Sub-Saharan Africa 1898: Battle of Atbara
In late 1897 the Anglo-Egyptian army under Herbert Kitchener began preparing for a final push south to recapture Khartoum and destroy Mahdist power in the Sudan. As he gathered his forces, the Mahdists attempted to oppose him, but were completely routed in the 45-minute Battle of Atbara in April 1898. Defeated, the Mahdists withdrew to Omdurman.
7 Aug 1897 Battle of Abu Hamed▲
On 29 July 1897 a 3,000-strong Egyptian flying column under the British Major-General Sir Archibald Hunter set out from Merowe for the strategic Nile town of Abu Hamed. After an eight-day march they reached their destination at the break of dawn, defeating the less than one thousand Mahdist defenders after an hour’s fighting. Securing Abu Hamed allowed for the completion of Kitchener’s railway across the Nubian Desert, massively facilitating the supply and transportation of Anglo-Egyptian forces in the Sudan.
20 Sep 1897 Fall of Bagirmi▲
In 1897 the French colonial officer Émile Gentil arrived in the Sultanate of Bagirmi, where the Mbang, Gaourang II, informed him that the powerful warlord Rabih az-Zubayr had been responsible for the death of the explorer Paul Crampel. Gaourang then signed a treaty with Gentil, accepting French protection. Angered, Rabih invaded Bagirmi, forcing Gaourang to flee his capital Massenya for refuge with the French in Kouno.
1 Oct 1897–5 May 1898 Cazemajou Mission▲
In October 1897 the French officer Gabriel Marius Cazemajou left Say, French Sudan, in an attempt to meet with Rabih and possibly rendezvous with the Congo expedition of Émile Gentil. Crossing the Sokoto Caliphate—British-claimed territory where he caused disruption by forming protectorates over Kebbi and Tessaoua—Cazemajou reached Zinder, capital of the Sultanate of Damagaram, in April 1898. Although received cordially by Sultan Amadou Kouran Daga, Cazemajou was murdered a few weeks later as he prepared to leave, bringing the expedition to an abrupt end.
25 Dec 1897 Cession of Kassala▲
In accordance with earlier Anglo-Italian agreements on the Egyptian–Eritrean border line, Colonel Charles Parsons and the 16th Egyptian Battalion marched from Suakin in November 1897 to relieve the Italian garrison at Kassala. The Italians aided the British by capturing the small Mahdist outposts of El Fasher and Asubri, before ceding Kassala to the British-controlled Kingdom of Egypt on Christmas Day.
31 Dec 1897 Annexation of Zululand▲
On 30 November 1897 Queen Victoria of Britain issued Letters Patent annexing the British protectorate of Amatongaland to the British crown colony of Zululand; additional Letters Patent annexing Zululand to Natal were issued the following day. Both Amatongaland and Zululand—desired by the neighboring South African Republic as providing access to the sea—were populated almost entirely by the Zulu people. The annexations came into effect with a Notification on 31 December.
8 Apr 1898 Battle of Atbara▲
At the end of 1897 the British secured control of the Atbara River, allowing Herbert Kitchener to begin consolidating the Anglo-Egyptian army at Fort Atbara, at the confluence of the Atbara and the Nile, for the great push on the Mahdist center of Omdurman. In April, having gathered 14,000 troops and several steamships, Kitchener opened his offensive, attacking the 15,000-strong Mahdist army which had gathered at nearby Nakheila. In a battle lasting just 45 minutes, the British routed the Mahdists, opening up the road to Omdurman.