Sultanate of Aussa

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For the city in Ethiopia of the same name, see Asaita.
Sultanate of Aussa
Afar Sultanate


Capital Aussa
Languages Afar, Arabic
Religion Allah-green.svg Islam
Government Monarchy
 -  1734–1749 Kedafu
 -  2011–present Hanfadhe Alimirah
 -  Established 1734
 -  Disestablished present

The Sultanate of Aussa (alternate spelling: Awsa or Assaw) (fl. 1734–present), also known as the Afar Sultanate, was a kingdom 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 nominally acknowledged primacy.


Main article: Mudaito Dynasty

Afar society has traditionally been divided into independent kingdoms, each ruled by its own Sultan.[1]

Map showing the location of the Aussa Sultanate circa 1880.

The Aussa Sultanate succeeded the earlier Imamate of Aussa. The latter polity had come into existence in 1577, when Muhammed Jasa moved his capital from Harar to Aussa (Asaita) with the split of the Adal Sultanate into Aussa and the Sultanate of Harar.[2] In Eritrea, the Sultanate of Aussa was centered in the Denkel lowlands during the 16th century.[3] At some point after 1672, Aussa declined in conjunction with Imam Umar Din bin Adam's recorded ascension to the throne.[4]

In 1734, the Afar leader Kedafu, head of the Mudaito clan, seized power and established the Mudaito Dynasty.[5][6] This marked the start of a new and more sophisticated polity that would last into the colonial period.[6] The primary symbol of the Sultan was a silver baton, which was considered to have magical properties.[7]

After 15 years of rule, Kedafu's son, Muhammäd Kedafu, succeeded him as Sultan. Muhammäd Kedafu three decades later bequeathed the throne to his own son, Ijdahis, who in turn would reign for another twenty-two years. According to Richard Pankhurst, these relatively long periods of rule by modern standards pointed to a certain degree of political stability within the state.[6]

Sultan Mahammad ibn Hanfadhe defeated and killed Werner Munzinger in 1875, who was leading an Egyptian army into Ethiopia.[8] 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.[9]

During the Second Italian-Ethiopian War, the Sultan Mahammad Yayyo again agreed to cooperate with the Italian invaders.[10] As a result, in 1943 the reinstalled Ethiopian government sent a military expedition that captured Sultan Muhammad, and made one of his relatives Sultan.[11]

Until his death in April 2011, the most recent Sultan of the Afars was Alimirah Hanfere. He was exiled to Saudi Arabia in 1975, but returned after the fall of the Derg regime in 1991.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Matt Phillips, Jean-Bernard Carillet, Lonely Planet Ethiopia and Eritrea, (Lonely Planet: 2006), p.301.
  2. ^ Abir, p. 23 n.1.
  3. ^ AESNA (1978). In defence of the Eritrean revolution against Ethiopian social chauvinists. AESNA. p. 38. Retrieved 23 December 2014. Later in their history, the Denkel lowlands of Eritrea were part of the Sultanate of Aussa which came into being towards the end of the sixteenth century. 
  4. ^ Abir, p. 23 n.1.
  5. ^ Abir, pp. 23-26.
  6. ^ a b c Pankhurst, Richard (1997). The Ethiopian Borderlands: Essays in Regional History from Ancient Times to the End of the 18th Century. Red Sea Press. ISBN 0932415199. 
  7. ^ Trimingham, p. 262.
  8. ^ Edward Ullendorff, The Ethiopians: An Introduction to Country and People, second edition (London: Oxford University Press, 1965), p. 90. ISBN 0-19-285061-X.
  9. ^ Chris Proutky, Empress Taytu and Menilek II (Trenton: The Red Sea Press, 1986), p. 143. ISBN 0-932415-11-3.
  10. ^ Anthony Mockler, Haile Selassie's War (Brooklyn: Olive Branch Press, 2003), p. 111.
  11. ^ Trimingham, p. 172.


  • Mordechai Abir, The era of the princes: the challenge of Islam and the re-unification of the Christian empire, 1769-1855 (London: Longmans, 1968).
  • J. Spencer Trimingham, Islam in Ethiopia (Oxford: Geoffrey Cumberlege for the University Press, 1952).