Mali did not take over without a fight. Mali fought Ghana for control, and they won. Sundiata was the first king of Mali, after Mali took over as the leader of West Africa.
Sundiata was a great king. He was young and capable. He had great plans. He put his plans quickly into place. The drums and storytellers told many a tale about his achievements. He was first nicknamed Sundiata the Hero. But soon, people were calling him the Lion King.
Right away, Sundiata built his strong army to a more powerful level. He needed the army to guard the trade routes and his people. Trade had fallen off during the war between Ghana and Mali. He needed to prove to the traders that it was safe to come back.
He put some of his army to work clearing fields and planting crops. He needed the farmers to get back into the business of growing food.
He was a Muslim, but he offered all his people religious freedom.
He offered slaves freedom from slavery in exchange for their work. He needed a huge work force. But he didn't want slaves. He wanted free men who knew they were working together to build an empire.
Sundiata ruled for 25 years. His people loved him!