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Rabah Zobeir

french, bornu, british and bagirmi

RABAH ZOBEIR (d. 1900), the conqueror of Bornu (an ancient sultanate on the western shores of Lake Chad, included since 1890 in British Nigeria), was a half-Arab, half-negro chief tain. He was originally a slave or follower of Zobeir Pasha (q.v.), and is said to have formed one of the party which served as escort to Miss Tinne (q.v,) in her journeys in the Bahr-el Ghazal in 1862-64. In 1879, Zobeir being in Egypt, his son Sulei man and Rabah were in command of Zobeir's forces in the Bahr-el-Ghazal. They persisted in slave-raiding, and denied the khedive's authority, and Gordon sent against them Romolo Gessi Pasha. Gessi captured Suleiman and routed Rabah, who in July 1879 fled westward with some seven hundred Bazingirs (black slave soldiers). He made himself master of Kreich and Dar Banda, countries to the south and south-west of Wadai. He eventually established himself in Bagirmi, a state south-east of Lake Chad. In 1893 Rabah overthrew the sultan of Bornu. In his administration of the country he showed considerable ability and a sense of public needs. To the British, represented by the Royal Niger Company, Rabah gave comparatively little trouble. Early in 1897 he began an advance in the direction of Kano, the most important city in the Fula empire. The news of the crush ing defeat by Sir George Goldie of the Fula at Bida, induced Rabah to return to Bornu. He now turned his attention to the French. Emile Gentil had in this same year (1897) reached Lake

Chad, via the Congo and Bagirmi, and had installed a French resident with the sultan of Bagirmi. As soon as Gentil had with drawn, Rabah again fell upon Bagirmi, and forced sultan and resident to flee. In 1899 the French sent an expedition to re-con quer the country, but it was only after a third encounter (April 22, 1900) that Rabah was slain and his host defeated. The chief tain's head was cut off and taken to the French camp. In this battle Major Lamy, the French commandant, also lost his life.

The French continued the campaign against Rabah's sons, two of whom were killed. Rabah had left instructions that if his army was finally defeated by the French, his successor should return to Bornu and make friends with the British. Rabah's third son, Fader-Allah, accordingly threw himself entirely upon British protection. But, in the later part of 19o1 Fader-Allah, who had 2,50o riflemen, again made aggressive movements against the French. In retaliation, Captain Dangeville pursued him into Brit ish territory. A battle was fought at Gujba, Fader-Allah being defeated. He fled mortally wounded and died the same night.

Connected accounts of Rabah's career are contained in E. Gentil's La Chute de l'empire de Rabah (Paris, 1902) and in M. von Oppen heim's Rabeh and das Tschadseegebiet (Berlin, 1902).