the Azna to Islam from her town. Sarraounia had waged wars on behalf of her people before the French invasion and was known to have magical powers.

Sarraounia and her people invaded the French on a nightly basis, They would emerge from an almost impenetrable thicket where the Azna defended themselves when challenged by a bigger foe. According to historians, this happened often.

They disappeared into the woods after the attack.

As rumours of the Queen’s magical abilities spread, several French troops deserted the camp. The vast majority of them were Africans who had been forced to serve in the military. Some people decided to leave because they believed that the Queen could perform magic, and they feared for their lives.

The attacks eventually stopped. Three months later, the mission commanders Voulet and Chanoine were killed by their own troops because they refused to obey French orders and committed other crimes.

In 1986, the novel Sarraounia was made into a film, which won first prize at the Ouagadougou Pan African Film and Television Festival. It became a symbol of colonial resistance and female leadership across Africa. The novel’s author, Abdoulaye Mamani, reintroduced her on the world stage.

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