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Sebhat Aregawi (died 28 February 1914) was a Ras of Ethiopia. He was appointed governor of Agame by Emperor Tewodros II in 1859, and his province was expanded by Emperor Yohannes IV to include Adigrat. Emperor Menelik II invested Sebhat with the title of Ras in 1892.

Ras Sebhat was the son of Aregawi of Agame, and grandson of the popular governor of Tigray, Ras Sabagadis. At the time he challenged Ras Mangesha Yohannes, who had succeeded his slain father Yohannes IV and was asserting his supremacy in Tigray, Sebhat was described as "a clever and intelligent man in his early forties, an excellent administrator but not a distinguished warrior."[1]

Sebhat submitted to the overlordship of Ras Mangesha 11 September 1889, following the death of Emperor Yohannes IV Ras Mangesha's father. However, on 31 October of that year he secretly informed Eritrean governor Antonio Baldissera that he preferred Menilek's rule to Mangesha Yohannes.

While fighting with Mangesha over rulership of Tigray, in June 1890 he sent his own son Dasta as a hostage, in an effort to create peace. In August of that year Dasta fled from Adwa and returned to his father. Sebhat refused to send him back and war seemed inevitable.[2]

In 1914 Lij Iyasu, the uncrowned successor to Emperor Menilik II, was reported to have promised Agame to Gebre Selassie, which would have made Gebre Selassie the most powerful ruler in Tigray. Disturbed by the rumor, Sebhat used Gebre Selassie's friendship with the Italians to arouse suspicions in Addis Ababa, claiming that Selassie was entriguing with the Italians with the intention of defying Iyasu. Without investigating the basis of the accusations, Iyasu ordered Gebre Selassie to the capital to explain his position. Gebre Selassie refused, and in desperation tried to start a war between the Italian colony of Eritrea and Ethiopia, but the Italians refused to respond. By February 16 Addis Ababa declared Selassie to be in rebellion.[3] After much persuasion, and with promises to not be harassed by Sebhat, Gebre Selassie did travel to the capital. At the same time, it was reported that Ras Sebhat had occupied some of Selassie's territory. Sebhat and Gebre Selassie became great rivals.[4]

On February 24, when Gebre Selassie was three days away from Adwa, he received word that Sebhat was marching there. Gebre Selassie turned back, and the next day battled with Sebhat at Zebewu, halfway between Adwa and Adigrat. Four days later Sebhat and two of his sons travelling with him were assassinated.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Haggai Erlich, Ras Alula and the Scramble for Africa: a Political Biography: Ethiopia & Eritrea 1875-1897 (Red Sea Press), pp. 161 - 162
  2. ^ Ibid.
  3. ^ Dodds to Grey, Addis Ababa, 16 Feb 1914, F.O. 401/16
  4. ^ Salvago - Raggi to Minister, Asmara, 20, 21 Feb 1914, F.O. 401/16.

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