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Late 18th and 19th Century Gharri leaders and experiences. written by Isaac Omar Published by Gur Gharri November 28, 2014 GSG News contributor ,

 During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the Gharri people were led by Ali Abdi. He served the Gharri people during the most difficult and volatile time in the history of East Africa when they were attacked by their former allies. Between 1906 and 1907, they were attacked by the Aulihan and the Marehan from the North and East respectively. Gababa Mahad’s first born son was killed and 250 of his cattle were looted by the Marehan.

 In 1912, the Degodia “Ex Gurre shegats” seized the opportunity and joined the Aulihana and Marehan fighters in their fighting against the Gharri people.

Then, two Gharri leaders Ali Abdi and Shaba Alio recruited the Tigray and deserters from the Ethiopian army to fight back and destroyed the allied Somali fighters. They also killed Captain Aylmer in 1913 while he was aiding those allied fighters. Later, these two Gharri leaders were accused of harboring and sheltering Ethiopian mercenaries and were arrested and deported from the Gharri district to Nairobi for a year. Between 1913 and 1914, were another volatile period and the Gharri were raided from every corner of the Gharri District by the same allied Somali clans. They lost over 100 of their men. Subsequently Gababa Mahad assumed a leadership position and defended his people. A year later, Ali Abdi was released from prison and upon his release, he transferred his power and appointed Gababa Mahad as the supreme leader of the entire Gharri tribe. British Mercenaries attempted to enlist him and even paid him 200 pounds for the loss of 250 of his cattle earlier in 1907, but that did not persuade him to abandon his people. Beginning from 1913 through 1923, it was a period of instability with sporadic and heavy fighting between the Gharri and Somali intruders including Degodia, Marehan, and Aulihan. 

However, the Gharri people under Gababa Mahad's leadership prevailed against all odds and became the regional superpower. Sultan Gababa Mahad was said to be short and small in stature, but described as "undoubtedly a great fighter with a great personality, and strong character." He was feared by his enemies and admired by his people and his allies. The Gharri also fought against the British occupying forces and the Ethiopians whenever they felt they were being threatened.

In 1923, British mercenaries attempted to collect a tribute by force from the Gharri. The Gharri supreme leader Gababa Mahad AKA Mohamed Mahad (Birth Name) strongly objected and rallied against Britain’s attempts to forcefully collect tributes and conduct registration. Subsequently fighting ensued in which 9 Gharri warriors were killed and Gababa Mahad was arrested.  He was released later on and upon his release, he allied with the Ethiopian emperor and moved the Gharri people to the Ethiopian side of the border where he was welcomed by Fitaurari Angasu, the Ethiopian officer in charge of armed forces at that time. The Gharri settled near Qadaduma and

Sultan Gababa began working against British interest and the British Mercenaries described him (Gababa Mahad) as an “infernal nuisance" He died in 1935.

Upon his death, his son Hassan Gababa assumed leadership and carried out the fight against Britain where his father left off.  Unlike his father, Hassan Gababa (Haji Hassan Gababa) did not ally himself with the Ethiopian emperor, but he did maintain a friendly relationship.       

In1936, an Ethiopian officer in charge by the name of Ras Dasta accused the Gharri people of being collaborators with the Italians and began harassing them. Soon fighting erupted between the Ethiopians and Italians. Ras Dasta's army was defeated by General Augustini with the help of the Gharri militias. The Gharri militias were given a task to dismantle and break up the civilian administration assembled by Ras Dasta at Malka Mari. They accomplished it swiftly and quickly. As a result of the Gharri warrior’s accomplishment, and his leadership, Haji Hassan Gababa was appointed with the rank of "Fitaurari” in 1936 by the Italian General Augustini, in recognition of his contribution and leadership." 

He continue working against the British intruder’s taxation without representation and protected the Gharri people.  The British Mercenaries described him in their report titled "RESUME OF GURRE HISTORY APPENDEX C PAGE 93 PARAGRAPH #11 “Hassan Gababa remained a thorn in our flesh".

In 1941, he was captured and arrested by Britain Mercenaries and was imprisoned at Wajir for two years and then transferred to Marsabit where he served time until 1945. Upon his release, he contacted Emperor Haile Selassie and he was welcomed by the Emperor. He retained his title as Fitaurari and served his people representing Gharri people living in Ethiopia. He became the members of the Ethiopian parliament and continue working relentlessly against British interests and blocked every proposal made by the British Mercenaries including the demarcating of the Ethiopian- Kenya border line.

He was a stanch supporter of the greater Somalia and played a big role for their independent until his death in 1962 by Haile Selassie I

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