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

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History of Wacdaan and their alliance with the Geledi

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The Wacdaan subclan of Darandole Mudulood have a centuries-old alliance with the Geledi which stands to this day. The history of this subclan and their alliance with the Geledi spans a long time and has withstood the turbulent changes Somalia and Banadir experienced throughout the centuries.

In this article we’ll try to narrate the most important aspects of Wacdaan history and the alliance with the Geledi which was the foundation of the Geledi Sultanate.  

In capter 12 of the book titled: Somali Sultanate, the Geledi City-State over 150 years, the author (Virginia Luling) writes:

The precolonial politics of Somalia, while they were articulated by clan and lineage divisions, also relied on alliances that could cut across the lines of descent. We have seen that Geledi exemplified this principle to a high degree. Their alliance, waransaar (pile of spears), with the Wacdaan carries it even further, and is different from the links within the Geledi community that I have analyzed so far. The Wacdaan regard it not as a client relationship but as an alliance between equal entities, separate and of roughly equivalent size, with each maintaining its own political system but joining in the defense of their common interest. It is notable in that it bridges the divide between the two major branches of the Somali – The Samaale and the Sab, the Maxaa and the Maay speakers. It encapsulates the division between the pastoral-nomadic and the settled agro-pastoral Somali.


On the character of the Wacdaan and their contribution to the succes of the Geledi Sultanate Virginia Lulling writes in chapter 12 of the above mentioned book:

Warriors and Dandies

The league of the Geledi with this vigorous and warlike pastoral clan must have contributed much to their succes in their heyday – indeed in the opinion of the Wacdaan themselves the Geledi would have been helpless without them. They have a strong warrior ethos: their ideal is of the man who is both brave and dandified, dressing in a fine white cloth even if he has to go hungry. Many of the Wacdaan were slow to take up modern schooling, but if the Geledi considered this a sign of backwardness, for some at least of the Wacdaan themselves it showed their independence of spirit. They valued this independence even though i the 1960s it led to their lacking a deputy of their own to send to the National Assembly (their representative came from the Abgaal).


The origins of the Wacdaan are like most subclans of the Darandole Mudulood in Ceeldheer, Mudug region of Somalia. As we have seen in the history of the Darandole conquest of Mogadishu, the Wacdaan played a keyrole and were even blessed by the Darandole Imam for their bravery in the war against the Ajuuraan. After having played a keyrole in the defeat of the Muzzaffar Dynasty in Mogadishu and their Ajuuraan allies in the hinterland the Wacdaan entered into an alliance with the Geledi to defeat the Silcis who were in power of Afgooye region.

Virginia Lulling narrates on the origins of Wacdaan as followes:

History and Migration

According to most accounts the Wacdaan came originally from near Mareeg in Ceel Dheer district in Mudug, where there is a place called Jebed Wacdaan. After long and destructive wars with the Abgaal, the Wacdaan arrived in the Afgooye area, which was then still ruled by the Silcis. The Geledi needed them as allies and – according to the Wacdaan- employed magic, tacdaad, to make them stay. They prepared a feast for the Wacdaan envoys, and meanwhile shoemakers fixed each man a new pair of sandals, with a charm in between the two layets of the sole, which would cause them to come back. The Wacdaan inbsist that they took the lead in the ousting of the Silcis rulers, driving them from the land on the East bank of the river and then taking possesion of it. They maintain that it was only thanks to them that the Gobroon sltans became powerful. (The Geledi however are adamant that it was they who conquered the Silcis, with the Wacdaan either playing a secondary role, or arriving afterwards, and that the Geledi granted the Wacdaan the land.)

In this narration of the migration of Wacdaan Virginia Lulling asserts that the Wacdaan arrived to Afgooye and Banadir as a consequence of wars between them and Abgaal subclans. However, what she means is that the Wacdaan came to Afgooye region from Lafoole and Mogadishu and not from all the way Ceeldheer in Mudug region. As became clear from the history of Mogadishu the Hirab, in which Wacdaan was a subclan of (to be precise subclan of Darandole Mudulood Hiiraab), migrated southwards from Mudug.


“In ancient times the Sirasi lived in Mogadiscio. The people called Halawani succeeded the Sirasi. The Mudaffar succeeded the Halawani. The Mudaffar came from the country of Yemen in Arabia. He had guns. He built the palace that is found under the Governor’s house. He was a friend of the Aguran. At that time the Mudaffar governed the coast; and the Aguran ruled in the woodland. The Hirabe were not nearby them; they lived in the northern places. At that time the people of the woodland could not spend the night in the city of Mogadiscio. At sunset a ban was put on the city: ‘Hawiyya, it is growing dark! Hawiyya, it is growing dark!’ Then they went away toward the woodland.

“Later the Mudaffar had an interpreter who was called ‘Ismankäy Haggi ‘Ali. This ‘Ismankäy had the idea of letting the Darandollä enter the city. A message was sent to the imam Mahmud ‘Umar, who lived at Golol. The imam, guiding his Page: 71 warriors, came south and approached Mogadiscio. Then what did ‘Ismankäy do? He spoke with the Mudaffar: ‘By now the Darandollä are near Mogadiscio, let me be accompanied by some soldiers, and I shall go to them.’ ‘How do you want to do it?’ ‘I shall do it this way. I shall come to an agreement with the leaders and make them return to the places in the north.’ ‘So be it!’ said the Mudaffar. Then ‘Ismänkäy took some soldiers with him, but without weapons: ‘Leave your weapons! We go out to conclude an agreement, not really for war.’ They put down the weaons. They went into the woodland. When they had gone into the woodland, the Darandollä came out and took all the soldiers prisoner. Then they continued the raid and entered Mogadiscio. The Mudaffar was caputred and they wanted to kill him. But he, looking at the people who had come close to him, saw among them ‘Ismankäy Haggi Ali. ‘Stop!’ he said then. ‘Before you kill me, I want to speak. O ‘Ismankäy, you are good for nothing, you are capable of nothing, you will not pass seven!’ he said. Thus was 248 ‘Ismankäy cursed. When the Mudaffar was killed, when seven days passed after his death, ‘Ismankäy died too. It happened exactly as he had been cursed.

‘After entering Muqdisho, the Darandoolle quarrelled with the Ajuraan. They quarrelled over watering rights. The Ajuraan had decreed: ‘At the wells in our territory, the people known as Darandoolle and the other Hiraab cannot water their herds by day, but only at night’’…Then all the Darandoolle gathered in one place. The leaders decided to make war on the Ajuraan. They found the imam of the Ajuraan seated on a rock near a well called Ceel Cawl. They killed him with a sword. As they struck him with the sword, they split his body together with the rock on which he was seated. He died immediately and the Ajuraan migrated out of the country.’


From the above quotation from the book titled:  How a Hawiye tribed lived written by Enrico Cerulli, we can see that the Darandole Mudulood, Wacdaan been a member of the Darandole, came from Mudug region and conquered Mogadishu and its direct environs from the Muzaffar dynasty and the Ajuuraan rulers in the hinterland.

Wacdaan were pushed eventually out of Mogadishu city and pushed towards Lafoole and Afgooye region, which is in line with the wars Virginia Lulling talks about.




page 207 of the same book, Virginia Luling writes:

Written by daud jimale

June 6, 2009 at 5:02 pm

History of Medieval Somalia explained through Maps

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Horn of Africa in 1300 C.E: According to Ibn Battuta

Horn of Africa in 1300 C.E: According to Ibn Battuta

Horn of Africa in 1550: According to written accounts of the era

Horn of Africa in 1550: According to written accounts of the era

Horn of Africa in 1650 C.E: According to Written Accounts of the Era

Horn of Africa in 1650 C.E: According to Written Accounts of the Era

Horn of Africa in 1650 C.E: According to Written Accounts of the Era

Horn of Africa in 1650 C.E: According to Written Accounts of the Era













Written by daud jimale

May 31, 2009 at 3:28 am

Sufism in nineteenth century Benaadir

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Merchants and Ulama, Blood and Patronage:

The Urban Sufi Phenomenon

At the same time that the Benaadiri community began to experience the crisis of the late nineteenth century, organized Sufi turuq gained popularity in the towns of the coast. From the last quarter of the nineteenth century through the middle of the twentieth, the various turuq played a central role in Somali society. While Sufism was known in Somalia before that time, it was largely the preserve of a few ascetics; it only emerged as a prominent social movement under the guidance of charismatic preachers after 1880. The efforts of these clerics were so successful by the beginning of the Second World War, it was estimated that virtually all Somali males identified, at least nominally, with one of the local schools of Sufism: the Qadiriyya, Ahmadiyya, or Salihiyya. Modern scholars of Somali history and culture have amply demonstrated the importance of rural saints, shaykhs, and local preachers, or wadaads. In addition to their spiritual roles, these men frequently acted as advisors, mediators, and even political leaders amongst the clans of the interior. An examination of the manaqib and urban oral traditions reveals that the townspeople of the Benaadir coast also participated in a vibrant mystical culture and, as I will show below, played a pivotal role in Sufism’s expansion number of influential shaykhs of the period made their mark in the largely urban milieu of the coast. Foremost among these was the Qadirishaykh Uways b. Muhammad (1847–1909). Born in the southernmost Benaadir town of Barawe, Shaykh Uways is credited by his followers with the almost single-handed revival of the Qadiriyya order in East Africa.

Accounts of Uways’ childhood, education, and travels have been widely documented: between 1880 and his death in 1909, the Shaykh succeeded in spreading what became known as the Uwaysiyya branch of the Qadiriyya throughout southern Somalia and along the East African littoral as far south as Tanganyika. The writings of most western-trained scholars concentrate on Uways’ activities among rural and disadvantaged peoples. Qadiri oral and written traditions emphasize the attraction the Shaykh held for all segments of society, rural and urban, elites and non-elites. As the quote at the beginning of this article clearly indicates, Qadiri disciples viewed Uways as an important presence in the towns of the Benaadir as well as its villages and hinterland.

The Shaykh’s influence among the urban mercantile classes is demonstrated in numerous written and oral manaqib. His first miracle is said to have been performed in Mogadishu among the merchants of the town whom he “saved” from their reputedly immoral ways and initiated into the path of the Qadiriyya.

This incident will be discussed more fully below. Here it is important to note that according to oral and written hagiographies, following this incident, hundreds of townsmen from all social classes, “both free and slave,” flocked to the side of the Shaykh and joined the Qadiriyya as muridun. These new adherents included many of the local ulama, including Shaykh Abd al-Rahman b. Abdullah al-Shanshy, known more commonly as Shaykh Sufi; members of the political elite, most notably Imam Mahmud b. Binyamin al-Yaquubi, leader of the Abgaal clan, the dominant political force in the Shangani quarter of the city; and many members of the merchant class. Although less dramatic than the arrival of the Qadiriyya in Mogadishu, the appearance of the Ahmadiyya also attracted ready adherents from the urban peoples of the Benaadir. The advent of the Ahmadiyya on the coast is credited not to the emergence of a single charismatic holy man but to the efforts of a number of shaykhs deputized to spread the word of the order by an Ahmadi leader from Arabia, Shaykh Mowlan Abd al-Rahman.

According to most oral accounts, Shaykh Mowlan came to the Benaadir coast a few years before the return of Shaykh Uways and installed five pious men as representatives of the order. These five then proceeded to spread the teachings of the order along the coast and up the Jubba valley. While never as numerically large as their Qadiriyya counterpart, the Ahmadiyya had, by the end of the nineteenth century, spread throughout the Jubba valley, making it, by some accounts, the preeminent tariqa along the river. During the same period, large Ahmadiyya followings formed in the towns of Barawe and Marka under the leadership of Shaykhs Nurayn Ahmad Sabr and Ali Maye respectively. A small Ahmadiyya community also formed in Mogadishu, although some contend that membership there consisted primarily of immigrants from the other two towns.

Exact data for the numbers of townsmen attracted to the various turuq are non-existent. Family histories suggest that by the turn of the twentieth century most men claimed at least nominal attachment to one of the main turuq, the Qadiriyya, Ahmadiyya, or, more rarely, Salihiyya. Similarly, an early Italian administrator in the interior trading center of Luuq in the 1890s noted the prominence of tariqa membership among the community of merchants from the coast. One of the distinctive features of the turuq in the towns was the extent to which the lives of religious practitioners and merchants were closely intertwined. While it was possible to find among the mercantile inhabitants of the Benaadir towns those who were concerned only with commerce and others who followed purely religious pursuits, the social lines between these groups were hardly distinct. The lives of religious practitioners and lay people were closely linked. Their worlds intersected through ties of tariqa affiliation, kinship, and patronage. Sometimes individuals were both religious practitioners and merchants. Few urban lineages were exclusively religious in character. An exception was the Reer Faqih, also known as the Banu Qahtan, of Mogadishu, a clan of religious scholars, who, until the advent of colonial rule, held a local monopoly over the position of qadi, or judge. In general, however, urban families and lineage units tended to be involved in both religious and secular spheres of society. Many families, in fact, counted both ulama and merchants among their members. While urbanites claim that this was a custom carried out from “time immemorial,” evidence of its practice can only be dated to the later nineteenth century and is largely connected to the rise of the turuq. During this period, most merchant families hoped ideally to direct at least one of their sons to religious pursuits and the study of ilm (the religious sciences), while the others took up commerce or various trades. Such was the case of Faqih (“jurist”) Yusuf, of Mogadishu’s Shangani quarter during the early twentieth century. According to family traditions related by his grandson, the Faqi and several other brothers dedicated their lives to study, supported by several younger siblings who became small merchants and tailors. Occasionally, this strategy produced a noted scholar or holy man. Shaykh Ahmad Nurayn, a respected nineteenth-century jurist and early leader of the Ahmadiyya tariqa from Barawe, for example, was a member of the notable Hatimy clan of merchants. Similarly, Shaykh Abd al-Rahman Sufi., poet and early Qadiriyya leader in Mogadishu, came from the commercial Shanshiyya clan. Obviously, not every family or lineage could hope to produce a scholar or holy man of prominence.

For merchants who lacked a prominent relative among the ranks of the ulama, or Sufi leadership, supporting religious institutions such as mosques or student hostels through endowments of waqf or patronizing individual religious notables were the most common means of acquiring spiritual capital. In Mogadishu, as in most places in the Islamic world, notables regularly provided funds for the construction and maintenance of mosques and other religious structures. Evidence from epigraphs demonstrates that from as early as the eleventh century, local personages, including a number of women, supported the construction of mosques in the oldest sections of the town. The Italian ethnologist Enrico Cerulli noted that one of the earliest inscriptions found in Mogadishu’s main jami or Friday mosque indicated that it was constructed around 1238 and endowed by a local notable, Kululah b. Muhammad. Similarly, the Somali historian Sharif Aydrus b. Ali provides a detailed list of prominent mosques built and maintained by local persons of note through the mid-twentieth century (Aydrus 1954:39). In the hagiographies and oral traditions of the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, mention of such endowments is rare.

Rather than endowing centralized institutions, benefactors subsidized the activities of individual Sufi masters, students, and scholars. The funding of scholarly activities could take a variety of forms. The most direct of these was the distribution of personal largesse. Local benefactors, for instance, might present regular or occasional gifts of cash, livestock, or other foodstuffs to a shaykh or alim in order to help finance the latter’s study and instruction of students or, more rarely, the practice of traditional/Islamic medicine. Alternatively, a merchant might provide an alim with a quantity of goods, such as cloth, spices, coffee beans, which the latter could sell to finance his activities. Merchants are also said to have helped members of the ulama finance larger trade ventures toward the same end. In addition to the distribution of largesse, merchants and other notables also subsidized members of the ulama and Sufi shaykhs through acts of hospitality. This often took the form of feasts provided for shaykhs and their followers on various holy days or the provision of permanent or semi-permanent housing. The provision of hospitality to scholars, saints, and students is a motif that appears constantly in both written hagiographies and oral traditions.

Merchants might make their homes available to learned individuals on an ad hoc basis. During the 1920s, for example, a hide merchant and follower of the Qadiriyya named Uways Nuur, from the Bendawow lineage, often hosted a certain Shaykh Ooyey al-Qadiri from Jawhar, of the Abgaal, along with his followers. His hospitality usually consisted of providing them with food and occasionally lodging during their stay. Similarly during the 1930s, Hadi al-Barawi, a Barawe merchant living in Bardheere, frequently offered passing scholars lodging for a night or two in exchange for prayers of blessing or lessons in ilm. Hospitality could also take the form of more long-term and concrete investment. Two vivid examples of this are recorded in the oral traditions of Barawe.

The first centers around the Ahmadiyya shaykh and alim Mahmud Waciis, who settled in the town of Barawe from the Ogaden during the later nineteenth century: “Shaykh Mahmud Waciis came to Barawe in the middle of the night and encountered Shaykh Nurayn Ahmad Sabr and said ‘I am here at the order of God. Take me to the house of Suudow Abrar [the pious wife of a wealthy merchant].’ Shaykh Nurayn escorted him there and when they arrived at the correct house the former shouted out to her that he had a guest. At this she is said to have replied, ‘Is it Shaykh Mahmud Waciis?’ And both Shaykhs were filled with wonder at her foreknowledge.” The Shaykh is reputed to have remained in the house of Suudow Abrar until his death some years later (Funzi 1994).

Another example of relatively large-scale largesse was the case of the wealthy Barawe merchant Abd al-Qadir b. Shaykh Ismaan, known more commonly as Shaykh bin Shaykh. Oral traditions about the Shaykh b. Shaykh family state that following the death of the Qadiri leader Shaykh Uways Muhammad in 1909, no one dared buy his house in Barawe for fear that it was inhabited by jinn or spirits. As a result it remained unoccupiedfor months after his death. One night, however, Shaykh Uways came to Shaykh b. Shaykh in a dream and instructed him to buy the house. Shaykh b. Shaykh, who was not then as wealthy as he was to become, borrowed a large amount of money from his relatives and purchased the deceased holy man’s house. Following this, it became the principal place of residence for all Qadiri ulama visiting Barawe, who stayed as the guests of Shaykh b. Shaykh for both long and short periods of time (Shaykh bin Shaykh 1994). Finally, merchants and notables also made long term financial and material commitments to the education of future ulama and religious notables. In addition to entertaining and housing religious practitioners,some urban merchants provided extensive aid to students who came from other parts of the region to study with local scholars. These patrons paid for the subsistence of the students during their stay and built and maintained special student hostels where students resided during the course of their studies. In addition, a local notable might establish a waqf or endowment to finance the education of an individual student. The creation of a waqf for an individual rather than an institution, such as a mosque or school, is unusual and the extent of this practice in the Benaadir is unknown. However, there is at least one recorded instance of such an individual waqf. The hagiography of Shaykh Nurayn Ahmad Sabr indicates that on at least two separate occasions the Shaykh initiated endowments for the purpose of financing the religious education of the future children of two Mogadishu Sharifs. Given the well-established connection between merchants and religion, it is not surprising that Sufi ritual became an integral part of urban life.

Urban Woes and the Social Lens of Hagiography

One way to explain the proliferation of the turuq and the manaqib that grew up around them is to consider them a way for adherents to discuss the problems of society in relation to the crises of the period. Rather than constituting purely laudatory accounts of the miracles of various holy men, the literature produced by the turuq was a genre that presented the sacred as a remedy for secular ills. The use of manaqib as eulogistic literature dates to tenth- and eleventh-century Maghreb, where the first biographies dedicated to ascetics and martyrs appeared.

From this point onward in Islamic history the genre became a favorite vehicle of religious orders, especially Sufi turuq, whose adepts wished to venerate their founders and more distinguished adherents using the written word. The founders of the Qadiriyya and Ahmadiyya orders, Shaykh Abd al-Qadir Jilani and Ahmad b. Idris, were memorialized in such compilations. This genre remained a hallmark of Sufis through the nineteenth century. Thus it should come as no surprise that with the appearance of well-organized Sufi congregations in the Benaadir came the production of the first locally composed manaqib.

The emergence of manaqib as a written genre of literature in Somalia appears to be directly linked to the local renaissance of the Qadiriyya and Ahmadiyya Sufi orders during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The earliest known collections are dedicated to the first generation of scholar-saints, who are credited with the Sufi revival. According to current Sufi leaders and adherents, these collections served to memorialize the saints and to educate new initiates about the tariqa. As such, they were generally recited during weekly, or even nightly, meetings, known as dhikr, and during annual ceremonies, known as ziara, held to mark the anniversary of the death of a particular saint. Recitals also occurred on a much more informal basis, however, taking place during what B.W. Andrzejewski described as “ad hoc situations, round the evening camp fires in the interior,” or “at parties in private houses in towns”. These were written exclusively in Arabic, which Somali urbanites considered the only proper language of public oratory. Running translations into Somali were generally provided at all such events for the benefit of less-educated adepts and casual observers.

Andrzejewski suggests that such oral performances provided the manaqib with a public audience that went far beyond the boundaries of an individual tariqa. He notes that while hagiographic stories were often heard during religious events, they also found their way “into ordinary conversation, especially when people discuss some difficult or unusual situation or reminisce about similar things in the past”. Andrzejewski’s comments highlight two important aspects of the genre. First, it existed as a distinct form of oral literature, which was widely known and used in both rural and urban society. Second, and more importantly, individual stories could be used to illuminate particular social problems. The observations put forward by Andrzejewski were based on evidence gathered during the 1950s and 1960s. However, the presence of hagiographic accounts in Somali oral literature can be demonstrated for a much earlier period. One of the earliest examples comes from Richard Burton, who, in his 1856 First Footsteps in East Africa, related a story told to him by a local alim about the saint Sayyid Yuusuf al-Baghdadi, who vanquished the infamous magician Bucur Bacar, supposed progenitor of the Yibir group of outcasts (72–73). Several other nineteenth-century European writers also noted the existence of oral hagiographies, albeit usually about somewhat mythical saints.

These early accounts point to the possibility that a hagiographic tradition was present in Somali oral literature before the Sufi revival of the late nineteenth century. The emergence of the turuq and their tradition of written hagiography, therefore, seems to have provided a new vehicle of transmission, written text, for an already existing genre of literature. Oral versions of many of the stories recorded about the scholar-saints in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries appear to have circulated widely before they were committed to paper. Shaykh Abd al-Rahman Umar noted that the manaqib of the Qadiri shaykh Abd al-Rahman Zaylai contained in Jala al-Aynayn were “drawn from the learned, and the mouths of men, and the loving brothers of the tariqa”.  Similarly, in other collections, the oral roots of the manaqib are presented as validating their authenticity. In each work the compiler provides a chain of transmission, silsila, for every story. Such chains begin with the person from whom the compiler received the story and proceeds backward in time, listing each transmitter of a manqabah and ending with the person who is said to have witnessed the actual event. Such chains are modeled upon similar chains, known as isnad, used to validate the pedigree of hadith, the sayings of the Prophet. The social utility of various oral genres among the Somali has been amply demonstrated by numerous researchers. The late B.W. Andrzejewski and Said Samatar have demonstrated the various political and social uses of Somali oral poetry, while Lee Cassanelli has illustrated the uses of historical tradition and the histories of individual clans in the definition of social relationships and identities among pastoral groups. If, as Andrzejewski maintains, manaqib are simply another category of oral literature within the Somali repertoire, then it can be argued that they, like other genres, also hold social meaning. Many of the issues confronted and remedied by the saints of the manaqib were physical threats to both urban and rural society: famine, physical insecurity, and epidemic illnesses such as smallpox. In other instances, the issues were moral in character, involving social concerns such as public morality and local tradition versus Islamic “orthodoxy.” Many stories in the hagiographic literature center on public morality and piety.

Such episodes invariably pit pious saints against impious, or at least morally misguided, townsmen. This could be viewed merely as the moral invective of holy men against the apparent evils of the secular world. An examination of these stories within the social and economic context of the late-nineteenth-century Benaadir coast suggests that they may also mirror a widespread belief of the time that local society was suffering from a genuine moral and social crisis, one which could only be remedied by turning to God and religion. This is demonstrated by the first miracle recorded in the hagiography of Shaykh Uways b. Muhammad, al-Jawhar al-Nafis, which is quoted above. The written manaqib does not state the exact nature of the abomination known as hiikow. Oral versions suggest that it was a licentious dance which was performed either by the townspeople or by their slaves. In the latter case, according to oral sources, merchants used the event and the carnival-like atmosphere that surrounded the weekly performances to attract customers. The written version links this immoral behavior directly to members of the urban elite, especially those involved in commerce: “Among them were the Ashraf, merchants, notables, clan elders, rulers, patrons and people of the ships. All of them assisted and participated in this abominable practice until the breasts of the ulama contracted [with anguish]”. It was only the appearance of Uways, according to the hagiographer,that led to the immediate and miraculous renunciation of “the abomination” by the parties concerned, the reconciliation between merchants and ulama, and the adoption of the Qadiriyya tariqa by the townsmen. In another instance of immoral behavior amongst the mercantile elite, rather than a pious Shaykh rescuing townsmen from the path of immorality, irate townsmen plotted the downfall of an overzealous qadi and Sufi saint, Nurayn Ahmad Sabr. During the reign of the Zanzibari Sultan Sayyid Barghash (1870–1888), the Ahmadiyya Shaykh Nurayn Ahmad Sabr was appointed qadi over the town of Barawe. According to both oral and written hagiographies, the Shaykh favored a strict interpretation of Islamic sharia over the use of local customary law, or xeer. Oral versions of this story emphasize that this privileging of “orthodoxy” clashed with the customs of certain Barawan lineages which, in contradiction to Islamic law, excluded women from inheriting wealth or property, thus limiting the distribution of wealth to the agnatic line. Because of this conflict, the written hagiography states, many local notables and merchants wanted to remove the Shaykh from his position of power. Leading citizens wrote to the Zanzibari Sultan making false claims about his lack of competence in the law and clamoring for his removal. The Sultan resolved to have the qadi arrested and brought in chains to Zanzibar for punishment. The Shaykh, by virtue of his karama, or holy qualities, avoided the trap set for him by the jealous townsmen and proceeded to Zanzibar in order to refute the charges against him. He was received by the Sultan and tested by members of the Zanzibari ulama who proclaimed that he was an erudite scholar worthy of his post. The Sultan then denounced those who had leveled the charges against the Shaykh and ordered his reinstatement as the qadi of Barawe  Shaykh Nurayn’s problems apparently did not end here. Another story from the same collection relates that an unnamed town “leader” attempted to assassinate the controversial Shaykh.

One of the leaders of Barawe, who harbored ill will against the Shaykh, went one night to Balad al-Rahma18 with ill intent, accompanied by one of his askaris [soldiers]. As they drew near to the house of the Shaykh . . . they saw a person appear by the door whose shape was like that of the Shaykh’s . . . there was no doubt of it being Shaykh Nurayn. The askari fired his rifle and wounded the person, who fell to the ground. The two thought that they had killed him; but they had not. It seems that the deceased was a cow . . . And when the leader came to know that he had not killed Shaykh Nurayn with the rifle he began to keep watch on the affair for fear that it would reach the government of the Italian Company. Certainly, the above anecdotes cannot be taken as faithful representations of “historical fact.” On the other hand, to categorize them as merely religious polemic robs them of their potential value for the social historian. Instead, I suggest, the above manaqib constitute commentary on the many social and economic maladies of the late nineteenth century—ills brought about by a perceived immorality and impiety of the urban elite that could only be remedied through a return to piety in the forms of the Sufi turuq and the sharia.


Ahmad, Abu Bakr. 1994. Interviews by author, 26 June and 9 August. Mombasa, Kenya.

Alpers, Edward A. 1983. Muqdisho in the Nineteenth Century: A Regional Perspective. Journal of

African History 24:441–59.

Andrzejewski, B.W. 1974. The Veneration of Sufi Saints and its Impact on the Oral Literature of the

Somali People. African Language Studies 15:15–54.

Bana Funzi, Ahmad Nurayn. 1994. Interview by author, 21,24 June. Mombasa, Kenya.

Burton, Richard. [1856]1890. First Footsteps in East Africa or An Exploration of Harar. London: Dover


Carletti, Tommaso. 1912. I Problemi del Benadir. Viterbo: Agneosti.

Cassanelli, Lee V. 1982. The Shaping of Somali Society, Reconstructing the History of a Pastoral People,

1600–1900. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

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Written by hawiye1

May 21, 2009 at 3:36 pm

Italian imperialism and Benaadir resistance prt 4

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5:The Storm of the Banadir Resistance gathers strength

As became clear from the NY times report (see part 4) on the ‘Lafole Massacre’, the Italian minister of Foreign Affaires commented on the ‘Lafole Massacre’ that the Italian government would take ‘energetic measures’ to punish the Somalis who were ‘guilty of the outrage’.

Now let us discuss these ‘energetic measures’ the Italian government wanted to take, and see whether they could stem the coming tide of the monsoon storm of resistance headed towards the Benadir coast region. As mentioned in part 3, the Italian foreign minister immediately appointed Commander Giorgio Sorrentino as royal commissioner extraordinary for the Benadir. His mission was as Robert L. Hess writes in his book ‘Italian colonialism in Somalia’:

”Sorentino was instructed ‘above all to provide for the security and tranquillity of the region’ After a complete investigation of the causes of the attack at Lafolé, he was to take whatever steps should appear indispensable for our dignity and for the security of the colony’’

This investigation would be completed within ten days which was around February 1897 (see part 4). The conclusion Sorrentino drew from the investigation was as follows:

”Within ten days he had determined that Lafolé was neither the precursor of a general urprising against the Italians nor an Ethiopian ambush but an isolated case of action by Wadan tribesmen and the tribes of Geledi; who had been spurred to the act by two Arabs from Mogadishu’’ (Robert L. Hess)

The conclusion Sorrentino drew was that the guilty ones were Wacdaan tribesmen and the tribes of Geledi, which meant that these tribesmen would be punished as the Italian foreign minister said in the NY Times report. Also Sorrentino believed that these tribesmen have been spurred to the act by two Arabs from Mogadishu. These Arabs were Abu Bakr Bin Awod, Filonardi’s interpreter and a certain Islam bin Muhammed.

The first thing, Sorrentino did was arresting Abu Bakr, while Islam bin Muhammed disappeared from the Banadir coast. The second thing, Sorrentino did was to plan a punitive expedition against the Somalis who were ‘guilty of the outrage’. For this he had ordered two companies of Eritrean askaris. In the meantime, Sorrentino, researched the conditions prevailing in the Benadir, where he discovered the widespread practice of slavery and domestic servitude. But he could not do something about it, since obviously this meant distrubting the whole plantation economy of the South.

”Under the circumstances-the already difficult relations with the interior tribes- Neither Dulio nor Sorrentino could act immediately against slavery. Such action would have committed the Italians to a costly undertaking of doubtful outcome, a risk that Sorrentino had been ordered not to take.’’ (Robert L. Hess)

Sorrentino and Dulio, the Benadir Company’s commissioner, had to content themselves with the expected punitive expedition against the tribes in the interior. Sorrentino was pleased at the prospect of this punitive expedition as he thought of the Somalis as: ”liars, thieves, and murderers”. A clear grudge from the ‘Lafole massacre’. He wrote in his book Ricordi del Benadir: ”We’ve got a nasty cat to skin!, May God protect us!”

In March the reinforcements of the two companies of Eritrean askaris finally arrived, and the Italians completed their plans for the punitive expedition against the Wacdaan and Geledi.

On April 20, almost 5 months after the Lafole attack, Sorrentino led his expedition inland and burned first Lafole and then several other villages associated with the Geledi and Murusade clan. The religious settlement of Nimow from where Sheekh Axmed Xaaji preached his religious message, was also bombarded by an Italian warship.

”The Italian bombardment of the small coastal village of Nimow in retaliation for Cecchi’s death marked the first such colonial action against a Somali civilian population.’’( Lee V. Cassanelli).

The Italians were joyful about these ‘energetic measures’ against the Somalis who were found guilty. Surprisingly, the Italians thought that these measures would solve everything and concluded that the Sorrentino expedition was a success:

”With Abu Bakr arrested, the Ethiopians in voluntary retreat, Lafole avenged, and leaders of Somali opposition deported, Sorrentino had virtually accomplished his mission by the end of April’’ (Robert L. Hess)

The deported leaders were Hussein Dera of Mogadishu and other Somalis for collaboration with the Ethiopians and instigation of Somali attacks on trading caravans between Lugh and the Coastal towns. Although these punitive expeditions looked impressive, they had no lasting effect, as it further antagonized the Wacdaan and Geledi clans. Also, it became clear that the two Arabs had no influence whatsoever on the clans of the interior, and thus were not the source of opposition to the Italian presence.

”The impression made by the punitive expedition after Lafolé could hardly have been called lasting” (Robert L. Hess)

This seems to be the case, since the Italians retreated to the coastal cities after the expedition.

”In the decade following the Lafoole incident, the Italians remained at the coast, their colonial policy marked by uncertainty and indecision. Their only major venture into the interior was the establishment of a garrison of Arab soldiers at Baardheere in 1902’’ ( Lee V. Cassanelli).

Also, in the book ‘Italian colonialism in Somalia’ of Robert L Hess, it becomes clear that the punitive expedition to avenge the Lafole attack was not followed by other expeditions into the interior.

”We make no expeditions against tribes guilty (of hostilities) but arrest individuals of that tribe who happen to be in town; (this policy) has persuaded the Bimal and the Somali of Mogadishu that we are not strong”

It thus becomes clear that the Italians retreated back to the Coast, and only were visible in the cities of Merca, Mogadishu, Barawe and Warsheekh.

In Somali Sultanate, Virginia Luling also talks about the consequences of Lafole attack, in which she writes: ”On the Italian side, though the repercussions of the disaster delayed by three years the formation of the Benadir Company, in the long run it reinforced the conviction that it was necessary to take military control of the hinterland.’’

What made the punitive expedition not effective on the long run? Why did the Italians retreated to the Coast? To answer these questions we need to know how the different Somali groups in Benadir responded to the Lafole attack.

”It is clear from colonial reports and from Somali oral recollections that Lafoole precipated a response from all the districts of the hinterland” ( Lee V. Cassanelli).


-To start with the Geledi Sultanate,

The Sultan of Geledi, Sultan Osman, as already discussed in the previous parts, wanted to accommodate the Italian presence on the Banadir coast. Cecchi apparently went to conclude a treaty with the Sultan, in order to penetrate the interior of the Banadir region. The Lafole episode came suddenly, and the Italians mounted their revenge expedition. As a consequence, Sultan Osman quickly succumbed to the Italian pressure and signed a treaty of peace with the Italians.

”The encounter with the Italians subdued the sultan of Geledi, who quickly signed a treaty of peace and pledged obedience to the Italian government” (Robert L. Hess).

This however did not mean that the Geledi people supported the Italian penetration of the Banadir coast, or accepted the Sultan’s treaty with the Italians. The young people of Geledi were fiercely opposed to the Italians and also played a role in the Lafoole attack.

”Acting-Governor Dulio felt that the young men of Geledi were fiercely opposed to the Italian presence, whereas their elders wanted some sort of accommodation” ( Lee V. Cassanelli).

Besides the young men, the uncle of Sultan Osman, and others felt that if the sultan wavered in his resistance, Gobroon authority would be weakened for good. This was true, since many from Adawiin lineage, whose religious prestige among the Geledi was second only to the Gobroon, preached a policy of non-accommodation. The reasons why the Sultan of Geledi succumbed to the Italians were varied. One of them was that Sultan Osman himself considered the possibility of shoring up his waning power through an alliance with the Italians.

The only articulated fierce opposition to the Italians from the Geledi was from the leader of a jamaaca (religious settlement) of the Ahmediya. This leader was Shaykh Abiker Ali Jelle, a member of the sultan’s own Gobroon lineage.

”When Abiker began to preach outright opposition to the colonials sitting threateningly on the coast, he was forced by the Geledi elders to leave the district’’( Lee V. Cassanelli).

This shows on which side the elders stood, and how they along with the Sultan were hesitant to join the resistance and thought accommodation was the best option for the group’s interest. We will see in later instalments whether this actually was the case.

-The Wacdaan response:

As already discussed in the previous parts, the Wacdaan were from the beginning fiercely opposed to the Italian penetration of the Banadir. This fierce opposition culminated in the attack of Lafole, in which mainly Wacdaan warriors along with a few Murusade and Geledi warriors, attacked the Cecchi expedition and killed all but three men.

The Italians directed their anger and revenge on mainly this group, by burning Lafole to the ground and bombarding the coastal village of Nimow from the sea. The Sorrentino expedition, with the Italian troops already based in the Banadir port-cities and the reinforcements of the two Eritrean Askari companies, was also mainly directed at punishing the Wacdaan and their allies.

These punitive measures however did not subdue the Wacdaan. Instead the Wacdaan remained harassing Italian presence on the Banadir coast by conducting guerrilla warfare tactics i.e. attacking caravans to the Banadir port-cities, organising blockades of the caravan routes that went through their territory to Mogadishu, and persecuting Somalis working with the Italians.

”Now the Wacdaan were beginning to blockade the caravan routes that ran through their territory to the coast” ( Lee V. Cassanelli).

The Italians sought to divide the Wacdaan and persuade sections of the group to submit peacefully. As said earlier the most numerous and militarily strongest section of Wacdaan, the Abubakar (Abukar?) Moldheere were lead by the famous Hassan Hussein, the fierce anti-‘infidel’ leader who along with Sheekh Axmed Xaaji articulated the opposition to the Italian penetration of the Banadir coast. This section of Wacdaan could not be persuaded, and continued to fight the Italians to the bitter end. The other section, the Mahad Moldheere, began slowly to depart from the rest of Wacdaan. They too participated in the Lafole attack, but started to move to the side of the Geledi. This was not surprising since they inhabited the territory contiguous to Afgooye and the fertile lands around Adadleh.

”Their interests coincided more with those of the agricultural Geledi. However, their smaller numbers gave them less influence in Wacdaan clan councils, which came to assume greater importance for policymakers as the Wacdaan began to act independently of the Geledi. While the Mahad Moldheere apparently cooperated in the Lafoole siege, their leader Abiker Ahmed Hassan subsequently struck an independent diplomatic stance.’’ ( Lee V. Cassanelli).

When in 1899 the Italians demanded forty hostages to be surrendered to the authorities in Muqdisho as a sign of Wacdaan submission, only the Mahad Moldheere responded. Their leader Abiker became a stipend official, which enhanced his standing among those of pacific persuasion.
The Abubakar Moldheere refused to send the twenty representatives demanded of them and for some years remained openly defiant of Italian authority.

”They continued to attack caravans and occasionally to boycott the market of Muqdisho. There is some evidence to suggest that feuding within the Wacdaan increased after this rift between the two major lineages’( Lee V. Cassanelli).

The Biyamaal response:

The Biyamaal were one of the first group to express their support for the Wacdaan in the lafole attack. They boycotted the markets of Merca, and the northern Biyamaal even collaborated with Hassan Husein of the Wacdaan. This collaboration led to the Biyamaal becoming also a target of punitive expeditions.

”After the Lafoole episode, several Biimaal sections boycotted the market of Marka to express their support for the Wacdaan action. The northern Biimaal collaborated with Hassan Hussein of Lafoole in cutting off land communications between Muqdisho and Marka.” ( Lee V. Cassanelli).

The Italians also targeted the Biyamaal for their support to the Wacdaan. In this they seized Jeziira, 13 miles south of Mogadishu.

These were the immediate responses of the Italian colonialists and the different Somali groups to the Lafole episode.

These actions and reactions would accelerate in the coming years, as the Italians were determined to colonize the Banadir coast and its hinterlands as the springboard for the eventual colonization of the rest of Southern Somalia. In this, the Italians would target the two most fierce resistance groups in the Banadir: the Wacdaan and Biyamaal, who were already allied in their economic sanctions and operations to disturb the lines of supplies and communication of the Italians in Mogadishu. As will become clear in the next instalments the Italians would target the very foundation of the Wacdaan and Biyamaal power: their means of production and thus means of power–>the plantation economy of the Banadir coast.

In the next instalment the plantation economy of the Benadir coast and Southern Somalia will be discussed and the Italian strategy to undermine this by their anti-slavery campaign.

This strategy of directly targeting the foundations of the Banadir agricultural society and thus the power of the two most fierce resistance groups against Italian penetration of the Benadir coast would trigger the monsoon Storm of Resistance that struck the Banadir coast region.


Italian imperialism and Benaadir resistance prt 3

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4. The spark that lit the Banadir Resistance: Lafoole 25-26th of November 1896

Lafoole as explained earlier was within Wacdaan territory. It lay in an area with thick brush and scrub grass, a suitable spot for a well-prepared ambush. The Wacdaan were waiting for this moment, as Cecchi was despised by all Somali groups in the Banadir region, since he embodied colonial aggressiveness which became evident by his plans to ‘tap into the rich resources of Somalia’.

Also, the Wacdaan were from the beginning fiercely opposed to any compromise with the ‘infidels’. This attitude was persistent in the culture of the Wacdaan as explained earlier. Another impulse to this fierce anti-infidel attitude was the coming of Sheik Axmed Xaaji, the sheikh that found it intolerable to coexist with the ‘infidels’ in Mogadishu (see part 2). He lived among the Wacdaan, set up a jamaaca (religious school) and became the sheikh of the Wacdaan (religious leader). His ideas have apparently influenced the leader of the largest subgroup of Wacdaan (Abubakar Moldheere): Hassan Hussein.

Hassan Hussein, together with Sheikh Axmed Xaaji were instrumental in articulating the opposition to the Italian presence in Banadir. As already explained this too had its consequences for the political geography in Banadir, mainly the cooling of the alliance between Geledi and Wacdaan. Within the Geledi, the people wanted to resist the Italian expansion but the Sultan and the ones with authority choose for accommodation. In this the Wacdaan were slowly moving away from Geledi, and moving towards the Biyamaal, their erstwhile enemy.

The clash at Lafoole:

On 25th of November in 1896, the moment arrived in which the Italian government gave the approval to venture into the interior, thus effectively leaving the garrisons in Mogadishu. Cecchi too was waiting for this moment since he was eager to sign treaties with the Sultan of Geledi, which he still thought was powerful enough to be instrumental in the Italian plans for Somalia. What he didn’t know however was that the Sultan did not represent the feelings of the people, who were fiercely opposed to Italian expansion. Cecchi and the others in the expedition would find out too late about this fierce anti-infidel attitude of the Somalis.

This expedition consisted of Antonio Cecchi, Commander Ferdinando Maffei of the Staffetta, Commander Franscesco Mongiardini of the Volturno, and fourteen other Italians. In the evening when the expedition force set their camp at Lafoole, they were attacked in which a fierce fight followed. Apparently, this attack was not decisive enough to finish off the expedition. The next morning a renewed attack followed which successfully finished off the expedition, with only 3 survivors to tell the story.

”With government approval, Cecchi prepared for an expedition into the interior. By November 25, he was ready to move; his caravan consisted of seventy askaris, Commander Ferdinando Maffei of the Staffetta, Commander Franscesco Mongiardini of the Volturno, and fourteen other Italians, for the most part members of the crews of the two ships. That very night their encampment at Lafolé, some twelve miles inland, was attacked. In the early morning hours, as the caravan once more got under way, it was attacked again. By eight-thirty in the morning of November 26, all but three sailors were dead or dying.” (Robert. L Hess)

Who were these groups that attacked the Italian expedition?

In the Shaping of Somali Society, (Lee V. Cassanelli) it becomes clear that the group that attacked the Italians were of mainly Wacdaan warriors, accompanied by Murursade and Geledi warriors.

”In November 1896, he and a score of Arab askaris set out to meet with the presumably influential sultan of Geledi. It was the first colonial attempt to penetrate the interior with a military contingent, and it ended disastrously for the Italians. Cecchi’s expedition was besieged and most of it destroyed at a place called Lafoole, along the Muqdisho-Afgooye road by Somali warriors of the Wacdaan clan.”

In another passage the author reveals more about the composition:

”Geledi’s long-time allies the Wacdaan had apparently acted independently at Lafoole; and they had been assisted by a handful of warriors from the Murursade, also Geledi allies”

Virginia Luling instead talks about Wacdaan and others, which thus means Murursade and Geledi warriors, since the alliance consisted of these three groups:

”…Antonio Cecchi, famous as an explorer and one of the most enthusiastic and influential advocates of Italian colonisation, set out from Muqdisho for Geledi with a party of soldiers in Novermber 1896, intending to negotiate with Sultan Cusmaan Axmed.
They were surprised and attacked while camping in Wacdaan territory, at Laafoole at the edge of the deex, where the white earth meets the black, and the thorny bush gives way to more open country. Out of the seventeen Italians, only three survived.

The assailants were from the Wacdaan and perhaps other clans.”

Virginia Luling further sheds light on the location of Laafoole:

”It must be a particularly suitable place for surprise attacks, for fourteen years earlier, Révoil’s caravan had been attacked by Wacdaan at the same spot, and its name ‘place of bones’, comes from a much earlier slaughter, supposedely of the ‘gaalo madow’. ”

Reactions to the clash:

The ‘Lafoole Massacre’ as the Italian press called it, came less than a year after the humiliating Italian defeat at Adowa in Ethiopia. It was a severe physiological damage to Italian colonial ambitions.

For Somalis, it was a great day, which send a shockwave throughout the Banadir region. The ‘Lafoole Massacre’ which already severely shocked the Italian colonialists, was immediately followed by sporadic incidents along the whole Banadir coast.

In Mogadishu 100 or more Italians were wounded in a general uprising. In Marka, a young Somali, Omar Hassan Yusuf, assassinated the Italian resident, Giacomo Trevis. According to local accounts, Omar emerged after praying in the small mosque of Shaykh Osman ‘Marka-yaalle’ and knifed the ‘infidel’ Trevis as he walked along the beach. Giacomo Trevis was a hated man in Marka for a lot of reasons, besides been an unwanted colonialist, he was also hated for his policy of compulsory labor. In Warsheekh, a government askari was confronted as he stepped outside the garrison. In Baraawe, the well-known and influential Haji Shaykh Abbas railed against his Somali compatriots and called them ‘woman’ for allowing the Italians free movement there. ( Lee V. Cassanelli).

The Italians in Banadir were shocked, and when the news reached Rome, the foreign minister immediately appointed Commander Giorgio Sorrentino as royal commissioner extraordinary for the Banadir. Initially, the Italians thought that Lafoole was an Ethiopian ambush since Ethiopians were besieging Lugh at that time and since there were rumours of an Ethiopian invasion of Banadir region. When Sorrentino landed in Mogadishu, on 26th of January 1897, he immediately started the investigation of Lafole.

”Within ten days he had determined that Lafolé was neither the precursor of a general urprising against the Italians nor an Ethiopian ambush but an isolated case of action by Wadan tribesmen and the tribes of Geledi; who had been spurred to the act by two Arabs from Mogadishu’’ (Robert L. Hess)

This was a gross understatement of the Lafoole incident, and of the attitude of the Benadir groups to the Italian presence.

Throughout the Banadir, from Warsheekh to Baraawe, 1896-97 is remembered as Axad Shiiki ( the ‘Sunday year of Cecchi’). The Biyamaal date the beginning of their twelve-year resistance at Axad Shiiki. ( Lee V. Cassanelli).

The clash at Lafoole is immortalized by this shirib:

Shiin digow Sheikh Axmed Xaaji
Shiiki sheydaan mooho?


Writer of (the Koranic verse) shiin, Sheikh Axmed Xaaji
Is not Cecchi a devil?

Sheikh Axmed Xaaji is the well-known religious leader of the Wacdaan who had established the jamaaca to teach Quran, religon etc


The Italians have misinterpreted the signs of the coming storm which would engulf the Banadir region.

In the coming part, we’ll explain the immediate consequences of the clash at Lafoole. How the Italians reacted to the ‘Lafoole Massacre’ and how the different Somali groups in Banadir reacted to the event and the wider issue of Italian presence in the Banadir coast. Slowly on from there we will arrive at the heroic struggle of the Biyamaal and their allies, amongst which their erstwhile enemy Wacdaan, against the Italian expansion.



For the Murder of Italians at Magadoxo, Africa.

Rome, Dec. 3.—In the chamber of Deputies today the Marquis Visconti Venosti, Minister of Foreign Affaires, confirmed the reports from Zanzibar of the murder of the Italian Consul, Signor Cecchi, the Captains, and a number of officers of the Italian warships Volturno and Staffeta, and the wounding of 100 or more other Italians by Somalis at Magadoxo. The men had fallen into an ambuscade and were attacked without warning.
The Government , the Minister said, would take energetic measures to punish the Somalis who were guilty of the outrage.
The Marquis said that the confirmatory reports showed that fourteen Italians had been killed, together with a number of the escorts of the Italians whose caravan was attacked during the night. Twenty-seven bodies were recovered by a rescue party when hurried to the scene from Magadoxo when the news of fighting reached there. The rescuers arrested a number of the Somalis who participated in the massacre and punished them appropriately. Many of the Somalis tribesmen were also killed by the Italians in the fight that followed the attack on the caravan.

The New York Times
Published: December 4, 1986

references; Italian Colonialism in Somalia, Robert L. Hess 1966

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May 21, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Italian imperialism and Benaadir resistance prt 2

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2: Italian expansion into Banadir/Somalia

Italy was eager to join the leagues of other European imperialist nations like Britain, France and Germany. To achieve this they set their eyes on East Africa, and made their first incursion into Eritrea in which they acquired Massawa port. Italian expansion in Somali lands began in 1885, when Antonio Cecchi, an explorer led an Italian expedition into the lower Juba region and concluded a commercial treaty with the sultan of Zanzibar. In 1889, Italy established protectorates over the eastern territories then under the nominal rule of the sultans of Obbia and of Alula; and in 1892, the sultan of Zanzibar leased concessions along the Indian Ocean coast to Italy.

Antonio Cecchi’s role
As already becomes clear, Antonio Cecchi spearheaded the Italian expansion into Somali territory when he led the first Italian expedition into the Somali hinterlands. He was chosen to lead the mission (expedition and Italian expansion) because of his past and reputation of been a supporter of Italian expansion into East Africa.

”The choice of Cecchi to head the mission was logical, for he had been active in the exploration of northeast Africa. In 1876 he had led an expedition from Zeila to the frontiers of Kaffa in southern Ethiopia. From that time he was an ardent partisan of Italian expansion into the horn. Cecchi was probably the first to succeed in directing Italian attention toward the Somali coast’’ (Robert L Hess)

”In his speeches there was an optimistic ring: the Cecchi mission and others would surely discover vast fertile areas awaiting peaceful cultivation and commercial penetration’’ (Robert L Hess)

After he returned from the Lower Jubba region he became obsessed with Italian expansion into the Somali coast.

”On the basis of his explorations and his often unfounded enthusiasm for the area, he insisted on the importance of the Juba River as the key to a much larger colonial program:


..Once we acquire with certainty the knowledge that the Juba is navigable…then it is certain that it will become the most natural artery for the exportation of the abundant coffee harvest of Kaffa and the surrounding regions…Now that our Italy has established itself at Massawa…it is possible for Italy to extend its possessions toward the south…The Juba would thus mark the extreme southern boundary of our possessions.” (Robert L.Hess)

Italy succeeded through negotiations with the Sultan of Zanzibar to sign commercial treaties with Zanzibar, which allowed Italy to trade with the Banadir region. This initial success was followed by long negotiations in which the Italians wanted to lease the Banadir region. After a while they succeeded in this too, and set up a commercial enterprise named after the Italian trader in East Africa Filonardi. Filonardi Company was lead by Filonardi himself and received some support from Italy in order to penetrate the Banadir and Somalia economically.

”From 1893 to 1896, the Italian presence was limited to a small garrison of soldiers at Luuq on the upper Jubba River, and a few traders along the coast. The Italian outpost at Luuq had been established in 1895 to gather information on Somali trade in the region and to protect Italian interests in the face of Ethiopian claims to the area.’’ ( Lee V. Cassanelli)

This insignificant presence of Italian commercial interests in Banadir can hardly be called ‘colonization’. There were a few Italian residents, and the police (askaris) were still Arab who did not went further then their garrisons. Because of this situation, most Somali groups were not pressed to fight this initial penetration since the intentions of Italians were still vague.

”Perhaps because of the Filonardi Company’s limited intervention in Somali affaires, there was only one notable incident of Somali hostility between 1893 and 1896. That occurred on 11 October 1893, the day the Italian flag was first raised over the garesa in Marka. A Somali attacked and killed an Italian soldier; he in turn was killed with three shots from a ‘Wetterly’’ gun.’’ ( Lee V. Cassanelli)

This was the setting in Somalia and Banadir, before Cecchi became dominant in convincing the Italian government to penetrate further into Somalia as he returned to Italy.

”On his return to Italy, however, Cecchi continued to pressure the government to tap the ‘’rich commercial resources’’ of Somalia (Cecchi, Pesaro, to foreign Minister C.F Nicolis di Robilant, August 27, 1886)

Antonio Cecchi was an ardent expansionist who for some time had been urging the Italian government to take over the Banadir concessions. In seeking to promote his own version of Italian power on the Somali coast, Cecchi upset the fragile commercial arrangements that Filonardi had constructed. He replaced Filonardi’s influential Hadrami interpreter with Arabs of his own choosing, returned an unpopular Italian resident to Marka, and sent soldiers to the lower Jubba area to try to force Somali caravaneers to unload their wares at Baraawe rather than at the British-held ports of Kismaanyo and Goobweyn. (Lee V. Cassanelli)

Cecchi’s presence also resurrected Somali fears of territorial dispossession. Thus it did not escape public attention when a cousin of Cecchi visited the Banadir region in 1895 to investigate the possibilities for commercial agriculture. There soon followed talk of growing cotton on Italian plantations along the Shabeelle river. This cousin was Giorgio Mylius, a wealthy Milanese industrialist. The Industrialist was particularly interested in the possibility of growing cotton in Somalia.

Finally, Cecchi appeared to symbolize colonial aggressiveness in the distant interior

”Obituary: Antonio Cecchi
The Geographical Journal, Vol. 9, No. 2. (Feb., 1897), p. 230.

 Antonio Cecchi.
The well-known Italian explorer, Antonio Cecchi, has, together with various
officers and men of the Italian gunboats Volturno and Stafletta, lately fallen a
victim to the treachery of the Somalis of the Benadir coast, of which he was
administrator. During a trip towards the Webi Shebeli, the party was suddenly
attacked by night, and, after expending most of its ammunition, was obliged to beat
a retreat, amidst renewed attacks by the Somalis. All the officers lost their lives,
and only three men succeeded in reaching Mogdishu. Cecchi was best known
for his journey to Abyssinia and the Galla countries between the years 1877 and
1882. The expedition, as at first constituted, was nominally under the command
of the Marquis Antinori, Cecchi being entrusted with the astronomical and meteorological
observations ; but of the five Europeans who took part in it, only Cecchi
and Dr. Chiarini proceeded beyond Shoa, the latter subsequently dying of fever,
while the former spent several years as a prisoner in the southern Galla countries
before returning to the coast. The results of this journey were published in two
octavo volumes at Rome in 1886, followed in 1887 by a third dealing with the
topographical surveys. Cecchi was afterwards for some years Italian consul at
Aden, and since 1890 had held a similar post at Zanzibar, where he was universally
respected and beloved.”


The Italian expansion which culminated in their first expedition into the interior of Banadir was successfully halted a mere 12 miles out of the city and lead to the death of the man who spearheaded Italian expansion into Somalia.

In the coming instalments we’ll show how the Somali groups in Banadir first viewed the slow Italian encroachment on the Benadir coast and how the Lafole event sparked the fire of a long resistance in Banadir and Southern Somalia.

3: The Somali response to Italian expansion

The Somali groups described in part 1 responded differently to the Italians who were expanding slowly but steadily into the Banadir coast, and would inevitably venture into the hinterlands.

To start with the Geledi Sultanate,
The Geledi Sultanate was in decline throughout the 19th century. The Sultanate was in the shadow of its former splendid and power. The Geledi confederation headed by the Gobroon shaykhs of Afgooye had lost much of its cohesiveness as the nineteenth century drew to a close. The succession of Osman Ahmed in the 1880s brought to the Geledi sultanate a man of lesser ambitions and more limited political skills than his illustrious forebears. Osman, for example, did nothing to punish the Biyamaal when they blocked a branch of the Shabeelle River and thus caused severe hardship to Geledi´s agricultural allies downriver. ( Lee V. Cassanelli)

Despite these setbacks, Osman inherited baraka (grace) as a member of the Gobroon lineage was still respected by many ordinary Somalis in the region. In the mid 1890s Osman´s army had still been strong enough to defeat their traditional Hintire rivals down the river.

What was the view of the Sultan of the Italian expansion?
First of all what was the general mood in Geledi?

Most people were suspicious of the Italian encroachments and as described earlier people were whispering about Italians taking over the land and their farms. When the Italians came, The Geledi were divided on the issue to resist the slow but steady penetration of the Italians in the Banadir coast or to accommodate this trend. While the people wanted to resist, the attitude of the Sultan and those in authority was cautiously accommodating the Italian presence in Banadir Coast. The Geledi-Wacdaan alliance came under strain at this time, for many of the Wacdaan were opposed to any compromise with the foreigners.

The Sultan started to accommodate the Italians and he started to establish friendly relationships with the Italian governors in Mogadishu. Cecchi apparently felt that Osman remained a force to be reckoned with, for the ill-fated Lafoole expedition had originated with Cecchi´s scheme for an Italian-Geledi alliance ( Lee V. Cassanelli)

The Wacdaan
The Wacdaan were mainly pastoralists, with a small group turning to farming throughout the centuries of their alliance with the Geledi clan who were mainly agriculturalists. As said above, the Wacdaan were opposed to any compromise with the foreigners. This fierce anti-foreign stance was persistent in the culture of Wacdaan and in the very place of Lafoole. The place has been called Lafoole because apparently the Wacdaan defeated the Gaalo Madoow when they migrated to the Lower Shabelle around the 18th century, hence the translation of Lafoole which is: Bones . ( Lee V. Cassanelli)

Because the Sultan of Geledi seemed hesitant to resist the Italian expansion into the Banadir coast, the alliance was cooled off. Apart from the weakening of their bonds with the Geledi, the drought of the 1890s which lead to a large population of Wacdaan abandoning their homelands, the Italians posed the greatest threat to the group. They were, moreover, the first inland Somalis who’s territory was actually invaded by colonial soldiers at the time of the Cecchi expedition.

On of the most influential leaders among the Wacdaan was the leader Shaykh Ahmed Haji Mahhadi. He was not a Wacdaan but became the sheikh of the Wacdaan. He was born in Mogadishu and hailed from a lineage of Mogadishu (Abgal). He had lived there most of his life, teaching alongside such renowned Muslims scholars as Shaykh Sufi and Shaykh Mukhdaar. Like the latter, he found coexistence in a town which housed infidels intolerable, and he chose to retire to the small coastal enclave of Nimow, a little south of Mogadishu. There he set up a small jamaaca which attracted several of the local inhabitants. When Nimow was shelled by an Italian warship in retaliation for the Cecchi ambush, Ahmed Haji fled to Day Suufi (in the heart of Wacdaan territory) where he intensified his preaching against the infidels. As late as 1907, the acting Italian governor considered him ‘the most listened-to propagandist’ in this area of the Shabeelle. Even the Geledi turn to him rather than to their own sultan for religious counsel. ( Lee V. Cassanelli)

One of the Wacdaan leaders apparently influenced by Ahmed Haji was Hassan Hussein, titular head of the largest subsection of the Wacdaan clan, the Abubakar Moldheere. The Abubakar Moldheere were the most numerous and hence the most militarily powerful section of the Wacdaan in the late nineteenth century. Hassan Hussein is remembered as one of the first Wacdaan to oppose the Italians: warriors from his lineage were prominent among the forces that attacked Cecchi at Lafoole. Likewise , his lineage was spokesmen for the Abubakar Moldheere who most strenuously urged the blockade of caravan routes to Mogadishu (economic sanctions).

The Biyamaal
This group is the best known group in the southern Somali resistance. Like the other groups in Banadir, the Biyamaal too were wary of Italian expansion into the Banadir coast. In the beginning the Biyamaal were following the actions of the Italians very carefully, while trying to accommodate them if they posed no threat. Yet there is little question that the resistance in Merca district was the fiercest and most prolonged in the Banadir. This is not surprising in light of the earlier history of the Biyamaal: their continual struggle against many enemies had given them a cohesiveness and a military organization far tighter than that of most other southern Somali clans ( Lee V. Cassanelli). Throughout the nineteenth century the Biyamaal had stood together to defend their territory and their independence against encroachments by the powerful sultans of Geledi: both Yusuf Muhammad and his son Ahmed Yusuf lost their lives in battle against the Biyamaal. These proud nomads had also firmly resisted the sultan of Zanzibar´s growing influence in Marka by ambushing the governor of that town together with forty askaris in 1876 ( Lee V. Cassanelli).

Not only by sheer force were the Biyamaal able to resist the influence of the sultan of Zanzibar but they could also assure their influence on Marka by placing economic sanctions on the city. When occasional differences arose between the Biyamaal leadership in the interior and the old Arab and Somali families of Marka – who were always more interested than Biyamaal in establishing relations with foreign powers – the Biyamaal would hold up food supplies to the townsmen and divert their exports to smaller outlets along the coast. These boycotts proved extremely effective in assuring Biyamaal influence in urban politics, as the Italians would learn in 1904.

The Biyamaal consisted of four territorial sections spread along the coastal dunes between Jesiira and Mungiya and extending inland to the farmlands along the Shabelle. Each of these sections was represented by a number of religious authorities known generally as macaallimiin and by a number of politico-military figures known as malaakhs and amaanduule. In times of crises, the leaders from all four sections would gather in shir to work out a common policy of action.

With the arrival of the Italians at the coast in 1890, Biyamaal leaders were almost in constant shir to coordinate their plans for the inevitable showdown between Italian expansion and their resistance. The Italian government always viewed them as its most determined opponent, colonial policy was geared towards dividing the Biyamaal leadership and thus divide the opposition. Remarkably the Biyamaal have presented a united front even when they were eventually defeated in 1908.

The setting of Axad Shiiki is complete, it is time to discuss that very day of 25th Novermber in 1896 and the morning of 26th Novermber in 1896.

What happened on those two days? Who attacked and annihilated the Italian expedition force? And how did this event spark the fire of the long resistance in the whole of Banadir which would last till 1908?

We have now arrived at the event that ignited the resistance of Southern Somalia (Banadir) against the Italian expansion into the Banadir coast.


Written by hawiye1

May 21, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Italian imperialism and Benaadir resistance prt 1

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Axad Shiiki


”With government approval, Cecchi prepared for an expedition into the interior. By November 25, he was ready to move; his caravan consisted of seventy askaris, Commander Ferdinando Maffei of the Staffetta, Commander Franscesco Mongiardini of the Volturno, and fourteen other Italians, for the most part members of the crews of the two ships. That very night their encampment at Lafolé, some twelve miles inland, was attacked. In the early morning hours, as the caravan once more got under way, it was attacked again. By eight-thirty in the morning of November 26, all but three sailors were dead or dying.” ”First Adowa, then Lafolé; the future of Italian colonialism in the Horn of Africa looked very unpromising at the end of 1896” Italian Colonialism in Somalia, ( Robert L. Hess , 1966)


This event sparked one of the longest resistance struggles in Southern Somalia (Banadir) against Italian penetration and occupation of Somalia. This long resistance is only second to the heroic struggle of Sayyid Muhammed Abdulle Hassan and his darawish army.

What happened on that day of November 25-26th in 1896? Who was this Cecchi guy? Who were these mysterious warriors that swiftly defeated this first Italian imperialist penetration of the hinterland of Banadir? Why is this event put in the same line as the humiliating defeat of the Italians by Ethiopians in Adowa? And last but not least, what were the consequences of this event in Lafole?

This episode in Somali history is perhaps the least known, although it had crucial impact on the future of Somalia. Instead, most Somalis are not aware of this event while the Italians had built a monument for Antonio Cecchi in Lafole which still stands in the bush unvisited, while throughout the Banadir 1896 is remembered in the count of the years as Axad Shiiki, the ‘Sunday Year of Cecchi’.

To present an elaborate account of this event, we need to start with the context. Who were the main groups in the Banadir region? Who was Antonio Cecchi and what was his role in the Italian expansion into Somalia? And what were the consequences of this event both for the Somali groups and Italy?

In a number of series we’ll present the complete story, and show why this event and the shockwave it send throughout Banadir and Southern Somalia is still relevant to this day.

1: Backrgound on Banadir region

Banadir region consists of the four Banadir ports of: Warsheekh, Mogadishu, Merca and Baraawe. These four port-cities were inhabited by Somali groups along with Arabs and people of mixed origins (Persian, Indian etc) and traders from the Indian Ocean. The authority of Mogadishu for example was nominally under Omani rule, but the city had two real administrations, one in Xamarweyne and the other in Shangaani. These four Banadir ports were the linkages between the Somali hinterlands of the Horn region and the Indian Ocean trade. Caravan trade flourished in these hinterlands, connecting trade centre’s of Harar and elsewhere in Abyssinia to the Banadir ports, through the trade towns of Lugh, Baardheere and Geledi (present-day Afgoye). In the hinterland of Benadir diverse groups existed and to this day exist, like Geledi, Hintire, Wacdaan, Biyamaal, Murusade, Abgal, Silcis, Shidle, Moobleen, Hilibi etc.

 The relevant groups in this discussion of Axad Shiiki are: Geledi Sultanate, Wacdaan, Biyamaal and Murusade.

 The Geledi Sultanate

The Geledi Sultanate was a sultanate that came into existence when the clans of Geledi and Wacdaan made an alliance against the Silcis group who then ruled the Shabelle Valley. After this successful revolt, the two clans lived together and linked their future which gradually led to the formation of the Geledi Sultanate. For two centuries or so the Geledi and their Wacdaan allies had formed a small independent state, that prospered by trade, which they attempted to control, and had for a time held together a much wider clan ‘empire’. In spite of the differences between them in way of life, language and traditions, Geledi and Wacdaan formed a close and lasting alliance. They were joined later – sometime early in the 19th century – by a section of another Hawiye clan, the Murursade. (Virginia Luling 2002)

The Wacdaan

The Wacdaan is a Mudulood group that settled in Lower Shabelle as early as the 18th century. They were allied with Geledi and Murursade, and lived between Afgoye and the coast region around Mogadishu.

The Biyamaal

 The Biyamaal arrived in the Lower Shabelle around the end of 17th century and established control over Merca and the hinterlands. The Biyamaal were in constant war with the Geledi Sultanate, and even killed 2 Sultans of Geledi through out the war.

The Murusade

The Murursade joined the alliance between Wacdaan and Geledi and were granted land northeast of Geledi town, where they established four villages. references; Italian Colonialism in Somalia, Robert L. Hess 1966

Written by hawiye1

May 21, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Hereditary succession

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The Inheritance law of the Abgal

When one dies, the children belong to the paternal uncle. The wealth is inherited. If there are four children, five shares are made: one share belongs to the mother, the other four shares to the four children. If there is a girl, she also has one share. The father’s wealth is inherited. The girl has one quota, the boys have four quotas. The mother has one quota. The gifts that any of the children might have received from the father remain with the child. They are not counted in the inheritance. So it is. If there are two female children, each one has one portion of the two portions that a male child would take. If there is only one female, child, she takes as much as the male child takes. This falls to the only female child.

“Someone has died. His wife is married by levirate. Then the wife dies. The goods of the woman are inherited by the children of whom he [the bridegroom by levirate] is paternal uncle and whom the woman produced — the goods that the woman has: the ‘meher’   given by the deceased first husband, and the goods that have been left to her by her father — these goods are inherited by him [the bridegroom by levirate] and by the children that she has produced. He has one quota. The children, if there are four, have one quota each. That man [the paternal uncle] and the four children each have one quota. So they are equal. If he refuses the marriage by levirate, he does not inherit. Nothing belongs to him from the inheritance.

“If I die without children, my heritage is divided into three parts. The two male children and the female one born with me (my brothers and sister) inherit. The female one and the male ones have unequal parts. They inherit the goods. If my father is alive, my goods belong to him. If my mother is alive, nothing is given to her.

If one dies without either children or brothers and sisters, the woman that he married inherits and the paternal uncle inherits. No others inherit. The uncle has a bigger quota; they do not have equal quotas. To the woman are given six thalers of ‘meher’   and a head of livestock. The other goods belong to the uncle

“If one is alone, without brothers and sisters, without father, without mother, the tribe in which he was born and in which he died inherits. His flock is guarded. The money is taken out. From each thaler something is given to him: to the [deceased] man. And to him, with a funeral animal, the funeral honors are given. The ‘sulús’   is not read; the ‘fiddou’   is not paid. The Koran is read. Only one animal belongs to him for the funeral, nothing else from these goods belong to him.

“If one dies and his paternal uncle and his mother are alive, if Islamic Law is observed, something belongs to her (to the mother). If it is a matter of the customs of us Abg[unknown]al, none of the goods is given to her. She is sent away. Those goods [that are given to her] are an obol. If one dies and one has a maternal uncle, if he is a maternal uncle natively of another tribe, none of the goods belongs to him. If he is a maternal uncle also related through the father’s side [literally: son of paternal uncle] and there is no closer relative, three shares of the goods are made — for him, for the mother, and for the funeral of the deceased. The funeral honors are given to him with a head of livestock, a head of livestock is given to the mother, and the rest belongs to the maternal uncle.

“If one dies and his father is alive, one head of livestock belongs to the wife of the deceased, according to the Law. According to the customs of us Abgal, she is given the ‘meher.’   Nothing else is given to her. If the woman is pregnant, his goods are kept, one does not inherit. No others take them, they are afraid. If she gives birth to a boy, she keeps his goods. If she wants the marriage by levirate, she is married. If she refuses the man, the goods and the boy are taken from her. If she gives birth to a female child, an agreement is made about the goods. One share belongs to her (the mother); two shares are given to the daughter; the paternal uncle or the brother [of the deceased] claims the other goods.

These customary norms concerning succession among the Abgal, norms that are far removed from the Mussulman law at more than one point, are first to be clarified, in the sense that they refer only to the inheritance of movables. The immovables are excluded from these norms, since — as I have already said elsewhere the right to individual property has been introduced into the preeminent right of the tribe. Moreover, in the text translated here the Somali word adopted for ‘goods’ is holo, which literally means ‘livestock’ (the corresponding Galla hola means specifically ‘sheep’). The customs thus presented therefore concern only the ‘money’ and indeed not the ‘land.’

It is to be remembered further that, with regard to the women, the right of succession is limited to the institution of the levirate ( dumal in Somali), which we find in full force here among the Abgal So the woman married to her deceased first husband’s brother, if she dies in turn, has as heirs of her goods the second husband (formerly her brother-in-law) and the children of the first and of the second marriage, since, according to the Somali custom, contrary to Hebraic law, the children of the two marriages are all considered to belong to the second husband. If, instead, the brother-in-law did not exercise his right to marry her (or, of course, if the widow redeemed herself from the right of the levirate), he, the brother-in-law, does not share with the children in the inheritance from his brother’s widow. Under another hypothesis, considered by the customs, the widow, upon the husband’s death, if she is pregnant, retains possession of the movable goods of the husband in the interests of the newborn child, without the inheritance being opened. At the birth, if a child is a male, the brother-in-law asks to marry her (by levirate): if she accepts, besides keeping her own property (nuptial gift from the first husband, etc.), which happens in any case, she comes into the familial inheritance, acquiring rights to the goods of the first and second husband. If, on the other hand, she freed herself from the levirate, she loses any right to the inheritance from the first husband and she also loses the ‘custody’ of the male child.

But there also further intervenes in the norms concerning inheritance the importance, which in the belief of the Somali pastoralists is traditional, of the solemnity of the funeral. The very ancient ideas about survival after death with the vital necessities analogous to the earthly ones, as I have said elsewhere, cause a part of the patrimony of the deceased to be used for the funeral and the ceremonies that mark the beginning of the life beyond the grave of the one who died. Thus, in fact, various consuetudinary norms reserve a quota for these expenses, which may even be substantial, according to the rank of the deceased in the tribe. That in such ceremonies, besides the sacrifice of livestock, readings from the Koran are also imposed is a good indication of the elaboration of these ancient ideas adopted in the Islamic religion.

The Assembly of the Tribe

During the assembly of the tribe, which used to be held once a year on a particular date fixed for each tribe, and in a traditional locality, groups of armed participants in the assembly made a tour of the clearing where the gathering took place and, passing in front of the leaders, used to sing in distichs in warlike rhythm the problems that were especially to be dealt with.

Thus during an assembly of the Barisä Mantan (Abgal people of the Hintiro) in February, 1920, Barisä warriors sang about a quarrel that set them against the Yusuf (another Abgal people) because a Yusuf was responsible for the death of an old Barisä woman, and thus the Barisä people were waiting for the payment of the blood price by the Y[unknown]usuf people. The assembly ( sir ) met in the clearing of Kudkudalä.

“Consider the old woman! they tell me. Otherwise your throat will be cut!.”

And a crowded throng of archers sang:

“From Weririllo I am leading the throng. To the river and to the well you carry my word!   Because of this poison of the arrows (wabayo) I am mad. To the river and to the well you carry my word!   The vessel of poison is this one! The numbered days of life are these.   The Warfay Barisä are these. The ones who restrain the mad are these.  Your word has restrained me. (Otherwise) before dawn I would have gone (to take revenge).

Another group of armed men also asked not to be held back any longer from avenging themselves against the Y[unknown]usuf, here also designated with the name of their ancestor Dabruba.


“The people who refuse your authority, the Dabruba: they want to kill.   The old woman whom they have killed had delivered children. One should not delay. Let me!   You have made my voice delay within me. I shall kill the Dabruba. Let me!”  


“I am taking my debt from the Dabruba! My land is not a wilderness.”  
For their part, the Yusuf some days later held their meeting in the clearing of Ger; and their armed men responded to the songs of the Barisä with these distichs:
Whom shall I ask for the old woman? And now you are raving at me?   The old woman was carried off by the vulture. And now whom will you ask for her?   Malediction and bad night (you will have), if ever you ask me for the old woman.   If ever you ask me for the old woman, could you then spend the night at Habay
Habay is a group of wells of the Mantan (thus also of the Barisä) along the coast of the Indian Ocean north of Mogadiscio
Another group of Y[unknown]usuf boasted, in distichs, of their obedience to authority and asked in turn to be left free to act against the Barisä.
“The Dabruba follow their leaders. I do not reject your advice. Whether you hit me or whether you let me (act), I do not reject your advice.   You have caused injustice and the emissaries to be delayed ( ) I do not reject your advice.  The Dalas provoke me. I do not reject your advice. Can I not be left free against the Dalas? I do not reject your advice.”  
The Barisä are designated in these distichs with the nickname of “Dalas.”
A third group of armed men sang:

“I am the floor of the Dabruba. I want to reject injustice.”  
The first verse means that that group declares itself the very base on which the tribe could rest.



Saddehliya on the vaunts of tribes

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The ‘vaunt’ of the tribes may also be expressed in the traditional form of the saddehliya   (‘By three’), about which we have already spoken. Thus:

1)  The People of the black land

“Three things do not arrive where it was thought they would: the contentment of the women, the rain that falls in the afternoon, and the people of the black land. The rain that falls in the afternoon appears to you from far away and you see it fall nearby. The happy woman, however happy she may be tonight, you will see her melancholy tomorrow morning. The people of the black land, a notable, yet you will see him offend people and feel the women. They do not arrive where it was thought they would!”

Thus the pastoralists of the woodland joke about the unexpected attitudes of the Hawiyya tribes settled in the villages of the “black land” of the valley of the Webi (Badi ‘Adda, Molkal, Mobilen, etc.), tribes that have fewer scruples in some of their attitudes than the people of the woodland remaining more attached to the customs.

2) Virtues and vices of the Guggundabe, of the Abgal, and of the Hawadla.

“The Guggundabe have three things, the Abgâl have three things, the Hawadla have three things. Wide livestock enclosures, a torn robe, and poor people who are killed, the Guggundabe have these three things. Bleached hair, advice without wisdom, and ways by which they emigrate together, the Abgal have these three things. Tobacco that is eaten, thieves with whom to go stealing, and much good advice, the Hawadla have these three things.”

This saddehliya comments ironically on the good and bad qualities of the Guggundabe tribes (Galga‘el, Badi ‘Addo, etc.), of the Abgal, and of the Hawadla. The ‘bleached hair’ alludes to the Abgal custom of working into the hair an argillaceous earth that lightens it so much as to make it light blond.

3) The qualities of the tribes of the middle Webi: from the Abgal to the Hillibi.

The magic that is written, the reflection that has been inherited from the fathers, and the reckoning of the genealogies: for these three things the Abgal ‘Isman are noted. Nice greetings, food even nicer, and deceptions to the cost of the people which are being plotted: for these three things the Wa‘dan ‘Isman are noted. To remain in his own house, to cultivate his own field,  to refuse hospitality: for these three things the Mobilen are noted. Scorched forehead, light hand, and, if you touch them, they crowd against you: for these three things the Hillibi Darandólla are noted.

The Abgal pastoralists are expert in the fal:   divination of the future by means of signs on the sand. Thus, the reflexivity of the Abgal, the asserted falsity of the Wa‘dan, the homely and parsimonious life of the good Mobilen agriculturalists follow one another in the descriptions of this short essay.

There is noted for the Hillibi the use of burns on the forehead against headaches (burns in the shape of the letter alef   made with a metal needle); and the immediate reaction in defense of their joint interests.

4) What is preferable in three Hawiyya tribes.

“It is preferable to travel with five cicatrices than to travel with five Guggundabe. It is preferable to consult five stones than to consult five Abgal. It is preferable to know five hyenas than to know five Mobilen.”

In this harsh saddehliya there is reference to the surprises and ambushes that the Guggundabe may reserve for their caravan companions; to the lack of wisdom in the advice of the Abgal (yet praised in the preceding saddehliya  for their reflexivity! but not all the estimations agree); and to the typical avarice of the Mobilen, from whose friendship, it is said, there is nothing to be obtained.

5) The causes of the quarreling of three Darandollä tribes.

Three quarrel for three. The ‘Eli ‘Umar quarrel about the wells. The Mohammed Musa quarrel about the fields. The Mantan ‘Abdullah quarrel about the dances.”

The three tribes mentioned, all of the Darandollä group, ‘Eli, Mantan, and Yusuf (here designated genealogically with the name of Muhammed Musä), are each interested in a particular activity about which they are ready to quarrel: the waterings, the fields, and the dances, respectively.

6) The weak points of three Darandollä tribes.

Three in three things are surpassed. The ‘Eli are surpassed in the durra. The Mantan are surpassed in the Koran. The Yusuf are surpassed in well-being.”

Thus the three tribes likewise mentioned in the preceding saddehliya   also have three deficiencies: insufficient agriculture among the ‘Eli; insufficient religious doctrine among-the Mantan; insufficient wealth among the Yusuf.

References; Enrico Cerulli ” How a Hawiye tribe use to live”

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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