1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Zobeir Rahama

ZOBEIR RAHAMA (1830–), Egyptian pasha and Sudanese governor, came of the Gemaab section of the Jaalin, and was a member of a family which claims descent from the Koreish tribe through Abbas, uncle of Mahomet. He became prominent as the most energetic and intelligent of the Arab ivory and slave, traders who about 1860 established themselves on the White Nile and in the Bahr-el-Ghazal. Nominally a subject of Egypt, he raised an army of several thousand well-armed blacks and became a dangerous rival to the Egyptian authorities. At the height of his power Zobar was visited (1871) by Georg Schweinfurth who found him “surrounded with a court which was little less than princely in its details” (Heart of Africa, vol ii, chap. xv.) In 1869 an expedition sent from Khartum into the Bahr-el-Ghazal was attacked by Zobeir and completely defeated, its commander being slain. Zobeir represented that he was blameless in this matter, received a “pardon” and was himself appointed governor of the Bahr-el-Ghazal, where he was practically independent. In 1873 he attacked the sultan of Darfur and the khedive Ismail gave him the rank of bey and sent troops to co-operate. After he had conquered Darfur (1874), Zobeir was made a pasha, but he claimed the more substantial reward of being made governor-general of the new province, and went to Cairo in the spring of 1876 to press his title. He was now in the power of the Egyptian authorities, who prevented his return, though he was allowed to go to Constantinople at the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish War. In 1878, however, his son Suleiman, having got possession of the Bahr-el-Ghazal, and acting on instructions from his father, defied the authority of General Gordon, the new governor-general of the Sudan. Gordon sent Romolo Gessi against Suleiman, who was subdued after an arduous campaign and executed. During the campaign Zobeir offered, if he were allowed to return to the Sudan, to restore order and to pay a revenue of £25,000 a year to the khedive. Gordon declined this help, and subsequently, for his instigation of the revolt, Zobeir was condemned to death, but the trial was a farce, the sentence was remitted and he remained at Cairo, now in high favour with the khedival court. In March 1884, Gordon, who had been sent to Khartum to effect, if possible, the relief of the Egyptian garrisons in the Sudan, astonished Europe by requesting that Zobeir, whose son be had overthrown and whose trade he had ruined, should be sent to Khartum as his successor.[1] Zobeir, described by Sir Reginald Wingate, who knew him well, as “a quiet, far-seeing, thoughtful man of iron will—a born ruler of men” (Mahdiism and the Egyptian Sudan, book v.), might have been able to stem the mahdist movement. But to reinstate the notorious slave-dealer was regarded in London as too perilous an expedient, even in the extreme circumstances then existing, although Colonel Stewart (Gordon’s companion in Khartum), Sir Evelyn Baring and Nubar Pasha in Cairo, and Queen Victoria and Mr Gladstone, all favoured such a course. In March 1885 Zobeir was arrested in Cairo by order of the British government for treasonable correspondence with the mahdi and other enemies of Egypt, and was interned at Gibraltar. In August 1887 he was allowed to return to Cairo, and after the reconquest of the Sudan was permitted (1899) to settle in his native country. He established himself on his estates at Geili, some 30 m. N of Khartum.

See Gordon, Charles George, and the authorities there cited.

  1. Gordon and Zobeir met in Cairo on the 25th and 26th of January (see Egypt No. 12 of 1884) and Gordon from that time onward asked for Zobeir’s help. It was not however until the 10th of March that his wish was made public in a telegram from Khartum published in The Times.