The Mahdist Invasion of Abyssinia
|Abyssinian vs Mahdist|
In 1887, the Mahdists took advantage of the fact that Emperor Johannes IV of the Abyssinians was busy campaigning against the Italians (in what was to become Eritrea) by invading north-west Abyssinia.
As with Egypt when it controlled the country, the border between the Dervish-controlled Sudan and Abyssinia was a matter of some dispute. To this was now added a religeous dimension: the Mahdists wanting the Christian Abyssinians to convert to Islam (a Mahdist jihad had already been repulsed in September 1885).
Initially the Mahdists had some success: with Yohannes’ vassal, the king of Goijam, defeated, and the holy city of Gondar sacked.
gathered an army of some 100,000 warriors (some from the loyal regions of
Begemdir and Tigre, some from
less reliable Wollo) and, through a series of inconclusive skirmishes,
pushed the Mahdists back (mainly through sheer weight of numbers) to the
border town of Gallabat (aka Metemma).
the Dervish commander, Zaki Tamal, made a stand and, on March 12th
1889, a great battle was fought.
first the Abyssinians did well: penetrating
the Mahdist defences through a series of fierce attacks and, again,
overwhelming numbers. However,
at the climax of the battle, Johannes was shot and killed:
and the Abyssinian army broke and fled.
The Dervishes do not appear to have re-invaded Abyssinia: perhaps more concerned with events in other parts of the Sudan.