The Mandinka, Malinke (also known as Mandinko or Mandingo) is a West African ethnic group with an estimated global population of eleven million (the other three major ethnic groups in the region being the non-related Fula, Hausa and Songhai). They belong to the larger Mandé group of peoples. They are the descendants of the Mali Empire, which rose to power under the rule of the Mandinka king Sundiata Keita. The Mandinka in turn belong to West Africa’s largest ethnolinguistic group, the Mandé, who account for more than twenty million people (including the Dyula, Bozo, Bissa and Bambara). Today, over 99% of Mandinka in Africa are Muslim. The Mandinka live primarily in West Africa, particularly in the Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Niger and Mauritania. Although widespread, the Mandinka do not form the largest ethnic group in any of the countries in which they live except the Gambia. Most Mandinkas live in family-related compounds in traditional rural villages. Mandinka villages are fairly autonomous and self-ruled, being led by a chief and group of elders. Mandinkas live in an oral society. Learning is traditionally done through stories, songs and proverbs. Originally from Mali, the Mandinka gained their independence from previous empires in the thirteenth century, and founded an empire which stretched across West Africa. They migrated west from the Niger River in search of better agricultural lands and more opportunities for conquest. Through a series of conflicts, the Fula jihads, primarily with the Fula-led Imamate of Futa Jallon, around half of the Mandinka population converted from indigenous beliefs to Islam. During the 16th, 17th, and 18th century, many Mandinka were enslaved and shipped to the Americas through capture in conflict and therefore a significant portion of the African Americans in the United States are descended from the Mandinka people.