Senussi and Darfur Campaigns
World War I in Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa 1916.0301
Senussi and Darfur Campaigns
Great War in Africa, East African Campaign, colonial campaigns (1 March 1916)
Historical Map of Sub-Saharan Africa
When Italy entered World War I in 1915, its four-year-old colonial war with the Senussi of Cyrenaica became part of that wider conflict. Aided by the Central Powers, the Senussi attacked the British in Egypt while encouraging unrest across the Sahara, most notably in French West Africa and Darfur.
In November 1915 the Marka village of Bona in the upper Volta region of Upper Senegal and Niger, French West Africa, expelled French military recruiters, prompting a widespread uprising. By the end of the year Bwa and Marka rebels had seized control of the town of Bobo-Dioulasso and defeated the French at the battle of Yankasso. A French counteroffensive finally pushed back the insurgents in May 1916, suppressing the last armed resistance in September. In March 1919 the French would create the separate colony of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) to better administer the region.
In December 1915 southern Aulihan Somalis in the Juba River region of British East Africa mounted a raid on the Samburu to their west. When the colonial government failed to mount an effective response, northern Aulihan sacked the post of Sarinley in February 1916, pressing the British to withdraw from the northeast frontier. It was not until September 1917 that the British returned, crushing the northern and southern Aulihan in a number of operations.
In December 1915 British forces in Egypt—including Australians, Indians, and New Zealanders—began to counterattack Senussi positions west of Marsa Matruh, making use of aerial reconnaissance and armoured cars to best the desert warriors. On 26 February 1916 they heavily defeated the Senussi at Agagia, pressing onwards to retake Sollum and complete their control of the Egyptian coast. Over the following year they pushed inland against the oases west of the Nile, eventually capturing Siwa in January 1917 and prompting the Senussi to make peace with the Allies in April.
Battle for Lake Tanganyika
To end German naval dominance in Lake Tanganyika, the British under Geoffrey Spicer-Simson transported two motor boats across Africa and through the Congo jungle to the lake. On 26 December 1915 the small boats surprised, damaged, and captured the German steamer Kingani, which was renamed HMS Fifi. The next month they intercepted and sank another German steamer, leaving the heavily armed ferry Graf von Götzen as their only opposition on the lake. This last boat was scuttled in July when Belgian advances on land threatened the German port of Kigoma.
Firhoun’s 1916 revolt
Firhoun, Amenokal of the Iwellemmedan/Oulliminden Tuareg, was pardoned and released by the French in early 1916, despite having served less than two years of his ten year sentence for revolt. Almost immediately he led his followers in several attacks on Ménaka in French Sudan. Fleeing south in the face of the French retaliation, he was killed in Anderamboukane by a fellow Tuareg in June.
Darfur enters World War I
In April 1915, in the aftermath of the Ottoman Empire’s entry into World War I, Sultan Ali Dinar of Darfur stopped his tribute to the government of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and declared a jihad against the British in defence of his Muslim subjects. The threat Darfur posed to the Sudan was small, but the British took it seriously enough to post an Egyptian Camel Corps unit to Nahud in December. Relations continued to deteriorate until open war broke out in March.