Political map of Sub-Saharan Africa on 07 Aug 1916 (World War I in Africa: East African Campaign), showing the following events: 1916 East African Offensive; Portugal enters World War I; Darfur Expedition; Kaocen revolt; Apostasy of Lij Iyasu; Tabora Offensive; Battle of Mecca.

East African Campaign

World War I in Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa 1916.0807

East African Campaign

Great War in Africa, East African Campaign, colonial campaigns (7 August 1916)

Historical Map of Sub-Saharan Africa

By March 1916 the Allies had conquered all of the German colonial empire except for German East Africa. That month, reinforced by veteran South African units, the British and Belgians launched a multi-pronged offensive to overrun this last enemy colony, invading the territory from British East Africa, Northern Rhodesia, the Belgian Congo, and Uganda.

Main Events

1916 East African Offensive

Their victory in South-West Africa in 1915 allowed the British to transfer veteran South African units under General Jan Smuts to British East Africa for a renewed invasion attempt on German East Africa. In March 1916 the British crossed the border near Mount Kilimanjaro to begin their main attack on the colony; additional advances were made from the Belgian Congo, Uganda, and Northern Rhodesia. By September a British landing force had captured Dar es Salaam, completing Allied control of the German Central Railway to Ujiji and forcing the Germans into the southeast of the country.

Portugal enters World War I

On 23 February 1916, at the request of the British, Portugal ordered the internment of 36 German and Austro-Hungarian ships in Lisbon. Germany reacted by declaring war on Portugal two weeks later; the Portuguese immediately responded with a reciprocal declaration. On 7 August the Portuguese Parliament approved the dispatch of an expeditionary force to France and a build up of its colonial forces in Africa.

Darfur Expedition

In March 1916 Sirdar Reginald Wingate led 2,000 Sudanese and Egyptian troops from the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan into the Sultanate of Darfur to restore British power over the territory following Sultan Ali Dinar’s decision to side with the Central Powers. On 22 May the British decisively defeated the Fur Army at Beringia, occupying the capital of El Fasher the following day. Dinar fled south with his remaining forces, eventually dying in Jebel Juba in November when the British fired on his camp. On 1 January 1917 Darfur was annexed to the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.

Kaocen revolt

In 1916 Kaocen Ag Geda, an adherent of the Senussi religious order, led a Tuareg revolt from the Aïr Mountains of northern Niger in French West Africa. Supported by the Senussi of Kufra, Kaocen united Tuareg rebellions across the Sahara to besiege the French in Agadez in December. In 1917 the French forces in West Africa pushed back the rebellion in the south while gaining the support of Moussa Ag Amastan of the Kel Ahaggar Tuaregs in Algeria’s Southern Territories to the north. With the assistance of Moussa, Kaocen was defeated and killed in early 1919, although Tuareg resistance would continue for another year.

Apostasy of Lij Iyasu

Lij Iyasu, the designated but uncrowned Emperor of Ethiopia since December 1913, had been born to a Muslim convert to Christianity. In 1915 Iyasu began to spend much of his time consorting with the Muslim community and secretly traveled to French Somaliland in August without informing either the Ethiopian or French governments. Suspicions that he had converted to Islam and was about to join the Central Powers in return for French Somaliland seemed confirmed when it was reported that he had acknowledged the Ottoman Sultan as Caliph in April 1916.

Tabora Offensive

Two columns of the Belgian Congo’s Force Publique entered German East Africa, marching north and south of Lake Kivu to conquer Ruanda and Urundi in May 1916. From here they advanced south and eastwards, capturing Ujiji and Kigoma in July, and Tabora in September. Meanwhile, a smaller British force from Uganda crossed Lake Victoria and landed Mwanza; it also advanced on Tabora, which it reached shortly after the Belgians.

Battle of Mecca

Hussein bin Ali, the Sharif of Mecca and leader of the Banu Hashim clan, declared independence from the Ottoman Empire, bringing Mecca into revolt. Ottoman resistance in Mecca lasted until July 4, when Jirwal barracks capitulated to British-supplied artillery.

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