Explorations in History and Society

Exploring and Collecting the History of the Somali clan of Hawiye.

Hawiyya geneology and settlement

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The Hawiya, descended from Irrir, are the largest and most important noble Somali family of southern Somalia. Centred around and along the Shebelle, where they come into contact with subject Negroid cultivators, they stretch northwards towards the Darod. Agriculture begins to play an appreciable part in the economy, often indirectly through the cultivation practised by the Negroid vassals of the Hawiya, although, towards the coast, the Hawiya themselves, under the stimulus of Administrative encouragement, are becoming increasingly agrarian. Their economy is intermediate between the nomadic pastoralism dominant among the Darod to the north and the relatively intensive cultivation practised by the Rahanwein to the south. Some tribes however are purely nomadic.

The Hawiya are composed of two primary divisions: the Bah Arbera and the Bah Girei. Almost all the present Hawiya tribes and tribal confederacies belong to the Bah Girei fraction, which is in turn divided into three main groups: the Gurgate, Jiambelle and Gogondovo. It presents a regular system in which segmentation of successive bifurcations gives rise to a proliferation of tribes derived from earlier tribes which, in their turn, through segmentation and growth, become confederacies in relation to their fractions when these become tribes in their own right. What was originally a tribe continues to exist as the group name for a confederacy of tribes which have stemmed from it. Some tribes remain static or decay and do not continue growing and bifurcating. Sometimes the parent tribe, from which stems a proliferation of new tribes, continues to exist as a tribe in its own right, although probably on the wane and only really important as a confederacy name for its more active offshoots.

Traditionally the Bah Arbera are the progeny of an Arab woman, and the Bah Girei of a Galla mother whose bride-price included a spotted cow ( girei ). Of the Bah Arbera, the Karanle situated in the upper valley of the Shebelle, are trans-humant, cultivating the fertile riverine land in the dry season and moving with their stock to new pastures on the surrounding hills when the heavy rains begin. The Murosade, who have become detached in the process of tribal movement, are found in small groups in the region of Merca and, in a larger body, below the Shebelle around Afgoi. They are essentially pastoralists although they practise some cultivation, and in the Merca region are engaged in the caravan trade. The Raranle, formerly of the Baj-Argan region were driven thence by the Digil; a nucleus still survives among the Rahanwein Garuale.

The largest of the three Bah Girei sub-confederacies is the Gurgate, whose descendants through Dame-Herab are the most numerous. The legend reported by Colucciruns that on the birth of Mane, the last of Gurgate’s seven sons, the largest birthday gift was given by his brother Dame, and this caused their father Gurgate to prophesy that Dame would have many descendants. Most of the tribes descended from the other seven brothers have disappeared or are scattered as dependants among the Rahanwein, but, some remain such as the Hawâdla, who also live along the shebelle valley with baddi ‘Addo and engage in a pattern of cultivation and pastoralism.

The most important tribes or tribal confederacies derived from Dame-Herab are: the Abgal, the strongest and most numerous Hawiya group, the Habr Gedir, the Dudube, the Sheikal Lobogi, the Wadan, the Hillivi, the Herab, and the Mobilen. The Abgal, who are mainly nomadic pastoralists, practise some cultivation in suitable regions near the coast, and extend inland from the coast between Mogadishu and El Dere. They played a prominent part in the history of Mogadishu, and their incursions into the town were largely responsible for the overthrow of the Muzaffar dynasty of sultans.They are divided into at least seven tribes. The Habr Gedir are mainly pastoralists, although one of their four tribes, the Habr Gedir Sarur at Harardere, cultivates beans, millet, water-melons, and cotton as well as possessing herds of camels, cattle, and flocks of sheep and goats. A Habr Gedir Sarur group is found also in the region of Harar, on the left bank of the Webi Jestro, but through mixing with other peoples it has lost most of its Somali characteristics.The Sheikal Lobogi are a priestly group scattered among the Hawiya generally, sometimes appearing as autonomous sections in other tribes, as for instance in the Herab.They are pastoralists, particularly given to caravan trading. The Wadan are allied to the Geledi and are under their tutelage. The Hillivi are federated with the Abgal Daud under a common chief. The Herab are dependants of the Tunni and Rahanwein. The Mobilen are allied to the Shidle Negroid group of the Shebelle.

The Jiambelle, form the second primary division of the Bah Girei. The most important tribes issuing from this progeny are the Ajuran and the Hintere, the first of very great antiquity, and apparently connected with the obscure and almost legendary Madinle, to whom many old ruins and wells with stone-works are commonly attributed. The Ajuran, as we shall see, formerly dominated the territory to-day occupied by the Rahanwein and their Hawiya siblings. Ajuran are found in independent nuclei on the upper Shebelle, in the Doi and between Moyale and Wajir in the Northern Frontier Province of Kenya, at Anole on the Shebelle and between Afgoi and Wadegle, mixed with their freedmen the Erible. They are mainly nomadic pastoralists and are particularly interesting because they have adopted the Galla Boran practice of drawing blood from cattle, a non-Somali trait which they share with the trans-Juba Darod. The Hintere are found among the Jiddu of the Doi, on the upper Shebelle in the Shebelle Negroid region, and in the Afgoi region of the lower Shebelle where they live with their freedmen, the Urguma. The other three Jiambelle tribes seem to have disappeared or lost all tribal identity.

Of the third division of the Bah Girei, the Gogondovo, the Jidle occur in Abyssinia and on the Webi among the Shebelle and Molcal. The Jibide are in trans-Juba, and the Jajele nomads who derive from them are found among the Rahanwein and in Abyssinia. The principal centre of the Molcal, who also derive from the Jibide, is the village of Mansur, where they live with their freedmen the Kavole. From the Molcal descend the more important and thriving Galjaal, Digodia, and Badi-Addo. The Galjaal are nomadic pastoralists occupying the country to the south of the Badi-Addo where they have retained command of the system of wells. Their movements bring them into frequent conflict with the adjacent Gerra. A nucleus of the tribe is stationed in Harar territory north of Burca. The Badi-Addo, who extend along the Shebelle between the Makanne and Kavole, are cultivators and pastoralists and presumably have a cycle of movement to and from the river, similar to that of Karanle described above. Badi-Addo occur also at Javalo near Harar. The Digodia occupy principally a very extensive tract of territory spanning the Webi Gestro and the Ganale Doria and stretching south-west to Wajir in trans-Juba. They are in contact with the Galla Boran and the Gerra as well as with the Gasar Gudda with whom there is frequent strife. On the Dawa, Ganale, and Webi some cultivation is practised by an associated Negroid group, the Garreh Murrah, although the Digodia are essentially nomadic pastoralists. This tribe seems to have been only slightly Islamized for it has a rain-making cult centred round the chief ( Wobur ) and, according to Wright there is no standard blood-compensation payment but in its place the custom of plundering the murderer’s kin ( muroduc ) prevails. Digodia are also found at Burca in Harar district.


“The Somali, Afar and Saho groups of the Horn of Africa” by I.M. Lewis

“The Shaping of Somali society” by Cassanelli

Supported by and inferred from: Colucci, Puccioni, Caniglia, Robecchi-Bricchetti, Barile & Ferrand.


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