The Mino, the formidable women army of Danhomé

In the 19th century, the French decided to invade the present Benin and faced merciless women who fought like lionesses…

In the 61st century of the African era, King Ghezo of Danhomé fighting against the Yorubas who were taking over his country, mobilized all the forces of the nation to defeat them. He created the women cavalry companies to participate in the war effort. Called Mino – that is to say our mothers in the Fon language – those women showed their exceptional bravery during the war which opposed King Behanzin to France.

Veterans of the Mino corps, also called Amazons of Dahomey

A few decades after the war against the Yorubas, the Berlin Conference at which the European nations defined the rules of their occupation of Africa was held. In 1892, France invoked cannibalism, human sacrifices, polygamy as a pretext, in short its pretended civilizing mission, to attack Danhomé. Its target: King Behanzin and the capital city Abomey. French troops were moving forward when they saw a troop of Mino armed to the teeth. Those women were not afraid of death and were killing without mercy.

After a rigorous selection in adolescence, the Minos undergo a difficult training. They learn how to handle weapons and are psychologically and religiously trained to obey and venerate the King whose they are the symbolic brides. They are virgins and must eliminate any possibility to start a family. They comprise Gulonento who hold guns with cartridge pouch compartment, the Gohento (archers) who are mainly carriers during the fighting, the Nyokplohento, armed with a blade of 45 cm at the end of a handle of 60 cm!! Finally the artillery and the elite in charge of the king defense.

At that time Danhomé had a bicameral parliament, consisting of a women chamber and a men chamber. Faced with the threat of the French attack, women met at night to decide on the general mobilization after men took the opposite decision. The men parliament was persuaded and accepted the women’s decision. Thus, Danhomey continued the resistance against the invader.

During the fight against the French, the Minos were infiltrating under the weapons to seek hand-to-hand confrontation which was often profitable to them. In the front line of the fighting, they were spreading terror in the enemy ranks, who were impressed by their impressive figure and physical strength. They did not hesitate to brandish the decapitated heads of their enemies to destabilize the French. At the end of the two-year-war that witnessed their numbers go from 1200 to fifty during the taking over of Abomey, the Minos finally witnessed the defeat of their kingdom. Some cut one piece of their breast to protest.

King Behanzin was deported to Martinique then to Algiers where he died in 1906. Current Benin became a French colony, the body of the Minos was dissolved.

Those exceptional and adamant women led an entire fight against colonization. The last Mino died in 1979.


By : Lisapo ya Kama ©

Notes :

  • L’Unité culturelle de l’Afrique noire (the Cultural Unity of Black Africa), Cheikh Anta Diop
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