HISTORY OF THE ANUAK TO 1956
Robert O. Collins
The Anuak are a Luo-speaking people of the Eastern Sudanic language family that includes the Western Nilotic Luo in the Bahr al-Ghazal and the
Luo of Kenya and the Maasai of Tanzania. The original homeland of the Luo appears to have been the Gezira, the "island" of fertile
land between the Blue and White Niles south of Khartoum. When the Luo began to move southward from the Gezira remains unclear. Historical linguistic
infers that these migrations took place sometime in the twelfth or thirteenth centuries, but long before the Dinka followed the Luo into the
southern Sudan. The numbers of Luo were small and the pace of their migration must be measured in generations not decades. The reasons for their
wanderings are not explicit but can be confirmed with some confidence by acts of man and nature--rebellious sons seeking their independence
from their father; fraternal disputes among brothers, which are characteristic of Luo society; droughts, which were frequent, drove the Luo
in search of new grass; the eternal search for greener pastures; and pressure from the Ja‘aliyyin Arabs making their way from upper Egypt
to the Blue Nile.
By the fourteenth century oral traditions firmly place the Luo in the vicinity of Rumbek in the Bahr al-Ghazal. In the fifteenth century the
Luo began to move again, more rapidly than the glacial speed of past centuries. Small clusters of Luo clans wandered north from Rumbek. This
group in turn experienced further defections during the northward march. The Bor made their way west to the ironstone plateau south of Wau.
Another group led by Gilo also disengaged themselves from the main body, migrating north and east to the Sobat River, where some remained, the
main body continuing upstream to settle at the base of the Ethiopian escarpment in the valleys of the Baro, Pibor, and Akobo rivers. They are
known today as the Anuak. Some eight or ten generations ago, in the seventeenth century, a splinter group moved south from Anuakland to Lafon
Hill where they were called the Pari, while a second clan, the Pajook penetrated further south into Acholi territory in northern Uganda.
Meanwhile, the original party, which traditionally was composed of only a few families, continued northward to Wipac in the vicinity of Lake
No under the leadership of two brothers, Nyikango and Dimo. Here, as a result of a quarrel, Dimo and his followers departed to the south and
west to settle eventually in the vicinity of Wau where the neighboring Dinka gave them their present name Jur, meaning stranger. His numbers
now diminished, Nyikango moved slowly north and east absorbing, undoubtedly to strengthen his little band, many non-Luo. Dale, son and successor
to Nyikango, ultimately settled along the White Nile, and thereafter the Shilluk, as they were called, dominated the White Nile until the mid-nineteenth
century. Led by Gau, a third Luo group appear to have meandered northwestward from Lake No into southern Kordofan, a more arid region they called
Ker-Kwong. Since it was customary for each of these Luo groups to absorb others during their migrations, it is not surprising that Gau married
Kwong, a non-Luo, who gave birth to Gaa, who as Land Chief acquired the title of "Chief of the Leopard Skin" and the most dominate
leader of those we know now as Nuer.
In the latter decades of the fifteenth century the first of the Dinka, the Padang, began to arrive in the valley of the Sobat where they found
the Anuak tending their crops and cattle. In the subsequent centuries they were followed by a stream of Dinka clans who ultimately settled on
the plains east of the Bahr al-Jabal and westward across the vast expanse for the Bahr al-Ghazal. Those who pushed north into southern Kordofan
early in the seventeenth century soon came in conflict with the Nuer, precipitating intermittent warfare for the next three centuries. In the
eighteenth century the Baqqara Arabs arrived from Wadai in Chad to settle in the region north and west of the Nuer and Dinka living along the
Bahr al-Ghazal and Bahr al-Arab, the Dinka Kirr, rivers. No sooner had the Baqqara settled in the southern Darfur and Kordofan than they commenced
raiding for cattle and slaves among the Dinka and Nuer that precipitated, in the mid-eighteenth century, a massive eastward flight of the Bul
Nuer. They descended upon the Jikany Nuer that precipitated a domino effect driving the Jikany and all before them eastward toward the Ethiopian
escarpment including the Sobat Anuak. Within a century the Nuer had cut a swath a hundred miles wide during which they had absorbed countless
Dinka and dominate the eastern Upper Nile. At the end of the nineteenth century the Nuer were poised to continue their eastward march to absorb
the Anuak settled along the base of the Ethiopian escarpment.
Here in the valleys of the Pibor and Akobo the great crisis in Anuak society had occurred in the last decades of the nineteenth century after
many years of Nuer raids that culminated in the 1880s in an invasion that destroyed many Anuak villages, including the populous village complex
of Ukadi. The Nuer appear to have driven all the way to Ubaa and the sacred rock-pools of Abula in the southeast extremity of Anuakland, and
probably would have settled had not their cattle suffered heavy losses from the tsetse fly. The Nuer consequently retired to the treeless plains,
the Lau to the west, and the Jikany to the north. The Nuer never thrust so deeply into Anuak country again, but they continued to raid the western
Anuak with impunity, and at the end of the century the Anuak appeared to be near extinction.
They were saved by a technological revolution. Gradually, the Anuak acquired firearms from Ethiopia. At first the rifles were muzzle-loaders
cast off by the Ethiopians, but they enabled the Anuak to obtain ivory with which to purchase additional ammunition and then rifles. As the
Anuak became proficient in the use of guns, and rifles became increasingly available in Ethiopia, the Anuak were soon far better armed than
the Nuer, who continued to rely on shield, spear, and surprise. Moreover, this technological revolution was accompanied by political changes
that contributed to the military effectiveness of the Anuak. The acquisition of firearms by influential individuals permitted them to extend
their sphere of authority by establishing effective control over neighboring villages. The amalgamation of small, disparate clans and family
groups into a larger political organization, symbolized by the Royal Emblems of the Anuak nation, contributed to the formation of political
institutions which provided the discipline necessary to make the Anuak a formidable fighting machine.
The Anuak were not immediately successful. Udiel-wa-Kuat and Uliimiwa-Agaanya fought the Jikany with muzzle-loaders and an increasing number
of breech-loading rifles during the first decade of the twentieth century but failed to defeat the Nuer. Sometime around 1910, Akwei-wa-Cam
became the holder of the Royal Emblems of the Anuak and the dominant leader in the strategic Adonga region equipped with rifles supplied by
the Ethiopians at Gore to whom he occasionally paid tribute. In 1911 he launched concerted attacks against the Lau and the Jikany that devastated
the Nuer. By the end of the year, Akwei had led his Anuak all the way to the Bahr al-Zaraf and returned to Akobo with hundreds of Nuer captives
and thousands of cattle. The Sudan government sought to respond, not so much out of sympathy for their pillaged Nuer over whom they had virtually
no authority, but to curtail the Ethiopian arms traffic. Ethiopian gunrunning had become habitual in the borderlands, but at this time Austria
had abandoned the Werder rifle, which was purchased in large quantities by a syndicate of European and American gun merchants for shipment to
Djibuti. Diplomatic protests at Addis Abada against the illicit trade produced little effect, and the Sudan government had no recourse but to
try and seize Anuak arms by force. In the past the Sudan government had remained aloof from the volatile events along the Ethiopian frontier
because of the expense of administering the wild territory between the Sobat and Lake Rudolf, but administrative expense could no longer obscure
the fact that the Anuak were estimated to have over 10,000 guns. Governor-General Sir Reginald Wingate bitterly complained in 1911, "The
Anuak raids have forced our hand and we must now go in where we did not wish to be involved." Consequently, in 1912 a large force was sent
up the Akobo under the command of Major C. H. Leveson that drove off the Anuak but only after heavy losses among the government troops. Anuak
villages were destroyed, but the Anuak were not subdued. A second armed force was planned to invade Anuakland in 1914, but the operations were
canceled at the outbreak of war in Europe. Unable to penetrate into Anuak territory and destroy their power, the Sudan government had to content
itself with containing them by garrisons at Akobo and Pibor posts and establishing a chain of smaller police stations between the Anuak and
the Nuer. This containment policy was only partially successful. Around the posts themselves British officials were able to assert nominal administration
and even to collect tribute, but beyond, the Anuak were free from control, exploiting the international frontier to frustrate British attempts
to exert authority. It was not until Akwei-wa-Cam himself died in 1920 that Lieutenant Colonel C. R. K. Bacon was able even to visit the heartland
of the Anuak in the remote Adonga region. In 1921 he made a reconnaissance through Adonga. It was to be another fourteen years before a British
District Commissioner returned to Adonga.
North of the Sobat the British faced even more formidable and intransigent opposition among the Gaajok and the Gaajak sections of the Jikany
Nuer who lived along the Ethiopian frontier that they annually crossed to seek grazing. They were well armed with rifles and ammunition from
Ethiopia and raided their neighbors--the Burun and Koma to the north, the Dinka and Anuak to the south--as well as Ethiopian tribes in the western
foothills. The Sudan government had long taken a dim view of these hostilities, partly because they disrupted taxpaying tribes, but the real
concern was the possession by a large tribe armed with several thousand rifles. Plans had been devised for a punitive expedition to secure control
of the Jikany, but the outbreak of the First World War postponed any operations and the Gaajak and Gaajok were left alone for another six years.
The delay appears to have inspired the Jikany with confidence in their strength and convinced them that they had little to fear from the Sudan
government represented only by a post at Nasir from which the officials had never ventured more than a few miles. Their continued freedom from
administration and their taunts of superiority to their neighbors exasperated British officials and their subjects alike.
Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Bacon a powerful patrol was finally launched against the Jikany from Nasir in January 1920, complete
with machine guns and airplanes. The Gaajok, Gaajak, and even a small section of the Jikany, the Gaagwang, attacked the advancing troops, sustaining
heavy losses before retiring into the swamps or across the frontier into Ethiopia. They were led by two well-known Gaajok prophets, Mut Dung
and Git Gong, and a Dunjol Dinka, Ajak Tor Bil. Militarily the patrol destroyed hundreds of villages, seized large numbers of Jikany cattle,
and burned quantities of dura. The airplanes strafed and bombed, and Bacon steamed up the Baro River in the Metamma, destroying a fleet of canoes
and bombarding the shore with artillery. In fact, the patrol represented yet another in "a series of raids which were indistinguishable
from the looting of the Turkish regime to the average Nuer which resulted in a grave misunderstanding of the intention, or object of Government
which has not
yet been dispelled." Politically, the patrol was hardly a great success. When the troops departed, the Gaajak returned from Ethiopia. Mut
Dung later died, Ajak Tor Bil returned to Dunjol country where he was arrested, and Git Gong submitted. Yet the fundamental conditions for unrest
remained--the presence of the Ethiopian sanctuary and the past failure to provide any continuity resulting from the frequent rotation of the
District Commissioner at Nasir. There was little the British officials in the upper Nile could do about the international frontier, but they
did appoint J. M. Lee as D.C. Nasir who sought to bring the Jikany under the control of the Sudan government throughout the next decade.
Frontiers are meeting places for those who are going, not staying. They are crossings of the different, the hopeful, the good, and the bad.
Here also are the frontier people, whose blood flows with the currents left behind by the sedentary. They attract those on the move and those
who wish to live between two flags without paying much attention to either. Such was the eastern frontier between the highland massif of Ethiopia
and the great Nilotic plains of the Upper Nile.
The long frontier between Ethiopia and the' Sudan created many and continuing problems for the Sudan government, particularly in the southern
wastelands stretching from 9° north latitude to the Kenya frontier at Lake Rudolf. These are wild lands--Gambella, the Baro Salient, and
the llemi Triangle--difficult to reach in the best of weather and quite impossible in the worst. Here the authority of the governments both
in Khartoum and Addis Ababa is little stronger today than in the past, and the inhabitants exploit the weakness of each in the marcher lands
to exert an uncommon degree of independence. The traditional game was, and is, to playoff one government against the other under the cover of
difficult communications and terrain and a frontier drawn by inspiration rather than understanding. Everyone would have been just as happy to
have left the frontier under minimal government--certainly the authorities on either side of the boundary as well as the inhabitants. If by
sheer wishful thinking the frontier peoples could have remained isolated, neither Khartoum nor Addis Ababa would have spent men and money to
control these unproductive lands and turbulent border people. Unfortunately, even in one of the most remote areas of Africa no one is ever truly
isolated. The flow of people and their herds in search of water and grazing, the fugitives from justice, and the traders taking produce to markets
all pass in and out of the frontier, interacting with the more closely governed peoples beyond. Hostility between the two groups has been traditional
with border peoples everywhere in the world, and the eastern frontier was no exception. Inexorably, the forces of authority were drawn to the
frontier to protect their own taxpaying inhabitants of the interior, only to be sucked into endless border disputes with the rival sovereign
For the Sudan these border quarrels became all the more frustrating because of the political instability in Ethiopia following the First World
War. Thus, when King Taffari Makonnen was able to secure the acquiescence of the feudatory chiefs of Ethiopia and proclaimed his succession
to the imperial throne as Haile Selassie I in November 1930, the two most powerful figures in the Sudan government, Sir John Maffey and Harold
Mac Michael, represented the Sudan at the coronation ceremonies in the hope that a strong central government at Addis Ababa would bring stability
to the volatile frontier provinces in western Ethiopia. The appointment of Ras Mulugheta, the former minister of war, as the governor of Gore
in the western highlands above Gambella, and the sending of the emperor's nephew, Dejazmach Maugasha Yilma, to Maji early in 1931 confirmed
the intentions of Haile Selassie to bring to bear the authority of the central government. It was soon apparent that more than the appointment
of men close to the emperor would be needed to settle the frontier. Not only were the Nuer and the Anuak who inhabited the frontier in the Upper
Nile Province traditional enemies, but since the turn of the century the flow of weapons through Ethiopia to the borders had provided them both
with arms to escalate the ferocity of their rivalry. .
Control by either government in the region was further complicated by the ineptitude with which the international frontier had been drawn in
the Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty of May 15, 1902. Rivers do not automatically make good boundaries, and they almost never do when people of the same
society live on either bank. Thus, rather than running along the escarpment of the Ethiopian plateau, whose precipitous slope formed a natural
barrier between peoples living on the plains of the Sudan and those in the highlands of Ethiopia with their different environments, cultures,
and histories, the frontier followed the Akobo River, descending from the highlands to join the Pibor and the Baro, and creating an Ethiopian
Salient--the Baro Salient--which jutted into the plains of the Sudan where lived the Nuer and the Anuak, now divided by the Akobo River. From
time past memory both the Nuer and the Anuak had crossed the Akobo in pursuit of water and grass and were now oblivious to the fact that it
had become a recognized international boundary. The Anuak were the most directly affected, being split by an arbitrary political boundary into
two groups each with a separate allegiance and tax collector.
The first serious attempt to define the eastern frontier was made by Captain J. L. Harrington, who had been a member of the mission of Sir Rennell
Rodd to Addis Ababa in 1896-97 to insure Menelik's neutrality in the coming conflict with the Khalifa ‘Abd Allahi in the Sudan. Harrington
remained at Addis Ababa as the British agent in Ethiopia but had little information, and Menelik not much more, about the geographical details
of western Ethiopia and the Sudan on which to draw a boundary, except by a blue line with no reference to topographic or ethnographic facts.
Therefore, in the summer of 1899 Major H. H. Austin of the Royal Engineers was ordered to explore the frontier from the Sobat to Lake Rudolf
and Major Charles W. Gwynn to do the same from the Blue Nile south to the Sobat. Both parties traversed the frontier country, though Gwynn had
to rely on an interpreter who knew Amharic but only theological English and Alexandrine Arabic that was almost unintelligible in the Sudan border
districts. Gwynn was detained by the Ethiopians; he was short of supplies and descended to the Sobat in haste, seemingly more concerned with
the progress of the South African war, in which he was anxious to fight, than with exploration of a remote frontier. South of the Sobat, Major
Austin and Lieutenant R. G. T. Bright made their way up the Sobat and the Baro into the highlands during the early months of 1900 to Gore, where
they remained for several weeks before descending the escarpment down the Gila in May to the plains which had been inundated by the rains and
were thus assumed by Austin to be one huge swamp. Abandoning his equipment and losing pack animals, he made his arduous way to the Akobo, overland
to Nasir, and eventually downriver to Omdurman. He and Bright returned to Nasir in January 1901 and with difficulty followed the Pibor and Akobo
rivers to the Ajibur, only occasionally catching sight of the Ethiopian escarpment to the east. The country was depressing and devoid of any
interest, and as nothing was known of the country east of the Akobo to the escarpment, the river appeared at the time to be the most sensible
frontier. Thereafter, Austin's party proceeded south, skirting the Boma Plateau until it reached the Omo River just north of Lake Rudolf. During
this strenuous but cursory trek, in which the party encountered either too much water or too little, the line of the escarpment, which in fact
is what they should have been surveying, never occurred to them as a possible frontier.
Such an unsatisfactory frontier having been defined, it is little wonder that neither Anuak, Ethiopians, nor British officials paid much attention
to it. Like the Anuak, Lieutenant Colonel C. R. K. Bacon passed back and forth across the Akobo--which when not in flood was a stream a mere
twenty yards wide--to keep the peace. In the 1920s, no Ethiopian officials ever appeared to administer the Baro and Akobo borderlands, and the
idea of a frontier appeared anomalous to the Anuak since the British officials seemed to ignore it. Even Khartoum gave its grudging approval
for Bacon and other DCs to cross the river when it was clear that the current political situation in Addis Ababa remained unstable and any temporary
arrangements on the border could hardly be made with Ethiopian frontier officials who in fact did not exist.
Besides having a divided frontier, the Anuak district would certainly never produce sufficient revenue to pay for the cost of administration
which consequently must be kept to a minimum. "The wealth of the Anuak lies in peculiar beads of no intrinsic value outside the tribe,
in ancient holy spears of impractical design, and in firearms which they may not freely trade to administered tribes." The essential element
to Native Administration among the Anuak were the Royal Heirlooms, or Emblems, consisting of five necklaces, two thrones, the "Tooth Drum,"
three spears, and an iron fork. The possession of the Emblems conferred upon the holder--whether in Ethiopia or the Sudan--a prestige amounting
to veneration. These Emblems had been handed down from father to son for an unknown number of generations, beginning with Oshoda, the founder,
mythical or real, of the Anuak.
The Emblems first came to the attention of the British in 1912 when their holder, Akwei-wa-Cam, led the Anuak resistance against the British;
upon his death in 1920, they passed to his son Sham Akwei although he was only a child of twelve. When Bacon first reached Adonga in 1921, he
was deeply impressed with the respect accorded to this boy because he possessed the Emblems and thereafter initiated a consistent policy of
supporting Sham Akwei against any aspirants to power in the hope of consolidating the Anuak under a single chief. For the next six years relations
between the Anuak and Sham Akwei were cordial and positive. Upon transferring the Sobat-Pibor Military District, as it had been known, to civilian
authority as a district of the Upper Nile Province in 1925, Bacon urged that Sham Akwei be given "every encouragement and the dignity of
his position be upheld. . . for he has considerable influence over the tribe as a whole and could be of great assistance in the formation and
organization of native courts."
In 1927 the District Commissioner at Akobo, Major G. W. Tunnicliffe, decided to alter this system largely to satisfy the interests of the direct
descendants of Oshoda, who claimed an equal right to possess the Emblems. They particularly demanded the right to sit on the Anuak throne, a
four-legged stool, which was a prerequisite to being recognized as a direct descendant of Oshoda and thereby having the authority to pass that
recognition to one's sons. Otherwise, the claimant and his male progeny would forever be disqualified as descendants of the founding Oshoda.
Thereafter, to grant that highly sought after recognition to those claiming direct descent, Tunnicliffe, naturally with the enthusiastic approval
of the many claimants, determined that the Emblems, particularly the all-important throne, would be held for one year only by that descendant
annually elected by his peers. Although this change satisfied the claimants for recognition, it soon produced many more problems than it solved,
all of which were exacerbated by the presence of the international frontier. Twice the holders of the Emblems for that year refused to give
them up and simply retired into Ethiopia beyond the long arm of the District Commissioner at Akobo. The recovery of the Emblems was only accomplished
after much negotiation and difficulties. On another occasion, the holder of the Emblems simply retired to the Adonga region and defied Tunnicliffe
to come and get them, defended as they were by some six hundred armed followers.
By the process of recognizing direct descendants according to custom, the Anuak were sharply divide by 1932, and Bacon's original efforts to
consolidate them under a responsible chief were completely dissipated, destroying any hope of establishing a system of Native Administration.
Clearly, the first problem was to acquire "a great deal more knowledge of the history of the Emblems," for which the services of the
anthropologist, Evans-Pritchard, were soon employed. Until he could make any recommendations as to the sanctity of Anuak custom pertaining to
them, Anuak administration continued according to custom by electing an annual holder of the Emblems, while the energies of the District Commissioner
were absorbed in settling the Ethiopian-Anuak raids against the Murle and countering the maneuvers of Majid Abud, followed by the aggressive
activities of the Italians. In fact, the research and recommendations of both Elliot-Smith and Evans-Pritchard confirmed Bacon's practice of
having one custodian of the Royal Emblems, and the last elected holder, Agwa Akwon, was given more permanent custody, a salary of E£l
a month, and the strong support of the District Commissioner, Akobo, in the hope of beginning a system of Native Administration.
The third perennial frontier problem for the Sudan government in the Upper Nile was Gambella, the trading enclave on the Baro River inside Ethiopia
itself. Gambella was named after an Anuak chief, reputed to have been over a hundred years old, who lived as a sort of hermit in a solitary
tukl when the first Sudanese customs inspector, Ahmad Effendi Rifat, arrived in 1905. Article IV of the Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1902, which
defined the frontier between the Sudan and Ethiopia, permitted the Sudan to establish a trading post on the Baro some 2,000 meters long and
not to exceed 4,000 acres, the lease to last as long as the Sudan was under Anglo-Egyptian control. The Enclave could not be used for any military
or political purposes. Menelik himself had been enthusiastic about granting the Enclave as a commercial station, for he was anxious to have
an entry into western Ethiopia for products from the Sudan, particularly salt, as well as an outlet for Ethiopian coffee, which was highly sought
after in Khartoum and Omdurman. For the next fifteen years Gambella was administered for the Sudan Customs Department by a succession of Sudanese
and British customs inspectors, who supervised the collection of duties on coffee, hides, and beeswax from the districts of western Ethiopia
in return for salt and cloth from the Sudan.
The British regarded Gambella as a miserable place. It could only be reached by steamer from June to November and remained cutoff throughout
the dry season, when the Baro disappeared to a mere trickle. At the height of the rains, the Enclave was an island in a swamp below the escarpment
from which the tracks made their tortuous way up to the towns of Bure and Gore. By 1920 Gambella possessed a shed and a house furnished with
a table and a bed for the customs inspector. All the stores for six months had to be brought up before the river fell in November. The warehouses
and merchant compounds were strung out along the riverbank, but sanitation consisted of a series of holes dotting the acreage behind. Malaria
was endemic, and after the last steamer went downriver there was little to do and a lot of loneliness. Few Ethiopians came to Gambella because
of its reputation for fever, and as of 1920 no Ethiopian official of any importance had ever visited what had come to be known as "the
The real problem with Gambella was not the lack of amenities, which were improved after 1920, but the fact that the customs inspectors were
not simply officials collecting duty on coffee. They also had to face countless questions of jurisdiction in a border territory which the Ethiopian
government did not control and where the competing rivalries of the Barons of the western highlands were matched by the hostilities between
Nuer and Anuak on the plains. In the middle were the merchants, who wanted to trade with as much security as they could muster along the trails
from Gore to Gambella and as much freedom as they could have from Ethiopian tax collectors: "The situation in the station suffers from
having no one to refer to, the Customs representative has little authority and questions outside his powers are the affair of no one in particular
and get no attention." In the words of C. H. Walker, the British consul at Gore, what Gambella required was a man with "Moral authority."
Yet there was revenue to be had from Gambella, particularly if the Sudan government could exert its control in cooperation with Walker at Gore
to promote the trade of western Ethiopia. Consequently, rather than abandon Gambella, the governor-general of the Sudan approved its retention,
its transfer to the jurisdiction of the Upper Nile Province, and its improvement through an appropriation of some E£5,000. So, in January
1920, Gambella was transferred from the Customs Department to the Upper Nile Province, and on September 15, 1921, Colonel J. F. H. Marsh arrived
to take command.
Colonel Marsh had been designed for Gambella by the Almighty.
Marsh was a man of 43 who having been in command of a British Battalion finds it difficult to bear any other discipline but his own, and
he thrives on an independent job like Gambella. He is the son of the town clerk of Ryde, and was himself a solicitor until the war discovered
his military capacity. He has no pretensions to breeding, but is very typical of his sort, honest, rather blunt, quite devoid of any literary
or aesthetic appreciation, a Philistine, but an efficient and conscientious public servant, who hates not getting his own way and generally
has quite adequate reasons for having it. . . . He does not mind living alone at Gambella indefinitely, and although he tries to disassociate
himself as far as he can from the Sudan Government, so as to have his own show, he is amenable enough. He considers without joking, and with
every justification, that his business is to keep British prestige high in Abyssinia so far as he is locally able and he certainly does so.
Marsh wasted no time. Customs officials and their police were sent packing, sanitation regularized, and the Enclave gardens laid out. Marsh
himself was arbiter of the border, storekeeper, chief clerk, judge, jury, and financial comptroller. In his first year at Gambella he reorganized
the warehouses, collecting nearly E£5,000 or 6 percent duty on some 2,000 tons of coffee alone, the freight of which on Sudan steamers
meant another E£15,000 revenue. Salt imported from Port Sudan generated another E£15,000 in income for the steamers, which hauled
over 55,000 bags to Gambella. Sudan salt was in such demand in western Ethiopia that the Ethiopian government imposed a heavy tax upon it,
which C. H. Walker and the merchants successfully forced to be rescinded to previous levels. The salt tax appears to have been the idea of
Dejazmatch Waldo Mikhail who had arrived in Gore in August 1922. Western Ethiopia being devoid of salt, over a thousand tons passed through
Gambella and up into the highlands on the backs of porters, later mules, and finally in 1936 by motor transport which brought down the coffee.
Not only was salt required for life itself, but its importance made it a valuable medium of exchange. Not surprisingly, Dejazmatch Mikhail
sought to profit and gain revenue from this valuable commodity by asking one Maria Theresa dollar for one kilogram of salt, which would have
effectively ended the Gambella salt trade because French salt from Djibuti could be brought overland more cheaply. The loss to the Sudan government
in customs revenue alone was estimated at E£6,000 per year, not to mention the loss to Sudan steamers for hauling charges and the disruption
of trade by the removal of an important commodity used in exchange for coffee. Not only did Walker succeed in having the salt tax kept at
the customary level, he convinced Mikhail to invest a portion of the profits from the salt tax to improve the track down the escarpment through
Bure to Gambella.
The battle over taxes at Gambella never ended, however, as local Ethiopian officials sought ways to generate revenue, frequently for their
own use at the expense of the merchants who continuously appealed to the British consul at Gore and the District Commissioner at Gambella
to preserve the principles of free trade. This was not always easy. When not fighting the extortions of Ethiopian tax collectors, Marsh and
Walker devoted their energies to prodding the Ethiopian officials to build a road for motor transport down the escarpment. By 1924 several
thousand tons of coffee had to be carried by porters to Gambella, a method not only slow and expensive, but hazardous for the porters if the
track had not been cleared of thorns. The principal difficulty for Walker was the construction of a bridge over the Birbir River, and he spent
hours badgering the Ethiopians to build it. It was not until 1935 that the Ethiopian Motor Transport Company, with a concession from the Ethiopian
government, completed the motor road and the bridges. Although Walker was known at Gore as His Britannic Majesty's Consul, his salary and
the expense of the consulate were paid by the Sudan government, just as it paid half the expenses of the British consul at Maji, Kenya, and
Uganda sharing the remaining half. Walker was succeeded at Gore by Captain E. N. Erskine in August 1928 by which time the value of coffee
and other products passing through Gambella were now averaged E£300,000 annually. Like Walker, Esme Erskine soon became a dominant figure
in western Ethiopia. He established a special mixed court to protect foreigners over whom the Ethiopian government did not exercise jurisdiction.
With Sudan government funds, Erskine created an imperial residency on a hill overlooking Gore, with a sumptuous residence, outbuildings, barracks
to house ten special constables, a stable, and a pack of hounds.
The same year Erskine arrived at Gore, J. K. "Jack" Maurice arrived to replace Colonel Marsh who had retired in 1928; except for
a brief interruption during the war Jack Maurice remained at Gambella for twenty-one years until he too retired in 1949. Gambella was worth
the effort. Both the British and Menelik wanted it for badly needed revenue. The trade was rich, mostly in coffee, and accounted for seventy
percent of the annual value of all Sudan trade with Ethiopia from the end of the First World War until the Italian occupation. In 1936 a record
4,500 tons of coffee passed through Gambella downriver into the Sudan. Except for the disastrous depression years of 1931 and 1932, when the
value of the Gambella trade dropped to less than E£100,000, the normal annual value of trade through the Enclave during these interwar
years averaged between E£250,000 and E£300,000, that generated between E£15,000 and E£18,000 in customs duties alone,
not to mention the profits from haulage by the steamers, one of the largest single sources of revenue for the Sudan government.
In addition to revenue, Marsh and Maurice collected valuable information since all gossip from the highlands to the Baro Salient passed through
Gambella. There was a steady flow of news, particularly about the arms trade which, next to administrative concerns, was the single most important
worry by British authorities in the Sudan. Ethiopia was a huge repository of firearms steadily being augmented by European arms dealers working
out of Djibuti. Rifles and ammunition were an important medium of exchange and vital to the purchase of slaves from southwest Ethiopia all
along the frontier where the demand for guns was inexhaustible, while men, women, and children were readily available in exchange for them
in the lightly administered border territories. Until the Italian occupation, the price of guns remained relatively stable, an indication
of their value as a medium of exchange. Gras rifles in western Ethiopia sold for 35.50 Maria Theresa dollars, while ammunition consistently
sold for six cartridges to the dollar.
Marsh and Maurice also supplied information about the slave trade from the Sudan into Ethiopia. Clearly, the Sudan authorities worked assiduously
to destroy the slave trade across the frontier--after all, they were representatives of the great abolitionist tradition--but their concerns
were more than just humanitarian. Where the slave trade existed, so did the breakdown of law and order, and no British administrator in the
Sudan could tolerate slave raiding against their subjects for no other action would more quickly undermine their prestige and authority. Their
implacable and exhaustive efforts against any raiding of Sudanese subjects was as necessary for British rule as for British conscience. Slavery
as distinct from the slave trade was another matter. The consuls at Gore and Maji wrote many detailed and fulsome reports on slavery in western
Ethiopia, but indignation never reached apoplectic proportions among British officials in the Sudan. This was more an attitude of mind and
common sense than one of legislation, ordinances, or the efforts of the Slave Trade Repression Department. In fact, the attitude toward slavery
on the part of British officials in the Sudan was relaxed and practical, and they were not about to carryon any crusade against its existence
By March 1931 the relative peace along the frontier, earlier regulated by Lee at Nasir, Marsh at Gambella, and Bacon at Pibor and Akobo, began
to dissolve with Ethiopian attempts to assert their control up to the frontier where they had never before governed. In the past the Ethiopians
had shown only sporadic interest in the Salient, demonstrated by an occasional foray by the army and had never made any pretense at administration.
After 1930, however, the new emperor, Haile Selassie, and his officials were determined to demonstrate the authority of the central government
over the whole of Ethiopia, even its most remote frontiers. Moreover, the provincial officials were always eager for additional tribute from
the Nuer and the Anuak and greater revenue from taxing the coffee trade. Ironically, at Addis Ababa itself the British government was applying
pressure on the new emperor to improve his control in his borderlands as part of their overall policy to support a strong central government
Here there was a direct contradiction. Under the system of frontier administration worked out during the 1920s by Lee, Marsh, and Bacon stability
existed in the presence of the British DC whether on the Ethiopian or the Sudan side of the frontier. Once the illegality of British officials
operating as administrative officials in Ethiopian territory was acknowledged, however, the British government and the consuls at Gore tried
to make the best of a bad job. If their officers could no longer casually lay down the law across the river, then the British felt it was
to their best advantage to encourage the Ethiopians to begin to govern their subjects within their own territory. Such hopes never materialized.
Contrary to stabilize the frontier, the arrival of Ethiopian agents in the Baro Salient and in the Gaajak Nuer country only multiplied the
opportunities for Anuak and Nuer to playoff one tax collector against the other. Moreover, the British had in ten years established the recognition
of their authority by the Nuer and the Anuak, if not as loyal subjects, at least as obedient realists. In 1931 the Ethiopians were only just
beginning to set up their control on their side of the frontier with vastly inferior forces, little experience, and officials subject to the
whims of the Ethiopian governors at Gore and Sayo, and all were exposed to the vicissitudes of Haile Selassie's imperious rule at Addis Ababa
thought necessary by the looming Italian threat. Without the necessary massive force and determination to rule, the appearance of the Ethiopians
merely injected into the swampy plains below the escarpment yet another factor of instability on an already insecure frontier.
In April 1931 heavy fighting broke out in Ethiopia between the Gaajak Nuer in their dry season grazing grounds and the Anuak. This was the
territory where J. M. Lee had previously intervened to keep the peace but was now officially forbidden to enter. So grave was the dispute,
however, that finally the Ethiopian governor at Gore, Mulugheta, requested the Gaajak DC, "General" C. H. Armstrong, to cross the
border to attempt a settlement. Armstrong was able to patch up a truce, but relations remained tense, exacerbated by the conspicuous absence
of Ethiopian administrative officials. Checked in their confrontation with the Nuer by Armstrong, the Anuak continued to raid the Burun and
the Koma. South of the Baro, in the Salient, the Ethiopian presence was more demonstrable but not sufficiently strong to impose its authority.
The result was sporadic resistance to Ethiopian soldiery which was repaid in violence interspersed by pockets of collaboration. A minor Ethiopian
official, Dejazmatch Garbe, revived an imaginary claim to collect tribute among Anuak in the Sudan near Adonga where he managed to subvert
Sham Medda, the holder of the Royal Emblems, and Sham Akwei to acknowledge Ethiopian authority. Major Tunnicliffe was not about to have the
keeper of the Anuak Royal Emblems become an Ethiopian subject, and at the head of his mounted police with airplanes overhead he secured the
submission of the chiefs and the surrender of the Emblems themselves. Life on the Ethiopian frontier was nasty, brutish, and short, for no
authority could emerge from the swamps of divided allegiances and traditional hostilities.
The Ethiopians could not control, but they could ignite those traditional rivalries by claiming to challenge the power of the Sudan government
which some elements among the Nuer and the Anuak did believe was in their best interests. The result was violence. In March 1932 Anuak from
the Baro Salient crossed the Akobo, where they were joined by Sudan Anuak, and marched seventy miles into the Sudan to attack the Murle south
and east of Akobo Post. Here they took the Murle unawares, killed the men, captured eighty women and children, and seized hundreds of Murle
cattle which were quickly sold off in Ethiopia for rifles. This raid was no minor skirmish between traditional rivals, for the Murle seldom
ventured near the Ethiopian frontier. Representations were made at the British Foreign Office and vigorously followed up in Addis Ababa. The
Sudan government demanded compensation for the men killed, the return of the women, children, and stock, and that the Ethiopian government
make every effort to establish its authority in the Baro Salient. A conference was held at Gambella between A. G. Pawson, governor of the
Upper Nile, Ras Mulugheta, governor of Gore, and Fitaurai Haile Mariam, the acting governor of Sayo Province. Agreement was immediately reached
and compensation paid forthwith by the Ethiopians. The captives were ultimately returned. The importance of the Gambella Agreement was the
assurance by Ras Mulugheta to establish Ethiopian administration along the frontier. Largely through the agitation of Consul Erskine at Gore
and his similar appeals directly to Addis Ababa, Ras Mulugheta recommended to the emperor Kanyazmatch Majid Abud as Ethiopian Frontier Agent
assigned to carry out the terms of the Gambella Agreement and to assert the power of the Lion of Judah over the Nuer and Anuak of Ethiopia.
Majid Abud al-Ashkar was one of those remarkable characters drawn to Africa as by a magnet. Esme Erskine at Gore and Jack Maurice at Gambella
thought Majid "a paragon of virtue" compared with the Ethiopian officials with whom they had to deal; F. D. Corfield and Martin
Parr regarded him as a distinctly evil man. Elliot-Smith thought him "a professional soldier of fortune endowed with all the qualities
to success in that line. He is tough, brave and intelligent, perhaps more accurately cunning and one must add mercenary and unscrupulous."
One cannot help but like Majid Abud.
He was a Syrian Druze born in 1884 in a small village near the source of the Jordon River in Lebanon. His parents were killed by Turkish brigands
and Majid was reared in a Syrian orphanage in Jerusalem where he learned carpentry. At nineteen he accompanied a Danish missionary to the
Hadramut where he experienced a host of adventures ending- up as the head of a mission from the Sultan of Lahej to Ras Makonnen in Harrar
in 1906. He liked Ethiopia and worked for a time with a German merchant until taking a position with Idliba Hassan, the son of an Arab Syrian
Christian and an English mother who traded in gum at EI Obeid with his company, the Kordofan Rubber Company. Having learned to speak and write
Amhara, he became Idliba Hassan's manager in Gore where he won the confidence of the Ethiopian governor, Ras Tassama, through whom he received
the beautiful estate at Comera in western Ethiopia near Gore from the emperor Laj Yasu in 1914. In return, Majid proved loyal to the emperor
and on his orders led an Ethiopian punitive expedition into the Baro Salient in 1916 to punish those Anuak who had refused to recognize Ethiopian
sovereignty and to wage guerrilla warfare across the frontier into the Sudan. He defeated the Anuak in a bloody engagement at Itang on the
Baro River but had to withdraw before carrying out any hostilities in the Sudan. Majid then returned to the highlands, but his association
with Laj Yasu made him highly suspect to Ras Taffari, and for the next ten years he lived quietly on his estate in Comera until Haile Selassie
appointed him the Ethiopian Frontier Agent in 1932, probably as a result of the combined pressure of Ras Mulugheta and Erskine.
Majid met with Tunnicliffe at Akobo and then, throughout the remainder of the rains at Gambella, he planned his campaign for the winter dry
season. Early in 1933 he was ready and marched on the Gila Anuak in late February with some 360 men, while the Sudan authorities reinforced
the Pibor and Akobo line with two companies of mounted infantry supported by planes from the RAF to prevent the Anuak fleeing across the frontier
from Majid's troops but also to observe his movements. None of the British officials in the Upper Nile had any trust in the Ethiopians (even
Majid), their intentions, and certainly not their motives. Majid's march through the Salient met with little resistance largely because he
spent most of his time placating the Anuak rather than punishing them. He obtained the release of those Murle captives not already sold into
slavery and, with their cattle, repatriated them to the Sudan. Elated, Majid then turned north to Jokau, the small but important post at the
confluence of the Baro and the Pibor rivers, crossed into Jikany Nuer country, where he claimed all the Gaajok and the Gaajak grazing in Ethiopia
as subjects of the emperor, and announced his intention to collect tribute as a sign of their submission and as confirmation of Ethiopian
authority over its territory. Needless to say, this would swell the emperor's treasury minus the usual deductions. Never in the history of
the eastern frontier had an Ethiopian official ever made such a demand. The Nuer were not surprisingly disturbed, seeing it a direct challenge
to the Sudan government, which they had accepted as part of border life, and the concurrent novelty that, in Ethiopia, they need no longer
be concerned with British justice. Some Nuer were dismayed at the Ethiopian initiatives, others elated, but all knew that violence was imminent.
As part of the Ethiopianization of the frontier, Majid had appointed Koryum Tut, a Gaajak Nuer chief living at Kurthony on the north bank
of the Baro, a Fitaurari that infuriated those Gaajak who wanted nothing to do with the Ethiopians and the tribute collecting of Majid Abud.
Several hundred Gaajak warriors amassed to attack Kurthony; the raid was only averted by the intervention of F. D. Corfield, who crossed the
river with his police and through personal bravery and a show of authority prevented hostilities. The incident clearly demonstrated the deteriorating
situation on the frontier and the need of at least a local agreement over grazing between the Sudan and Ethiopia. Always willing to seek accommodation
with the British, Ras Mulugheta agreed to open negotiations, but he was shortly recalled to Addis, leaving Majid to look after frontier affairs.
Majid had been furious at Corfield's violation of the international boundary by intervening at Kurthony and not only refused to negotiate
any grazing agreement, but sent his agents, particularly one rather unsavory Kerazmatch Dampte, among the Nuer chiefs to urge them, with a
combination of sweet talk, threats, and bribes, to transfer their allegiance to the emperor.
In fact, many of the Jikany Nuer would have liked nothing better than to be under the light but fickle administration of the Ethiopians compared
to the strict and virtuous rule of the British. Indeed, Koryum Tut traveled to Addis Ababa, where he was hosted and presented with a robe
of honor and a shield and thereafter worked diligently to convince his fellow Nuer of the benefits of being Ethiopian subjects. Other Ethiopian
agents wherever they went did all they could to show the "Shangalla," Negroes, that they were a civilized government, while Majid
boldly announced that he would take reprisals against all those Nuer chiefs who returned to the Sudan in 1933. None of these activities were
what the British authorities in Khartoum, London, or Addis Ababa had envisaged when they had encouraged the emperor to administer his frontier
territory. But it was precisely what the authorities in the Upper Nile had predicted.
The cross-purposes of the men in Whitehall and those on the spot in Africa were as old as the British Empire. Consul Erskine was vehemently
opposed to the autonomous attitude assumed by the governor and district commissioner of the Upper Nile. He had denounced Corfield's intervention
at Kurthony and roundly instructed Martin Parr, the deputy civil secretary of all people. "In any case I advise you to be guided by me
as far as my consular area of Western Abyssinia is concerned. That's what I'm here for." Parr reacted in his usual fashion by reminding
the consul for western Ethiopia where he stood at Malakal, whereupon Erskine replied by denouncing the District Commissioners of the Upper
Nile, particularly Jack Maurice at Gambella, for their ill-founded protection of the Anuak and the Nuer that had done so much to undermine
the gallant attempts by Majid Abud and his officials to bring stability to the Ethiopian side of the frontier, "not on behalf of the
last persons killed on the raid or the miserable conditions of the women and children sold into slavery but the fear expressed that the Anuak
of the forest, Baro or Gila areas should meet with their just deserts from the hand of the Governor of Gore who would give the same measures
they gave their victims. . . . As long as D.C. Gambella continues to lodge protests for the protection of Anuak raiders as if they were admittedly
dangerous but rare and valuable carnivores which should be protected in a game preserve, then so long will the Anuak continue to be a law
Governor of the Upper Nile Pawson's solution was to negotiate a grazing agreement for the Nuer whereby the Sudan government would pay the
grazing fees in return for Ethiopian recognition that the Nuer were a Sudan tribe. Erskine himself had first suggested such an arrangement
in order to settle the frontier disputes. He had pinned his hopes on Majid Abud, but the latter's hostility, aroused by Corfield's defense
of the Nuer and concomitant violation of the international frontier at Kurthony, had damaged their hitherto good relations. Erskine was personally
offended by Corfield, who he had thought usurped the consul's rights to defend the interests of British subjects in foreign territory. At
Gambella, Erskine, Pawson, and Corfield were at least sufficiently civil to agree upon the necessity of a grazing agreement and forwarded
their views to Khartoum and the British minister in Addis Ababa. But this was not the crux of the matter. All of these men, who knew the territory
very well, understood that there would never be peace on the frontier until the boundary was redrawn. The grazing agreement was a palliative;
it was not an obvious solution--the rectification of the frontier to give the Baro Salient to the Sudan by redrafting the boundary along the
line of the escarpment. The British government saw the sense of solving the Sudan government's problem at the expense of Ethiopian territory
and argued that some unwanted region should be offered in exchange. Why not the llemi Triangle? From that point the Baro Salient became a
persistent part of Anglo-Ethiopian frontier negotiations.
Kanyazmatch Majid Abud returned to Gambella in May 1934 in high dudgeon and bearing a new title, "Imperial Agent for the Nilotic Tribes
of Ulu Baboor [Gore] and Sayo-Wallega Provinces." He now had a united frontier administration which had hitherto been divided between
the two rival Ethiopian provinces of Gore and Sayo. He brought with him several hundred men and a machine gun. To his astonishment, while
collecting taxes, his men were attacked by a large number of the Baro Anuak on 26 May and were nearly overwhelmed. Only his machine gun saved
him for the moment; his men were decimated, some sixty killed on the spot and others picked off as the column retreated toward Gambella where
he and his force, their ammunition spent, would have been annihilated had not Maurice's Gambella police rescued Majid and brought him back,
seriously wounded. The Anuak pursued him to the very banks of the Baro at Gambella but would not attack the Sudan Enclave. Majid lost everything--baggage,
ammunition, guns, and large quantities of currency. Only half of his force ever returned, and he himself went up into the highlands and on
to Addis Ababa to have his shattered leg treated, vowing to return.
To Erskine, Majid's disastrous defeat was a calamitous blow to his policy of Ethiopian administration of the Baro Salient. He never fully
trusted Majid, but he thought he could control him. The British officials in the Upper Nile could hardly contain their satisfaction, that
the Ethiopian belief they could control their volatile frontier tribes, had been shattered by Majid's debacle. As for the Nuer and the Anuak
in Ethiopia, Majid's defeat only appeared to convince them that they had nothing to fear from the Ethiopians, on the one hand, and had immunity
from the Sudan authorities, on the other, so long as they remained behind the border. Here they could offer refuge to the unscrupulous and
encourage cattle raiding from the Ethiopian sanctuary. A Gaajak Nuer, Giet Gong, was such a brigand. His lair was the village of Barakwich
situated on Adura Island in Ethiopian territory. Here he openly sheltered fugitives and pillagers, who gave him their allegiance in return
for safety. The Gaajak victims were not only aggrieved but determined to regain their stolen stock. Even before Majid's defeat, Corfield again
struck across the border on 20 February 1934 to retrieve cattle, settle claims, and then withdrew.
With unrest and tension all along the frontier, the immediate concern of the British authorities was the impending return in the dry season
of a wrathful Majid Abud ready to spread fire and sword throughout the borderlands. Most thought any such attempt would result in a massacre.
There was a more serious concern. Corfield had instructions, reinforced by two companies of mounted infantry and aircraft, to cross into Ethiopia
to defend the Nuer against the troops of Majid Abud, thus undoubtedly creating an international incident or even a casus belli which no one
wanted. In light of the growing Italian threat, Haile Selassie could hardly spare the troops necessary to disarm the Anuak in a remote region
of his empire where there were no Italians. Symes, governor-general of the Sudan, knew this and could thus take advantage of the emperor's
weakness by deferring to the demands of his DCs on the frontier for authority to reassert the Pax Britannica and British prestige. In Addis,
Majid's proposed expedition against the Gaarjak Nuer and the Anuak of the Baro Salient was quietly abandoned. The civil secretary, Angus Gillan,
wrote to Erskine at Gore, "If it means that he cannot work in the Salient without interfering with the Sudan Nuer I am convinced, and
I do hope you will be, that the time has come to drop him." Majid had outlived his usefulness on the Ethiopian frontier. Diplomatic representations
were subsequently made to the emperor and the redoubtable Majid Abud never returned to the Baro Salient, but the problem remained unresolved.
Although the emperor did not mention Majid, he kept him in the capital where he clearly needed him more against the Italians than against
the Anuak; but he was not about to give up the Baro Salient by frontier rectification and Sir Sidney Barton, the British ambassador at Addis,
was not about to press this request at a time when the emperor was struggling to prevent the dismemberment of his country by the Italians.
With Majid Abud safely ensconced in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian officials in western Ethiopia soon fell to squabbling among themselves. Majid's
agent, Marco Beshir, represented the imperial government, but without Majid's support his authority was soon challenged by the provincial
officials of Sayo and Gore each of whom wanted exclusive administration on the frontier for their own benefit. There was equal dissension
on the Sudan side of the border. Corfield at Nasir and G. L. Elliot-Smith at Akobo continually fulminated against the prohibition about crossing
the frontier made all the more frustrating by the absence of any progress at Addis Ababa over a grazing agreement or frontier rectification.
By the spring of 1935 Symes accepted the fact that any boundary change was simply out of the question but pressed for the grazing agreement
which would let his DCs into Ethiopia. By the autumn of 1935, any hope of a conclusion to this question dissipated before Ethiopian preoccupation
with the Italian military buildup and increasing sensitivity toward any encroachment upon their territory. Reluctantly, the British Foreign
Office gave way despite strong protests from Sir Sidney Barton at Addis. The foreign secretary saw "no objection to the adoption by the
Sudan Government if they consider it necessary the proposal to give discretion to local administrative officers to cross the frontier when
and where the interests of good order and public security demand their personal intervention." This was all that Elliot-Smith and Corfield
required. Symes cautioned them not to set up courts or collect taxes, but simply to be a "friendly mediator." The British officials
on the Ethiopian frontier, understood precisely what was meant to be a "friendly mediator."
On 3 October 1935, Italian troops crossed the Eritrean Frontier, reaching Makale in early November. The advance was renewed in February 1936
and moved irresistibly forward. On 4 May Haile Selassie left Addis Ababa, and on the following day Marshal Pietro Badoglio entered the capital.
Suddenly, the situation on the Ethiopian frontier had changed from one of chaotic and tiresome tribal hostilities against the failure of the
Imperial Ethiopian government to assert its authority, to the presence of a resurgent European power, who the British government had sought
to appease, at the very gates of the Sudan. On the one hand, the strength of Italy in Ethiopia might bring stability to the turbulent frontier.
On the other, that very strength could create a force in western Ethiopia that would threaten the Nile waters and the lifelines of empire.
Gambella was particularly crucial, for it was the passage for goods and people out of the provinces of western Ethiopia. To abandon it to
the Italians would not only damage British prestige but would seal off the only outlet for western Ethiopia to the outside world. The Sudan
would lose their control of the Baro as well as E£300,000 worth of commercial goods. Moreover, the collapse of the Ethiopian army had
let loose roving bands of well-armed soldiery turned to brigandage who, if given the opportunity, would descend upon Gambella and pillage
it. At a meeting in the palace on 15 May 1936, Symes ordered that Gambella be strengthened and that the Boma Plateau be occupied before the
Italians could reach either. He also reaffirmed the policy that District Commissioners would continue "to assume more direct control
with less meticulous observance of the frontier." Some seventy special police from Kordofan with machine guns and barbed wire were sent
up by the first steamer in June. Jack Maurice was already at work clearing a landing field that was ready by September, and the following
month Erskine quietly evacuated the British consulate at Gore, since he could no longer assume any responsibility for the preservation of
internal order in western Ethiopia. In typical fashion, Erskine arrived with his bodyguard of fifty Anuak who were put to work guarding the
rusting vehicles of the Ethiopian Motor Transport Company since to turn them loose on the population was unthinkable. There were few other
refugees--an occasional high Ethiopian official but no others. On 17 December 1936, two Italian generals, twelve officers, and a hundred Italian
troops motored into Gambella with planes flying overhead. Jack Maurice rose to the occasion and served refreshments. An Italian reporter lyrically
described Gambella as "The Venice of Africa," but Maurice lamented the fact that "the population can't understand the tribal
behaviour and loose morals of the white aviators." Thereafter, Maurice and the Italian administrators settled down to amicable relations
punctuated by the pilots flying live crocodiles for presentation to Marshal Graziani. What the marshal did with these man-eaters remains unrecorded
at Gambella, but this simulated cordiality could not last.
The Italians were quite happy to accept the British presence at Gambella, at least for the moment, in the person of Jack Maurice since he
could do little harm and with his enormous experience and prestige was in fact a most valuable asset. Although Maurice was constantly reassured
that matters at Gambella would remain quite normal, within six months "business as usual" was not going to continue. He wrote to
Gillan in Khartoum. "I always feel that anything that anyone of them does is with one view in mind, namely that the thin edge of the
wedge towards a more powerful hold on the enclave, which seems to me that as more and more Italian companies come in and fill the place up
with their personnel, cars, etc., must at long last become a stranglehold." By June 1937 it was abundantly clear that the Italians had
three definite objectives at Gambella: to control
the trade, to use Gambella as a base from which to reconnoiter the river system of the Upper Nile Province, and to assert their authority
in the Baro Salient. The Italians soon moved to concentrate the coffee trade in the hands of their own companies to the exclusion of those
merchants, Greeks, Levantines, and Sudanese, who had historically dominated trade with the Sudan. Maurice had warned the Sudan government
in May that the Italians were squeezing the merchants very hard. E. G. Coryton came up from Malakal with Romilly on the first steamer in June
to hold discussions with the Italian commissioner, Lieutenant F. Senni, who made it quite clear that Italy claimed sovereignty over the Enclave
and undoubtedly would have pressed for complete control were it not for the fact that the Sudan government had the steamers. The Italian objective
at Gambella was stated more bluntly two years later by Major Colacino.
The British intention at Gambella is to drive all the trade of west Ethiopia towards the waterways of the Baro and Gila for the Sudan. Behind
the Greek Danieli's and the Gellatley's who built the Gambella-Gore road the shadow of the rapacious hand of John Bull outlines itself clearly.
They were well aware of the immeasurable riches of the territory of Gore and Sayo. The thorn of Gambella is no small annoyance. How can we
be free of it if the principal entry is that of freeing ourselves from the English at Gambella and of putting to good use the great riches
of west Ethiopia? Their political dreams are shattered and their hopes for occupying the provinces of west Ethiopia have vanished. We must
get rid completely of every sign of English territorial dominion even if masked within our Empire.
By the autumn the Italians had consigned all Gambella trade to the Societa Anonima Navigazione D'Eritrea (SANE) and the Societa Nazionale
d'Ethiopia (SNE). They bought up the coffee and other products at a fixed and commercially low rate, and any of the traditional merchants
who offered competitive prices were fined the difference. The Italian administration in Ethiopia was hard-pressed for foreign exchange and
did not wish to see a quarter of a million pounds worth of produce converted in the Sudan. The need for foreign exchange also worked to the
disadvantage of the Gambella merchants. In addition to granting export licenses to create a monopoly for SANE and SNE, the Italian authorities
insisted that all commercial transactions be conducted in lire at a fixed rate of exchange. In western Ethiopia, lire was worthless money,
and the Gambella merchants, who had traded for years on fair terms, found themselves financially strangled and so departed. By October 1939
there were only one Sudanese and one Greek merchant remaining in the Enclave. The once flourishing commercial area had been reduced to a mere
transit station for Italian imports and exports. Gambella never recovered.
By the early spring of 1937 the Italian commissioner at Gambella was already making plans to organize a river reconnaissance as soon as the
Baro was navigable. Commander DiFregato Silvio Montanarella arrived at Gambella in May. A member of Marshal Graziani's staff and an officer
in Italian Naval Intelligence, he was well known for his travels and explorations and discussed with Maurice the geography and river systems
of the frontier. He indicated that Gambella had suddenly assumed considerable importance to the Italian occupation of Ethiopia because "the
conquest was undreamt of" and their control in western Ethiopia required a more assured means of communication and transportation for
military supplies. Montanarella leased the steamer, Pope Pius XI, from the Italian missionaries and proceeded to investigate the Baro, Pibor,
and Gila rivers. Of more immediate importance were the arrangements being made in Khartoum in May through which the SANE had made an agreement
with Contomichalos, Darke and Co., the well-known Khartoum trading firm with long-standing experience at Gambella, to ship over 10,000 tons
of trade goods into the Enclave. Certainly, H. A. Nicholson, head of the Department of Economics and Trade, warned Gillan that this was yet
another step toward the Italians' controlling Gambella trade that, in turn, would undermine the British presence and thereby weaken any position
the Sudan government might have if the question of the rights secured under the treaty with Menelik in 1902 arose during any negotiations
with the Italians. As far as the British government was concerned, they wanted no trouble because of this pestilential little enclave that
might disrupt their policy of conciliating the Italians. Maurice was informed to make whatever arrangements he could with the Italians, "with
the idea of carrying on normal commercial activity."
More serious were Italian plans for their frontier administration. They could easily squeeze the Sudan government at Gambella through control
of currency and commercial licenses for Italian companies to monopolize the trade but not to the point of terminating Sudan steamer services,
which benefited from the revenue derived by hauling Italian supplies. The occupation of the swampy plains of the frontier where the Ethiopians
had failed was left to Major Colacino. Colacino was a Fascist first and a soldier second. He despised the English as decadent, derisively
writing after the occupation of Gambella, "We have had many good laughs at the English while they in their hearts harbored ill-feeling
because of the collapse and renunciation of so many years of labor vainly spent in their dream of political supremacy over all the west of
Ethiopia." Charming and urbane, he aroused in Khartoum simultaneous cordiality and suspicion. His plans for the Italian development of
western Ethiopia were rather grandiose and somewhat unrealistic: grandiose in his vision of commercial development in western Ethiopia; unrealistic
in his fantasy of mobilizing the Nuer into a loyal Italian army. Specifically, the Italians "should act in a way not to cede a meter
of land nor a single group of families" in order to destroy British control and prestige among the border peoples. "The British
will hesitate to do anything to maintain their power," an idea reinforced by a copy of a map, surreptitiously obtained, drawn by A. H.
A. Alban and showing the frontier redrafted to coincide with the line of the escarpment giving the Baro Salient to the Sudan. Colacino proposed
a detailed reorganization of the frontier, particularly adding posts along the perimeter of the Salient at Taiyan, Kwanynet, and Tirgol on
the Pibor. The key to the destruction of British authority was, however, to be the Nuer.
It was only by our conquest we have aroused sympathy towards Italy on the part of the Nuer and they look to us with hope and trust. It is
necessary to protect and cherish our Nuer as well as the Sudanese Nuer. It is necessary to carry out this policy, that is, of protecting the
Nuer, so that it will keep alive in the Nuer the lighted torch of sympathy towards Italy with their political future in the hands of God and
our Duce. Involved in a war with the English we should have the sympathy of a quarter million Nuer on our frontier to safely advance into
enemy territory. We should enroll under our banner thousands and thousands of these magnificent Nuer . . . warriors at heart, frugal,
dignified, solid, faithful, and grateful.
Major Colacino had less faith in the Anuak whom he described as unreliable, deceitful, garrulous, empty-headed, and completely given over
to idleness and lust. There could be no doubt, however, that as soon as war was declared between Britain and Italy a few months later on 10
June 1940, Gambella--this mighty bastion of twenty police and four machine guns and, of course, Jack Maurice--would be the first British stronghold
to fall to the might of the resurgent Italian empire. Jack was ready to leave, for he did not much relish the idea of spending the war in
an Italian internment camp. He had even devised a code word for the evacuation, "Boots." Maurice was fifty-seven years old and sick.
There had not been another Englishman in Gambella in over seven months, yet he was told that the flag must continue to fly until war was actually
he was given the cheerless admonition "to pull himself together and hang on." In fact, Sir Stewart Symes used his close personal
friendship with the viceroy of Italian East Africa, the Duke of Aosta, to request a safe-conduct for Maurice and his men from Gambella. The
Duke agreed, and on 6 June Dr. Cesare Lapori, the Italian commandant at Gambella, told Maurice that they could leave at once so long as they
surrendered their arms and left the radio intact. Jack departed immediately in a canoe and reached Malakal on 28 June relieved and none the
worse for wear. The governor of the Upper Nile, "General" C. H. Armstrong, who took war much too seriously, solemnly called together
all of his senior staff to a top secret meeting to announce the fall of the first British post to the Italians--Jokau, at the junction of
the Baro and Pibor rivers which consisted of six thatched huts and as many policemen. The European war on the Upper Nile had begun.
In the borderlands between the Sudan and Ethiopia imperial imperatives frequently disappeared in the swamps; local realities, in the end,
meant much more to the people of the Boma and surrounding plains than Ethiopian poachers or the Equatorial Corps. The most powerful local
authority in the borderlands was the Anuak, Ilemi Akwon, for whom the Ilemi Triangle was named. His mother was a Murle from the Boma Murle,
the Epeita, but on his father's side he was an Anuak of the Royal House and half-brother of Agwa Akwon, at the time holder of the Royal Emblems
of the Anuak. In 1934 Ilemi and other Anuak nobles had helped their Murle kin defeat the Kichepo. The Kichepo themselves had migrated to the
Boma Plateau at the turn of the century during a severe drought along the Ethiopian highlands. Upon their arrival in Boma Chief Losanga had
come to a working agreement with the hill Murle to live and cultivate near Mount Bejunu. The Kichepo had no relationships with peoples in
the Sudan, neither speaking dialects nor claiming kinship. Although Elliot-Smith, the DC at Akobo, had specifically warned Ilemi to remain
aloof from the Boma Plateau feuds, he was killed by the Kichepo, seeking revenge for their earlier defeat, in January 1936 at Tete while paying
a visit to his mother and Epeita kin. Emboldened by the presence of Ethiopian troops and poaching parties, the Kichepo attacked the Epeita
again at the end of March, killing many and driving the hill Murle from the Boma to their kinfolk on the plains. The frontier burst into raging
warfare, the Anuak rushing from the Akobo Valley to avenge Ilemi's death, the Murle from the plains to restore their kinsmen in the hills.
Throughout March and April 1936, the fighting spread across the Boma Plateau and eastward into the Ethiopian foothills. The Kichepo were saved
from destruction at the hands of the combined forces of the Murle and Anuak by the Ethiopians in a major battle somewhere near Suksuk, but
the Anuak in defeat turned on the Murle to recover their own losses. In June the Sudan Equatorial Corps arrived to patrol a frontier whose
peoples were exhausted by the fighting of the past months oblivious to the fact that those in Ethiopia were now Italian subjects.
Despite the turmoil on the frontier or rather because of it, the Sudanese authorities, with the support of the Foreign Office, continued to
press ahead toward a major frontier rectification, hitherto rebuffed by Haile Selassie, now that the Italians were in Addis Ababa, whence
they had hitherto received only frustration and rebuff from the emperor. Essentially, the Sudan government sought to resolve the problems
of its eastern frontier by exchanging the Baro Salient, which it desired in order to administer the Nuer and the Anuak as a whole, for the
Ilemi Triangle, which was singularly worthless. This wild frontier from the Machar Marshes in the north to Lake Rudolf in the south was nothing
but trouble and expense, unproductive and without revenue. Boundary rectification would not solve all problems, but it would make them more
manageable and partly accounts for the conciliatory posture taken by the Sudan government toward the Italians and the positive appeasement
displayed by the strangulation of the profitable and revenue producing trade at Gambella. The idea of exchanging the Baro Salient for Ilemi
was not new--in fact, it had been broached as early as 1913--but instability in Ethiopia made it difficult for the Ethiopians to discuss giving
away frontier territory they did not control, and after the consolidation of Haile Selassie's authority, he was even more concerned to assert
his rule throughout the land than to abandon it. To the British, the Italian occupation changed all this. Not only were the Italians presumably
easier with whom to negotiate changes in the boundaries, but the British had not counted on Major Colacino's infatuation with the Nuer as
the shock troops of a new Italian African army. In the spring of 1937, the British ambassador at Rome was instructed by the Foreign Office
to inaugurate "exploratory" talks suggesting a realignment of the frontier, giving the Sudan Gambella and the Baro Salient in return
for Ilemi, including the Boma Plateau. There were only two obstacles to this eminently sensible rearrangement Egypt and the Red Line.
Any rectification of the Sudan frontier that brought the cessation of Sudan territory would have to include the concurrence of Egypt, not
only because Egypt was a partner in the Condominium, and a very sensitive one at that, but because the Baro was one of the major spate rivers
in the Nile River System. Even more acute than feelings of nationalism were the Egyptian concerns about any issue involving control of the
Nile waters, and in 1936 a dam had been proposed for Baro river control. In order to acquire the Baro Salient, the Sudan was prepared, with
Egyptian concurrence, to give up the Ilemi Triangle. But Kenya required southern Ilemi up to the Red Line for Turkana grazing. "To obtain
major objectives elsewhere in the Baro Salient to affect an international boundary throughout, we are quite agreeable to free a section of
the Turkana grazing area to Kenya but our Condominium status complicates the issue." Egypt would probably not object if the Red Line
went to Kenya as part of a total settlement which gave the Baro Salient to the Sudan, but she would raise strenuous objections if the Red
Line went to a British colony prior to a general boundary rectification without compensation. Despite these difficulties, the interest in
frontier rectification was so urgent that the British government authorized a delimitation of the Sudan-Kenya frontier in the greatest secrecy
as a first step in any general rectification. The Sudanese commissioners were carefully warned that the more the Sudan ceded to Kenya on behalf
of the Turkana, the less would remain to give the Italians for the Baro Salient, so only the legitimate grazing needs of the Turkana should
be included-namely, the Red Line.
The possibilities of a general rectification seemed all the more promising when the Anglo-Italian Agreement of 16 April 1938, was announced
in which the protocol agreed to open negotiations by which the Egyptian government would be invited to participate in defining the boundaries
between the Sudan, Kenya, and British Somalia, on the one hand, and Italian East Africa, on the other. The British envisaged the frontier
with Italian East Africa running from Gambella south along the base of the escarpment and west of the Boma Plateau to the northern frontier
of the grazing grounds of the Kenya Turkana. Symes thought the Sudan-Kenya boundary could be drafted by July and was quite prepared even to
abandon Gambella altogether, keeping the Italians on top of the escarpment and the British at the bottom of it. In fact, the Kenya-Sudan boundary
commission had finished its work by the end of May, creating yet another line, the Wakefield Line, to provide a more realistic frontier between
the Sudan and Kenya than the old 1914 line. The Wakefield Line meant that the Sudan would cede to Kenya 1,167 square miles north of the 1914
Line and 90 square miles more than the existing Red Line, the administrative grazing boundary. This proposed frontier was quite acceptable
to both the Sudan and Kenya governments.
Throughout the summer of 1938, discussions shifted to Cairo where the Egyptian government, with uncommon good grace, agreed to the general
frontier rectification with Italian East Africa from Gambella to Kenya along the lines proposed by the Sudan government, including the Wakefield
Line, and notes were simultaneously presented to the Italian government in Rome. Whatever the merits of the proposed boundary resettlement,
they were soon lost in the precipitously deterioration of Anglo-Italian relations made worse by the Italian invasion of Albania and by reports
from Captain Montanarella and Major Colacino on the importance of an Italian foothold on the Nile plains below the escarpment. On 10 August
1938, the Italian foreign minister, Count Ciano, rejected the Anglo-Egyptian proposals out of hand, declaring them to be "of such ethnic,
political, military and economic importance that the Italian Government are clearly not able to take them into consideration." Angus
Gillan wrote to Martin Parr at Juba, "It looks as though we are doomed to a prolongation of the present unsatisfactory conditions at
Gambeila, on the Salient, and in the Triangle. . . during which time the problem may be settled by crises."
Before the outbreak of the war "General" Armstrong at Malakal had been driving himself to exhaustion concocting elaborate war plans
for the Upper Nile Province which poured into the Civil Secretariat in Khartoum in a flood of detailed proposals for defense, attack, and
air defense. The "General" was clearly in his element, treating the Upper Nile as if it were the Western Front, where he had won
the DSO, MC, and the Croix de Guerre for soldiering he had never forgotten. Armstrong's war plan was for the British forces to stand on the
defensive, holding Nasir and Akobo until reinforcements could arrive to recapture Gambella and the Salient and drive the Italians out of western
Ethiopia. Armstrong specifically warned every official not to indulge in heroics and, above all, not to take the offensive toward Jokau prematurely.
"Jokau must not be our Dunkirk," intoned the General to his men. His principal objective was to keep the Upper Nile Province "quiet."
Less than a dozen years had elapsed since the Nuer had been "pacified," and the frontier had never ceased to be other than in a
state of turmoil. Moreover, younger men who had not experienced the campaigns of the Nuer Settlement now dominated the cattle camps, and it
had become an article of faith among British officials in the Upper Nile that sooner or later "there will be a clash between the restraining
influence of those who remember the strong arm of the government and the restlessness of those who either never knew it or chose to forget
it." He gave precise orders: "UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES DO I WANT UNNECESSARY RISKS TAKEN DURING WAR TIME."
Sound in conception, these plans were promptly ignored by his Nuer and Anuak District Commissioners on the frontier who, after years of frustration
over the international boundary, were only too ready to cross the river not only in the fight against fascism but to settle some old scores
against the Italians, who had made their lives miserable by inciting the Baro Anuak against their rule and, much worse, British prestige.
The District Commissioner, Akobo, Captain A. H. A. Alban, had won a DFC and the Belgian Croix de Guerre in France in 1918. Captain H. A. Romilly
at Nasir had fought with the Somerset Light Infantry in Mesopotamia. Purposely not informing the General, they both lost no time in crossing
the river with their police to gain the singular distinction of being the first British forces to fight on enemy soil in the Second World
War. Armstrong was beside himself when he discovered their antics and fumed and fussed in Malakal. He telegraphed to Newbold in Khartoum that
"1ike two schoolboys they had rushed out to tackle the post that annoyed them" and "have completely ruined my carefully throughout
plans. . . of tackling the Italian posts one by one with superior forces."
Meanwhile, Alban, with Captain W. H. B. Lesslie, had driven the Italian African troops out of Tirgol and swept on to the second Italian post
at Kwanyet, which Lieutenant Antonio Sapienza abandoned on 27 June, withdrawing up the Gila to Pengudo, eighty miles from the confluence of
the Gila and Pibor. In the meantime, Romilly had not been idle and probed eastward toward Jokau from Nasir, where he earned the nickname "hyena"
from the Italians, for his ability to pass through the most impenetrable mud, water, and high grass. Their fun could not last, for the combination
of heavy rain and Armstrong's fury at being ignored soon caught-up with Alban and Romilly, who had been specifically ordered not to attack
Jokau. To add to the General's perturbation, yet another amateur appeared on the scene with the desire to drive the Italians out of Anuakland
single-handedly, the anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard, who had been commissioned by the Sudan government in the mid-1930s to study the
Anuak, the result of which was his The Political System of the Anuak of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. He deluged Armstrong with letters in which
he pleaded to join the fight by leading a flying column of Anuak irregulars along the Gila. Alban looked askance at the idea of turning the
"Poet," as the British DCs called him though he was better known simply as "E. P.", loose with a force of Anuak irregulars
and the censor in Khartoum had been alarmed by the Evans-Pritchard's blunt criticisms of the Smuts government in his letters to South Africa,
but his persistence outweighed his opinions and Armstrong surrendered gracefully, commissioned Evans-Pritchard a Bimbashi in the Sudan Defence
Force with a salary of E£480 per year and sent him to Akobo making him solemnly promise that he would avoid getting killed. Alban found
him fifteen Anuak with rifles and he operated toward Pochala providing useful information. The Italians were rather baffled by all this and
kept referring to him in their reports to Addis Ababa as "the unidentified Englishman Cheruor [spy]."
Clearly, the Italian position in western Ethiopia was not going to collapse before the onslaught of two DCs and an anthropologist at the head
of a handful of Anuak. On July 6 the Italians bombed Malakal. Armstrong was prepared, as one would have expected, with air-raid wardens, a
fire-fighting brigade, and a series of shelter trenches scattered about the town. Two planes managed to drop eight bombs, igniting several
grass huts. Italian radio proclaimed extensive destruction. Italian air power was more impressive the following month. On 23 August two Italian
planes struck at the Sudan Interior Mission station at Doro in the Maaban, dropping over thirty bombs and killing Dr. and Mrs. Grieve, the
mission doctor and his wife, and machine-gunning Mr. and Mrs. Oglesby, who were standing outside the mission hospital waving the American
flag. This unnecessary attack created considerable consternation in Khartoum at what was described as "an exhibition of frightfulness
which stamps the Italians as beastly minded," A flying column of mounted police was hastily mobilized by J. B. Bowers, DC Renk, to bring
out the Oglesbys and evacuate the other members of the mission.
In the meantime Armstrong was preparing for more serious war during the coming dry season of 1940-41. His plan was a two-pronged assault,
the main force consisting of a battalion of the King's African Rifles under Lieutenant Colonel J. J. Johnson supported by two companies from
the Belgian Congo under General Auguste Gilliaert and Colonel Dronckers-Martens, which would drive up the Baro toward Gambella, while a second
force, Upper Nile Scouts composed mostly of Anuak, with the ubiquitous Evans-Pritchard, would move up the Gila, turning the Italian forces
toward Gambella. The Upper Nile Scouts were a troop which has been characteristic of British genius in organizing irregular forces throughout
the history of their empire. Formed as a gendarmerie to hold the province until regular troops appeared. Recruited largely among the Anuak,
they numbered over five hundred and performed long, hard patrols in the most difficult terrain of the province. The rest of the frontier north
of Jokau toward the abandoned police posts of Kigille and Daga would be held by the Upper Nile Scouts. In addition, two columns of mounted
police, called the Maaban Field Force of some one hundred and fifty men, was to operate from Melut along the frontier and by their rapid movements
were to create the impression of a sizeable concentration of armed forces. The veteran Nuer DC, Wedderburn-Maxwell, was once again riding
to the hounds as the commander of a northern column, while Frank Corfield operated in the southern Maaban with J. B. Bowers as political officer.
The KAR and Belgian troops began to concentrate at Malakal late in 1940 totally absorbing the energies of Armstrong and the administration
to provide housing, sanitation, food, not to mention coping with the language problem of some fifty-four officers and 2,200 troops who spoke
only French. In addition to their immediate theater of war, the Malakal officials had to get over six hundred vehicles of the South African
Cape Corps across the Sobat, supervise the construction of hundreds of miles of new roads, the creation of fuel dumps, and a vast organization
to supply hundreds of meters of wood for the steamers ferrying vehicles from Juba to Khartoum. Before the end of 1941, the General collapsed
from his massive exertions and was invalided from Malakal.
The campaign opened in October with two columns of some seventy and eighty Upper Nile Scouts each moving up the Baro and the Gila rivers to
harass and disrupt the enemy in anticipation of the troops of the King's African Rifles and the Congolese, which were to follow in December.
Throughout November there was skirmishing and probing by the Scouts to destroy Italian supply depots and collect information, punctuated by
the occasional fire-fight when they collided with an Italian force in the high grass above the Nilotic plain. By November the Maaban Field
Force had driven to the frontier within a few miles of Kurmuk. The British forces were clearly on the offensive against the beleaguered Italians
isolated in western Ethiopia far from Addis Ababa which was equally remote from Rome. Optimistic as to the outcome, the DCs involved in the
campaign relished harassing the Italians, particularly along the frontier. The initial policy of appeasement toward Italian East Africa had
produced only contempt and unfriendly efforts to control the Gambella trade and sow anti-British feeling among the Nuer. Behind the immediacy
of the Italian threat were years of impotence at not having their authority recognized beyond the frontier and throughout the borderlands.
Indeed, shooting Italians, despite the hardship, was more exciting than trying cases of adultery and cattle theft. Certainly, Evans-Pritchard
found warfare in the Anuak marches more exhilarating, if not more intellectually stimulating, than sorting out the royal clans of the Anuak.
The King's African Rifles arrived at Malakal in early November and, as the land dried out, they moved up the Sobat, screened by the Upper
Nile Scouts. By January 1941 the advanced battle headquarters of the KAR was established at Ballilah and the frontier from Kurmuk to the Gila
was cleared of Italian forces. Pochala and Pengudo were occupied by 22 January, and at the end of the month the Italians had evacuated Kurmuk
and began to withdraw rapidly into the highlands. Assosa fell to the Sudan Defence Force and units of the KAR, and by the middle of March
the Gila column had joined with the forces on the Baro. Gambella was captured on 22 March. By April the campaign in the Upper Nile was over.
The battalion of the King's African Rifles was withdrawn to reinforce the Sudan Defence Force around Kurmuk, while the Congolese moved up
into the highlands above Gambella with modest losses and much pillaging of the local population. Having accomplished their mission, the Upper
Nile Scouts were
withdrawn to Malakal. The Congolese captured Sayo on 3 July 1941, and on the sixth the Italian forces in western Ethiopia surrendered when
General Gazzira, the Italian viceroy of Galo Sidamo, met with General GiIliaert.
The defeat of the outnumbered and besieged Italians was a short and forgotten episode in a long and bitter worldwide conflict. The brunt of
the fighting had actually been carried out by the Congolese troops, who were quickly withdrawn by the autumn of 1941. Few British lost their
lives. Captain Lesslie was killed before Gambella. Armstrong was overcome from physical and emotional exhaustion. Relatively few Sudanese
troops were killed. Their names are engraved on a stone memorial by the Nile at Malakal. Indeed, the fighting ended in the summer of 1941
before the conflagration had reached world proportions, and the vast region of the Southern Sudan, from the Imatongs to the Sudd, settled
into somnambulant years. In fact, the neglect of the past appeared to be justified by the quiet war years, during which a handful of DCs saw
to the outward visible signs of administration: the chiefs held their courts; no major disruption to law and order occurred; and the region
as a whole neither progressed nor regressed, as life went on as before in the cattle camps and the cultivations.
The defeat of the Italians did not resolve the never-ending frontier problems, and even the re-establishment of British officers, Alban at
Gore and Whalley who returned to Maji in April 1941, to administer western Ethiopia as part of the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration
(OETA) did not result in the boundary rectification so essential if a more stable administration were to be established from the Baro to Lake
Rudolf. At first the British victory revived hope that indeed the time had arrived for the Sudan to acquire the Baro Salient. Newbold himself
took the initiative to secure the Salient in December 1941. The governor of the Upper Nile, C. G. "Bill" Davies, promptly provided
a map--probably the same one Major Colacino had obtained--which, with some redrafting, designed the frontier to include all the Nuer and a
new Anuak district with headquarters at Gambella to embrace all the Baro and Gila Anuak and even the Masango in the foothills of the Galla
country to be administered by Jack Maurice. Newbold sent the map and the Sudan's case for the Salient on to the British ambassador in Cairo
who urged the Foreign Office, as a first step, to place the Baro Salient under British military administration in order to facilitate its
transfer when an Anglo-Ethiopian treaty was signed. Jack Maurice, who had returned to Gambella in the wake of the Congolese troops, was helpful
as usual by claiming that all the Anuak recognized British authority in any case. As before, the Sudan government found itself seeking sanctions
in territory they may have possessed but could not claim. In Britain and Addis Ababa there was strong feeling that the war against the Italians
in East Africa was fought to restore the emperor to his dominions, which Britain had shamefacedly allowed the Italians to conquer, not to
extract territorial concessions from him as the price of British assistance. Sylvia Pankhurst, Professor Berridale Keith, and Sir Sidney Barton
were outspoken advocates for ending the British military administration in Ethiopia as soon as possible and returning the country intact to
the rule of Haile Selassie. By June it was apparent that any thought of retaining the Salient had disappeared. The British military administration
in Ethiopia was terminated, including that in the Salient, which reverted to Ethiopian administration under Kanyazmatch Seife. The British
position at Gambella simply went back to what it had been in 1934. Newbold was philosophical: "Maurice by his generous temperament and
personal acquaintance with various Abyssinian notables probably does more good neighborliness than the average D.C. It is his job to be a
frontier agent and maintain contacts and keep us supplied with local information and do what he can to protect Anuak, Nuer in the Salient
against Gala or Amhara oppression." Although Davies wished to curb the independent and iconoclastic Maurice with his peculiar methods
of administration, he had to admit that at fifty-eight Jack Maurice at Gambella was "one of the few unchanging things in an unstable
But Gambella was never to be the same again after the Italian occupation of 1936. Although the principal reason for the decline of the Gambella
trade after the war was the opening of western Ethiopia to truck traffic on the roads built by the Italians, the Ethiopians had also learned
from the Italians how to control Gambella despite Jack Maurice. By 1945 Gambella was overrun by some sixteen Amhara officials and a hundred
police with little to do, complained Maurice, but "drink, fight, rob, and wander about the place to the annoyance of everyone."
In the spring of 1945, a business profits tax was imposed by the Ethiopians at Gambella which, like the monopolist policies of the Italians,
was designed to force out all non-Ethiopian merchants. Harassment followed in a variety of frustrating ways, such as the Ethiopian demand
for Maurice to turn over the seals used to stamp commercial papers. In the succeeding year a large Ethiopian force marched through the Salient,
but still Maurice hung on, determined not to leave despite sickness and discouragement, (his teeth were falling out and trade was at a virtual
In December 1946, the Ethiopian government ordered that the Maria Theresa dollar no longer be legal tender. It had been the standard medium
for commercial transactions for 150 years in Ethiopia, and now had to be exchanged for Ethiopian dollars at a fixed rate worth approximately
twenty-five percent of the value of the Maria Theresa dollar on the world's currency exchanges. For the foreign merchants this was tantamount
to confiscation, which it became in fact, for anyone attempting to trade in Maria Theresa dollars on the black market. The final blow to Gambella
trade came in a later order in January 1947 that all merchants must obtain passports in person from Addis Ababa to trade at Gambella. This
hardship, combined with the currency regulations, effectively ended Sudanese trade with Ethiopia through the Enclave and destroyed any hope
of revenue, the raison d'étre for the existence of a Sudanese presence in Ethiopia. Jack Maurice summed it up in his inimitable fashion
to Freddy Kingdon at Malakal: "After all my nineteen years here this last year has taxed all my ingenuity, tact and last patience. .
. trying to make it [Gambella] into a more or less wholesome station, not a place of trouble, intrigue, arguments, disagreements, and filth."
While the policies of the Ethiopian government were clearly designed to drive out the non-Ethiopian merchants from Gambella, the Sudan government
was not about to rush to their aid despite the fact that some of their merchants had been trading in the Enclave under the British flag for
twenty, even thirty years. The Department of Economics and Trade in Khartoum was reluctant to release the foreign exchange the merchants required
to purchase Ethiopian coffee or to free up steamer space to transport it. In fact, the commercial future of Gambella was of no importance,
the trade was mostly in the hands of Levantine merchants, not Sudanese, and British officials could not justify giving the Gambella trade
a high priority on the hard-pressed steamer services when Brazilian coffee could be purchased at Port Sudan for ten percent less than Ethiopian
coffee coming through Gambella.
In the last analysis, however, transport was the key factor that ended the Gambella coffee trade. The Italians had constructed roads into
western Ethiopia, and it was cheaper and quicker to transport coffee from the highlands by truck. Thus, Ethiopian coffee could be in the shops
of the Gezira in two days via the roads through Kurmuk and Roseries, whereby the Gambella merchants had to wait for the river season, locking
up their capital and incurring substantial storage costs and losses. Ethiopian restrictions were not conducive to Sudan commerce, but the
economics of transportation introduced by the Italians killed the Gambella trade: "It is clear that the only basis for maintaining Gambella
was really a political one and not trade." Why Gambella was regarded as a political asset no one seems to have questioned and appeared
satisfied by the mystical
answer that the continuation of a British presence in the Enclave was for "reasons best known to the central government." In fact, the Sudan
government clung to Gambella as a card--once an ace, now a deuce--in the hope of reviving the negotiations to rectify the frontier. "However,
time would appear to be short for the lease of the enclave, I understand, terminates when this country ceases to come under Anglo-Egyptian
control. So in winning her independence Sudan will lose Gambella and whatever value it has for bargaining with Ethiopia." In 1949 Jack
Maurice retired to England after twenty-one years in Gambella, hopefully not ill to continue to ride to the hounds on a donkey that had been
one of centricities. His departure, perhaps even more than the decline of trade, closed another minor chapter about a remote and pestilential
outpost in imperial Britain.
Once Jack Maurice had left, the end came inexorably to the Gambella Enclave. In 1951 the Kanyazmatch Asfaw Abege informed Captain Harry Dibble,
who had replaced Maurice, that he no longer had the right to judge or imprison anyone. The merchants were bullied and browbeaten to buy in
currency despite their constant refusal to exchange surplus Ethiopian dollars for Egyptian pounds. In 1954 Asfaw Abege simply announced to
Dibble that Ethiopia was taking over the Enclave upon his departure on 30 October 1954, much to the annoyance of the Sudanese, but the acting
governor of the Upper Nile, M. O. Yassein, with eminent good sense, realized that the end of Gambella was at hand.
No longer would Upper Nile steamers call at Gambella; the merchants were finally leaving; and "I think it is far better for our future
relations with Ethiopia if we read the signs of the changing times now and decide to bring the agreement of May 15, 1902 about the Enclave
to an end." On 24 April 1956, a Sudanese delegation consisting of Sayyid M. O. Yassein and the permanent undersecretary from the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs met in Addis Ababa with the Ethiopian vice-minister for Foreign Affairs, Blatta Dawit Ogbagzy and, from the Ethiopian Finance
Ministry, Ato Menassie Lemma, and agreed to hand over Gambella to the Imperial Ethiopian government on 15 October 1956. The Sudanese were
particularly concerned that the hydrological measuring would continue, and the Ethiopians assured them they would. Thus, the Baro Salient
remained firmly in Ethiopian hands, and for the next fifty years a sanctuary from which Southern Sudanese insurgents have harassed the Sudan
army in its futile attempts to establish control in the Upper Nile Province. On the eastern Sudan frontier nothing changes, only the players.
 This account of the Anuak is taken from Robert O. Collins, Land Beyond the Rivers: The Southern Sudan, 1898-1918, New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1971, pp. 53,57, and Shadows in the Grass: Britain in the Southern Sudan, 1918-1956, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983, Chapt.
Nine," Thunder in the Highlands," pp. 365-405. I have deleted over a hundred references, but they can be found by consulting the
original text in the above books. My website is <www.history.ucsb.edu/faculty/collins.htm> See also: E. E. Evans-Prtichard, The Political
System of the Anuak of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, New York: AMS Press, 1977. For those Anuak who wish to delve into the massive compendium
of Luo traditions, see J. P. Crazzolara, The Lwoo, Part 1, Lwoo Migrations, and Part 3 The Clans, Verona: Edtrice Nigrizia, 1950 and 1954