Northern Africa 1902: Cottenest Expedition

Political map of Northern Africa on 07 May 1902 (Scramble for Africa: Cottenest Expedition), showing the following events: French Chad; First Dervish Expedition; France against Fadl-Allah; Saudi capture of Riyadh; Cottenest Expedition; Russian influence in Persia.

French expansion into southern Algeria in the late 19th and early 20th centuries brought it into conflict with the Kel Ahaggar Tuareg of the central Sahara. After making their first military crossing of the desert during the war against Rabih (1900), the French felt ready to deal with the Kel Ahaggar, decisively defeating them in the Cottenest Expedition of 1902.

Main Events

5 Sep 1900 French Chad

Five months after their defeat of Rabih az-Zubayr at Kousséri and three months after founding Fort-Lamy, the French established the Military Territory of the Lands and Protectorates of Chad. The territory’s capital was set as Fort-Lamy and Émile Gentil was appointed as the first governor. Northern Kamerun effectively remained in the territory’s sphere until April 1902, when the French handed Dikwa over to the wikipedia

13 Feb–24 Aug 1901 First Dervish Expedition

In February 1901 “Mad Mullah” Mohammed Abdullah Hassan led attacks on British-friendly tribes in the interior of the Somaliland Protectorate, killing many and driving off their livestock. Although the British responded quickly, the infantry available were unable to catch Hassan or his Dervishes. Better equipped expeditions were mounted in May and June; these defeated the Dervishes in a number of encounters and recovered much of the stolen livestock. After further defeats on the Sorl Plain in July and August, Hassan fled to Galkayo in Italian wikipedia

?–23 Aug 1901 France against Fadl-Allah

Following the defeat and death of Rabih az-Zubayr in April 1900, his son, Fadl-Allah, fled with 5,000 troops to Gujba in British-claimed Northern Nigeria. Emboldened by British motions to recognize him as ruler of Borno, Fadl-Allah attacked Dikwa in German-claimed northern Kamerun in 1901 and ousted the French-backed Abubakar Garbai. France quickly intervened, retaking Dikwa and marching on to Gujba, where they fought and killed Fadl-Allah on 23 August. Concerned by the French incursion, Britain and Germany secured their northern frontiers by signing treaties with the Adamawa Emirate—until then a vassal of Sokoto—in early wikipedia

12–15 Jan 1902 Saudi capture of Riyadh

Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, accompanied by 40 followers and with the support of other tribesmen hostile to the Rashidis, infiltrated the Rashidi-held former Saudi capital of Riyadh. There they assaulted Al Masmak Castle, assassinating Ibn Ajlan (the Rashidi governor) and massacring the entire garrison. This capture of Riyadh greatly enhanced Ibn Saud’s reputation, and he was declared emir four months wikipedia

23 Mar–7 May 1902 Cottenest Expedition

In response to Kel Ahaggar Tuareg raids on the French-protected Tidikelt, Lieutenant Cottenest led some 130 volunteers from In Salah on a punitive expedition across the Sahara. Cottenest reached Tamanrasset without incident and began his return when his patrol was attacked at Tit by some 300 Kel Ahaggar. After a two-and-a-half hour fight, the Tuareg fled, leaving 93 dead for 6 French losses and ending the legend of Kel Ahaggar invincibility in the wikipedia

4 Apr 1902–21 Mar 1905 Russian influence in Persia

After consuming a 1900 Russian loan of 20 million rubles in less than two years, Mozaffar ad-Din Shah of Persia was in serious financial straits. Russia agreed to grant a second loan of 10 million rubles, but demanded tighter terms, insisting on the Russian-aligned Belgian oversight of all financial operations in Persia. This state of dependency lasted until the 1905 Russian Revolution, when Britain stepped in with the Anglo-Persian agreement and countered Russian wikipedia