Wadai - Encyclopedia

GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES Spanish Simplified Chinese French German Russian Hindi Arabic Portuguese

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 150o 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 largest, 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 too m. above the' Salamat-Shari confluence is Lake Iro, joined to the Salamat by a short channel. In the forests XXVIII. 8 are 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 50 to 60 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 2 1° E., 13° 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.


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 1640 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 21st of March 1899 Wadai was recognized as within the French sphere. That state was then torn by civil wars. The Sultan Ibrahim (see SENussl) 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 understanding, and in November 1903 the Wadaians agreed to recognize the possession of Bagirmi, Kanem, &c., by France. However, 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 1904) they suffered a severe defeat, but they renewed their raids, and there was continual fighting on the west and southwest 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 Murra, 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, 1908) Commandant Julien inflicted enormous losses on the enemy. In May 1909 Captain Fiegenschuh, with a small force of tirailleurs, and Acyl's contingents, advanced up the Batha to a place within 15 m. of Abeshr, where, on the 1st of June, the enemy were defeated. The next day another fight took place close to Abeshr. The Wadaians were again put to flight and the town bombarded with cannon. Doud Murra with a small following fled north, and Abeshr was occupied by the French. The prince Acyl was subsequently placed on the throne, and, under French guidance, governed Wadai proper, Dar Sila, Dar Runga and other tributary states being directly governed by French residents.

The war was not, however, ended by the occupation of Abeshr. Captain Fiegenschuh's column, operating south-east of Abeshr, was cut off by the Massalit Arabs near the Darfur frontier, but a punitive force retrieved this disaster in April following. While these operations were in progress, Lieut. Boyd Alexander (b. 1873), who had previously crossed from the Niger to the Nile, the first British explorer to enter Wadai, passed through Abeshr on his way to Darfur. At the station of Nyeri, in Dar Tama, on the Darfur border, he was murdered on the 2nd of April 1910.

In November 1910 a French column, 300 strong, under Colonel Moll, while operating in the Massalit country was attacked by 5000 men under Doud Murra and the sultan of the Massalit. The enemy was beaten off, but the French had over l oo casualties, including Colonel Moll killed.

See G. Nachtigal, Sahara and Sudan (3 vols., Berlin, 1879-1889); Captain Julien, "Le Dar Ouadai," Renseign. colon. comite de l'Afrique francaise (1904); J. van Vollenhoven, "Le Voyage de Nachtigal au Ouadai," Renseign. colon. (1903); Captain Repoux, "Le Ouadai," B.S.G. Com. Bordeaux (1909); Commandant Bordeaux, "Deux Contre-rezzous dans l'Ouaddai," La Geog. B.S.G. Paris (1908); A. Ferrier, "La Prise d'Abecher," L' Afrique francaise (1909); A. H. Keane, "Wadai," Travel and Exploration (July 1910); Sir H. H. Johnston, "Lieutenant Boyd Alexander," Geog. Jour. (July 1910); The Times, July 21st, 1910 (details of Boyd Alexander's murder). See also Senussi.

Custom Search

Encyclopedia Alphabetically

A * B * C * D * E * F * G * H * I * J * K * L * M * N * O * P * Q * R * S * T * U * V * W * X * Y * Z

Advertise Here


- Please bookmark this page (add it to your favorites)
- If you wish to link to this page, you can do so by referring to the URL address below.


This page was last modified 29-SEP-18
Copyright © 2018 ITA all rights reserved.