Online Encyclopedia

WADAI

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 226 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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WADAI, a country of north central Africa, bounded N. by Borku and Enndi, S. by the Ubangi sultanates, W. and S.W. by Kanem and Bagirmi, and E. by Darfur. Formerly an independent Mahommedan sultanate, it was in 1909 annexed to French Equatorial Africa (French Congo). Wadai has an area estimated at 150,000 sq. m., and a population of 3,000,000 to 4,000,000. The general level of the country is about 1500 ft. North, north-east, south-west and in the centre are ranges of hills rising another woo ft. West and north-west the fall to the Sahara is gradual. Here occur remarkable sand-ridges of fantastic shape—hollow mounds, pyramids, crosses, &c.—which are characteristic of the Libyan desert. There are also sandstone rocks of varying colours—red, blue, white, black, &c.—presenting the aspect of ruined castles, ramparts and churches. North-west is a wide district of dreary plain—part of the clay zone which stretches from the middle Niger to the Nile—covered with thorn bush and dum palms. The central and eastern regions are the most fertile, and contain large forest areas. The country belongs to the Chad drainage area, though it is possible that the Bahr-el-Ghazal (of the Chad system) may afford a connexion with the Nile (see SHARI). The streams which rise in the north-eastern districts, of which the Batha (over 300 M. long) is the iargest, flow west,- the Batha ending in a depression, some 200 M. E. of Lake Chad, called Fittri. Another stream, the Wadi Rime, with a more northerly course than the Batha, goes in the direction of Chad, but ends in swamps in the clayey soil. These rivers are intermittent, and after seasons of drought Fittri is completely dry. In the dry season water is obtained from wells 250 to 300 ft. deep. The rivers of Dar Runga flow westward towards the Shari, but, save the Bahr Salamat, none reaches it. They only contain water in the rainy season. About no m. above the; Salamat-Shari confluence is Lake Iro, joined to the Salamat by a short channel. In the forests xxviIi. 8are large herds of elephants, and hippopotami abound along the river-beds. In the north are the camel and the ostrich. Among the trees is a species of wild coffee which reaches 5o to 6o ft. and yields berries of excellent quality. The cotton plant is indigenous.. Inhabitants and Trade.—The inhabitants consist of negroid and negro tribes, Arabs, Fula, Tibbu and half-castes. The Maba, the dominant race, are said to be of Nubian origin; they are believed not to number more than 750,000, and live chiefly in the north-eastern district. They are in political alliance with the Arab tribes, known in Wadai as Zoruk (dark) and Homr (red). The Maba have a reputation for pride, valour, cruelty, drunkenness and barbaric splendour. The capital, Abeshr, is in the N.E., in about 210 E., 130 50' N. Thence a caravan route crosses the Sahara via the Kufra oases to Benghazi in Barca. Another trade route goes east through Darfur to Khartum. The people possess large numbers of horses, cattle, sheep and goats. Maize, durra, cotton and indigo are cultivated, and cloth is woven. Ivory and ostrich feathers, the chief articles of export, are taken to Tripoli by the desert route, together with small quantities of coffee and other produce. There is a trade in cattle, horses and coffee with the countries to the south. Until the French conquest Wadai was a great centre of the slave trade. Slaves were obtained by raiding and in the form of tribute from Bagirmi, Kanem and other countries once dependent on Wadai. The slaves were sent chiefly to Barca. Wadai was also notorious for its traffic in eunuchs. History.—Situated between the Sahara and the dense forest lands of equatorial Africa, Wadai early became a meeting ground of negro and Arab culture. Eastern influences and the Mahommedan religion ultimately obtained predominance, though the sovereignty of the country reverted to the negro race. It was sometimes tributary to and sometimes the overlord of the neighbouring countries, such as Bagirmi and Kanem. It was made known to Europe by the writings of the Arab geographers, but it was not until Nachtigal's visit in 1873 that accurate knowledge of the land and people was obtained. About 164o a Maba chieftain named Abd-el-Kerim conquered the country, driving out the Tunjur, a dynasty of Arabian origin. Thereafter Wadai, notorious as a great slave-raiding state, suffered from many civil and foreign wars. Mahommed Sherif, sultan from 1838 to 1858, introduced Senussiism into the country. In the last decade of the 19th century the French advancing from the Congo and from the Niger made their influence felt in Wadai, and by the Anglo-French declaration of the list of March 1899 Wadai was recognized as within the French sphere. That state was then torn by civil wars. The Sultan Ibrahim (see SENUSSI) was murdered in 1900, and Ahmed Ghazili became sultan. He was warned by the Sheikh Senussi el Mandi of the danger arising from the approach of the Christians (i.e. the French), but he had to meet the opposition of the princes Doud Murra (a brother of Ibrahim) and Acyl. Ahmed Ghazili and Doud Murra, though of the royal family, had non-Maba mothers; Acyl, a grandson of the Sultan Mahommed Sherif, was of pure Maba descent. Acyl, ordered to be blinded by Ahmed Ghazili, fled to Kelkele, west of Lake Fittri, and entered into friendly relations with the French. A few months later (Dec. 1901) Ahmed was dethroned. With Doud Murra, who then became sultan, the French endeavoured to come to an under-standing, and in November 19o3,the Wadaians agreed to recognize the possession of Bagirmi, Kanem, &c., by France. How-ever, in the spring of 1904, acting, it is believed, at the instigation of the Senussites, the Wadaians attacked French posts in the Shari region and carried off many slaves. At Tomba (13th of May 2904) they suffered a severe defeat, but they renewed their raids, and there was continual fighting on the west and south-west borders of Wadai during 1905-1907. The fighting resulted in strengthening the position of the French and of their ally Acyl, and in 1908 Doud l\iurra, again, it is stated, at the instigation of the Senussites, proclaimed the jihad. His army was split up under aguids (feudal lords), and was beaten in detail by the French. At Joue in the Batha valley (June 16, rgo8) Commandant Julien inflicted enormous losses on the enemy. In May II
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