The rise and demise of the Keira Sultanate of Dar Fur

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Recent events in Dar Fur have led to numerous efforts to explain the crisis. It is the intention of this author to emphasise certain characteristics of the history of the region that assist in formulating an understanding of the conflict ravaging the western Sudan. The Keira Sultanate emerged from the mountains of the Jebel Marra in the seventeenth century and within a century controlled almost the entire region of modern Dar Fur. The successful expansion of the Sultanate, through the monopolisation of the slave trade and the incorporation of disparate groups in the region into its sphere of influence, led to the conquest of neighbouring Kordofan. By the close of the eighteenth century the Keira Sultanate was the dominant state in the Sahel. The expansion of the Turko-Egyptian empire into the Sudan in the early nineteenth century created the conditions for the demise of the Keira Sultanate. The loss of the lucrative slave trade weakened the Sultanate. Dar Fur was eventually conquered and brought into the Tuko-Egyptian African empire in 1874. Dar Fur joined the Mahdist rebellion and threw off the yoke of the oppressors in the 1880s. The death of George Gordon in 1885 ended the period of Turko-Egyptian control over the Sudan. Dar Fur remained under the rule of the Mahdi's successor, the Khalifa, until Kitchener's forces over ran the region in 1898. Ali Dinar returned to Dar Fur and in 1899 the Sultanate was reinstated. Dinar ruled Dar Fur until the British occupied the region in 1916 and on 1 January 1917 Dar Fur was formally incorporated in the Anglo-Egyptian condominium. The purpose of the article is to emphasise through a re-analysis of the rise and demise of the Keira Sultanate of Dar Fur the integrative, assimilationist and independent character of this successful polity which at its height controlled an area the size of France.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-364
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of North African Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006


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