Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al Ghazi

After he ordered the Muslim town of Adal not to pay its tribute to the Christian emperor of Ethiopia, Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi defeated the emperor’s army at the battle of ad-Dir in 1527. In 1529, Ahmad won a key battle against Emperor Lebna Dengel at Shembera Kure and by 1535 he had invaded Dewaro, Shewa, Amhara, Lasta, and Tigray. Emperor Lebna Dengel became nothing but a fugitive running from one hiding place to another. His son, Galawdewos, took over after his father’s death in 1540, but he inherited a small disconcerted army (Prouty and Rosenfeld, 101-2).

Before Lebna Dengel’s death, he had requested military assistance from the king of Portugal. In February 1541, 400 well-equipped musketeers led by Dom Christovao de Gama arrived in Massawa. He joined his forces with Empress Sebla Wangel and the Tigrean army in April of 1542, where they were able to force Ahmad to surrender the lake Tana area. But with the aid of 700 Turkish troops, Ahmad returned in August and defeated the Ethiopian force. Dom Christovao was captured and beheaded in that battle (Pankhusrt 92-93).

After the success of this battle, many of the Turkish troops returned to Zebid (Yemen). Later that year, Emperor Galawdewos joined wtih his mother along with the remaining Portuguese army. On February 21, 1543, the Ethiopian force led by Emperor Galawdewos invaded Ahmad’s army in Lake Tana. The outnumbered Portuguese and Ethiopian forces shot and killed Ahmad in the battle. His troops, upon the loss of their leader, scattered and fled (Henze 88).

The Ethiopians were dully wounded from the 14-year of warfare. The Muslims didn’t reestablish a new resurgence large enough to threaten the Ethiopian empire. Although the Christian empire was once again restored, the Ethiopians were unable to prevent the Turks from taking Massawa (Hess 46).