KUKA, or KUKAWA, a town of Bornu, a Mahommedan state of the central Sudan, incorporated in the British protectorate of Nigeria (see BORNU). Kuka is situated in 12 55' N. and 13 34' E., 4J m. from the western shores of Lake Chad, in the midst of an extensive plain. It is the headquarters of the British administration in Bornu, and was formerly the residence of the native sovereign, who in Bornu bears the title of shehu.
The modern town of Kuka was founded c. 1810 by Sheikh Mahommed al Amin al Kanemi, the deliverer of Bornu from the Fula invaders. It is supposed to have received its name from the kuka or monkey bread tree (Adansonia digitata), of which there are extensive plantations in the neighbourhood. Kuka or Kaoukaou was a common name in the Sudan in the middle ages. The number of towns of this name gave occasion for much geographical confusion, but Idrisi writing in the 12th century, and Ibn Khaldun in the uth century, both mention two important towns called Kaou Kaou, of which one would seem to have occupied a position very near to that of the modern Kuka. Ibn Khaldun speaks of it as the capital of Bornu and as situated on the meridian of Tripoli. In 1840 the present town was laid waste by Mahommed Sherif, the sultan of Wadai; and when it was restored by Sheikh Omar he built two towns separated by more than half a mile of open country, each town being surrounded by walls of white clay. It was probably owing to there being two towns that the plural Kukawa became the ordinary designation of the town in Kano and throughout the Sudan, though the inhabitants used the singular Kuka. The town became wealthy and populous (containing some 60,000 inhabitants), being a centre for caravans to Tripoli and a stopping-place of pilgrims from the Hausa countries going across Africa to Mecca. The chief building was the great palace of the sheikh. Between 1823 and 1872 Kuka was visited by several English and German travellers. In 1893 Bornu was seized by the ex-slave Rabah (q.v.), an adventurer from the Bahr-el-Ghazal, who chose a new capital, Dikwa, Kuka falling into complete decay. The town was found in ruins in 1902 by the British expedition which replaced on the throne of Bornu a descendant of the ancient rulers. In the same year the rebuilding of Kuka was begun and the town speedily regained part of its former importance. It is now one of the principal British stations of eastern Bornu. Owing, however, to the increasing importance of Maidugari, a town 80 m. S. S. W. of Kuka, the court of the shehu was removed thither in 1908.
For an account of Kuka before its destruction by Rabah, see the Travels of Heinrich Barth (new ed., London, 1890); and Sahara und Sudan, by Gustav Nachtigal (Berlin, 1879), i. 581-748.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)