The man who invaded borno Rabih az-Zubayr ibn Fadl Allah or Rabih Fadlallah (Arabic: رابح فضل الله ,رابح الزبير ابن فضل الله), usually known as Rabah in French (c. 1842 – April 22, 1900), was a Sudanese warlord and slave trader who established a powerful empire east of Lake Chad, in today’s Chad.
Born around 1842 to a Nubian family in Halfaya Al-Muluk, a suburb of Khartoum, he first served with the irregular Egyptian cavalry in the Ethiopian campaign, during which he was wounded. When Rabih left the army in 1860s, he became the principal lieutenant of the Sudanese slaveholder Sebehr Rahma
Lieutenant of al-Zubayr (1870–1879)
In the 19th century Khartoum had become a very important slave market, supplied through companies of Khartumi established in the region of Bahr el Ghazal, where they resided in zaribas, fortified bases kept by bazingirs (slave soldiers).
The warlord and slaveholder al-Zubayr assumed control of the region’s zaribas, and was nominated in 1872 pasha and governor of Bahr el Ghazal for the khedive Isma’il, ruler of Egypt. Rabih, who was possibly a relative of al-Zubayr, was the chief lieutenant of the pasha.
In 1874, az-Zubayr conquered the sultanate of Darfur. In 1876, he went to Cairo to request the khedive to officially sanction his position in Darfur, but was instead imprisoned. This caused in 1878 the revolt of az-Zubayr’s son Suleyman, and of his lieutenants, like Rabih.
In reaction the governor-general of Sudan, Gordon Pasha, made Romolo Gessi governor of Bahr el Ghazal, and sent him to suppress the rebellion; Suleyman surrendered July 15, 1879, and was executed. Rabih instead is said to have left Suleyman the day before he surrendered, but Gessi reports instead that he had retreated already in June, after having suffered heavy losses.