Accepted Paper:

Yoruba Cities and Civil Wars: A Reevaluation of Refugee Absorption and Intergroup Relations in Nineteenth Century Yorubaland  


Akanmu Adebayo (Kennesaw State University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper examines the changes wrought on Yoruba cities by 19th century wars. It asks: How did wars affect existing cities? How did city planning and architecture change? What changes did refugee movement and resettlement create? What can present refugee crisis learn from Yoruba cities' responses?

Paper long abstract:

The Yoruba have a strong preference for city life; it is an integral part of their myths and religion. Cities were the location for periodic and annual traditional religious observances and, subsequently, the zone of activities for the spread of Islam and Christianity. In the 19th century, however, Yoruba civil wars put this system under pressure. With the outbreak and spread of wars, refugees and brigands fell on existing villages and towns, inaugurating a chain reaction. While the Yoruba civil wars have received scholarly attention, the changes wrought on cityscapes and city-life have not. Several cities (Owu, Old Oyo, Iwere, etc.) were razed by war. New cities (New Oyo, Ibadan, Abeokuta) emerged and thrived but some, like Ijaye, collapsed shortly after founding. Warlords and brigands, fleeing from their own towns, seized other towns and forced reigning monarchs to make far-reaching administrative and economic concessions. Thus, cities like Ilorin, Iwo, Ile-Ife, Ogbomosho, Ede, and Osogbo, made adjustments to accommodate the influx of refugees and migrants. Towns located along the trade routes, such as Lagos, Ijebu-Ode, and Ondo, also experienced changes. This paper examines political, economic, social, and other changes experienced by these Yoruba towns. It discusses the impact on safety and security, land tenure and use, settlement patterns, architecture, town planning, intergroup relations, indigene-migrant dichotomies, and chieftaincy disputes. Since the city was the center of a kingdom over which a crowned monarch (oba alade) reigned, the paper examines how the wars impacted kingship traditions, legitimacy, power, and seniority among Yoruba obas.

Panel P134
Urban scenographies of political power in Africa before 1900 (double panel)