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Flag of the Afar Sultanate

The Aussa Sultanate (also spelled Awsa or Assaw, and sometimes called the Afar sultanate) was a kingdom of the Afar people that existed in eastern Ethiopia in the area bordering Eritrea and Djibouti. It was considered to be the leading monarchy of the Afar people, to whom the other Afar rulers acknowledged (at least in theory) primacy.

The Sultanate of Aussa succeeded the earlier Imamate of Aussa, which had come into existence in 1577 when Muhammed Jasa moved his capital from Harar to Aussa with the split of the Adal Sultanate into Aussa and the Harari city-state. Aussa declined and came to an end (temporarily) at some point after 1672, when Imam Umar Din bin Adam is recorded to have ascended the throne.[1] The Sultanate was afterwards re-established by Kedafu around the year 1734.[2] The primary symbol of the sultan was a silver baton, which was considered to have magical properties.[3]

Sultan Mahammad ibn Hanfadhe defeated and killed Werner Munzinger in 1875, who was leading an Egyptian army into Ethiopia.[4] In 1865, the newly unified Italy bought Asseb from a local sultan (which became the colony of Eritrea in 1890), and led Sultan Mahammad to sign several treaties with that country. As a result, the Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II stationed an army near Aussa to "make sure the Sultan of Awsa would not honor his promise of full cooperation with Italy" during the First Italo–Ethiopian War.[5]

During the second Italian-Ethiopian War, the Sultan Mahammad Yayyo again agreed to cooperate with the Italian invaders.[6] As a result, in 1943 the reinstalled Ethiopian government sent a military expedition that captured Sultan Muhammad, and made one of his relatives Sultan.[7]

The current sultan of the Afars is Alimirah Hanfadhe. He was exiled to Saudi Arabia in 1975, but he returned after the fall of the Derg regime in 1991.

See also


  1. ^ Mordechai Abir, The era of the princes: the challenge of Islam and the re-unification of the Christian empire, 1769-1855 (London: Longmans, 1968), p. 23 n.1
  2. ^ Abir, pp. 23-26.
  3. ^ J. Spencer Trimingham, Islam in Ethiopia (Oxford: Geoffrey Cumberlege for the University Press, 1952), p. 262
  4. ^ Edward Ullendorff, The Ethiopians: An Introduction to Country and People, second edition (London: Oxford University Press, 1965), p. 90. ISBN 0-19-285061-X.
  5. ^ Chris Proutky, Empress Taytu and Menilek II (Trenton: The Red Sea Press, 1986), p. 143. ISBN 0-932415-11-3.
  6. ^ Anthony Mockler, Haile Selassie's War (Brooklyn: Olive Branch Press, 2003), p. 111.
  7. ^ Trimingham, p. 172.


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