Today in 2009, the southern part of Somalia is suffering through its nineteenth year of anarchy since the collapse of the Siad Barre dictatorship in 1991 while the former British Somaliland is enjoying its eleventh year of peace since that date . Somewhere in between, Puntland, the old Migiurtinia of the Italian days, totters on in a semi-coherent state. This essay, while not pretending to explain that situation exclusively in terms of colonial policies, will try to evaluate the ways in which such policies have contributed to this contrasted state of affairs within the confines of a single largely homogeneous culture.

 

 

I . Comparing the structures and motivations of the British and Italian conquests of Somalia:

Great Britain had no interest in the Somali coastline except that of ensuring the freest passage of its shipping lanes towards India and of preventing its occupation by potentially hostile European powers . As long as Egypt was willing to fill the space London had no desire to handle the region directly . But a problem arose in 1884 when the Sudanese mahdiyya forced the Egyptians to evacuate the coast and its hinterland[1]. In the meantime Great Britain had occupied Aden to use it as a major coaling station on the way to India (Gavin pp1-39) and Aden depended on the Somali coast for its food supplies as well as for the sustenance of its local commerce. London was afraid that French occupation of the Somali coast could interfere with Aden’s situation and, between 1884 and 1886, reluctantly entered into a series of bilateral treaties with various Somali “chiefs” who were willing to accept a light protectorate. The new territory was to be administered by Bombay in the most distant manner : ‘The primary objectives of the Government are to secure a supply market, to check the traffic in slaves and to exclude interference of foreign powers. It is consistent with these objectives and with the protectorate which the Indian Government has assumed, to interfere as little as possible with the customs of the people and to have them administer their own internal affairs.’ (Quoted in Abdi Samatar p 31). In other words, the expression of British imperialism in what came to be known as British Somaliland was essentially reactive, driven by long distance trade concerns and indifferent to the territory itself. This was in sharp contrast to the Italian outlook. Italy, which had existed as a country for barely fifteen years, had no Empire and was unused to deal with foreign domination. But it was driven to acquire colonies by a combination of factors completely different from those motivating the British. A newcomer in the European “Concert of Nations” it nervously ambitioned a respected role it was not sure the other Powers were ready to accept. This ambition was driven by a mixture of cultural and diplomatic frustration coupled with idealized memories of the Roman Empire and their attending fantasies of missione civilatrize. Reinforcing this syndrome was a very actual and pressing overpopulation problem which caused the reborn country to hemorrhage towards the New World, particularly from the economically miserable Mezzogiorno , thus losing a vast human potential (Miège . pp 40-45). La conquista dell’ Impero became an ideology which was supposed to solve major problems of national consciousness and of practical economics, this from a position both of no experience and of major emotional investment. In addition Italy was poor and its yet-to-be-conquered Empire was seen a source of enrichment – through commerce, resource exploitation and transfer of population costs – which was brandished by the first “Imperialists” , Pasquale Mancini and later Francesco Crispi, as the basic legitimating factor of their policies. All this added up to a form of imperialism which was seen as organically necessary, almost to the point of national survival, largely ignorant of real geopolitics, and irrationally acquisitive. For these reasons the instruments of the two projects were bound to differ quite widely .

London’s measured detachment towards its Somali protectorate was due to the adaptative and variegated nature of British colonialism. British colonialism was ductile , adapted to its needs , combining grand strategic views with considerable short-term pragmatism . It could run from a hands-on forceful occupation at the service of a settler economy, as was the case in Kenya, to an abstract and absent-minded distant administration as in the Southern Sudan . Obviously, Somaliland belonged to the latter category. Since the Protectorate was not supposed to ever pay for itself, it was of course to be run with the strictest economy. Its role was to keep the French out, intimidate the Abyssinians and send sheep meat to Aden . Such a mission was fully compatible with a very limited level of imperial involvement and with a continuation of most of the social, judicial and even political practices of Somali culture – as long as those did not interfere with the core diplomatic and strategic role attributed to the territory.

Not so in the case of the Italian involvement. At first, seized by its own version of Türschlusspanik[2], Italy rushed into imperial action without any clear strategic plan. The main impression was one of confusion . Rome thought of invading Tunisia , of occupying Tripoli , of piggy-backing the Egyptian occupation of northeastern Africa and  it asked for German support in case it had to fight France in North Africa (Zaghi. 1955. passim . Miège. pp 47-52) This resulted in several military mishaps , mostly in Abyssinia[3]. But the situation was not much better in Somalia where Italy, since its financial means were limited, had conceded the care of it expansion to a private charter company, the Filonardi Company. In 1896, threatened by local uprisings, by the betrayal of their Arab auxiliaries and by an Ethiopian invasion, the Company’s troops were massacred at Lafole. Italy reorganized its precarious hold on the southern Somalia shore, creating another Charter Company, the Benadir Company. Accused of tolerating and even secretly supporting the slave trade, the Benadir Company caused a major political and diplomatic scandal and had to fold up by 1905. As a result Rome was finally forced to take over and undertake the direct administration of what the Company had controlled i.e. a small area around Mogadiscio and the lower course of the Wabi Shebelle.

Before 1905, short of means , short of money and short of men, the Benadir Company had practiced a very indirect form of administration. In theory the Italian Government was committed to a more direct approach which was the only way to foster the ambitious vision the colonial party had of the Conquista dell’Impero. But in practice the means put at the disposal of the government’s administration were not much more effective than what the employees of the Charter Company had had. And this at the same time as efficient economic results were asked from the new government administration (Hess. pp 87-111). The contradictions were massive and they were solved by various forms of cutting corners and replacing reality with rhetoric : slavery was officially condemned but often practically tolerated when it helped economic returns; government agents were “chosen” but were often these same traditional leaders the Benadir Company had used; “protectorates” were declared over Obbia and the Migiurtinia but were not turned into reality; violence was randomly used to extract compliance from the populations and money was paid to “pacify” those who were reticent to comply; in other words, as the great historian of Italian colonization Angelo Del Boca remarked, the missione civilatrize was often reduced to politica forte e corruzione [a strong arm and corruption policy] (Del Boca. Vol. I. 1979. pp 803-813).

The British Somaliland situation was both comparable and notably different. The means were equally limited and the Aden authorities who ran the Protectorate spent even less money on it than Rome did on the South . But there was no grand vision of a civilizing mission. On the contrary. The role assigned to the British residents at Zeila, Bulhar and Berbera was described as “parental” and they were asked to interfere as little as possible with the functioning of the local clans . The police force at their disposal numbered about one hundred men. There was no attempt to transform the local economy or extract benefits from it and, apart from collecting custom duties in the harbors, the main economic role of the British agents was to help the local caravan and trade fair organizers so as to protect them from raiders (Lewis. 1980. pp 44-49).

 

  1. The two colonial experiences :

So even if the motivations and the emotional and political context of the British and Italian presence in Somalia were completely different, neither amounted to a full-fledged form of “colonization” if by this word we understand a foreign-controlled form of social transformation and economic development for the benefit of the Motherland. But although neither amounted to a real form of “colonization”, both durably affected the society over which they were superimposed. But not in the same way. In Somaliland ‘indirect rule’ – the key doctrine for British colonial administration in Africa – was intended to create a system of stable governance and limit resistance to colonialism by reinforcing traditional forms of authority. In most colonies this approach rested on the presence of chiefly authorities. As these did not exist in Somali society a different strategy was required. In Somaliland the British made senior elders of the diya-paying groups part of the state system by bestowing upon them the title of chief (akil)[4], providing them with a government stipend and giving them limited judicial and revenue-collecting powers.’ (Bradbury. p 28). This opens the question of knowing the true impact of this system of indirect rule over Somali society and later in the text Bradbury discusses the two thesis in presence i.e. that the British policies deeply transformed Somali native institutions (Abdi Samatar. 1989) and, on the contrary, that they did not alter the political structure of pastoral society (Lewis. 2002). The answer is simple  : they did both. How ? To understand the point we have to go back to the simple distinction made by Ralph Linton (Linton. 1945) between manifest function and latent function in social phenomena. A Bishop can for example be made a member of the Board of Directors of a company. His manifest function will be to read reports, attend board meetings and vote. But his real (“latent”) function will be to reassure shareholders as to the honesty and morality of the firm. In the same way time can change the role of an institution and looking at the role of the British Parliament from the time of the Magna Carta to our time is to undertake a study in institutional transformation. Nevertheless “The Parliament” it remains. In a similar way the diya-paying groups of Somali society lovingly detailed by Ioan Lewis (Lewis. 1961) were neither kept intact and untouched by British intervention but neither were they destroyed : they survived by becoming something else. The pre-Protectorate clan leadership used to manage kinship relations and pastoral resources; under the British it entered the domain of broader legal action and the management of political and economic entitlements. But it did not do so entirely in the spirit of its old self. For better or worse there were District Commissioners and District Courts and there was a constant interpenetration of the western standards of law with those of customary law. To understand the nature of the relationship – and to differentiate it from what was happening further south – it is necessary to remember that the British legal system itself is to a large extent a form of customary law, radically different from the principles of Roman Law which underpin the legal systems of all the Latin nations (and of a few others). So , although the British could be seen and gauged as operating on another plane  which was presented as better or finer than the Somali one, it was not a different one. It was another system, with points of contact, some contradictions, continuities and possible transfers. In spite of the huge gap created by the lack of literacy and by the principle of collective responsibility, there was no radical ontological contradiction between the operating systems of the two cultures. Clan elders and leaders were wedged in the British system. They did not substitute themselves to it nor did the British system replace them. The two met along a jagged line, partly blending, partly excluding, which of course did involve a fair transformation, extension or adaptation of some of the “traditional” aspects of customary law[5]. It is to some degree in this silent cross-fertilization that the roots of the post-1991 Somaliland experiment can be found.

The situation was very different in Somalia Italiana. World War One had been a period of neglect for the colony and in 1920 Rome estimated that only about 30% of Somalia was under its effective control . The northern Sultanates of Obbia and Migiurtina were legally only distant protectorates . But most of the areas populated by Hawiye clans were in fact independent and the Italian Army barely controlled the area around Belet Weyn . The governors in Mogadiscio had been deprived of means and were content with letting things be[6]. But since 1922 Italy had a new regime , il Fascismo. And Fascism , before being a clearly thought out political doctrine, was first and foremost ‘a new style’ (Del Boca. Vol II. p 51). Among the characteristics of this new style : spectacular displays of theatrical virility, authoritarianism, constant harking back to the glories of the Roman Empire, a preference for violence as a way of resolving contradictions and the promotion of Italians as il popolo del destino, “the people chosen by fate” [to achieve greatness]. It was not racism per se (this was more a trait of the later version of Fascism embodied by German National Socialism) but rather a worried and insecure bid for la grandezza della razza, ‘the greatness of the race’. The Nazis were sure of their superiority[7] but the Italian Fascists were just hoping to be superior. This made for an attitude of constant posturing, of macho chest-beating, of bombastic pronouncements, which it was tempting to buttress by shooting untrained spear-wielding nomads. On October 23rd 1923 a man who perfectly embodied this syndrome became the new Governor of Somalia Italiana. Cesare Maria De Vecchi Di Val Cismon was a war veteran, a close associate of Benito Mussolini and a founder of the Fasci di Combattimento, who boasted about being a true Squadrista (member of a Fascist street fighting group). Sporting a shaved skull and huge moustaches, he deliberately cultivated the look of a medieval brigand.  As soon as he arrived in Mogadiscio he announced disgustedly that ‘everything had to be restarted all over again’ because the government’s policy in Somalia was ‘not only not Fascist but marked by pacifist and Masonic liberalism’ (De Vecchi. p 25). True to his word , he soon got the authorization from Mussolini to start what Italian colonial historians have called ‘the second conquest of Somalia’ (Del Boca. Volume II. p 51). This was done with all the necessary Fascist vigor. One of the formulas frequently found in the bombastic and self-serving memoirs he wrote seven years after the end of his governorate, is senz’altro passato per le armi – ‘shot by firing squad without any further ado’. During his mandate Rome brought the disputed Sultanates of Obbia and Migiurtina under its close control, recuperated the Oltre Giubba (Jubaland)[8] and generally terrorized the population. Even Mussolini got worried because he was trying to play a respectable role in the European diplomatic scene and he thought that De Vecchi’s administration had earned him ‘una fama di macellaio’ (‘the notoriety of a butcher’. Del Boca. Volume II. p 69).

But how did this play out in terms of the relationship between the Italians and the Somali traditional clan functioning ? There again we have to go back to Linton’s view of the functionality of social structures. On the surface, De Vecchi kept many of the forms of apparently indirect relations between the colonizers and the colonized . But, as one of his own subordinates remarked, ‘as far as I can see, the authority of the clan elders and assorted chiefs is by now completely absorbed by the government and most of them, perhaps even all of them, have by now been reduced to being simply decorative figures’(Giuseppe Bottazi, quoted by Del Boca. Volume II. p 91). In a memo to De Vecchi Bottazzi nevertheless recommended that ‘for historical reasons’ and ‘because of traditions’, these positions should not be abolished, especially since ‘there are not so many of them’ and ‘their miserable salaries are not much of an expense for the colony’. This had far-reaching effects and another of De Vecchi’s subordinates remarked later : ‘deprived of any real role , frustrated of any remaining prestige , reduced to the level of purely practical laborers ……the Somali we were dealing with were increasingly turning to religious mysticism’ (Ugo Pini. pp 54-55).

The basic difference between the Italian policies and the British policies – apart from the use of violence – had to do with the “latent role” or “latent function” ascribed to the native social group. It was not because the British had such a glorified vision of the Somali or that they were more democratic (even though they were) but it was due to the perspective of the colonization itself, to what this particular group of gal (Christian unbelievers) had in mind. The British were rationally trying to make a system of long-distance commercial exploitation work, they were “imperialists” in the modern Leninist sense. For them the Somali were just a collateral factor tied to the food supply of a coaling station on the way to India. So they had to be treated with kids’ gloves (or killed if they rebelled, but only inasmuch as was temporarily necessary[9]) because this was the best way of making them if not happy but at least harmless. Safeguarding native clanic institutions went a long way in reducing costs and minimizing administrative trouble. The “development” of the Protectorate was of course the least of their concern. Not so with the Italians. They were displaying what a liberal Italian critic of his country’s colonial past called ‘a form of provincial militarism , of anachronistic megalomania coming from a country which in many ways was only partly European’ (Leone Iraci. 1969. p 64). In this way Italy can be seen as a backward semi-industrial country which had been humiliated by its treatment at the hands of its co-victors in 1919-1920 and which gave itself to Fascism in a kind of compensatory psychodrama aimed at restoring a fantasized “Roman” past[10]. The result was an archaic form of colonization where the Somalis were the living proof of the White Man’s superiority and therefore had to be politically and administratively disempowered , even if the process served no purpose, even if it was actually harmful to the real economic interests of the colonizer. This is why Angelo Del Boca is able to contrast the colonial projects (and ultimate failure) of the Duke Luigi di Savoia who ran the Societa Agricola Italiana en Somalia (SAIS) in the 1920s in the hope of developing a modern industrialized form of agriculture (Del Boca. Volume II. p 85) with the neo-latifundist policy of De Vecchi and his development of the banana cultivation in the 40,000 hectares of land comprised between the Wabi Shebelle and Merca. In one case production – slow and difficult – but of a needed resource (sugar); in the other a single crop – quick and spectacular in its results – of a luxury item (bananas) which the Italian consumer ended up paying at twice the price of the same better-quality product imported from the Caribbean[11]. But the first policy required patiently acquiring the collaboration of the Somali while the second could be carried out by hired labor and former slaves[12].

 

III . The decolonization process :

In spite of its military defeat, Italy was to find itself in the paradoxical position of retaining its Somalia colony anyway . The process by which the fate of the Italian colonies was negotiated after 1945 was extremely complex (Rossi.1980) and we will not examine it here in details. But to summarize it, we can say that after a first period during which British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin tried to create a “Greater Somalia” federating all Somali people (Lewis. 1980. p 124), the project was abandoned in June 1948 when Italy managed to lobby the United Nations General Assembly to be given back its old colony, even getting the support of Ethiopia by helping Haile Selassie recover the Ogaden[13]. From 1946 onwards, Rome started to plot her return to Somalia, a bizarre policy which, exactly like in 1919-1920, was a consequence of Italy’s ambiguous status in the recent war. In 1919 Italy knew it had been defeated at  Caporetto and that the only reason why it could sit at the table on the side of the victors was the salvage operation of 1918 carried out by the French and the Americans, leading to the Vittorio Veneto foreign-driven victory. Similarly, after 1943, Hitler’s former ally had been turned into a “victorious power” through the Badoglio sleigh of hands. There again the humiliation was massive since Badoglio was no De Gaulle but a former Marshal of Mussolini who had been one of the brutal actors of la conquista dell’ impero. As a result the “democratic” Italian government wanted to regain at least one of its former colonies to be politically and culturally vindicated and, since neither Libya nor Eritrea were possibilities, its efforts focused on Somalia which many people saw as a kind or res nullius. Logically its main enemy was the Somali Youth League (SYL) which had been created in Mogadiscio under British protection in May 1943, in line with London’s post war pan-Somali plans. The SYL was a strong and fairly well-organized nationalist movement and therefore stood in the way of Rome’s plans. Italian agents , working undercover within the framework of the Four Powers Commission[14], organized pro-Italian groups in the loosely-coordinated Conferenza and also helped start the Hizbia Digil Mirifle Somali (HDMS), a clanic party based on the Southern Rahanweyn clans[15]. The Italians used the cultural differences between the Rahanweyn and the “true nomadic” Northern Somali clans[16], picturing the SYL as a “nomad” mostly Darod organization. The result was disaster. On January 11th 1948 Italian agents in Mogadiscio organized a pro-Italian rally on the occasion of a Four Power Commission delegation visit to the city. In the purest squadristi style they brought armed goons into town and attacked a parallel SYL demonstration. This turned into a massacre, with over fifty Italians killed, fifty wounded and dozens of Somali, either SYL or Conferenza, left on the ground. Not only did this not slow down Italian subversive activity , it spurred it into new excesses. Rome’s agents took advantage of clanic dissensions within the SYL and deepened them, often with money (Del Boca. Volume IV. pp 202-203). To “guarantee peace and order” Italy was asked to create a so-called Corpo di sicurezza which was put together from a motley collection of locally raised militias or bande. The booklet containing their instructions was a direct copy of the old Fascist Guida practica per l’ufficiale destinato in Africa Orientale which depicted the local Somali as ‘the enemy ……which, in case of a clash, should be prevented from fleeing and attacked relentlessly till its complete destruction’. (Direttive per l’impiego delle truppe metropolitane in Somalia pp 12-13 quoted in Del Boca. Volume IV. p 213). The tone was set.

On November 21st 1949 the UN finally decided to bring Italy back officially to Somalia for ten years under the name of Amministrazione Fiduciaria Italiana della Somalia (AFIS). The proposal was somewhat surrealistic as the project required the recycling of many former Fascist administrators and called for the recruitment of new cadres from Italy who, in the lean postwar years, saw the job mostly as a chance for economic promotion (Del Boca. Volume IV. pp 201-269). During those ten years the AFIS record in promoting any kind of potentially workable post-independence government was not remarkable. One of the key reasons was that Italy was trying to stay on beyond the 1959 deadline set by the UN. In Del Boca’s words (Del Boca. Volume IV. p 221), most of the AFIS personnel was ‘ancorato al passato’ [anchored in the past] and desperately tried to turn the clock backwards. In order to further ‘nostre interesse’ [our interests, a formula compulsively present in the AFIS reports to Rome in Italian, not those written in English for the UN] AFIS officials kept selecting and backing ‘tribes’ i.e. clans or sub-clans, which were ‘filoitaliani’ [pro-Italian]. The Rahanweyn of HDMS of course; but also the Somali Bantu , various small coastal clans like the Bimal and among the larger clan families those like the Marehan among the Darod or several Abgal groups among the Hawiye who proved open to blandishments, often of a financial nature. In the same way the economics of AFIS largely consisted in a return to De Vecchi’s compulsive development of an inefficient and expensive banana cultivation, 100% dependent on the subsidized Italian market (Karp. pp 87-103).

Strangely enough this attitude was more a kind of cultural bias among the Italian personnel than a deliberate policy choice in Italy once the initial years of post-1945 anguish had receded in the past. As time went by administrative directions became more and more moderate, the political outlook towards the SYL started to open up and the top AFIS leadership began to take a longer look at the probability of independence. Paradoxically, in his last report sent to Rome before leaving his position (September 1952) AFIS boss Giovanni Fornari listed among the negative forces endangering the future of an independent Somali state …….the Italian community in Somalia, adding somewhat listlessly : ‘It is so difficult to transform a set mentality in the space of a few years’ (Quoted by Del Boca. Volume IV. p 237). The mark of Fascism would take a long time in wearing off and, although it would be exaggerated to see it as the main cause of contemporary Somalia’s problems, its role in their etiology cannot be neglected.

 

 

 

Conclusion : Styles of colonialism and the Somali culture

The difference in treatment of the two Somalias by their British and Italian overlords was essentially a problem of differential European political culture. If we go back to the 1880s, the difference had to do with the essential nature of the two nations. Great Britain was distantly barbarian land which was contemporaneously on top of the world of its time. Italy, on the contrary, was the distant inheritor of the first great European power which had been for centuries divided, looted, occupied and subjugated by foreigners. In the 1880s it had been reborn for only ten or fifteen ten years, after more than half a century of struggle. The resulting political ethos were of a completely different nature : self-confident to the point of arrogance in the case of the British , prey to self-doubt and a burning desire to compensate for years of humiliation in the case of the Italians. In addition the British saw “their” chunk of the Somali space as a very secondary piece of real estate which would never be anything more than an appendage to the much larger scheme of “Empire”. For the Italians, every little bit of territory was, more than a frequently disappointing territorial reality, a symbol of recovered greatness. And greatness had no price, it was qualitative, not quantitative. This is what Fascism later superimposed itself on. The Fascist system, in Italy itself, was a brutal and almost desperate attempt at resolving the Italian quandary through what Carlo Zaghi called ‘a gigantic and proliferating bureaucratic machine’ whose extension overseas ‘had neither the means, nor the adaptability nor the realism of British colonialism’ (Zaghi. 1980. volume II. p1052). Delusional in its perception of reality, driven by a thirst for collective vindication, unsure of itself and therefore unnecessarily brutal in its application, Italian colonialism was very far from the rationally exploitative view of Hilferding and Lenin. It was a dream of lost glory, a showy display of panache aiming a collective therapy of the national soul. The Somali clanic divisions and their openness to bribery made them an easy tool for the aggressive Italian paranoia which was not aimed at harming them but was simply using them for reasons even their masters were not fully aware of. Compared to these painful antics, British “colonization” of the Somali – but was it actually a colonization ? – appeared banal and ordinary : a form of no-nonsense benign neglect rationalized into official policy. Italy spent a lot of money and efforts beating the Somali into submission , destroying in the process the capacity they had developed to manage their home-grown disorder[17]. Meanwhile Great Britain almost absent-mindedly under-managed Somali democracy, keeping its delicate mechanics operational more by oversight than by design. Today’s forms of differential social situations in Somalia have tended to mirror their distant colonial blueprints, self-reliant in one case, suffering and hardly capable of internally-driven stabilization in the other.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

  • Abdi Samatar : The State and Rural Transformation in Northern Somalia (1884-1986) Madison . University of Wisconsin Press . 1989 .
  • Bottazzi, G. : Relazione anno solare 1924 . Manuscript written in Mogadiscio by one of De Vecchi’s subordinates. Deposited in the Del Boca Fund in Milan .
  • De Vecchi Di Val Cismon , C. M. : Orizzonti d’Impero : cinque anni in Somalia . Milan . Mondadori . 1935 .
  • Del Boca , A. : Gli Italiani in Africa Orientale . Volume I .  Dall’unita alla marcia su Roma . Bari . Laterza . 1976 .
  •  “      “   “  : Gli Italiani in Africa Orientale . Volume II . La Conquista dell’Impero . Bari . Laterza . 1979 .
  •  “           “     “     : Gli Italiani in Africa Orientale . Volume IV. La nostalgia delle colonie . Bari . Laterza . 1984.
  • Gavin , R. J. : Aden under British Rule (1839-1967) London. Hurst and Co . 1975.
  • Hess , R. L. : Italian Colonialism in Somalia . University of Chicago Press . 1966
  • Iraci, L. : “Per una demistificazione del colonialismo italiano : il caso della Somalia”. Terzo Mondo . n° 3 . March 1969.
  • Karp, M. : The Economics of Trusteeship in Somalia. Boston University Press . 1960 .
  • Lewis , I. M. : A Pastoral Democracy : a Study of Pastoralism and Politics among the Northern Somali. Oxford University Press . 1961.
  •       “     “   A Modern History of Somalia . London . Longman . 1980 . Re-edited in 2002 by James Currey in Oxford in an updated version under the slightly different title of A modern History of the Somali .
  • Linton, R. : The Cultural Background of Personality . New York . D. Appleton. 1945.
  • Miège , J.L. : L’impérialisme colonial italien de 1870 à nos jours . Paris . SEDES. 1968 .
  • Pini , U. : Sotto le ceneri dell’ Impero. Milan . Musia . 1967.
  • Rossi, G. :L’Africa italiana verso l’independenza (1941-1949). Rome. Giuffre. 1980.
  • Zaghi , C. : P.S. Mancini, l’Africa e il problema del Mediterraneo (1884-1885). Rome. Gherardo Casini. 1955 .
  •   “          “ : La conquista dell’ Africa : studi e ricerche . Naples . Istituto Orientale. 1984 . Two volumes .

 

 

[1] 1884, the year of the Berlin conference, can be considered as a major turning point for regional geopolitics since it also fostered a sudden Italian interest in the area and revived France’s dormant interest in its Obock station . It also alerted the future Emperor Menelik to the dangers of European encroachment

 

[2] “Fear of the closing door”. This was the concept developed by the German imperialist party during the 1880s in reaction to British and French colonial expansion, which it managed to communicate to Chancellor Bismarck , causing him to call the Berlin conference in 1884.

[3] The massacre of the Giulietti column in 1881 , the Dogali defeat in 1887 and of course the battle of Adwa.

[4] The title is an Arabic one and it was introduced rather arbitrarily by the Egyptians in the 1870s .  The Egyptians had had the same problem of administrative control the Europeans later had .

[5] Actually even if this sounds like a paradoxical opinion , I am not sure that the system of Islamic Shari’a  is easier to reconcile with the Somali Xeer than British Common Law was. Its canonical rigidity is higher and its jurisprudence less open to innnovation, a word (bida’a) which has a very strong pejorative connotation in Arabic.

[6] In addition the uprising of Mohamed Abdulle Hassan , although mostly aimed at the British , had  drawn a lot of the limited means of the colony .

[7] And in a different way, so were the British . So sure were they of their innate superiority that the British never felt they had to prove anything. The Italians, on the contrary, kept boasting about la forza, la grandezza, l’Impero, l’opera dell’Esercito (the achievements of the Army), including in official reports, as if not too sure about all what they were bragging about .

[8] The British had detached that territory from the Kenya Colony to try assuaging Mussolini’s frustrations about the post-World War One peace negotiations. The deal was negotiated directly between Rome and London , De Vecchi only dealt with the results .

[9] London lamented the revolt of Mohamed Abdulle Hassan mostly because it had forced the Colonial Office to spend much more on military operations than the colony was intrinsically worth.

[10] We should not forget that when Benito Mussolini took power in 1922, Italy as a “modern” unified state was only fifty-two years old. Today, the survival of Fascism as a kind of folklore in the Mezzogiorno is a constant reminder of this archaic and etymologically reactionary past.

[11] During the post-war years , AFIS managed to produce bananas at 30% more than the market price of Caribbean ones. Even later Rome used the ACP measures of the European Union to keep subsidizing this uneconomical production .

[12] Many of the banana workers belonged to marginal clans or were Coastal Bantus i.e. not really Somali in anthropological terms.

[13] Till September 1948 the Ogaden remained under the British Military Administration.

[14] The UN-sponsored body in charge of dealing with the former Italian colonies.

[15] Back in the 1940s the Rahanweyn were called Digil Mirifle

[16] They also recruited into the Conferenza Somali Bantus, often former banana plantation workers

[17] Democracy and conflict in Somali society go hand in hand. But the forms of democratic conflict resolution the Somali have inherited from their ancestors are collective rather than depending on a one-man one-vote process. This is why they are more fragile because a broad social consensus is always harder to achieve than a simple arithmetic plurality. The Italian bull-in-the-china-shop variety of colonialism wrought havoc on the constitutive elements of that social consensus. Interestingly, the re-creation of the old akil positions by Siad Barre in the 1970s (under the appellation of nabadoon) was a late acknowledgment of what had been lost.

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