Aro Confederacy

Aro Confederacy

Infobox Former Country
native_name = Omu Aro
conventional_long_name = Aro Confederacy
common_name = Aro Confederacy
continent = Africa
region = Nigeria
country = Nigeria
status = Confederation
era = Atlantic slave trade
year_start = 1690
date_start =
year_end = 1902
date_end =
p1 = None
flag_p1 =
s1 = Colonial Nigeria
flag_s1 = Flag_of_British_Colonial_Nigeria.svg
national_motto =
national_anthem =

image_map_caption =
common_languages = Igbo, Ibibio, Ijaw, Delta Ibo, Urhobo, Isoko, Itsekiri, etc.
capital = Arochukwu
leader1 = Eze Aro
government_type = Republic
currency = Manillas, Cowry shells and Slaves
stat_pop1 = 3000000
stat_year1 = 1900

The Aro Confederacy (1690-1902) was a slave trading political union orchestrated by the Igbo subgroup, the Aro people, centered in Arochukwu in present day Southeastern Nigeria. Their influence and presence was distributed across Eastern Nigeria into parts of the Niger Delta and Southern Igala. It is claimed that it extended through parts of present-day Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. The Arochukwu Kingdom was an economical, political, and a oracular center as it was home of the powerful Long Juju oracle, the Aro King "Eze Aro", Chiefs, and High Priests.

The Rise

The slave trading Confederacy was founded shortly after Arochukwu formed. Making alliances with several Igbo and eastern Cross River neighbours, the Aro people began slave trading activities around Igbo and Ibibio lands. Among many of the ethnic groups of eastern Nigeria, anyone who enters a shrine and begs the deity of the shrine for help instantly becomes an "osu" (sometimes called a "juju slave"), a slave of the shrine and a social outcast. The priests of the Ibini Ukpabi oracle (also known as the Long Juju Shrine), popular in midwest and southeast Nigeria, exploited this in order to force travellers and pilgrims into slavery. Agents of the oracle would pose as bandits and chase their victims into the shrine, hoping they would beg the intervention of the god and become "osu", so the priests could then sell them off for profit.

As this continued, Aro businessmen from Arochukwu migrated across southern Nigeria and also to Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea and founded numerous settlements. There they spread the Aro trading monopoly.

The Confederacy Era

This activity became very popular as coastal Niger Delta city-states became important centres for the export of slaves. Such city-states included Opobo, Bonny, Brass, Calabar, as well as other slave trading city-states controlled by the Ijaw, Efik, and Igbo. The Aros formed a strong trading network and incorporated hundreds of communities that formed into powerful kingdoms. The Ajalli, Arondizuogu, and Bende Kingdoms were the most powerful Aro powers in the Confederacy after Arochukwu. Some were founded and named after great Commanders and Chiefs like the legendary Izuogu Mgbokpo and Iheme whom led Aro forces to destroy and conquer Ikpa Ora and founded Arondizuogu.


In the late 19th century, European colonists moved into Igboland. Their power was not affected as Germans colonized Cameroon in 1884 and Spaniards colonized Equatorial Guinea in 1900, because either minor colonies and settlements of Aro were located there or they didn't exist. The Royal Niger Company of Britain bore friction with the Aros because of their alleged human sacrifice, trading network, and economic control of the hinterland. Aro control was threatened with Europeans pressuring their territory and populations and with Christian missionaries like Mary Slessor. This led to a war known as the Anglo-Aro War which began in 1901 with an Aro invasion of British-controlled city of Obegu. The British retaliated with the Aro Expedition and repeated invasions on the Arochukwu Kingdom, resulting in its collapse in 1902.

Contrary to the belief that the Ibini Ukpabi was destroyed, the shrine still exists, and is intact in Arochukwu and serves mainly as a tourist site.



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