The Aro Confederacy
The Aro Confederacy (1690s - 1902) was the premier Igbo slave-trading power of the late 18th and 19th centuries. The Confederacy, ruled by an Eze known as the "Eze Aro" and a circle of priests, thrived on interregional trade and the selling of its most precious commodity: human slaves, which it acquired through its oracle, Ibini Ukpabi. Ibini Ukpabi was famed throughout what is now eastern Nigeria for being the physical home of Chukwu (God). Throughout Igboland, disputing parties took their cases to be judged before Chukwu and in exchange for its services, the oracle demande
d human sacrifices and slaves. Through cunning manipulation of its oracle, the Aro Confederacy grew powerful and wealthy on the slave trade, ultimately becoming the chief supplier of slaves to middlemen on the coast, who resold them to Europeans.
When the British "outlawed" the slave trade in West Africa in the late 19th century, the Aro, refusing to obey British sanctions, continued buying and selling human beings. In 1901, a British military force invaded Igboland with the intent of destroying the slave trade and squashing Aro resistance. After a year of heavy fighting and staunch resistance, on Christmas Day 1902 the British captured Arochukwu (the headquarters of the Aro Confederacy, which is in modern-day Abia State), burned much of the town, and murdered the Aro king. The fall of Arochukwu signaled a major turning point in the British conquest of the Igbo hinterland.