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

And eighteen Batahin were executed


to return to the Batahin. Most of them died of starvation and ill-treatment, sixty-nine were taken to the square opposite the beit el amana, where they were kept under a soldiers' guard whilst the Khalifa held a consultation regarding their fate. No decision was come to for some time, and this was because more gallows were being prepared. Hitherto there was only one, now there were three near the "court" zariba--two at the south end of the market-place, and one at the west end; all were provided with camel-hair ropes.

Early the following morning the war-drums were beaten, the onbeia sounded, and eighteen Batahin were executed, three on each gallows. Such executions have always a great attraction for the Sudanese. The eighteen men were all brought up to the gallows with their hands tied behind their backs. Without a sound or even a change of expression, they gave themselves up to their fate, or, as the Moslem says, they gave themselves up to "El Mektub" (_i.e._ "to that which is written"), for it is supposed that God writes down in a book the birth, experiences, and death of everyone, which things cannot be changed.

Below the gallows is an angarib, on which the condemned stands, while an immensely tall Dinka called Bringi puts the noose round the man's head, pulls it tight, fastens it to the gallows, and then draws away the angarib; and in this way the whole eighteen were soon swinging in the air, whilst the

assembled masses sent up shout after shout of exultation.

It was a most horrible sight. The poor creatures wore only a miserable cloth round their loins; they had had nothing to eat for some days, and presented a most wretched condition as the wind blew their emaciated bodies backwards and forwards. All were powerful young men, and the bystanders--as is always the way with the Dervishes--vituperated them freely, accusing them of every description of wanton cruelty, whereas it is more than probable that all these just executed were entirely innocent, and were expiating the crimes of those who had been fortunate enough to escape. When all contortions were over, the bodies were untied to make room for the remainder, who had been quietly gazing at the fate of their brothers which was so soon to be theirs.

On this occasion--as it had often happened before--the cord broke under the last man's weight; but Bringi was very quick, he lost no time in joining the ends and completed his brutal work. The impressions which all those dreadful scenes left on my mind can never be obliterated. But if the fate of the eighteen was cruel, the fate of the remaining fifty-one was even worse.

The Khalifa now rode out accompanied by the cavalry and thousands of spearmen, and taking the wretched Batahin with them they marched towards the parade ground. Every now and then on the way he ordered one of them to be decapitated, and in this way twenty-four more were killed; there were now only twenty-seven left, and on arriving on the ground he sent for the butchers to cut off their hands and feet; soon there was a heap of these bleeding members, whilst the bodies of the poor Batahin lay writhing on the ground, beads of anguish pouring from their brows; yet not a cry did they utter; most of them died in a very short time. Even the most stony hearts were touched on beholding this terrible spectacle, but no one dared show it--in fact everyone tried to force a laugh or a jeer, because the Khalifa himself revelled in scenes of useless bloodshed and cruelty, while in truth the whole population of Omdurman secretly lamented it.

The bodies hung on the gallows for a day, so that everyone might see them, whilst the mothers and sisters of those who had been mutilated on the parade ground begged the Khalifa's permission to go to the spot and see if any of their relatives were still alive; they were allowed to go, and there they found a few still living; they dressed their bleeding limbs and carried them on their backs to the market-place, where they begged food for them.

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