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Total population
Approximately 20,000
Regions with significant populations
Middle Niger River Valley of Mali, Niger.
Songhay languages, French
Related ethnic groups
Songhai, Mandé, Moroccan

The Arma people are an ethnic group of the middle Niger River valley, descended from Moroccan invaders of the 16th century. The name, applied by other groups, derives from the word ar-rumah (Arabic: الرماة‎) "fusiliers".[1]

The Arma ethnicity is distinct from (but sometimes confused with) the 3.6 million Zarma people of western Niger, who predate the Moroccan invasion and speak the Zarma language, also a member of the Songhay languages.

As of 1986, there were some 20,000 self-identified Arma in Mali, mostly around Timbuktu, the middle Niger bend and the Inner Niger Delta.

The Songhai expedition and aftermath

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The 1590 expedition sent to conquer the Songhai Empire trade routes by the Saadi dynasty of Morocco was made up of four thousand Moroccan, Morisco refugees and European renegades, armed with European-style arquebuses. After the destruction of the Songhai Empire in 1591, the Moroccans settled into Djenné, Gao, Timbuktu and the larger towns of the Niger River bend. Never able to exert control outside their large fortifications, within a decade the expedition's leaders were abandoned by Morocco. In cities like Timbuktu, the men of the 1591 expedition intermarried with the Songhai, became small scale independent rulers, and some of their descendants came to be identified as minor dynasties of their own right. By the end of the 17th century, Bambara, Tuareg, Fula and other forces came to control empires and city-states in the region, leaving the Arma as a mere ethnicity.

See also


  1. ^ N. Levtzion, "North-West Africa: from the Maghrib to the fringes of the forest" in: The Cambridge history of Africa, Volume 4 : c.1600-c.1790, Ed. Cambridge University Press (1975), pp.154-155