The Greatest Liberians in History

Emile Hoffman


Empress Mansarico (Manimansa I)
Empress Mansarico

Mansarico (aka Magbete Quali - Kollie), one of the greatest female conquerors in African history, was described by European and traditional historians of the sixteenth century as a woman of the very highest standing in the Empire of Mali. She fell out with the Mansa (Emperor) and was hence banished.

Mansarico and her Mane people migrated into Liberia between 1490 and 1505 as a conquering army with a group of royals and thousands of soldiers. She made what is now Liberia the center of her new empire. The migration was as much a march of settlement, as it was a march of Conquest.

She was a sister of Mansa Mahmud II, daughter of Mansa Quali II the emperor, who Mansa Mahmud II succeeded.  Another of Mansarico’s relatives was called Fati Quali. Fati Quali was the commander of Malian forces that was defeated and lost the salt mines in the Malian province of Diafunu to Askia Muhammad, the Emperor of Songhay 1502. This may be the reason a part of the Malian royal family decided to move south into what is now Liberia.
Mansarico set up headquarters in the Bong and eastern Lofa county area of Liberia. The sixteenth-century historian Andre Dornelas stated that Mansarico ruled for forty years. From there, she ordered a dozen or more campaigns along the coastal areas of Liberia (Malaguetta Coast), Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone. Mansarico’s sons, grandsons, and relatives became Seres and Farins; they went on to conquer vast areas of West Africa.

Mansarico created the Poro and Sani (Sande) secret societies in order to unite and control her subjects throughout her empire. The Poro was the male society, and the Sani was the female society. These societies were dominant in the lives of all Mane. The powerful Zoe establishment was created within the Sani. The Zoes were wise women who served as advisors and spiritualists to the governors, kings and generals of Mane Provinces.

While the male society focused on conquest, farming, and warfare, the female society focused on the adminstrative and spritual affairs of the empire. The Sani society empowered women and the Zoes were among the most important leaders in the Empire. Zoes were the female elders revered by all Mane throughout the Mane Empire. They were the guardians of Mane secrets.

These societies became the core of the Mane rule such that one could not hold power or a position of influence in the empire without being a member of one of these societies. Society leaders were the top generals and administrators of the Empire. The Poro, for example, formed a bond between the conquerors and their male subjects. The core of Mane rule was to create an empire out of many different people who would be bounded together by the Poro and the Sani.

Historian Manuel Alvares mentions that Zoes developed war medicines. The Mane war medicines included poisons, illusionary drugs, and natural pain killers. Some of these Zoes were analogous to today’s doctors.  

Mansarico is the first recorded female leader of the area that is now the Republic of Liberia.


Emperor Saniquali (Manimansa II)
Emperor Saniquali

Manimansa II was the son of Mansarico. He became Emperor of Mane around the 1520’s. He was king Quali or Sani Quali (Saniquelle). Saniquali was a brilliant visionary who desired to spread the Mane Empire outside its bases in what is now Liberia. 

During his rule, the Mane Empire reached the height of its power. His son, Flansire the Great, had complete control of coastal Liberia and Sierra Leone. It was likely during this period that Mane forces attacked the Portuguese fort at El Mina on the Gold Coast (Ghana).

Future kings of the Kpelle people of northern Liberia used the title of the Saniquali for more than two hundred of years preceding the establishment of the modern nation of Liberia. During the early 1800’s the last great Kpelle king called Gbassie Dahn, was also refered to as Saniquali. King Gbassie Dahn ruled most of Lofa, Bong and Nimba counties.


Flansire I (Flansire the Great) - King of Folgia
Flanshire I (Flanshire the Great) King of Folgia

Flansire I (Flansire the Great) was the grandson of Empress Mansarico and second son of the Manimansa II (Saniquali). Flansire I was one of West Africa’s greatest military minds during the sixteenth century, and along with Farma the Conqueror, he was one of the greatest of Mane conquerors. He ordered the second Mane (Mende) invasion of Sierra Leone during the 1540’s.

Flansire the Great ruled Folgia, the most powerful Mane kingdom in coastal Liberia (Malagueta Coast) between 1540 and 1550. He was the overlord of several kings including the King of Bullom (Sierra Leone), the King of Sherbro (Sierra Leone), the King of the Lokos (Sierra Leone), King of Quoja (Cape Mount), ruler of the Dyula of the Gold Coast, Ivorian Mane Kings, and the Kru King.

During the 1540’s, the Krus and the Folgians (Southern Mane) were at loggerheads for control of coastal areas of Liberia. Flansire’s Folgian army attacked and killed the great Kru king called Sokwalla. Sokwalla was succeded by his son Farinquali (Flonikerri). The Krus now had a new and energetic King. Flonikerri wanted to avenge the death of his father. The renewed hostile activities of the Krus had shown itself in their victories over the Golas on the north-western frontier of Folgia. This may have led to fresh attempts to recover the lost territory in Bassa and Rivercress. Whatever the cause, it ended in the final battle for supremacy between Folgia and the Kru kingdom.  Flansire the Great won a decisive victory for the Folgians.  The conquest of the Kru kingdom was a triumph in a struggle for supremacy in coastal West Africa. It was probably this triumph that enabled the victor Flansire the Great begin seaborne attacks along the West African coast from Sierra Leone to the Gold Coast.


Flansire II- The Maritime King of Folgia
Flanshire II - The Maritime King of Folgia


Flansire II was a son of King Flansire I (Flansire the Great), he was born during the 1540’s, in Folgia (Monrovia) area. Flansire II became the first Mane-Kru king of Folgia during the middle of the sixteenth century. He was a maritime-oriented king who believed in the military prowess of amphibious landings. Most of Flansire II reign involved a series of protracted inter-Mane (Mende) wars. His invasion of Sierra Leone during the 1560’s involved arguably the best documented seaborne invasion in West African history.

Flansire II set out to emulate the conquests of his father Flansire the Great and his famed uncle the Kru king Farinquali. Flansire II eventually defeated the Sierra Leone Mane ( Mende) after more than a decade of war. Some of his descendents became future Mende kings of Sierra Leone.


King Sokwalla

King Sokwalla was the Kru king who controlled most of eastern and coastal Liberia during the 1530’s. He centralized Kru’s authority and united the Kru tribe in a manner that was unmatched by any of his predecessors.

King Sokwalla was the father of Kings Farinquali (Flonikerri) and Zylmanque. His people ruled most of what is now coastal Liberia. Preceding kings were content with shaky and portioned rule over the Kru people with no real unity. Especially notable about this unification was the forging of a counter force to the Mane rule in Liberia.

King Sokwalla’s daughter Wavalla later married Flansire the Great of Folgia, establishing the Mane-Kru royal family of Folgia.  Some of Sokwalla’s descendents ruled Quoja, while others became future kings in several areas of Sierra Leone including Bullom and Dogo.

Evidence shows that during Sokwalla’s rule, the Krus were able to hold back the conquering Mane army for many years. They kept their traditions and did not join the Mane societies like the Poro and Sani(Sande).

Historian Yves Person mentions Barbot’s assertion that Sokwalla was killed during a battle against the Folgian army and was succeeded by his son Farinqualli (Flonikerri). It was the military achievements of Sokwalla that inspired his son Farinquali to take the Kru kingdom to the next level and challenge the Manimansa Saniquali himself for supremacy in Liberia. 



Excerpts from Book: Greatest Liberians in History








  • Post 1822 Liberian History
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