Explorations in History and Society

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

Archive for February 2010

Pan-Tribal Struggle against Italian Rule

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The following excerpts are from a book by the historian Lee Cassanelli The shaping of Somali society: reconstructing the history of a pastoral people, 1600-1900


In June 1908 Governor Carletti wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

We cannot afford to delay our move inland, since it will be difficult to occupy the river when the rebels who left over two months ago return with guns from the Mullah Muhammad

To give added weight to his pleas for decisive government action, Carletti attached a letter from the sultan of Geledi written earlier that month:

The Biimaal have abandoned their territory and the major part—around 4000—are in voyage to the Mullah. Only the old men, women, and children remain. Even among the Hintire only a few remain…. You must make war without any delay. Don’t remain inactive…. Your enemies won’t obey your orders and say, “We will obey only Shaykh Muhammad Abdullah….”   Hintire, Biimaal, Wacdaan, Jambelul, Daud, and Mobilayn amount to more than 100,000 [ sic  ]. If their messengers return with arms, they will all stand against us and the territory will be lost, since they desire only war

While the letter almost certainly exaggerates the number of Somalis who actually left to contact the mullah in the north, it does give an idea of the extent to which the resistance had become pan-tribal. A united resistance is precisely what the colonials feared.

Therefore, in August 1908, auxiliary soldiers under Italian command marched inland to the Shabeelle. They raised the flag at Bariirey; they fought with valiant Somalis for several hours outside of Mereerey; then their forces marched triumphantly into Afgooye. The colonial occupation of the interior had begun, prompted by the events of the “Year of the Dervishes.”


Page 250 of Lee Cassanelli’s The shaping of Somali society: reconstructing the history of a pastoral people, 1600-1900


Written by daud jimale

February 17, 2010 at 7:58 pm