The occupation of Harar: January 1887 - By RICHARD A CAULK


The occupation of Harar: January 1887 -  By RICHARD A CAULK
The occupation of Harar: January 1887

Menilek’s drive to the sea and into the rich gazing lands of the northern Somalia has been little studied. He seems to have considered that it was as vital to his interest as the more spectacular expansion which was carrying his other frontiers to the basin of the White Nile and to the northernmost of, he Equatorial lakes. This Drag nach Osten had had a profound impact on the history of the Horn. The first stage of the eastward movement was the advance to Harar (occupied, early January 1887). Only by the acquisition of this advance base were Menilek’s armies able to penetrate so far to the east and southeast of the Awash valley. Moreover, the leap to Harar brought the Ehiopians of Minilek’s Shoa into a sphere of potential conflict with European expansion, while assuring them of easier contact with Europe’s trade and ideas.

It is not clear when Menilek first contemplated the occupation of Harar and its surrounding Gallalands. But on 25 May 1884, he wrote candidly to his friend, the king of Italy:

“Know, O Majesty , that my nearness to the Turks [viz, Egyptians] is very harmful to my kingdom and every day they cause more difficulties for me …Having taken Harar, they contrive to seize my territory of the Ittu Galla and of the desert, if as a result of this , I go to war with them, your majesty will be my witness before the governments of Europe in order that they will not consider me their enemy.”

Despite the apparent plea of self-defense this letter plainly announces Menilek’s intention of absorbing part of Egypt’s derelict African Empire. There was, in fact, no longer any need in 1884 to check Egyptian encroachments.

Earlier, Menilek had had genuine cause of alarm. He had regarded Egypt’s substitution of Turkish rule down the cost from Massawa to Zeila in mid-1875 and subsequent occupation of the still independent, though much decayed, Amirate of Harar (11 October)


ournal of Ethiopian Studies
Vol. 9, No. 2 (JULY 1971), pp. 1-20 (20 pages)
Published By: Institute of Ethiopian Studies



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