Kanem känēm´ [key], former empire in Africa in the areas near Lake Chad that are now part of Chad and N Nigeria. The empire began in the 9th cent., when the Sefawa migrated to the area from the Sahara. The rulers eventually embraced Islam and extended their control to neighboring Bornu . After attacks by the Bulalas forced the rulers of Kanem to shift their capital to Bornu (c.1380), Bornu gradually emerged as the center of a revitalized empire of which Kanem became a protectorate.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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