The blood flows,
You are dead,
The blood flows,
We have won,
The blood flows,
The enemy is no more.
This is the victory song of the Mino an all-female Army of the Dahomey Kingdom now known as Benin. From the 18th to the early 20th century, they were a brave and terrifying all-female militia they protected and expanded the Dahomey Kingdom.
The word Mino means mother in Fon, They were the mothers of the Kingdom.
In the late 1600’s King King Wegbaja choose a group of women to become elephant hunters, then in the 18th century his son and successor King Ajaga found himself impressed by their skill and strength decided to make them palace guards. Initially as guards it was a group of 800 women, it soon grew to 4000 female soldiers, so their responsibility grew from just guarding the king to Guarding a Kingdom and growing the kingdom, in other words mothering the Kingdom. In the 1850’s under King Gezo the army consisted of 6000 soldiers.
The female soldiers usually included those who were fleeing from marriage or those seeking glory on the battle field, disobedient and impetuous daughters or if they show fighting talent.
The Mino’s trained vigorously in completion with other male troops but their determination to become the strongest saw them show traits of stamina and courage far greater than their male counterparts. Famously in their training they would scale a wall covered in thorn hedges without showing any pain. Again African women proved to the world that women are as capable as man and are true warriors. Queen Manthatisi, Queen Nzhinga. They show an outstanding amount of courage and determination.
Let not the myth be believed that women cannot fight and defeat an oppressor, They are very much capable.
The Fon’s Women army had three main wings, the left and right wings and the elite centre wing or Fanti. Each of these wings had five sub groups: The elephant huntress, the musket bearing frontline group, the razor women, the Artillery women, and the archers. But the Mino’s biggest strength was their teamwork and unity. These brave Great women never met just to gossip, they never met just to laugh at a sister’s misfortunes, they supported and had each others backs at all times. They certainly never fought amongst each other for a man.
Women, let no man divide you, let not jealousy cause divisions amongst you, Your struggles today are similar, let those struggles unite you, for women united are the greatest army in the world.
The Mino’s conquered the Kingdom of Savi in 1727, later that same year they conquered the Whydah people, they crushed Allada. They conqured the great Oyo empire. In one of the battles when they captured Egbado town of Okeadon, they snuck over the walls during the night, unlocked the gate from inside, the sisters flooded into the city with a wave of murderous fury.
The 20th century was the scramble for Africa and the Mino found themselves in this scramble, The female spirit in them knew that, whether the French had Morden weaponry or not they would either “Conquer or Die” which was their motto. They were not going to give up their land without a fight. When one of the Chiefs in of the Dahomey Kingdom was bought by the colonial Imperialists the same way they bought Jacob Zuma and Ian Khama, but the General of the Mino’s saw through the lies of the coward and ordered for his head, one Mino then decapitated his head, wrapped in the flag back to the Dahomey King of that time, King Behazin.
The Dahomey-Franco war, which in 1890, resulted in two major battles, one which took place in heavy rain at dawn outside Contonou in Benin. Behazin’s Army, which included female units, assaulted a French stockade but was driven back in hand-to-hand fighting. Nanisca, one of the Mino’s decapitated the French chief gunner and only the sheer firepower of their modern riffles won the day for the French.
The second war was a seven week war which was fought even more fiercely than the first, there were 23 separate battles, and once again female troops were in the vanguard of Behanzin’s forces. The women were the last to surrender. The survivors took their revenge on the French by covertly substituting themselves for Dahomey women who were taken into the enemy stockade, each allowed themselves to be seduced by French officer, waited for him to fall asleep and then cut his throat with his own burgonet.
Warrior Nawi was the last of the Great Mino’s to die and was well over the age of 100 in 1979.
Women, Africa faces neo-colonism, you cannot just sit on your couch and watch reality T.V, You cannot just sit and start gossip wars when our continent, our people are getting raped each day by imperialists. Together in 1956 you ensured that amendments to the pass laws were not adopted, together as an army you conquered states, Today together you will defeat Neo-colonism. You are mothers or you will be mothers one day and your children must want own land, must be free, own Africa, the land of their ancestors, their home, own mines and benefit from resources of their land, you do not want them to be slaves. Women get up and fight for your power is immense, Your wisdom and intellect can truly liberate the Continent and Race.
Their last enemies were full of praise for their courage. A French Foreign Legionnaire named Bern lauded them as “warrioresses… [Who] fight with extreme valor, always ahead of the other troops. They are outstandingly brave … well trained for combat and very disciplined.” A French Marine, Henri Morienval, thought them “remarkable for their courage and their ferocity… [they] flung themselves on our bayonets with prodigious bravery.”
“Conquer or Die”
In the same way the Dahomey people had trust in the Mino’s, is the same way African women in you we trust!
Happy Women’s Century!