Recalling past history is pertinent to constructively rewrite the history of the future. Thus, recalling the history of Aussa Sultans best examines and analyzes their leadership style and development endeavors. This study aims to analyze the democratic nature of Sultan Mohammed Hanfare “Illalta”, his political lifespan vis-à-vis the leadership styles of his predecessors and successors. After a thorough review of secondary sources, detailed examination of key informants’ and in-depth interviews, it was found that Sultan Mohammed Hanfare “Illalta” was a democratic sultan of Aussa who ceded his political throne to his nephew, whom he believed could lead the Sultanate democratically, sustainably and aptly, rather than his son, thereby becoming the only Sultan to have broken the historical legacy of patrimonial power transfer in the history of Aussa Sultanate. As a clear commitment to democracy, before implementing his succession plans, he had consulted and communicated with clan leaders in an assemblage, but was advised to continue the patriarchal trend and enthrone his eldest son, Alimirah Mohammed Hanfare; an advice he did not implement. Furthermore, due to the Sultans’ democratic and relatively better leadership style, the society recognized and gave him a rewarding title “Illalta”, which literally means “Flowing River”, thus resembling his leadership quality with water and river, gifts of nature; where everybody is treated and served equally without prejudice partiality or favoritism as it is with a “Flowing River”. His merit-based political power transfer was challenged by his successors accentuating his break from the typical patrimonial power transfer.
Key words: Sultan, Illalta, Aussa, Afar, Ethiopia, democratic, flowing river.