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Ten Years' Captivity in the Mahdi's Camp 1882-1892

Khalifa Abdullah summoned Abu Anga to Omdurman


July 1887, Khalifa Abdullah wrote a letter to King John, offering to make peace, on condition that he would become a Moslem, and that he would return all the women and children he had captured, but more especially was he to surrender the persons of Saleh Bey, Fiki Medawi, and the Sheikh el Egeil. If he refused to accept these terms he must expect war. King John did not deign to reply.

During the feast of Bairam on the 31st of July, 1887, Khalifa Abdullah summoned Abu Anga to Omdurman, and here I must give a short description of this renowned warrior.

Hamdan Abu Anga had been a slave, and had been brought up in the Khalifa Abdullah's household; he had been well treated by his master, and was eventually looked upon as a member of the family, a custom which was formerly in vogue amongst the Baggara, Rizighat, and Taisha tribes. In fact, these Arabs used not infrequently to give their daughters in marriage to their slaves. It was amongst the Baggara that Abu Anga had first learnt to ride on horseback and to go out hunting, and it was from them that he had acquired such dexterity in handling and throwing spears, for which he had frequent opportunities in the continual raids which took place on neighbouring tribes.

Abu Anga had taken part in the campaigns against Zubeir Pasha, by whom he and his entire family had been captured, but subsequently released. When the Mahdi declared himself

he joined with his master, Abdullah. During the siege of El Obeid little was known or heard of him, but after the fall of that city Khalifa Abdullah handed over to him the charge of all captive soldiers in El Obeid, as well as in other places. The astute Khalifa had for long had his eye on these blacks, whose fighting powers he well knew, and he was most desirous to bring them under his direct control, and utilize them.

Previous to the Hicks Expedition Abu Anga had already secured a number of them, and they were largely instrumental in compassing the complete downfall of that ill-fated army. Then, again, his blacks had shown the greatest bravery in their campaigns against Jebel Dair, when they had acquired a great name for themselves, and, finally, it was through their means that Gordon's Fort of Omdurman had been compelled to surrender. After the fall of Khartum these brave but undisciplined troops, having no more fighting to do, took to highway robbery. Numbers of them hovered about in the desert a few hours' distance from Omdurman, and amused themselves by falling on caravans coming from Kordofan or Berber, and pillaging and killing to their heart's content. Their depredations became so constant that the Mahdi decided that he must employ them somewhere, so he ordered Abu Anga to proceed with them to the still independent Dar Nuba country, which he was to conquer, and obtain from thence recruits for his Jehadieh, or Black Army.

But there was also another reason which induced the Mahdi to undertake this campaign. During the siege of Omdurman a certain Baggara Sheikh, of Birket, named Noaia, deserted, and gathering a number of malcontents in Dar Nuba, he defied the Mahdi's authority. When I was at El Obeid there were all sorts of strange stories current about the doings of Noaia, who had gathered numbers of horsemen from the Howazma and Miserieh tribes, and had made himself decidedly formidable. All those disappointed slave-hunters and slave-dealers who--annoyed with the suppression of their trade by the Egyptian Government--had flocked in numbers to the Mahdi's standard, now had begun to find out that they were rather worse off than before, and were, in reality, little better than the Mahdi's slaves. These people sought every occasion to desert to Noaia. Abu Anga therefore received orders to hunt him down and annihilate him. He collected his men, quitted the now debauched and pleasure-loving Omdurman, and proceeded to the Tagalla Mountain, at the foot of which he encamped.

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