Sub-Saharan Africa 1903: Somaliland Campaign

Political map of Sub-Saharan Africa on 25 Oct 1903 (The Scramble for Africa: Somaliland Campaign), showing the following events: Fall of Sokoto; Protectorate of Mauritania; Fourth Dervish Expedition.

In the late 19th century Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, nicknamed the “Mad Mullah” by the British, gained power in the Somali interior. Leading his Dervishes in a long struggle against foreign expansion in the Horn of Africa, Hassan met his first major defeat in 1903-1904, when British and Ethiopian forces chased him into Italian Somalia. He would recover a decade later to threaten British holdings during World War I, but the British retaliation, using RAF bombers, finally put an end to his resistance movement in 1920.

Main Events

15 Mar 1903 Fall of Sokoto

After defeating the Sokoto Caliphate’s Kano Emirate, Brigadier George Kemball’s seven hundred-strong West African Frontier Force advanced on the capital of Sokoto. Sultan Muhammadu Attahiru I attempted to defend the city, but his superior numbers proved no match for British firepower. On 15 March 1903 he abandoned his capital and fled to the hinterland to continue resistance, where he would meet his death in August that year. The British replaced him with Muhammadu Attahiru II, forming the Sokoto Sultanate Council to succeed the wikipedia

12 May 1903 Protectorate of Mauritania

In an attempt to put an end to the incessant warfare between the Maure groups north of the Senegal River, the French government sent the Algerian-raised Corsican Xavier Coppolani to the region in 1901. Coppolani persuaded the emirates of Trarza, Brakna, and Tagant to accept French protection, establishing the Protectorate of Mauritania in May 1903. However, he was assassinated in 1905 when preparing an expedition against the more hostile Emirate of wikipedia

Oct 1903-2 May 1904 Fourth Dervish Expedition

The British regarded the increasing presence of “Mad Mullah” Mohammed Abdullah Hassan’s Dervishes in British Somaliland a threat and in October 1903 mounted a combined offensive with the Ethiopian Empire to destroy him. In January 1904 the British defeated Hassan at Jidbali, driving him east into Italian Somalia. Three months later, on the coast, a British amphibious landing seized the Dervish-held town of Illig, cutting Hassan off from the sea. In the face of these reversals, Hassan and his remaining followers escaped to Gerrowi, in the mountains of Italian wikipedia