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The Battle of Chelenqo was an engagement fought on 6 January 1887 between the army of Shewa under Negus Menelik II and Emir ‘Abd Allah II of Harar. The Harari forces were routed, and Negus Menelik afterwards occupied and annexed the city of Harar.
Negus Menelik, in response to Italian control of parts of Eritrea and the port of Massawa, had begun to import firearms and munitions through the French-controlled ports of Djibouti. By 1886, Emir ‘Abd Allah of Harar had blocked transport of these arms through his territories.
Menelik had desired control of the city of Harar for some time. The massacre of the Italian explorer Count Pietro Porro and his entire party in April 1886, allegedly at the emir’s command, gave the Negus an excuse to march on Harar.
Although the army of Shewa was a veteran force with contemporary rifles, and numbered in the thousands, Negus Menelik sought to avoid war, and in January 1887, offered ‘Abd Allah the same kind of autonomy that king Abba Jifar of Jimma enjoyed; the emir refused this offer.
Knowing that he was heavily outnumbered, and his troops had only obsolete matchlocks and a few cannons, Emir ‘Abd Allah decided to attack on early in the morning of Ethiopian Christmas (January 9), expecting the Shewans to be unprepared and befuddled with food and alcohol. However, Negus Menelik had worried about a surprise attack, and kept his men at alert.
The emir’s men opened fire at 11:00 am. The Shewan soldiers quickly responded and routed the Harar infantry with few casualties. Menelik pursued the retreating emir to Harar, whose ancient walls would not long resist his assault. Once again ‘Abd Allah refused to surrender, then fled into the desert, leaving his uncle to negotiate the city’s surrender. With the occupation, the independence of Harar came to an end.