SOMALIA – Past & Present
Somalia is in the news again but as in the past for the wrong reasons. The world has been forewarned the country is threaded with the prospect of a devastating famine and unless it soon comes to its assistance the famine may claim the lives of hundreds of thousands of unfortunate Somalis. The country has been devastated by internecine factional wars for more than a decade and a half. One wonders how this country so well endowed by nature with rich resources came to its present state of utter poverty and degredation. Why its problems do not appear to be ending.
I thank God that I was born as a Somali. I am proud to be a Somali. I cannot even think of belonging to any other country than my beloved Somalia. Home is always “sweet home”. As it is said “East or West Home is Always the Best.” .
“So, Verily, With every difficulty, there is relief,
Verily, with every difficulty there is relief”
Against all odds, I proudly represented Somalia in different capacities in many parts of the world. As its hunmble servant, I had proudly held its flag high. This could have not been possible without the encouragement and support of good friends around the world. I would heartily like to express my gratitude to all of them.
The young generation of Somalis must know the long history of their country’s trials and tribulations. It is only through an understanding of that history that they would acquire the capacity to frustrate and defeat the enemies of their beloved motherland and take her to the glorious height of peace and proserity as a proud and respected member of the international community. Somalia does not covet an inch of territory of any other country but only wants all its children in various parts of its territories under foreign domination to be free and to be united under a single flag. It is with this specific purpose I have written this book.
Many friends have helped me in the preparation of this. It is not possible here to thank all of them individually. I sincereky thank all of them. My special thanks are due to my family members: my wife Mana Moallim Ibrahim, and my children Jeylani, Ali, Abdullahi, Osman, Ibrahim, Amina and Halima and their espouses as well as other relatives for their understanding and support without which it would have been hard even to retain my mental peace much less to write this book. My greetings to my grand-children who are a source of joy and happiness and I pray for them a joyous and prosperous future.
MOHAMED OSMAN OMAR
SOMALIA – Past & Present Chapter 7: Italian Somaliland
Italy started colonisation of Africa around 1885. By then Britain and France were already in the North of Somalia. The coast of Benadir, the port of Kisimayo, Brava, Merca, Mogadishu and Warsheikh were the dependencies of the Sultan of Zanzibar. The rest of the territories were divided among the various Somali tribes. The sovereignty of the Sultan of Zanzibar over these ports was recognized by Germany, France and Great Britain in June 1886.
The Italian intervention began with the signing of the commercial treaty of 28 May 1885, precisely few weeks after the Italian occupation of Massawa on 5 February of the same year, when the ship Barbarigo was sent to Zanzibar for the purpose of visiting the coastal territories which were under the Sultan and to explore the outlet of Giuba River.
1| On 17 March 1886 in London the German Ambassador Count Hatzfeldt verbally informed the British Foreign Office that on 6 September 1885 the German East African Company had signed a treaty with the principal Chief of the Mijerteyn Somalis, the Sultan Osman Mahamoud Youssouf at Alula. Under this treaty the whole Somali territory from the east of the town of Berbera to Cape (Ras) Asurad was ceded to the German company. The representative of the company had also signed a treaty with the Sultan Yussuf Ali Yussuf, the Ruler of the Somali town of Obbia (Hobbiah), whereby the company acquired the entire territory between Obbia and the town of Warshaikh with all the sovereign rights. The territory belonged to the Sultan of Zanzibar and was on the one side between the Indian Ocean and the Galla frontier and about twenty-five days’ journey inland on the other. Count Hatzfeldt informed that on the strength of these treaties, the German East African Company had asked the German Government to undertake the Protectorate over the Somali coast, and make sure that no encroachment by England was made on their rights.
Four months later, Sultan Yusuf Ali visited Aden and met with the British Consul, Major F.M. Hunter. The latter discussed with the Sultan about the agreement German claimed to have concluded with the Mijerteyn Chief. During the meeting the two sides discussed bilateral agreement. Afterward the British official reported to his Government that Sultan Yusuf Ali made the following statement:
“I was not present when the agreement was made between Sultan Osman and the German, but I have seen the Arabic copy.
“I do not recollect what the preamble said as to the actual parties making the agreement, whether it was on behalf of themselves or of their Governments.
“The substance was that the German were to be allowed to trade and were entitled to protection; the consideration was 1,000 dollars payable to the Sultan and 1,000 dollars to myself annually. There was no mention of sovereignty or territorial rights, or flag. When the second time the Germans came I was present; they asked for the Sultan’s flag to fly on their boat for protection. They also wanted to build a house and fly their own flag over it. Both these requests were refused. We have not received any portion of the annual stipend, but we have accepted presents of cloth.
“Since I arrived at Aden, I visited the German Agent Max Winter here and showed him the paragraph from the “Standard” about his Company having annexed the Somali country from near Berbera to Warsheikh; he declared he knew nothing of any such intimation having been published.”
The British themselves claimed to have already established contact with the Chiefs of the Mijerten and signed agreement with the Chief of Alula in March 1879. In October 1880, Acting Political Resident, Aden, Major G.R. Goodfellow, was sent to Alula to deliver the ratified copy of the agreement to Sultan Yusuf Ali. But the Sultan was out of town.
In a letter to C. Gonne, Chief Secretary to Government of Bombay, dated Aden Residency, 15 October 1880, Major Goodfellow reported:
“I regret to say that in consequence of the Sultan’s absence from Mareyeh, in the interior, his representatives there would not receive the treaty, or amount of subsidy due, from Commander Byle, R.N. A local copy of the Convention was delivered to Yousuf Ali, who accepted it. A sum of dollars 150 was expended in presents, for which the sanction of Government is solicited.”
On 16 January 1883, Brigadier-General J. Blair, V.C., British Political Resident at Aden, wrote the following letter to the Sultan Othman Mahmoud:
“It is not hid from you, oh, friend, that in March 1879 you and the other Chiefs of the Mijerteyn entered into an agreement with Major Goodfellow, and that this agreement has been ratified by the Governor General of India. We now send you our Acting First Assistant Resident, Captain Sealy, who will deliver to you the copy of the ratified agreement.
“It is also known to you that the arrears of the stipend mentioned in the said agreement are due to you and Captain Sealy is authorized to pay you the same, amounting to 720 dollars, to March 1882.”
The British official also said:
“You will also recollect that the Great Government was pleased with your kind treatment of the crew of the wrecked steamer Fleur Castle, last year, and we have much pleasure to informing you that Captain Sealy is commissioned to deliver to you 500 dollars, which the Great Government desires to give you as a mark of appreciation of the services rendered by you on that occasion. This is quite separate from the payment mentioned in the agreement.
“We rely on your friendship to meet the wishes of the Great Government in the above matters. May you be preserved”.
Sultan Osman Mohamud sent a letter dated 19 February 1883 to the British Political Resident in which he said:
“We received your kind letter, and the same day we visited Captain Sealy, on which occasion he delivered to us 500 dollars, which the Government had ordered to be given to us as recompense for the treatment shown by us to the steamer wrecked at Ras Asir.
“As regards the agreement, we are willing to agree to all terms in it except the lighthouse. God willing, we will send some men to you on our behalf. On meeting together we will converse and salutation.”
Three years later in 1889, the German Government asked the British Government for the permission to recruit, within the British Protectorate on the Somali Coast, a small force of as it said of blacks that were indented to serve as police in the territories of the German Company at Zanzibar. But the British considered it “extremely undesirable to accustom the Somalis to the use of firearms.”
The British Political Resident at Aden, Brig. General A.G.F. Hogg, reported in a letter dated 24 April 1889 that in accordance with the instructions received from the Secretary of State for India (Foreign Office, London) September last, the Italians were permitted to enlist Somalis for service at Massawah. About 150 men were regularly trained in the use of firearms during the last six months, and have now been sent back to Aden.
The Political Resident argued: “If foreign nations are thus permitted to train the Somalis to the use of firearms, and then send them back to their own country, most undesirable results will ensue; and I trust that future permission may be refused to any foreign nation for their enlistment as soldiers of Somalis within our Protectorate.”
“Possession by the Arabs of rifles, is becoming very common indeed, and if Somalis receive a military training, they are certain to use every endeavour to obtain possession of firearms which are now almost unknown in their country”, he said.
At the end of 1888, the Sultan of Obbia requested Italy for protection. The “Acceptance Act” was signed in Obbia on 8 February 1889 by Italian Consul Cavaliere V. Filonardi and Sultan Yusuf Ali. With this treaty all the possession of the Sultan from El-Marek to Ras Auad passed under the protection of the Government of Italy. Italian Foreign Minister Rudini informed the Italian Parliament that the treaty of protection placed the Sultan and his possessions under the protection of the Italian Government, undertaking not to make, without the consent of the latter, treaties or contracts with any other Government or person whatever. In compensation, an annuity of 1,200 dollars was granted to Sultan Yusuf Ali Yusuf.
The Minister told the Parliament, “Being a region bordering the sea, the Protectorate over the Sultanate of Obbia was notified to the Powers in the telegram of the 3 March and the Circular of the 11 May 1889, according to Article XXXIV of the General Act of the Berlin Conference.”
The Sultan of the Mijerteyn reached an agreement with Italy on 7 April 1889 at Bender Alula. The Agreement placed under the Italian protection the Sultan’s possession on the Indian Ocean from Ras Auad to Ras el Kyle, including Nogal Valley, promising that he would not enter into further treaties with other Powers for the remaining territories in his possession.
The Acts relative to this Protectorate were ratified on 7 April 1889. They bear on the part of the Italian Government the signatures of Cavaliere Filonardi and the Commanders of the Royal ships Rapido and Staffetta and the other contracting party emissary of Sultan Osman Mahmud.
3 The way the colonial powers acted showed that they consulted with each other well before taking over a territory. They decided among themselves which power takes what. Before taking over the Somali territory, the Italian Government asked the British whether they had any objection to the Italian occupation. The British Secretary of State informed the British Viceroy in India on 3 January 1889 that Italy “proposes to occupy or protect territories from eastern limit of British protectorate of the Somali Coast as far as the border of Zanzibar and asked whether “India (British Authority) has anything to say against the proposal.” The answer came within two days saying that, “They had no objection.”
Italy took possession of the Somali territories on the coast of Benadir from the Sultan of Zanzibar through a treaty signed on 12 August 1892 and it was presented before the Italian Parliament by the Minister of Foreign Affairs on 1 June 1896 and was approved as Law No. 373 of 11 August 1896.
Article I of the Treaty stated;
“the Government of H.M. the Sultan of Zanzibar accords to the Government of H.M. the King of Italy, all the ports which he possesses on the cities and ports of Benadir namely Brava, Merka and Mogadishu, with a radius towards the interior of 10 maritime miles, Warshaikh, a radius of 5 maritime miles, besides the islands and the nearby small islands, to be administered politically and juridically in the name of the Government of H.M. the Sultan of Zanzibar and under the protection of his flag; but is agreed that the Government of the H.M. of the Sultan will neither be responsible nor called to regulate the administration or others such as what might come as a result of the conflict of price of blood nor any complain that may arise.”
According to the Treaty, the Italian Government and its representatives had the right to buy and to dispose the public lands only within the limits of the above territories. The Sultan granted to the Italian Government the right to establish a bank or more banks in the cities which were subject of the Convention, with exclusive privilege to issue bank-notes or gold currencies, silver and of copper.
Article VII of the Treaty stated said:
“All the above-mentioned powers, rights and privileges are accorded to H.M. the King of Italy or to his representatives for the period of 25 European years which will start from the day in which the present concession will be approved by the Government of H.M. the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, the Empress of India and by the H.M. the King of Italy.” At the end of the 25 years the agreement was renewable for the same period and on the same conditions and with a simple declaration to this effect by the Government of the King of Italy.
By Article VIII Italy pledged to pay to the Sultan of Zanzibar the sum of 40,000.- Rupees as initial payment when the Italian administration took over the ports, the cities and the territories. At the expiry of each quarter of the European year a sum of Rupees 40,000 was to be paid.
On 10 October 1892 the Sultan of Obbia wrote to Filonardi, the architect of the Italian colonial administration in Somalia:
“We inform that this year we have been abandoned and there was no steamboat that has come to us, as it was the practice.
Nobody has brought to us the woods and we have neither food nor cartridges.
There was a serious war this year. The inhabitants of the desert have rebelled against us and there was a fighting in which some of ours have been killed.
After the departure of the steamboat Esfita we hoped some one would come from your side, but until now nobody came.
On the date of this letter Abu Bakr bin Auad has arrived bringing to us the payment of the year 1891.
We hope you will help us with food and the supply of war material, because we are under your protection and your flag.
We would not think that you have abandoned us.
Now we wish your arrival together with what we have requested. Abu Bakr bin Auad will give full information.
We hope that you come soon; this year to negotiate together.
Now we have two countries: Obbia and Fil Hur and we have many soldiers different than before.
Those of our friends killed are 11.
Our saia (boat) has broken down this year at Obbia with some of our properties on board. We need money and we are without boat. You are our friend and we do not know other Christians besides you, and we defend your flag..
On October 19, 1892 (27 Rabi El Aual, 1310), the Sultan of Majerteyn, Osman Mohamud Jusuf, similarly wrote the following letter from Alula, to Signor Filonardi:
“Since long we have not seen you and we have a great desire to see you.
You are our friend and we do not know why you have abandoned us.
The steam boat Esfita has arrived this year, but without you. Now we hope to have the pleasure of seeing you, because friendship and affection exist between us.
Kindly bring to us the rifles and the cartridges of which we have spoken about with you last year, because the rebellion has increased around us. We expect assistance from you because you are our friend and you will do it.
On the date of this (letter) Abu Bakr has arrived here bringing to us the salary of the year; we have recommended him to give detailed information.
When you come here we will understand each other.
We want barut (gun powder) for the ofiat, the seats and the other furniture.
We wish to construct a stone house in your name. For you we wish to work and we shall agree at which site the house will be built.
The tone of these two letters show that instead of behaving like Sultans that they were, they wrote like humble subordinates begging for money, guns and bullets for use against those who were opposed to their rule. They even offered themselves to work for Filonardi who was just a junior officer. The Italians were behaving like the Lords of the land. In July 1893 Filonardi issued a bank note for the denomination of Rupees 5……continued
SOMALIA – Past & Present Chapter 6: Abyssinian Somaliland
King Menelik sent the following a circular on 10 April 1891 to European Heads of State in which he outlined the boundaries he claimed for his empire: “While tracing today the actual boundaries of my Empire, I shall endeavour, if God gives me life and strength, to re-establish the ancient frontier (tributaries) of Ethiopia up to Khartoum, and as far as Lake Nyanza with all the Gallas.”
To seek a favourable response for his claim, he underlined his Christian credentials. He wrote, “Ethiopia has been for fourteen centuries a Christian island in a sea of Pagans. If Powers at distance come forward to partition Africa between them, I do not intend to be an indifferent spectator.”
“As the almighty has protected Ethiopia up to this day, I have confidence He will continue to protect her and increase her borders in the future. I am certain He will not suffer her to be divided among other Powers.
“Formerly the boundary of Ethiopia was the sea. Having lacked strength sufficient and having received no help from Christian Powers, our frontier on the sea coast fell into the power of the Mussulman”, Menelik said.
“At present we do not intend to regain our sea frontier by force, but we trust that the Christian Powers, guided by our Saviour, will restore to us our sea-coast line at any rate, certain points on the coast.”
1 Menelek presented himself as the defender of the Faith in Africa against the possible designs of the Muslims. It would appear that his plea struck sympathetic cord in the hearts of some Europeans. His plan received support from European Governments. Rennell Rodd openly justified and encouraged King’s claim that his country too should have its share of the African territories to be divided among the colonial powers.
In a report to the Government, Rodd said: “It will be enough here to state that it has become sufficiently effective to make it an extremely difficult task to negotiate with a King, who, fully confident that his pretensions had been made publicly known and had remained undisputed; confident, moreover, that, as a Christian African Power, his claims to a sphere of influence were better founded than those of Powers whose seat of Government is in another continent.”
On 8 December 1885 King John of Abyssinia told Queen Victoria among other things: “The Kings of England before Queen Victoria, and the rest of the Christian Kings of the world, were friendly with the Abyssinians, and waged war against the Moslems to convert to Christianity; but they never interfered with the Abyssinians because they were Christians. I have said this openly and frankly to you because we are Christians, and have confidence in each other.” Time has changed, people have changed, but the guiding principle of Abyssinia remains the same.
Britain had signed protection treaties with the Somalis in the last quarter of the 19th century, but even then it had no intention of defending the Somali people or risk the lives of their citizens for the Somali territories. The British officials were concerned some of them pondered what they would do if the Abyssinians decided to give effect to their claim. W. Lee Warner, an official in the Political and Secret Department of India Office, contended in a report dated 25 November 1896, that the British established Civil Criminal Courts on the Coast, rebuilt Berbera in 1888, fortified the ports, erected jails and “in many effective ways established ourselves. “Our garrison consists of barely 200 men scattered about.” Le Warner argued, “We have no force at Aden or on the coast which can resist Abyssinian incursions. If we remain, the settlement of our limits with Abyssinia seems an urgent and immediate necessity. If we retire, we had better do so in accordance with settled plan and without unnecessary appearance of compulsion. The failure of Italy to hold her African protectorate without collusion with Abyssinia has its lessons”.
Lee-Warner’s suggestion was a clear betrayal of the trust that the Somalis bestowed on Britain and a flagrant violation of the treaties signed by them which created the British Protectorate. In all the protectorate treaties signed by the Somali Elders of the tribes, there was a clause which prohibited the Somalis to enter into correspondence or treaty with any other foreign power or to cede, or part with, territory. Britain was not bound by that clause, and considered itself free to cede, or sell Somali territories to whomsoever they wished. There were no clauses that prohibited the British “to cede” Somali territories to others, and the Somalis being so ignorant of what would happen in the future, just signed or put their thumb mark on the treaties by which the destiny of their own homeland was to be decided.
Le-Warner said: “If we only want food supplies from the coast, we can still get them without asserting by force our right to the whole of the Protectorate as delimitated with Italy. Three solutions are possible. Events will show which is the best of them:
1. We can abandon not merely Biyo Kaboba actually held by Abyssinian, but also a considerable part of hinterland, retaining the ports.
2. If that will not secure peaceful occupation, we can give Abyssinina one of our ports.
3. If events prove that we cannot remain on the coast without a strong military establishment there, we might retire altogether, making a treaty with Abyssinia that live-stock shall be exported free, that imports and exports from Zaila and Berbera shall not be charged more than the present, and the ports shall not be given to any European power without our leave.
He also said: “The next step, I think, is to follow the precedent of 1877, and address the Foreign Office an enquiry whether:
1. We must deal in this matter with Makunan or with Menelek;
2. We can assign Zaila to Abyssinia, if such surrender seems desirable (a) without further reference to Turkey, (b) without reference to France our neighbour at Jabuti.
To show how much the British cared less about the Somalis and how they wished to appease Abyssinia at the expense of Somalia, the British colonial officer told his government: “As to whether it is fair on the tribes, with whom we have protectorate treaties, to abandon them, that is a question which we must consider ourselves”.
2 Earlier Captain Hunter too argued in a memorandum he sent to his government in 1884 saying: “This Residency has no knowledge of, or concern with, Abyssinian politics; but with France at Tajourra, Turkey at Zeila, and Italy at Assab, Southern Abyssinia will be pretty well dominated by other European powers”. He believed that to prevent this domination by another European Power and to maintain their own Britain could pursue another alternative. He wrote:
“There is one alternative which can be suggested as regards Tajourah and Zeylah, but it is not possible for this Residency to pronounce on its merits. Let Tajourra and Zeylah be offered by the British to King Menelek of Shoa on such conditions as Her Majesty’s Government think suitable. The local tribes, there is reason to believe, would not oppose such a course, and if we do not give Menelek a port, France or Italy will, for Obokh and Assab were acquired, we all think here, principally with the object of treating favourably with the King of Shoa”.
3 This was the bitter fact. The British cared more for the provision for Aden than the Somali people and their territories. They cared for their friendship with the Abyssinians than with the Somalis. However, by sheer luck, the British intention did not materialise, other wise, not only Ogaden, but also a big portion of the Somalia’s northern region would have been today under the Ethiopia rule.
1. Foreign Department, Secret E, October 1891, N.233-249, NAI, New Delhi, India.
2. NAI, Foreign Department, Secret letter N.189, dated 28 October 1896, New Delhi, India
3. NAI, Foreign Department, Letter N.3478, dated Bombay Castle, 4 July 1884, Confidential, New Delhi.
SOMALIA Past & Present Chapter 5: Abyssinian Invasion and Occupation of Harrar
The Acting Consul for the Somali Coast, Captain Sealy reported on 10 July 1883 to the British Consul General in Cairo, Sir E.B. Melet, that Menelek of Shoa “is about to march on Harrar with 60,000 men.” This information was given to him by Abubakr Pasha of Zaila. One of his sons was in Shoa. Sealy said that he was not sure whether there was any truth in the news and asked for information on the subject and the cause of the threatened attack. Later, in August, Melet informed the Government that there was no foundation for the earlier report that King Menelek of Shoa was about to march on Harrar.
But the rumours regarding Menelek’s march did not die. Four years later, on 22 January 1887, Major Hunter, who was the official who had made the Somalis sign the Protectorate Treaties a year earlier, reported that Menelek of Shoa “was within three days’ march of Harrar, and that the Emir had gone out with all his force to fight the Abyssinians, who were to be accompanied by several Italians.”
Jebril Marijou, interpreter of Menelek, who had been in Zeyla for some days past, informed M. Estemios Moussaya that at the instigation of the French, the King was about to attack Harrar. In fact, the rumour was a screen behind which the real action was going on. An army of 15,000 men of which 5,000 were cavalry and reminder infantry and artillery were on the move to invade Harrar.
After invading and occupying Harrar, on 8 January (20 January 1887) Menelek wrote the following letter to the British Consul at Aden:
“From Menelek, King of Shoa and of all the Galla, good and bad,
“To the English Consul at Aden,
“How are you”
“By the Grace of God, I am well. Amir Abdillahi would suffer no Christian in his country.
“He was another “Gragne” but by the help of God I fought him, destroyed him and he escaped alone on horseback.
“I hoisted my flag in his capital and my troops, &c., occupied his city, Gragne died: Abdillahi was in our days his successor.
“This is not a Mussalman country as every one knows”.
The British Consul Major Hunter wrote back 10 February, 1887:
“After compliments—We have received Your Majesty’s friendly letter informing us that you captured and occupied Harrar and hoisted your flag there.
“There can be no need to recall the terms of the treaty concluded with Her Majesty the Queen in 1841 by Your Majesty’s predecessor King Sahela Selassie, Negus of Shoa, Efat and Galla.
“Your Majesty may rest assured of the continued friendship of the British Government, and we hope that under Your Majesty’s protection may revive and the trade route be safe.
“On all the Somali Coast from Ghubbet Kharab, and especially at Zaila, Bulhar and Berbera, where our troops are now stationed, we shall always be glad to further Your Majesty’s interests”.
1. Rennell Rodd was appointed on 24 February 1897 as the British Special Envoy of Queen Victoria to King Menelek. In a letter to Marquess of Salisbury, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Rodd wrote about the Abyssinians:
“The Abyssinians themselves are a military race in a perpetual state of mobilization. They inhabit circular huts of mud and wattle roofed with thatch, even the great Chiefs contenting themselves with such a modest domicile, while their followers pitch their tents round about compound of their masters, and the suggestion of permanency is certainly absent from their habitations.”
Speaking about the Abyssinian soldiers, Rodd, wrote, “The soldier lives for the most part sparingly, and is satisfied with the rude (crude) sour bread manufactured in the country, which, seasoned with pepper and, more rarely, with meat, forms his only food. The desire of a better mode of existence appears to be entirely absent. At the same time, in order to secure the little that is necessary, as he doest work himself, it must be wrung from the subject races.”
He added: “Preserving their supremacy and extending their borders of recent years over the savage races by which they are surrounded, then have become a dominant military caste, for whom occupation in warlike enterprises must be found continually to compensate them for the extremely scanty pay and indifferent nourishment which they receive”.
He further described the Abyssinians as: “War waged, as a rule, upon weaker races who are without adequate arms to resist his incursion successfully, raiding, in other words, is his real occupation, and the prospect of plunder his incentive”.
2. Wilfred Thesiger, in his book “The Life of My Choice”, wrote:
“The Amharas and Tigreyans, as opposed to the Galla and the other tribes they had incorporated into their empire, resembled no other race in appearance or character. They regarded themselves, however fallaciously, as light-skinned; in their paintings they were invariably shown full face and almost white, whereas their enemies were always depicted in profile and black, unless they were Europeans. Before he was incapacitated, Menelik had won recognition for his conquests and acceptance of his new frontiers. He had incorporated into his empire, the Ogaden, the town of Harrar, the lands of the Galla tribes, the Gurage country, the ancient kingdom of Kaffa, and the Anuak and other tribes on the borders of the Sudan.” (London 1988, pp.43-44)
Major Polson Newman in his book “Ethiopian Realities”, narrates that when Emperor Theodore earlier in his life was at a monastery “he first heard of the prophecy that there would one day appear in Ethiopia a king called Theodore, who would rule justly and righteously, would wipe out Islam from the world, and would take Jerusalem and reign over a world that would be entirely Christian.”
Major Newman chronologically lists the Amhara territories and the territories conquered by Menelek as follows:
AMHARA TERRITORIES: Amhara, Tigre, Gojjam, and Shoa.
TERRITORIES CONQUERED BY MENELIK
As King of Shoa:
1886. Guma. Gomma. Ghera. Limmu. Gimma (as protectorate).
1887. Harar. Gurage. Galla Tulama (conquest begun).
As Emperor of Ethiopia:
1890. Leca Galla. Jianjero.
1893. Wolamo. Sidamo. Galla Tulama (conquest completed).
1894. Ogaden (conquest begun). Imi.
1897. Ogaden (conquest completed). Kaffa. Jambo. Gimira Conso. Burghi.
1899. Gubba. Gunza. Beni Shangul. Boran.
1900, Nilotic Tribes.
1909, Aussa, Beru, Teru.
Gimma was annexed by the Emperor Haile Selassie in 1935.3
1. NAI, Foreign Department, Somali Coast-Shoa and Harrar affairs, 1883, New Delhi, India.
2. NAI, Foreign Department, Red Sea and Somali Coast, Confidential, May 14, 1897, New Delhi.
3. Major Polson Newman, Ethiopian Realities, George and Unwin, London, 1936.
SOMALIA – Past & Present Chapter 3: Turkey Withdraws, Britain Comes
Things were changing rapidly. Turkey decided to withdraw from the Horn of Africa. As their withdrawal from the Somali territories became imminent, the British Secretary of State in a letter dated 14 June 1884 ordered that Major F.M. Hunter should be sent to Berbera to facilitate the Turkish evacuation and conclude agreements with the local chiefs on terms similar to agreements signed on Socotra.
The Secretary also said that if it became necessary Aden should be ready to send force to Berbera. Britain already had agreements signed with the Somali tribes, i.e. with the Sheikhs of Habr Awal in Berbera on 6 February 1827 and 7 November 1856 and with the Mijerteyn at Bander Murayeh on 20 February 1866. He suggested that the treaties with the tribes might be supplemented by new agreements about Bulhar with which Aden had much to do.
The Secretary of State went on to give elaborate and detailed description of the coast line, the places of importance for the British and tribes inhabiting and in control of the area. He wrote:
“The next section of the coast line from Zeyla to Ras Hafun is from Berbera to Meyt or Burnt Island. This includes Seyareh belonging to the Habr-tel-Jaolo tribe, and Meyt, which belongs to the Habr Gerhaji tribe”,
“The third section of the coast is from Meyt to Cape Guardafui, and there are several ports of various descriptions. The Chief of them are as follows: – Habr Gori, (sic) belonging Warsangali tribe; this was the starting point of Speke’s journey; Bandar Ziadeh, where the Mijerteyn Somali begin; Bander Khor and Bander Ghashem, trading ports, where a good anchorage can be got; Bander Marayeh, where lives the Sultan, and which possesses a good harbour; and Bander Aluleh, the Chief of which place is one of the parties to the Mijerteyn treaties. All along this section of the coast, we already have entered into friendly relations with the Chiefs, and therefore we can supplement our existing treaties with them. The last section is from Cape Guardafui to Ras Hafun. The land of Ras Hafun is the only important place. This also belongs to the Mijjerteyn Somali. The best ports and most flourishing of the places thus enumerated in the second division of the coast with its four sections are —
Hafun, with the tribes owning all of these, except Meyt, we have already entered into some relations, if not treaties. I presume that Major Hunter will be given a general discretion, but we can mention these ports as deserving attention. It is quite possible that the Mijjerteyn will refuse to sign any treaty.”
On return from Berbera on 15 July 1884, Major Hunter wrote to Her Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for India in London that he was upset about the news of the British intention on Somaliland that appeared in the Indian newspapers.
Hunter told his Government: “I accordingly proceeded to Berbera before the news could reach the African Coast, and on arrival at that port collected nearly all the responsible elders of the Habr Awal, to the number of 29, and obtained their signatures to the agreement, a copy of which is enclosed”, “Hereafter”, he continued, “It may be desirable to execute agreements with other tribes, but now that Berbera is safe, and our policy understood, the remainder of the Somal (sic) will only be too ready to make treaties with us”. On conclusion of the treaty, Hunter reported that he presented Rs. 1,400 to the various Somali elders and others.
The British Consul saw to it that the treaties with the Somalis would be one-sided and solely in Britain’s interest. Either through coercion or ignorance, the elders signed all the treaties as the British had prepared them. They accepted the condition that no foreign nation would have the right to appoint an Agent to reside in the territories of the Habr Awal without Britain’s consent. The treaties provided that all livestock exported to Aden were to be free of duties of all kinds and no duty was to be charged on articles for the use of the employees of the British Government.
The British Government communicated to France in February 1885 the establishment of the British Protectorate from Ghubet Kharab to Ras Galweni, and the conclusion of agreements with the several Somali tribes. In July 1887 the same communication was sent to other Powers.
Following Treaties were signed with the Somali tribes:
1. Habr Awal tribe, 6 February 1827, Treaty of Peace and Commerce.
2. Habr Garhajis and the Habr Toljaala tribes entered into an Engagement with the Political Resident at Aden 1855 to prohibit the slave trade.
3. Habr Awal tribe, in 1856, to withdraw the blockade of Berbera.
1. Habr Awal, 14 July 1884. Prohibition to cede, or part with, territory save to the British Government; free permission to British vessels to trade with all Habr Awal ports; protection of British subjects in Habr Awal territory; abolition of slave trade; appointment of British agents at Berbera or elsewhere in Habr Awal territories.
Habr Awal, 15th March 1886. Protection by the British of Habr Awal Tribe and territories; prohibition of correspondence or treaty with foreign powers.
2. Habr Toljaala, 26th December 1884. Prohibition to cede; or part with, territory; free permission to British vessels to trade and protection of wrecks and crew of the same; protection of British subjects; abolition of slave trade; appointment of British agents.
Habr Toljaala, 1st February 1886. Protection by the British; prohibition of correspondence or treaty with foreign powers.
3. Habr Garhajis, 13th January 1885. Prohibition to cede, or part, territory; free permission to British vessels to trade; protection of British subjects; abolition of slave trade; appointment of British agents.
Habr Garhajis, 1st February 1886. Protection by the British; prohibition of correspondence or treaty with foreign powers.
4. Warsangeli, 27th January 1886. Protection by the British; prohibition of correspondence or treaty with foreign powers; assistance to wrecks and protection of crews of wrecked vessels; abolition of slave trade; appointment of British agents; assistance to British officers and acceptance of their advice.
5. Gadabursi, 11th December 1884. Prohibition to cede, or part with, territory; free permission to British vessels to trade; protection of British subjects; abolition of slave trade, appointment of British agents.
6. Esa, 31st December 1884. Prohibition to cede, or part, territory; Free permission to British vessels to trade; protection of British subjects; abolition of slave trade; appointment of British agents.
Hunter not only got what he wanted or was asked to obtain from the Somali tribes. But asked his superiors whether it was the intention of Her Majesty’s Government to make the Somalis pay for the British Agent and his guards, and other necessary administrative charges. “If so”, he said, “The customs can be fixed at a rate that will cover such expense, and yield a fair amount of profit to the Habr Awal.”
A secret letter in January 1886 (no date) described the British “Protectorate” on the Somali Coast as follows:
“Originally the term “Protectorate” was applied only to British relations with Bulhar and Berbera and the intervening coast, which were based upon the first of Major Hunter’s treaties, namely that made with the Habr Awal. Following the lines of the Habr Awal, four others have been negotiated with the following tribes:
(a) The Easa Somalis, between Ghubbet Kharab and Zaila;
(b) The Gadabursi, to the east of Zaila and between that place and the Habr Awal who then carry on the line to Bulhar;
(c) The Habr Gerhajis, to the east of Berbera;
(d) The Habr Tol-Jaala, to the east of the Habr Gerhajis, as far as Hais.”
If that was the case, Hargeisa, which became the capital of the entire territory of the British Somaliland, was free from colonial rule. There was no local council of elders to claim authority over it.
In 1891, when the news that the Abyssinians would probably attack Hargeisa reached the British Headquarters in Berbera, the Assistant Resident, Lieutenant H. Merewether suggested two measures: One, that Shaik Mattar (sic) be granted some Baladiyas (Locally recruited guards) at Hargeisa, and two, that he be given a British flag. The British official further informed that Shaikh Mattar had asked him to apply for thirty men for him. The number appeared to the Assistant Resident excessive, but he believed that as Shaik Mattar was one of the few stipendiaries who had consistently rendered good service to the Agency, he certainly deserved all the help the British could give him. The official presumed that if Shaikh Madar would be given the rifles he would find the men. He argued that as regards the flag it would show the Abyssinians clearly that Shaikh Madar was “our servant”, and that he believed, was sufficient to give him protection. He thought that the Abyssinians were unlikely to take initiative against Britain, at least for sometime to come.
The British flag was hoisted at Hargeisa by David Morrison, Deputy Assistant Political Agent at Bulhar, on 17 February 1891, at 4:30 p.m. near the mosque and Shaik Madar’s house. As Shaikh Madar was not in town, they placed the flag in the custody of his son, named Omar Madar, till the return of his father.
Although Shaik Mattar, (known to the Somalis as Shaikh Madar) was appointed as the custodian of the flag in Hargeisa, the British neither gave him protection nor military support in case of a possible attack by the Abyssinians. On the issue of granting him some security men for defending the interest and the prestige of the British Empire, Major C.W.H. Sealy, Political Agent and Consul, Somali Coast, told the Resident at Berbera:
“There is no objection to your granting Shaik Mattar 15 baladiyas ‘as a temporary measure and at his expense’, but in the event of an overpowering force of Abyssinians marching on Hargeisa it would be better for Shaik Mattar to ‘retire to Berbera’, as already suggested in the 7th paragraph of your No.135 of 9th instant.” (Emphasis added)
This was how the colonial powers treated even those who were serving their interest. That was not the end of the story. Merewether sent by a special messenger, via Bulhar, a letter to Shaikh Madar, stating:
“These are the Sirkars’ orders regarding your kariya (Village):
“The flag which Mr. Morrison hoisted you will pull down and keep. Should any spies or single individual visit you to collect information for our enemies show it to them. Should any large force come near you re-hoist it. Should any larger force come against you retire with all speed to Berbera.”
“Do not fear, the Sirkar knows everything and is doing what is best for everybody. Regarding the Biladias let me know if you are prepared to pay and feed so many yourself. May you be preserved.”
By telling Shaikh Madar, “Should any large force come against, you retire with all speed to Berbera”, meant that the British colonial administration was not ready to defend Hargeisa in case of an Abyssinian attack.
On 29 July 1891, the Secretary to the Government of Bombay (British Colonial Office in India), Political Department, W. Le-Warner, reported that Merewether, Assistant Resident at Berbera, had privately recovered the British flag that was in the possession of Shaikh Madar. Le-Warner admitted, “It became necessary to act secretly in this matter, because if it became publicly known that the flag had been withdrawn, the effect upon the Somalis would have been bad.”
The British Administration stayed in the Northern Region of Somalia and in 1943, following the defeat of Italy in the Second World War, added the Southern part of Somali territory which had been under Italy’s occupation since 1889. The United Kingdom handed over the former Italian Somaliland to the United Nations in 1950 when the country was placed under the UN Trusteeship for ten years, while retaining British Somaliland.