Sultanate of Dawe

The Sultanate of Dawe is one of the existing Afar traditional authorities based in Zone 5 of the Afar Regional State in Ethiopia. It is a successor traditional authority of the former Kingdom of Harak Bodoyta, which was established in the Khora–Angar area of the present Republic of Djibouti at the end of the 9th century.


The present-day territory of the Afar Sultanate of Dawe extends from the Highland Plateau (Baate Mountain) Waytaale on the west to the Eastern base of the Ethiopian highlands. To the south it borders to the Somali Region and the Republic of Djibouti. To the east it borders to the Administrative Zone 3 of the Afar Region and to the north it shares borders with the Administrative Zone 1 of the Afar Regional State.

The traditional Territory of the Afar Sultanate of Dawe is currently divided into six administrative districts. They are:

  1. District of Dawe
  2. District of Cadda le Qeela
  3. District of Koomaami
  4. District of Talalak
  5. District of Xaale Faage
  6. District of Qad Daqar (Ad-Daar District- is now located in Zone 1)

Political System

The Afar Sultanate of Dawe is the hereditary traditional political Authority of the Afar people of the Eastern Region of the Afar Regional State in Ethiopia. Its political system is based on an egalitarian, social democratic political system and a communal democracy principle. Its legitimacy is derived from an acknowledgment of respect, loyalty, sovereignty and wishes of the Afar people. The power and authority of the Afar Sultanate of Dawe is based on the people and on the Sultan. The Amoyta of Afar Sultanate of Dawe has had absolute power over his subject. His decision was final and no appeal. In the Sultanate of Dawe, each clan has a hierarchical order of clan chieftainship with the senior most linear chief or a head of clan as leader of the tribe among particular clan. This indicates that tribes and clan systems among the people of the Sultanate of Dawe have a broad-based confederacy system that similar to that of the Confederations Helvetica of Switzerland.

The citizens and people of the Sultanate of Dawe have enjoyed equal rights and freedom since its re-establishment at the end of the 16th century during Misli Hamad the Great's reign. The Afar people of the Eastern Afar Sultanate of Dawe have always practiced a form of pastoral democratic socialism based on a collective sharing and social solidarity principle. This form of social solidarity is unique. It is called, Tittâ luk Aalliyyá, which means having it together, sharing together or collective ownership. [2]


  1. Misli Ali Moussa Hamad
  2. Amoyta Mohamed Hamad Qeysa Macammada
  3. Amoyta Ali Hafo Mohamed)
  4. Amoyta Gaas Mohamed (Matani Gaqasa)
  5. Amoyta Bodaya Gaas (Kaxxa Boddayya
  6. Amoyta Gaas Bodayya
  7. Amoyta Mohamed Bodaya (Boddayyi Macammad)
  8. Amoyta Bodaya Mohamed
  9. Amoyta Helem Mohamed
  10. Amoyta Mohamed Helem (SULTE) the Current Sultan of Dawe

Legal System & Traditional Courts of the Eastern Afar Sultanate

The legal system of the Afar Sultanate of Dawe is basically based on Afar Traditional Customarily Laws. Their Customary laws based on Convention, Precedent and Case Laws as an ancient Britain, Jewish, Malaysian and African societies. The laws are usually made by the Council of Elders with the presence of the Amoyta (Sultan) in the Council. It is administered by His Majesty’s Advisory Council of Elders at Haxa (at the Royal Court of Justice). Hara (Caxa) is the Royal Court of Justice of the Sultanate of Dawe that similar to the House of Lord of the Great Britain).

In the Sultanate of Dawe, Traditional Courts are still the Higher Courts of Appeal and Centre of daily political life and places where important decisions are made in the Eastern Afar Region of the Afar Regional State. The Afar Customary Law of the Sultanate of Dawe (Zone 5 of the Afar Regional State) is still the guiding principle of the communities, due to its flexibility and clarity of legal jurisdiction and justice delivery and conflict resolution and reconciliation management. It has been reported that, the First Mada’a or Law of the Sultanate of Dawe was adopted during the reign of "Bodoyta" with participation of the following clans:

  1. Bodoyta-Meela
  2. Qable
  3. Caysa-Maale
  4. Rakba
  5. Dermeela

This Law was passed in Cuuyle Faagil area in the District of Cayyu (Obock), part of today Djibouti, where the first Law Conference meeting took place.

The Second Law Amendment occurred during the reign of 'Aydam, the son of Bodoyta. Aydam was the second son of Bodoyta.

The Third Law Amendment occurred during the reign of Amoyta Macammad Camad (Qeysa Macammadih dabaana), at the beginning of 18th century. This meeting was called by Ali Dawwaani Mohamed, and it took place in Teqo area that is located in the District of QAD-DAQAR- Zone 1. Ali Dawwaani Mohamed was a Senior Chief of Hayis tribes of Bodoyta-Meela. Since the reign of Aydam, the Chief of Hayis tribes had been, and continues to be a chief of Justice of Bodoyta-Meela Customary Law. He is the Senior Leader of the Tribal Chiefs Council and of the Advisory Council of Elders. In the Sultanate of Dawe, Judicial function of (Bodoyta-Meela Madqa)Customary Law is customarily governed by the Chief of Hayis tribes.

The Fourth Law Amendment occurred in the 20th century, during the reign of the Grand Sultan Mohamed Bodaya - (Amoyta Boddayyi Macammad). [3]

The Customary Law of the Afar Sultanate of the Afar Regional State is a considerable part of the law of the Afar Regional State Legal Justice. Equally, the traditional Authority of the Sultanate of Dawe is also part of Customary Laws and Practice of the Afar Regional State, because it has been recognized it as an important legal source of the Afar Regional State legal system. In the Sultanate of Dawe, the law making authority is vested in the Council of Elders and tribes Chiefs Council with the presence of Afar clan leaders, religious institutions and Peer Group Organisations. The Peer group is representative of civil societies and their Organisations. In terms of law, their participation in lawmaking process is highly significant.

In the absence of the Sultan the Council of Elders and the Council of tribal Chiefs are in charge to judge cases, to pass laws, to resolve disputes and to maintain law and order in accordance with the Conventions and Precedents of the Sultanate of Dawe. The Councils of Elders and Chiefs are accountable and answerable to His Majesty the Sultan of Dawe for their actions and decisions. The law forcing power is collectively administered by the Council of Elders and the Council of Chiefs. All decisions taken whether in his presence or absence were announced as the Amoyta’s decision. The Prerogative power is solely vested on the Amoyta (Sultan).

Economic and Social Conditions of the Eastern Afar Region

About 98% of the population leads a pastoral life by rearing camels, cattle, goats, sheep and donkeys. Agriculture is very limited. Pastoralism is the leading occupation of the people. The Eastern Afar Region is a well-known zone for its livestock resources from which 98% of the Eastern Afar people earn their livelihood. The Region is estimated to have about 8 million domestic animals out of which sheep and goats constitute 60%. Cattle are the second and Camels the third most important domestic animals and the fourth is Donkeys. However, for many years the Afar people of the Eastern Afar Sultanate region systematically experienced political, economic and social injustice and discrimination as a people by successive Ethiopian Governments. The Eastern Afar People have been threatened disproportionately and deliberately by political, cultural and linguistic assimilation into the Central State of Ethiopia.

The Eastern Afar Region “Zone 5” is one of the least developed and marginalized territory of the whole Afar Regional State in Ethiopia, in terms of economic and social development and basic infrastructure and nation building. In general, the Afar Region is one of the least developed Regions of Ethiopia, neglected by national development efforts. [4]

Development has usually taken the form of assimilation by the central Ethiopian State and partial annexation into Ethiopia’s highland economy.[5] Development Scheme in the Afar region, has historically reflected the priorities of central government or selects commercial and political interests, while the needs and aspiration of the Afar people have been chiefly disregarded".[6]


    1. Haji Ibad Ibrahim Gaas, (Interview, 2000)
    2. Amoyti Omar (Omar Sultan Mohamed Bodaya) Interview 2000
    3. Arbahim Omar,Qas Baxah Arbaahim. Area tribal leader,(interview, 2000)
    4. The United Nation Development Programme Assessment Mission Report between 10 –19 October 2002
    5. UN Report on Afar January 1996- Ethiopia
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