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Somaliland, British

SOMALILAND, BRITISH The British Somaliland protectorate extends along the Gulf of Aden for about 400 m. from the Lahadu Wells, near Jibuti, in the west, to Bandar Ziyada in 49 E., 180 m. W. of Cape Guardafui, and stretches from the coast inland for a breadth varying from 80 to 220 m. The protectorate is bounded W. by French Somaliland, S.W. by Abyssinian territory, and S.E. and E. by Italian Somaliland. About 50,000 persons are settled in the coast towns; the rest are nomads.

Topography, etc. -Physically the protectorate may be described as almost mountainous in contrast with the somewhat monotonous plains of the interior. Between the Harrar plateau and Cape Guardafui the coast ranges maintain a mean altitude of from 4000 to 5000 ft., and fall generally in steep escarpments down to the narrow strip of sandy lowlands skirting the Gulf of Aden. At some points the rugged cliffs, furrowed by deep ravines, approach close to the sea; elsewhere the hills leave a considerable maritime plain between their base and the shore line. South of Berbera are two ranges nearly parallel with the coast. They increase in elevation landwards, culminating in the inner and loftier Golis range, about 0500 ft. high, its crest covered with mountain cedar. The country between the two ranges is known as Guban. South of the Golis the ground falls gradually to the central plateau known as the Haud, a waterless but not unfertile district. The Haud (only the northern part of which is British territory the rest is Abyssinian) consists partly of thorn jungle, the hand of the Somali, partly of rolling grass plains, called ban, and partly of semi-desert country called aror. Westward of Berbera the ascent to the high country is not so abrupt as in the east but is made by several steps, the mountains forming a chaotic mass. Eastwards the mountain system, the Jebel Sangeli, maintains the same general character as far as Bandar Gori (Las Korai), where the precipitous northern cliffs approach within 200 or 300 yards of the gulf, their bare brown rocks and clays presenting the same uninviting appearance as the light brown hills skirting the Red Sea. Immediately south of the Jebel Sangeli are the comparatively fertile Jidali and Gebi districts or river valleys the Gebi flowing east in the direction of Ras Hafun, while the Jidali has a southerly course towards the Wadi Nogal. Its waters are lost in the arid stony plateau of the Sorl. To this succeeds the Nogal district, separated both from the Sorl and the Haud by ranges of low hills. The Nogal and the neighbouring regions of the Haud are also known, from the tribes inhabiting them, as the Dolbahanta country. The prevailing formations appear to be granites which are veined with white quartz, and underlie old sedimentary brown sandstone and limestone formations.

The average annual rainfall at Berbera is about 8 in., and more than half of this amount has fallen in one day. The mean annual rainfall is greater on the slopes of the ranges by which the moisturebearing clouds are intercepted. These slopes are the home of aromatic flora which yields myrrh and frankincense.

The chief domestic animals are the camel and the ass, both 'of prime stock. The camels make excellent mounts, swift and hardy; and the extensive caravan trade is everywhere carried on exclusively by means of these pack-animals. The Somali have also large herds of cattle oxen, sheep and goats. They possess a hardy breed of ponies, for which the Dolbahanta country is famed.

Chief Towns. Berbera (q.v.) is the capital and chief seaport of the protectorate. About 45 m. west of Berbera is the exposed port of Bulhar. Close to the French frontier stands the seaport of Zaila (q.v.). East of Berbera are Las Korai, Karam, Hais and other small seaports. Inland the most important settlement is Hargeisa (i.e. little Harrar), 60 m. S.S.W. of Bulhar, a centre for caravans from Shoa and Ogaden. Sheikh, Burao and Bohotle are all on the caravan route from Ogaden to Berbera.

Industries and Trade. Fibre is obtained from the aloe plants, this industry being in the hands of women; ostriches are reared for the sake of their feathers, and large quantities of gum and resin are collected. But the wealth of the people consists chiefly in their livestock. Trade is largely with Harrar and the Ogaden country both Abyssinian possessions. The important exports are gums and resin, fibre, hides, ivory, ostrich feathers, coffee, ghee, livestock, gold ingots from Abyssinia and mothe"r-of-pearl ; the shells being found along the coast from Zaila to beyond Berbera. There is also a profitable shark fishery in the hands of Arabs. The imports are mainly white longcloth, grey shirting, rice, jowaree, dates and sugar. Jowaree is displacing rice as the staple food of the Somali. The trade with Abyssinia suffers owing to the absence of railway communication, which the neighbouring French colony possesses. Thus in 1899-1900 the total value of trade was 751,900, the French railway being then but just begun; in 1902-1903, the railway being completed during the year, the value of trade was but 487,900. The average annual value of trade for 1904-1909 was about 500,000.

History. An Arab sultanate, with its capital at Zaila (Zeyla), was founded by Koreishite immigrants from the Yemen in, it is said, the 7th century A.D. In the 13th century it had become a comparatively powerful state, known as the empire of Adel. In the 16th century the capital of the state (in which Arab influence was a decreasing factor) was transferred to Harrar (q.v.). The state was greatly harassed by Galla invaders in the 17th century, and broke up into a number of petty independent emirates and sultanates under Somali chiefs. Zaila became a dependency of Yemen and thus nominally part of the Turkish empire. The British connexion with the Somali coast dates from the early years of the 19th century; the first treaty between the British and Somali having been signed in 1827 after the plundering of an English ship by the Habr- Wai. In 1840 various treaties were concluded by Captain Robert Moresby of the Indian Navy " on the part of the English Government in India " with the sultan of Tajura and the governor of Zaila, who engaged not to enter into treaties with any other foreign power. At the same time Musha Island, at the entrance to the Gulf of Tajura, was bought by the British " for ten bags of rice," Bab Island, in the same gulf, and Aubad Island, off Zaila, were also purchased, the object of the East India Company being to obtain a suitable place " for the harbour of their ships without any prohibition whatever." From this time onward the Indian government exercised considerable influence on the Somali coast, but British authority was not definitely established, and in 1854 Richard Burton's expedition was attacked at Berbera. In 1874-1875 the ambition of Ismail Pasha, khedive of Egypt, who claimed jurisdiction over the whole coast as far as Cape Guardafui, led him to occupy the ports of Tajura, Berbera and Bulhar as well as Harrar in the hinterland. Ismail also obtained (July 1875) a firman from the sultan of Turkey making over Zaila to Egypt in return for an increase of 15,000 yearly to the tribute paid to the Porte. In 1884, in consequence of the revolt of the mahdi in the Egyptian Sudan, the khedival garrisons were withdrawn. Thereupon Great Britain, partly to secure the route to the East via the Suez Canal, which the occupation of the country by another power might menace, occupied Zaila, Berbera and Bulhar, officials being sent from Aden to govern the ports. With respect to Zaila Turkey Establishwas given the option of resuming possession, but meat of a advantage was not taken of the offer (see Lord Cromer's Modern Egypt, 1908, vol. ii.). During 1884, 1885, 1886 treaties guaranteeing British protection were concluded with various Somali tribes and in 1888 the limits of the British and French spheres were defined, all claims to British jurisdiction in the Gulf of Tajura and the islands of Musha and Bab being abandoned. The other inland boundaries of the protectorate were denned by agreements with Italy (1894) and Abyssinia (1897).

In 1899 troubles arose between the administration and a mullah of the Habr Suleiman Ogaden tribe, who had acquired great influence in the Dolbahanta country and had married into the Dolbahanta Ali Gheri. This mullah, Mahommed bin Abdullah by name, had made several pilgrimages to Mecca, where he had attached himself to a sect which enjoined strict observance of the tenets of Islam and placed an interdiction on the use of the leaves of the kat plant much sought after by the coast Arabs and Somali for their stimulating and intoxicating properties. At first the mullah's influence was exerted for good, and he kept the tribes over whom he had control at peace. Accredited with the possession of supernatural powers he gathered around him a strong following. In 1899 the mullah began raiding tribes friendly to the British; in August of that year he occupied Burao, 80 m. south and east of Berbera, and declared himself the mahdi. In the autumn of 1900 the mullah was again harassing the tribes on the southern border of the British protectorate and the neighbouring Abyssinian districts. The tribes hostile to the mullah sought British protection, and Colonel (afterwards Sir) E. J. E. Swayne raised a Somali levy of 1500 men, and in May 1901 occupied Burao.

On the and of June a small force, zeribaed under Captain Malcolm McNeill, was attacked by the mullah's followers but repulsed after desperate fighting. Colonel Swayne thrice defeated the enemy, who lost 1 200 men and 600 taken prisoners, and the mullah fled across the Haud, taking refuge with the Mijertin in Italian territory. In December 1901 the mullah was, however, once more raiding in the neighbourhood of Burao, and in May Wars with I 9 2 Colonel Swayne led another expedition against the Mullah him, the Somali levies being strengthened by the 2nd MahommedKing's African Rifles, consisting of Yaos from NyasaAbduiiah. j anc j Overcoming in a remarkable manner the difficulties of operating in the dry season, Colonel Swayne harried the mullah incessantly, and followed him across the Haud into the more fertile region of Mudug in Italian territory, permission so to do being granted by Italy. On the 6th of October, while marching through dense bush at Erigo, the British force was ambuscaded. The British lost 101 killed and 85 wounded, but put the enemy to flight. The mullah lost some 700 men and retreated to Galadi, west of Mudug, a place with ample water supplies. Colonel Swayne was not able to continue the pursuit, and returned to Berbera. It was then determined that in the further operations against the mullah the main advance should be from a base on the east coast of Italian Somaliland the open roadstead of Obbia being chosen. The command was given to Brigadier-General W. H. Manning, and small numbers of British and Boer mounted infantry, Indian and African troops were employed, while an Abyssinian force held the line of the Webi Shebeli. Manning advanced from Obbia in February 1903, and in March got in touch with the northern column, the line of communication stretching over 500 m. The mullah was west of this line in the neighbourhood of Galadi. The wells at Galadi were occupied by the British early in April without opposition. A reconnoitring force of 500 men under Lieut.-Colonel A. S. Cobbe (who had gained the V.C. at Erigo) was pushed west to Gumburu, and came into contact with the enemy. A detachment of this force, consisting of 200 Yaos and Sikhs under Lieut.-Colonel Plunket, was attacked on the 17th of April and overwhelmed. Of the whole party only 40 Yaos, of whom 36 were wounded, escaped; 10 British officers being among the slain. Meantime from Bohotle a force had advanced under Major Gough to Daratole, a spot not far from Gumburu. It had a stiff fight on the 23rd of April and was obliged to fall back. After these events the Obbia line of communication was closed up, and Manning's force concentrated at Bohotle. The mullah now broke away to the north, and, crossing the line of the British communication, established himself in the Nogal district.

Another campaign being deemed necessary, reinforcements bringing the fighting force up to 7000 men were sent out, and Major-General Sir C. C. Egerton assumed supreme command, Manning retaining command of the first column. In October 1903 a new forward movement was begun, the mullah being still in the eastern Nogal, while he had also seized the Italian seaport of Illig, north of Obbia. In a pitched battle fought on the loth of January 1904 at Jidballi in the Nogal country the enemy were routed, losing over 1000 men in killed alone, while the British loss in killed and wounded was 58. The mullah and his chief adviser, a Haji Sudi, formerly an interpreter on a British warship, were not at the battle, and with his Ali Gheri followers he now fled north across the Sorl, apparently intending, if further pressed to retreat to Illig. This port was accordingly for a short time (April 1904) occupied by a British naval force. By May the mullah had been driven out of the British protectorate and became a refugee among the Mijertin. It was decided therefore to abandon offensive operations. In 1905 the Italians effected an arrangement apparently satisfactory to all parties (see Italian Somaliland).

For some three years the mullah remained quiescent, but in Evacuation 1908 he quarrelled with the Mijertins and in 1909 he of the was again raiding tribes in the British protectorlatertor. ate Tne British government (the Asquith cabinet) came to the conclusion that another expedition against the mullah would be useless; that they must either build a railway, make roads and effectively occupy the whole of the protectorate, or else abandon the interior completely. The latter course was decided upon, and during the first months of 1910 the advanced posts were withdrawn and the British administration confined to the coast towns. In support of this decision it was urged that it was no good pursuing people whom it was impossible to catch, that the isolated posts in the interior had not been able to protect the friendly tribes; and that the semi-desert nature of the country did not justify any attempt at economic development. (The proposal to build a railway from Zaila or Berbera to Harrar, which would have competed with the French line from Jibuti for the trade of southern Abyssinia, had been vetoed on grounds of general policy.) Before the withdrawal arrangements more or less ineffective were made for arming and organizing the tribes in the protectorate in their own defence.

From 1884 to 1898 the protectorate was attached for administrative purposes to Bombay, and was immediately dependent on Aden ; in the last-named year it was transferred to the Foreign Office, and in 1905 passed under the control of the Colonial Office. From 1902 to 1906 Colonel Swayne was commissioner; he was succeeded by Captain H. E. S. Cordeaux, who had served in Somaliland since 1898. Legislative power is in the hands of the commissioner, and revenue is obtained largely from customs. The revenue, 22,000 in 1900-1901, was 30,000 in 1908-1909, while the expenditure, 51,000 in the first-named year, was 134,000 in 1908-1909. Deficits are made good by grants from the imperial treasury.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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