The 1944 Somaliland Camel Corps mutiny gives us an insight into the form and content of that process.

By Jama Mohamed

History Workshop Journal, Volume 50, Issue 1, AUTUMN 2000, Pages 93–113

Published: 01 October 2000


The soldiers of the Somaliland Camel Corps (`askaris’) served the administration loyally from 1912 because colonial service gave them privileged status. Yet the relationship between Askaris and the administration, as mutinies in 1937 and 1944 suggest, was not without conflict or contention. The 1944 mutiny centered around the demand of the Askaris for higher wages and better services. They related their grievances to large issues of popular concern, such as the fear of `East Africanization’. As a result, the mutiny transcended the boundaries of the barracks. The paper elaborates on the connection between popular and askari politics during the late colonial period in the Somaliland Protectorate.


Imperial partition of the Somali country at the end of the nineteenth century created a patchwork of ‘Somalilands’, so to speak. Great Britain conquered the northern Somali country (British Somaliland or Somaliland Protectorate), France claimed the northwest region (Djibouti or French Somaliland), Italy occupied the southern region (Italian Somalia), and Ethiopia grabbed the southwestern forests and plains (Haud and Ogaden).[1] In British Somaliland, between 1899 and 1920 the pacification campaigns of the administration and the resistance of Sayyid Muhammad Abdulla Hassan[2] led to epidemics, deterioration of the ecology, decline in the rural economy, the complete collapse of trade, and pervasive insecurity.[3] In 1912, the administration formed the Somaliland Camel Corps to address the security problem around the main towns of Berbera, Burao (headquarters of the army), and Hargeysa, and to open trade routes between the coast and the interior. Meanwhile, short-distance migration from the countryside to the towns, and long-distance migration to Kenya, Aden, and England, increased. The first recruits of the corps were migrants from the rural areas to the towns. Migrants to Kenya also entered the King’s African Rifles, and other security forces in East Africa. The migrants inside and outside the country participated in both working-class and popular politics. The 1944 Somaliland Camel Corps mutiny gives us an insight into the form and content of that process.


The mutiny shared many characteristics with the politics of salaried groups in Africa throughout the 1940s, a period in which (as Frederick Cooper has argued) a wave of strikes swept the continent. The strikes ‘were significant not just in number or in man-days lost, but in the quality of the strike process itself: they included general strikes or other such events which transcended the boundaries of a particular industry or location, and they took place in vulnerable nodes of the economies’. The strikes were able to draw on the ‘resources and solidarity of communities’ because the issues raised by the workers ‘would not stay in the workplace’ and dovetailed considerably with popular anger and angst about various issues.[4] The mutiny differed from the politics of strikes in the rest of the continent in one peculiar way. Workers throughout the continent demanded equality of wages between Europeans and Africans. For instance, the workers on the French West African railways demanded equal pay between skilled workers holding the same job irrespective of race.[5] The language and rhetoric of rights stressed the simple fact that ‘neither the laws nor the machines belong to any one race’.[6] The soldiers, in contrast, did not demand equal pay with Europeans, but with Asians. Why? First of all, there were no British foot soldiers within the corps with whom they could compare salaries and claim equal rights, and they could not claim equality of salary with their officers. Second, since the British army was a multi-national army, they could compare their salaries with Asians. Asians received higher wages and better services than Africans. Finally, Asian status was popular in the country during the 1940s, because there was widespread fear in Somaliland about what migrants in Kenya called ‘East Africanization’ – the fear that Europeans would take over the land as they had done in Kenya. The single most important contribution made by the migrant community in Kenya to Somaliland and to the soldiers was the demand for Asian status and the fear of ‘East Africanization. The soldiers consciously drew on those fears to win popular support and to legitimate their demands. The politics of the soldiers, in short, overlapped with popular politics. The paper seeks to read them contrapuntally.[7] There is unfortunately no historiography on popular politics in British Somaliland with which to open the discussion. There are no studies, for instance, on the 1944 or 1937 mutiny, or on the history of the corps. H.F. Prevost- Battersby published a hagiography rather than a biography of Captain Richard Corfield, the first commander of the corps, in 1914.[8] There are no studies either on the politics of other salaried groups – civil servants, Public-Works Department employees, policemen, dock workers, and coolies. This study begins an urgently needed historical inquiry into popular and working-class politics in Somaliland.

The 1944 Somaliland Camel Corps Mutiny And Popular Politics
Members of the Somaliland Camel Corps.


In January 1944, the British East Africa High Command decided to transfer the Somaliland Camel Corps to Kenya for a brief period of training. The object was to mechanize the regiment and send it to war. The order was to be effective in March. The corps refused to comply with the order. They drafted a missive to the commanding officer of the corps, Lt Colonel A. A.B. Harris-Rivett, in which they stated three conditions under which they would obey the order of transfer. First, they must be given the status of Asians so that they could receive higher wages and better services, promotions, rations, and uniforms, allotted specifically to Asians, and denied to Africans. They asked for, to use their own words, ‘Rules and Regulation of Asiatics, Dress, Rations, Accommodation, and promotions, etc.’. Second, they must be treated with respect since the Camel Corps was an ‘old regular regiment’. Third, they must be allowed to appoint an agent who would make sure that their families received their remittances on time.[9] On 9 May the commander of the corps wrote back to the soldiers. On 28 May, the soldiers asked the clerk of the district commissioner of Burao, Michael Mariano,[10] to translate their commander’s letter, since it was written in English, which none of the soldiers could read or write.

Before agreeing to meet the soldiers, Mariano informed the district commissioner of the letter and the request of the soldiers. The district commissioner did not object to his involvement in the dispute at that superficial level. Mariano insisted that other ‘prominent members’ of the community in Burao become involved in the issue. On 2 June, five senior members of the corps, four prominent civilians of the town, and Ahmed Sheikh Abdi (the interpreter of the corps), met at Mariano’s house for the reading of the letter. Before reading the letter to the gathered men, Michael Mariano requested the senior members of the corps to swear on the Quran (Holy Book) that they would ‘listen to reason (and that they) had no ulterior motive in coming to this meeting’.[11]

The commander’s letter to the soldiers dismissed their demands for Asian status. He told them that Somalis were Africans and not Asians, and so they would not be given such status, nor by extension the services, promotions, rations, and uniforms allotted to Asians. The Somalis were ‘an unknown people to most British people and have not fought for us all over the world like the Indians, Arabs … and West Africans’, they could not be given any privileges. The British army was large, and ‘special rules cannot be made for everyone’. As for family remittances, he would take ‘the greatest trouble to see that remittance(s) get delivered regularly’.[12] After the translation of the letter to the representatives of the corps, a brief discussion ensued. The representatives of the corps told Mariano and the others present in the meeting that ‘there was nothing to which they could object’ in the letter.[13]

But that was a misjudgment, for on the following day (3 June) members of the corps held a ‘mass meeting’[14] in the old sector of Burao. About 200 askaris (soldiers) sat down in a ‘big circle’ and discussed a ‘number of subjects, among them being the question of Asian status, Asian war gratuities, family remittances, and severity of the punishments they were receiving’. When they finished the discussion, they ‘all took the Mohammedan oath to be united in these matters’, and agreed that ‘unless their grievances were given proper redress they would not go to Kenya’.[15] Then the soldiers held another meeting in a religious site – the tomb of a sheikh – a short distance outside Burao. Rituals, and in particular, the oath, are central to all social movements.[16] Their symbolism unites content and form and gives coherence, and social and religious sanction, to the political activity undertaken.[17] There was an established tradition of the involvement of religion in protest activities in Somaliland. For instance, religious figures, often Sufis, played a key role in the nationalist movement from 1900 to 1920, the Burao riot in 1939, and the anti-locust-control rebellion in 1945. Sufi figures and orders traditionally legitimated opposition to and protest against authority. The holding of the second meeting by the askaris at the tomb of a Sufi figure was deliberate. The askaris were using the symbolic role of religion to win popular support and to legitimate their demands.

At the tomb, the discussion again centered on: ‘1. Asian and African status. 2. Gratituties after the war. 3. Treatment already due to Somalis who had fought the Italians. 4. Family remittances and clothing.’[18] They resolved not to accept the order of transfer unless their demands were accepted and took a religious oath to remain united. The ‘religious aspect of it [the meeting] was merely a cloak for a political meeting at which grievances’[19] were discussed. Then they marched in what the commander of the corps called a ‘public demonstration from the tomb to the center of the town, meanwhile ‘singing the praises of the prophet’. They used the demonstration to cement the secret agreement and to exhibit their unity and ‘massed strength’.[20] They held their next public meeting in the largest mosque in the heart of the old town, which permitted the participation of the townsfolk in the discussion. Their aim was to win public support. At the mosque, some NCOs who were anxious that things might be going too far asked Michael Mariano to ‘Come and talk to these men for us. They are excited and will not listen to our advice’.[21] Michael Mariano did not speak to the rank and file but suggested that some of the NCOs meet him in a house near the mosque. He discussed their grievances with them, and in the end, counselled them to talk directly with the leader of the corps, and to settle the issue peacefully and without public demonstration. They accepted his advice and promised to apply for an interview with the commander of the corps,[22] after which the troops returned to the barracks without incident.

On the morning of 4 June Mariano and Sgt Musa Galaal[23] called for a meeting between ten ‘important merchants of the town’ and NCO representatives of the askaris[24] which was convened on the evening of the same day. The civilians listened to and then dismissed the demands and grievances of the soldiers. They advised the NCOs to desist from ‘holding mass meetings and insubordination’, which they warned would destroy their reputation, to return to work ‘without any conditions’, to control ‘their men as they should do, and to keep their officers informed of any developments’.[25] They also promised to ‘take the matter up with the commanding officer’ of the corps.[26] Meanwhile, on the morning of the 5th, the commander of the corps instituted an order of disarmament, which required all the squadrons to return ammunition in excess of five rounds per rifle.[27] In response to the order, and to the general stalemate in negotiations, the soldiers held a mass meeting at a mess in the barracks. They construed the order of disarmament as a prelude to repression. (Rumors quickly spread among the askaris, and in the town that in the evening of the 5th, East African troops would arrive to take over the barricades, and repress the troops.) The meeting decided to accept the order of disarmament but to continue to defy the order of transfer until their demands were met.[28] The soldiers also decided to continue the dialogue with the commander of the corps, and sent him a message requesting an interview. The commander parried that they should appoint a representative to present their grievances formally. They ignored his suggestion. Since their decision was collective, they did not want to expose any single person for prosecution. After the commander refused a meeting, nothing further was heard from them.[29] They decided to rebel on that evening – the 5th of June. The decision to rebel was leaked by a member of the corps, L/C Mohamed Rageh, to Major W.R. Whaley. But Rageh gave Major Whaley ambiguous and essentially misleading information about the exact date of the rebellion. He told Major Whaley not to issue arms to the soldiers the next day, because there would be trouble, and that even though not all the men were involved in the planning of such trouble, ‘there were a few whose example might spread to the others’.[30] Major Whaley decided to tell the commanding officer of the corps. But it was too late. The first bullets were fired just as he was passing on the information, a few minutes after 8 p.m. on 5 June.[31] At that moment, according to General William Platt, ‘massed rioting broke out’ within the compound of the camel corps:

several guards deserted their posts, armories and stores were broken into by force, rifles, automatics and ammunition were looted, as well as stores [by] Somali soldiers and civilians. There was much firing into the air and general noise and confusion. Civilians at once joined in with the soldiers. There were no casualties from the firing.

The general added,

If bloodshed had once started, it is impossible to know, with the heat of the Somali temperament, where it might have ended, and with what results, not only in the Protectorate but outside, making as it would admirable propaganda for use by our enemies against the British Empire.[32]

The commander of the corps and the other British officers simply did nothing, hence the absence of bloodshed. They only secured the civilian section of the town where Europeans lived, which the rebels never even approached. By 5 a.m. the ‘massed rioting’ had died out, and the barracks were under the control of British officers and loyal members of the corps. But the barracks were empty. The rebels simply deserted in mass.[33]

According to Sgt Musa Galaal, the first shots were fired just when he was about to begin teaching an evening class a few minutes after 8 p.m. He went outside and saw about fifty men entering one armory through a broken door, seizing rifles and ammunition. He went to another armory, and drew a rifle and ammunition for himself, and stood guard at the door. Other soldiers appeared, broke the door, and looted it. He testified that he did not shoot at the looters, because he ‘had no orders to do so’, and the rebels ‘took no notice’ of him.[34] Unlike Sgt Musa Galaal the majority of the soldiers were involved in the rebellion, and the ‘guards generally offered no resistance and joined in’ the rioting.[35] G.T. Fisher stated categorically that ‘no part of the Corps … can be said to be reliable; especially those who are ostensibly loyal, and who stayed in their barracks.’ Those who stayed in the barracks, mostly senior members of the force, were the ‘chief instigators of the trouble’. They had ‘secured most of the loot, and almost certainly the majority of the rifles’, and yet ‘pose before us as steady and loyal troops’.[36] The mutiny, then, implicated the whole force.

It also implicated the civilian population, who quickly appeared in large numbers on the scene of the rioting and participated in the firing of rifles and in the looting of equipment, arms, ammunition, clothes, uniforms, and rations such as rice, sugar, tea, butter, and salt.[37] The askaris had sought from the beginning to win their support, for instance by holding various meetings at the middle of the town and in the mosque, and so people were aware of some of the plans. Once the revolt broke out they were mobilized by the askaris. As Mohamed Hallah put it, ‘the first party of Askaris who had taken rifles had gone to the HAFA [shanty town]… [and] told the civilians that they had disobeyed orders, and that the fight was now between the infidels and Mohammedans’. He repeated, they ‘told them to go to the S.C.C. [Somali Camel Corps] barracks and loot’.[38] The civilians who participated in the mutiny, ‘many women amongst them’ then quickly went ‘out into the country’,[39] so that by 5 a.m. the town was quiet and deserted. According to Sgt Galaal the civilians simply took advantage of the confusion and looted the stores while the askaris took the rifles and ammunition. Sir William Platt strongly disagreed with such an analysis. For him, the civilians and the soldiers consorted in a ‘premeditated and planned’ rebellion.[40] He stated that the civil population of Burao were concerned, together with the soldiers, not only in execution but in premeditation and planning. The rapidity with which events occurred and the rapidity and numbers in which civilians appeared on the scene make no other conclusion possible.[41]

Not all the civilians were compromised by the mutiny. Both G.T. Fisher and Michael Mariano made what was tantamount to a class analysis of the mutiny, and the role of the civilians in it. According to Michael Mariano, the ‘effect of the riot on the people of Burao’ was to divide the public into two classes:

A. The respectable community of Burao consider the incident to be a disgraceful action on the part of the S.C.C. They have endeavored to assist the D.C. [District Commissioner] to calm down any possible reaction of the people of the interior and in the town; B. The less responsible Somali civilians in Burao town think that the S.C.C. were justified in acting as they did.[42]

The division of the community between the ‘respectable’ and the ‘less responsible’, between, that is the elite and the subaltern, was also made by G.T. Fisher, who wrote that the ‘whole corps and the worst elements in the country’ had colluded in a ‘studied act of rebellion’, while the ‘leaders and Akils [elite] are expectantly looking now to the government for a lead; and they will not understand or appreciate any compromise’ with the rebels.[43] In another report, he noted that the ‘Akils and others are at present assisting the government in bringing in the deserters [rebels] from the Corps, and mobilizing public opinion against their tactics’.[44] The elite collaborated with the government in the ‘recovery of arms and Government property stolen during the Camel Corps disturbances’.[45]

The 1944 Somaliland Camel Corps Mutiny And Popular Politics
British Somaliland Camel Corps carrying a Union Flag while patrolling the border with Abyssinia (Ethiopia) – 1936


The common experiences and struggles of the askaris since the formation of the corps in 1912 had determined and shaped their identity of interests and group consciousness. When in 1909 the imperial government had sent Sir Reginald Wingate, the Governor of the Sudan, to Somaliland with a mandate to suggest what could be done to end the nationalist revolt of the Sayyid Muhammad Abdulla Hassan, Wingate had recommended the abandonment of the interior and the concentration of forces and resources on the coast, which was adopted effectively on March 1910. The imperial government was at the time unwilling to send more expeditions against the Sayyid; and the Sayyid was not eager to negotiate with the British over the future of the country. The Sayyid’s complete conquest of the interior, the famine (‘Xarrama Cune’ – unhallowed time) that devastated the population, and the complete collapse of the commerce of Berbera, forced the government to change its strategy.[46] The merchants of Berbera – Somali, Greek, Jews, Arabs, and Indians – drew attention in a memorial to ‘the adverse effects of the present state of affairs upon trade’.[47] They complained about the unsold goods lying in warehouses, and pleaded with the government to stabilize the situation in the interior.[48] The concerns of the traders dovetailed with those of the administration, which was worried that Sayyid’s rule over the interior might become permanent and legitimate. In response to the prevailing political, economic, and security crisis, the corps was formed in April 1912 as a ‘mobile striking force, not less than seventy strong, maintaining order by coercion within fifty miles or so of Berbera’.[49] Its mandate was to ‘prevent a descent upon the coast [by the Sayyid Muhammad Abdulla Hassan]’, maintain ‘peace among the coastal tribes’,[50] and secure the trade routes from the interior to Berbera. From then on, the force played an important role in the war against the Sayyid, and in the pacification and re-conquest of the interior in the post-Sayyid period.

During the early colonial period, the force regularly took punitive measures against the pastoralists of the interior. Often the only European among them during the undertaking of such expeditions was Captain Richard Corfield, the first commander of the corps. They had no compunction about obeying orders which led to the raiding and looting of the wealth, and death, of the pastoralists. In 1912, for example, H.A. Byatt, the Commissioner of the Protectorate imposed a fine on a dia-paying group [a group sharing the payment of blood-money]. The askaris, led by Captain Corfield, encircled the settlement, killed thirty-eight men, and carried off 1,282 camels, 11,300 sheep, 170 cows, seventeen donkeys, six horses, and sixteen rifles.[51] In 1913 a fine from another such group was collected with similar ferocity. The askaris, led by Corfield, ‘made a rapid descent upon them and drove off with more than the amount of stock required to meet their liabilities’.[52] The corps was loyal to, and committed to the preservation of, colonial rule. It was also a rebellious force. Fisher stated that the corps was always ‘a hotbed of trouble and intrigue since 1922’,[53] characterized by ‘refusal to obey orders, sit-down strikes, shouting, desertion with weapons, untrustworthiness as guards, collusive theft, occasional stone throwing and drawing of knives, but little physical violence’.[54] The most significant act of rebelliousness by the soldiers during the 1930s was the 1937 mutiny,[55] triggered by the demand for higher wages. Their rebellious politics continued during the war. ‘Disaffection [has] been prevalent for the last three years’, Fisher wrote, ‘among various Somali units; and they have been associated with apparently trivial complaints, such as objections to certain types of clothing, and rations; and refusal to perform different kinds of fatigue duties’.[56]

The historiography of the politics of salaried groups in colonial Somali society is, to say the least, undeveloped, which makes comparative study difficult. There is, however, a complex historiography of working-class politics in other parts of Africa,[57] especially for areas of Southern Africa, French West Africa, Kenya or Nigeria in which capitalism had a direct and devastating impact. In areas like Somaliland where no Europeans settled, and no large capitalist enterprises developed, the issue is often ignored. The assumption is that without industrial development, there is no working class, and no working-class political consciousness (in the making or already made) or protest. This was the assumption even about pre-1920s Southern Africa.[58] But such limited understanding of the politics of salaried groups and workers has been modified in recent years by such historians as Charles Van Onselen, Myron Echenberg, Terence Ranger, and John Higginson, to mention a select few.

African working class consciousness manifested itself in the activities of the workers; in the ‘patterns of avoidance of, selective participation in, and desertion from, mines’, as well as in ‘day-to-day situations, and in strike action’.[59] In Senegal, for instance, Myron Echenberg has shown, the protest of soldiers on 1 December 1944 at the barracks of Thiaroye, near Dakar, was the fruit of the formation and crystallization of the soldiers as a ‘collective group, conscious of their need for unity’.[60] Such consciousness was formed on the hard experience of war, and then of postwar discrimination, which led the soldiers to develop ‘a heightened consciousness of themselves as Africans united by their shared experience in suffering’.[61] The politics of such soldiers will not be properly understood if one searches for elaborate organizations, or associations, or working-class ideology; the key lies in their day-to-day politics and activities. So it was with the askaris of the Somali Camel Corps.

The 1944 Somaliland Camel Corps Mutiny And Popular Politics
H.R.H inspects a guard of Honor of the Somaliland Camel Corps at Hargeisa. Taken by Sgt Neill R on 1942-08-06


The central question addressed by the Court of Inquiry, convened by the Commander of the Northern Sub Area of the East African Command from 6 to 12 June, was whether the mutiny was spontaneous or organized. The Court rejected Fisher’s and Platt’s argument that it was an organized rebellion. They agreed that there was a ‘strong suspicion that the men and junior NCOs of the corps had formulated some sort of demonstration in the event of there being signs of open repression’, but found ‘no concrete evidence that the incident was a definitely planned riot’. The junior NCOs’ planned ‘demonstration’ against repression had escalated into a full-scale rebellion as a result of the disarmament order and the spread of a rumor ‘that the withdrawal of ammunition (and rifles) was a prelude to the S.C.C barracks being taken over by East African troops’. ‘This rumor’, the Court added, ‘was further substantiated by the arrival of four trucks in the barracks on the evening of 5 June’. The mutiny was the result of a spontaneous reaction to the appearance of the East African troops in the barracks on the evening of the 5th.[62]

The court based its conclusions mainly on the testimony of the Somali NCOs, most of whom, as the final report indicated, stated that the rebellion took them by ‘complete surprise’. The exception was Sgt Hassan Gabobeh who testified that on the morning of the 5th (that is, after the meeting of the soldiers at the barracks), he met an askari (Ali Abdi) of C Squadron, who told him ‘that he thought his squadron were going to cause trouble’. He asked Ali Abdi what sort of trouble, and was told that ‘they were going to break into the armory and take rifles’. This was the clearest statement that the mutiny was planned and shows the importance of the meeting of the askaris on the morning of the 5th. Sgt Gabobeh added that the rumors about East African troops taking over the barracks contributed to the incident, but did not cause it. The information was substantiated by askaris he met on the evening of the 5th (the night of the mutiny), who informed him that Sgt Ali Hussein, the NCO of C squadron, had told the men that if they saw light coming towards the barracks, they were to take their kits and get away from the square, as troops might be coming to surround the barracks. He tried to relay this information to the commander of the corps, but just as he ‘reached the barracks, shots were heard’.[63] Sgt Gabobeh was even frank with the commander of the corps about the intentions of the corps as early as 3rd of June, the day the soldiers marched from the tomb to downtown Burao. As Harris-Rivett related the conversation:

At about 2200 hrs that night [3rd] Sgt Hassan Gabobi of the S.C.C. came to my house and informed me that the procession [demonstration] had consisted of about 300 askari. That the men were very excited and he thought they meant to make trouble.[64]

Unlike Gabobeh, other NCOs stressed the spontaneous nature of the revolt. Sgt Mohamed Elmi testified that he heard soldiers on the 6th ‘saying that they had heard that amn and rifles had been withdrawn from … the Squns and that … troops were coming to occupy S.C.C. barracks’. Once the trucks arrived on the evening of the 5th they rebelled. ‘In my opinion’, concluded Sgt Elmi, ‘the Askaris thought that the arrival of the trucks, together with the withdrawal of arms gave credence to the rumor that troops were about to occupy the barracks, and that caused the trouble’.[65]

The testimony heard by the court stressed the spontaneous nature of the revolt for many reasons. None of the rank and file, and the leaders of the revolt, testified. The leader of the mutiny, R.S.M. Burreh Gulaid, deserted with the soldiers. Sgt Ali Hussein did not testify either. He was present at the barracks at 20.30 hours,[66] and then deserted. The NCOs that remained in the barracks after the rebellion died out were anxious to keep their jobs, something in the end they failed to achieve as the whole force was disbanded. And so they presented an ambiguous testimony in which they stressed their own ignorance of the events. Sgt Elmi testified about what he ‘heard’ on the 6th not the 5th or earlier. And Sgt Gabobeh never reported to the commander about what the askari (Ali Abdi) told him on the morning of the 5th. By the time he decided to relay information to the commander about what soldiers told him, on the evening of the 5th, it was of course too late. Fisher remained skeptical about the testimony of the NCOs. He insisted that none of them could be trusted. They organized the revolt yet ‘stand before us as innocent’. Fisher’s angry statement had a basis in fact. The NCOs took part in the demonstrations on the 3rd and 4th and attended the meeting on the morning of the 5th. The decision to revolt was reached in that meeting. Yet Sgt Ahmed Hersi, for instance, insisted that he never took part in discussions among the rank and file. On the evening of the 3rd he saw a large number of men on the far side of the river bed by the Sheikh [tomb]. They appeared to be discussing something. When I approached I heard them say ‘Here is the Provost Sgt.’ I asked them what they were doing. They replied that it was their business, and told me to go away.[67]

Either the NCOs knew nothing about the mutiny, or they learned about it just before the first bullets were fired. None of the NCOs were excluded from the meetings on the 3rd, 4th and morning of the 5th except Sgt Musa Galaal because he was a teacher, a recent recruit to the corps (1939), and opposed the use of violence, or of strike methods, or threats. He testified that the events on the evening of the 5th took him completely by surprise.[68] The denials of the other NCOs were interested, so to speak. The various secret meetings on the 3rd and the 5th, the ‘very quick response to the outbreak of firing’[69] by all the askaris, as well as the quick and efficient way the askaris staged the event, and then deserted, all suggest that in fact it was not spontaneous, but planned.

The mutiny, it must be pointed out, did not begin on the evening of the 5th, but rather the moment the soldiers refused to comply with the order of transfer, and put their refusal in a letter dated 1 April. As Sgt Gabobeh told the commander on the 3rd, the askaris were not planning to compromise at all. The events on the evening of the 5th were merely the logical denouement to a drama that began formally and in writing in April. Their refusal to comply with the order was consistently upheld, and supported, by all the soldiers. They also justified their deviance to authority on a consistent basis: the demand for higher wages and better working conditions, in a word, Asian status.

The 1944 Somaliland Camel Corps Mutiny And Popular Politics
Lieutenant General H A Wetherall, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Ceylon, visiting the Somaliland battalion – some of the East African troops serving in Ceylon.


One of the subsidiary terms of reference for the Commission of Inquiry was: ‘Were troops subject to outside or subversive influences?’[70] The Court found no subversive influence on the askaris from within or without the country. It essentially ignored the demand of the soldiers for higher wages in terms of Asian status. What were the significance and origin of the quest for Asian status?

The demand for Asian status was formulated in Kenya by migrants from Somaliland. In 1939, the migrant and the indigenous Somali population of Northern Frontier Province were estimated at 600 and 37,000, respectively.[71] The migrant community consisted of ‘retired soldiers recruited from British Somaliland between the years 1900 to 1914’.[72] After completing service in the Uganda Rifle Expeditionary Force, King’s African Rifles or East African Constabularies they had ‘adopted Kenya as their home’, earning their livelihood ‘by trading in livestock’,[73] or as ‘petty traders, officers’ servants, and headmen of shooting expeditions, etc.’[74] Like all first generation migrants, they kept looking ‘backwards as much as forwards’ and consequently acquired influence in the ‘homeland’. They focused on two specific issues: first the danger for Somaliland of what they called East Africanization, and second the need to resist colonial rule.

‘East Africanization’ implied two things for the Kenya Somalis. First, the loss of land, as the people of East Africa, in particular Kenya, had lost their land to European settlers. Second, the loss of rights, and even worse, the condemning of the people to the lowest rung in the hierarchical colonial racial system. In Kenya, at the apex of the racial hierarchy, stood the Europeans – the first estate, so to speak; followed by Asians, who occupied an intermediate position; and finally, Africans, at the bottom. In a capitalist society, the reification of consciousness takes place through the fetish of commodity,[75] while in a colonial context, the reification of consciousness takes place through the fetish of race.[76] The migrant community from Somaliland accepted the ‘phantom objectivity’ of the dominant racial-classification system and the racial hierarchy in Kenya. They did not try to overthrow it. Rather they tried to move up the racial hierarchy, so to speak, to the only status they could possibly gain: Asian status.[77] (Meanwhile, the Asians were agitating in 1932 to gain European status.)[78] The aim of the Somali-Kenyans was to improve their lot. They had ‘positive goals and sought to manipulate the political institution rather than overthrow it’.[79] They wanted the same rights as Asians: higher wages, and better employment and trading opportunities.

In 1915, the Kenya government classified migrant Somalis as ‘native’. The migrants rejected the status, and under their pressure the government relented and in 1917 re-classified their status as ‘non-native’.[80] Under the poll-tax system, based on the hierarchy of races, Europeans paid the highest rate (forty shillings); Asians the second highest (thirty shillings); and ‘natives’ the lowest (twenty shillings).[81] The migrants paid the Asian rate because of their categorization as ‘non-native’, but nevertheless they ‘were refused the rights of Asiatics in other respects’,[82] that is, in salary, employment, and services. In the 1930s, they increasingly attempted to internationalize their struggle for Asian status and rights and sought to influence the Colonial Office, leading British figures, and public opinion in Somaliland. In December 1930, for instance, they presented through an agent a petition to the Duke of Gloucester when he visited Somaliland. The petition appealed for his support in their struggle for Asian status and rights. They also sent a similar petition to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Neither the Duke of Gloucester nor the Secretary of State for Colonies, gave them any support.

Indeed under the 1936 Poll Tax Ordinance (Section 2), which reduced their taxes to twenty shillings, they lost their ‘non-native’ status. For them, the change ‘indicated inferiority of status’, and so they organized an association (the British Ishak Community), and in 1938 and 1939, appointed two representatives: one in Somaliland, Haji Farah Oomar,[83] and another in London, Abby Farah. They commissioned Haji Farah Oomar to present their petition to Lord Dufferin during his visit to Somaliland in March 1938. In 1939, they asked Abby Farah to hire a solicitor in London to make representations to the colonial office on their behalf. Their aim was to influence public opinion in Somaliland and official opinion in London. In early 1939, moreover, they refused to pay the ‘native’ tax. An intelligence report noted that the Somali migrant community ‘is agitating to be granted Asiatic status’. ‘One manifestation of this agitation’, the report added, ‘is a refusal to pay Sh.20/- poll tax’. The few who paid the tax, including the leaders of the community, ‘endeavored to keep the fact secret, evidently through fear of possible reprisals’. As a result, ‘a number of tax defaulters have been committed to prison’,[84] and other members of the community were ‘refused permission to enter or trade-in outlying districts’. The president of the community, Ega Musa, complained that the community was ‘facing starvation, ruin and disaster’.[85] The Kenya administration, as the solicitor of the community put it, arrested the tax defaulters ‘and when this was ineffective’ they were also fined, which led to financial ruin for many. By June 1939, ‘one hundred members of the community … were in jail’,[86] and ‘a large number (were)… waiting to go to prison’.[87]

Neither the colonial office nor the Kenya government was willing to change the status of the migrant Somali community because the whole system of control and taxation hinged on racial classification. The tax system was ‘invidious’ but necessary, one report stated: necessary because the accounting system used even by literate ‘natives’ was so archaic that the racial system was the most efficient way of collecting revenue; invidious because the distinctions ‘drawn between the various races would … automatically cease’ if any changes, however minor, were made in the tax system. A domino effect would ensue, which in the migrant-Somali case, ‘would give rise to similar claims by other Somali sections, including those indigenous to the Northern Frontier Province of Kenya and including also the inhabitants of British Somali land’.[88] The migrant community was consequently denied Asian status, though it had ‘succeeded through agitation and persistence in securing for themselves privileges that were given to Asiatics, and which were withheld from the indigenous population’. Their wage-level, for instance, was ‘on the same scale as that of Indians, and very considerably above that of the local population’.[89]

By the late 1930s, the struggle for Asian status in Kenya and London was lost, and so the community switched the arena of their struggle to Somaliland. Their aim was to rally the population behind the demand for Asian status, and essentially win the war by proxy. They began to play a significant role in the politics of the country, as for instance, in the anti-education riot in Burao in 1939, when the threat of East Africanization was used as a justification. Haji Farah Oomar, their representative in the country, was one of the leaders of the riot. And in the 1940s, they targeted the camel corps. The Court of Inquiry ignored the subversive influence of migrants in Kenya on the mutiny, but Fisher did not. He argued that the fear of East Africanization had for ‘many years … affected British Somaliland’, and ‘made the people of this country very critical’ about all aspects of colonial policies. During the war, migrants from Kenya and Aden were ‘in much closer touch with this country than ever before’, and circulated the fear of East Africanization among the population. In addition, they were constantly urging on their fellow countrymen that their independent status is now being endangered by a deliberate policy of the Government to submerge them into a common group with East African natives; and they say that one of the chiefs means that Government is using to secure this object, is by forcing the Somali troops to accept conditions of service and regulations to which they are not accustomed, and which in their opinion must identify them with the native tribes of Kenya.

The struggle, they insisted, required ‘continuous agitation and sacrifice’.[90] The soldiers’ demand for improved working conditions in terms of Asian status is to be understood within this wider context that illuminates the dialectical interrelations between the politics of two colonies.

The link was the migrants, connecting on the one hand the rural and the urban within colonies, and on the other the different colonies. Migrants formed tribally-based burial, cultural, and economic associations in the urban centers, and labor compounds, which became involved in the organization of rural resistance. Southern Africa is a good case in point. According to Mamdani, the ethnically organized burial, stockveld, or cultural societies did not necessarily isolate their members from urban influences. They appear to have functioned more as crucible bringing together a variety of influences. As they were initiated into the way of the city, migrants also gained familiarity with various forms of urban resistance. They learned of tactics such as boycotts and demonstrations, and they became familiar with organizations ranging from trade unions to liberation movements.[91]

Upon returning home migrants took the ‘message of organization with them’.[92] In every instance of rural resistance recorded in the literature of Southern Africa, one scholar has argued, ‘the intervention of a migrant association is noted’.[93]

The British Ishak Community, a tribally-based self-help association formed in Kenya, played a similar role in Somaliland. The community used various means to convey the importance of Asian status to the public in Somaliland: writing, poetry, and rumor. Abdirahman Ali Mohamed ‘Dube’, a migrant in Kenya, wrote the key document in the struggle for Asian status.[94] To make the argument that Somalis are Asian in the strongest possible fashion, he wrote (sometime in the 1930s) his famous treatise on the genealogy of the Ishak in classical Arabic. He made the argument in bad faith. He admitted that Somalis are ‘black and neither read nor speak nor write Arabic’.[95] Yet he insisted on their Asian identity. His object was not a valid historical argument, but legitimation of the claims of the community. Besides writing, the community used the even more powerful tools of communication, poetry, and rumor, to disseminate their claim for Asian status in the ‘homeland’.

The 1944 Somaliland Camel Corps Mutiny And Popular Politics
Somaliland Camel Corps logo


The discourse of fear from abroad was augmented by a locally-produced discourse of fear about colonial rule, which centered on suspicion and fear about European settlers taking over the land (East Africanization again), as they had done elsewhere. Haji Adan Af Qalooc, for instance, warned the people in his 1945 poem, ‘Sheikh Bashir’ that Europeans would take over the land and reduce them to servitude unless they resisted.

The place you pasture your camels will be

settled by Europeans

a man who owns an aeroplane and a car will force you

to work on his farm

the few that survive that humiliation will

understand what I am fighting against.[96]

As late as 1953, the Governor of Somaliland, Sir Gerald Reece, addressed the issue in a speech to the Protectorate Advisory Council. He accused what he called ‘fitn-makers’ (troublemakers) of fomenting opposition to the administration by falsely informing the public that their land would be taken by Europeans who will turn them into ‘slaves’. ‘We do not want’, he reassured his audience, ‘to take your land from you or your customs’.[97]

The discourse of fear and suspicion justified the mutiny in advance. It had been circulated through various means, above all through rumor. It was through rumor that the troops, the urban poor, and the people, in general, produced ideas about European rule. Rumor is deployed in war, politics, academia, media, and all other spheres of all societies. For the subaltern, though, it is often the most important means of communication and of mobilizing subaltern insurgency. What makes rumor an effective form of resistance is that it ‘relays something always assumed to be pre-existent’, such as a colonial plan to expropriate the land. It is also something without an author, a text that does not belong to ‘anyone voice-consciousness’.[98] That communal quality on the one hand marks it as the ‘illegitimate writing’ of the subaltern, and on the other gives it security from the law.

One of the most important rumors circulating from the 2nd to the 5th of June was about a letter sent by Somali soldiers in Kenya to the troops in Somaliland. The letter purportedly alleged that Somali troops had lost everything in Kenya, and it was the duty of the soldiers in Somaliland to ‘make sure of their rights before they left the country’. What the troops had lost, as implied by the rumor, was the right to demand higher wages, and better services; in a word, Asian status. There was no way of getting any confirmation of the letter’s existence. Its message, nevertheless, spread through the country, and was ‘universally believed’.[99] There were other rumors such as the impending repression of the troops by East African troops, which gave the fear of East Africanization an even more sinister implication. Not only were the people to lose their land and rights, foreign troops were to remain in the country and repress the expression of grievances. There were other rumors, which intensified the fear of British rule, for instance of a new evacuation of the Protectorate. Such an evacuation would cause havoc in the country as in the 1910 and 1940 evacuations. Even the ‘Moral and Progress Reports’ on the corps noted the subversive role of rumor. According to one author, ‘the fact that the most extraordinary rumors are readily believed in the town shows in my opinion that confidence in the British Government is still very slender’.[100] Fisher appreciated the subversive role of these rumors, which told how the administration would humiliate the troops, and then begin the process of taking over land. These rumors, Fisher complained, ‘are constantly going round; and while we have not got the means to counteracting this sort of thing, the Administration cannot be said to anything but unstable’.[101]

The mutiny, then, was arguably a local subaltern revolt which was justified through a locally, indeed communally, produced ‘illegitimate’ discourse. Popular notions of right, legitimated through both secular and sacred means, were used by the askaris to justify demands for higher wages and the rebellion.


The soldiers’ demands for higher wages and better working conditions of the askaris were the basis of the mutiny. Yet it transcended the boundaries of the barracks, because the issues raised by the askaris dovetailed with popular anger, and allowed them to call on the resources and solidarity of the community. Fisher recognized the popular context of the revolt. He argued that the ‘renewal of national feeling’ and the emergence of a ‘general wave of indignation in the country’ against colonial rule created the social and political conditions for the militant politics of the askaris.[102] ‘At present’, wrote Fisher, ‘Somaliland opinion is strongly sympathetic’ to the soldiers ‘though strong disapproval has been expressed, and I believe felt, at the means adopted by them to secure a hearing.’[103] Popular anger was a reaction to the dramatic political and economic ‘changes in the last seven years … [which] have completely and, it is thought, irrevocably altered the [political and] administrative status of the country’, which had been ‘invaded and fought over, occupied during the war by large military forces, and which now has a civil establishment of non-native officials three times as big as the pre-war establishment’.[104] In addition, the long-standing problem of the ‘frontier and grazing question’ [the Haud], the program of Greater Somalia, and the introduction of outside influences at a level never hitherto experienced by the people of the country, further inflamed nationalism.[105] The key external factor prominent as a determining force in the mutiny was the Kenya influence, which was made possible by advances in communication – the development of an efficient transport system, and media – between Somaliland and the Somali diaspora during the war. The migrants did not just urge the askaris to demand Asian status but called on them as well as the public to resist colonial rule. Otherwise, they maintained, the askaris would never gain Asian status, and the country would be East Africanized. The politics of the mutiny, therefore, brought together different strands of Somali politics: the demands of the askaris, the fears of the public, and the subversive suspicions of the migrants. These strands were strengthened, not weakened, by the disbanding of the Somali Camel Corps in 1944, as punishment for the mutiny.


[1] I. M. Lewis, Modem History of Somaliland: From Nation to State, Praeger, New York. 1965, chap. 2, is the best introduction to imperial partition.

[2] Lewis, Modern History, chap. 3; Said Samatar, Oral Poetry and Somali Nationalism, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1982; Robert Hess, ‘The Poor Man of God: Muhammad Abdulla Hassan’, in Norman Bennett (ed.), Leadership in Eastern Africa, Boston University Research Series 9, Boston, 1974; Robert Beachy, The Warrior Mullah, Belloew, London, 1990; Abdi Sheikh Abdi, Divine Madness: Muhammad Abdulla Hassan, Zed Books, London, 1993; Margaret Laurence, ‘The Poem and the Spear’, in Margaret Laurence, The Heart of a Stranger, McClelland, Toronto, 1976.

[3] Jama Mohamed, ‘Epidemics and Public Health in Early Colonial Somaliland‘, Social Science and Medicine 48, 1999, pp. 507-21.

[4] Frederick Cooper, Decolonization and African Society, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1996, p. 226.

[5] Cooper, Decolonization and African Society, pp. 241-8.

[6] Sembene Ousmane, God’s Bits of Wood, transl. (from French) Francis Price, Heinemann, London, 1962, p. 87.

[7] Edward W. Said, Culture and Imperialism, Vintage Books, New York, 1993.

[8] H. F. Prevost-Battersby, Richard Corfield of Somaliland, Edward Arnold, London, 1914. See also brief discussion on the 1913 battle in which Corfield was killed: Patrick Kakwanzire, ‘Richard Corfield and the Dul-Madobe Incident’, Proceedings of the Second International Congress of Somali Studies, ed. Thomas Laban, Helmut Buske, Hamburg, 1982. For brief references to the formation and role of the force in Somaliland in 1912 see D. Jardine, The Mad Mullah of Somaliland. London, 1923; H. Moyse-Bartlett, A History of the King’s African Rifles, London, 1965.

[9] Public Record Office (PRO), W.O. 32/10863, R. S. M. Burreh Gulaid to Officer Commanding Somaliland Camel Corps, 1 April 1944.

[10] Michael Mariano was born in Erigavo (Somaliland) in 1914. He was a Christian. He
was educated in the Roman Catholic mission school in Aden. In 1944, he was the clerk for the district commissioner of Burao. In 1948, he acted as the interpreter for the Four Power Commission in Mogadishu. He founded the National United Front in 1955; was nominated in 1957 to the Legislative Council; and in 1959 was elected (Erigavo district) to the Council. He controlled an import/export business. From 1960 to 1969, he held various ministerial posts, and in the 1970s was the ambassador for Somalia in Zaire (Congo). He died in 1986 in Mogadishu. Unfortunately, there are no studies on Mariano, even though he played a key role in the processes of decolonization in Somaliland, and in the post-colonial politics of Somalia. For a brief description of his role in Somaliland, see PRO, C.O.1015/1936, ‘Leading Personalities’, Office of Intelligence and Security to the Local Intelligence Committee, 1959.

[11] PRO, W.O. 32/10863, 15th Witness: Michael Joseph Mariano.

[12] PRO, W.O. 32/10863, Officer Commanding the Somaliland Camel Corps to R. S. M. Burreh Gulaid, 9 May 1944.

[13] PRO, W.O. 32/10863, 15th witness: Michael Joseph Mariano.

[14] As previous note.

[15] PRO, W.O. 32/10863, 11th Witness: Sub-Inspector Mohamed Hallah of the Somaliland Police.

[16] Eric Hobsbawm, Primitive Rebels, Norton, New York, 1959, p. 154.

[17] For a general statement on the importance of religion in pre-modern rebellions, see Janos M. Bak and Gerhard Benecke (eds), Religion and Rural Revolt, Manchester University Press, 1984.

[18] PRO, W.O. 32/10863, 13th Witness: Captain C. N. Halse, Superintendent of Police, Burao.

[19] PRO, W.O. 32/10863, 1st Witness: Lt. Colonel A. A. B. Harris-Rivett.

[20] Hobsbawm, Primitive Rebels, p. 150.

[21] 1st Witness: Lt Colonel A. A. B. Harris-Rivett.

[22] As previous note.

[23] Musa Haji Ismail Galaal was born in the early 1920s in a rural settlement near Burao. He moved to Aden in the early 1930s, where he held various odd jobs. In 1939, he joined the camel corps in Kenya, and enrolled in adult-education classes. He quickly became a sergeant in the corps, and an educational officer, responsible for teaching the askaris how to read and speak English. After the corps was disbanded as a result of the mutiny in 1944, he became a teacher in the formal schools. But he quickly switched to linguistics and the collection and study of Somali oral literature. From the 1950s onwards, he became an important and internationally well-known scholar of Somali literature. He was a prominent member of the Somali Language Commission in the 1960s, and its Chairman in the early 1970s. Poet, historian, writer of short fiction, and philosopher, he was the most versatile, and best-known, Somali intellectual. He died in Mogadishu in 1980.

[24] PRO, W.O. 32/10863,13th Witness: Sgt Musa Galaal.

[25] 15th Witness: Michael Joseph Mariano.

[26] 13th Witness: Sgt Musa Galaal.

[27] 8th Witness: Lt G. L. Krauss.

[28] 13th Witness: Sgt Musa Galaal.

[29] 2nd Witness: Capt. T. C. Larson, Adjutant of the S.C.C.

[30] 17th Witness: Major W. R. Whaley.

[31] As previous note.

[32] PRO, W.O. 32/10863, General William Platt, ‘Report on the Somaliland Camel Corps’, June 1944. General Platt was the Commander of the East African Forces.

[33] PRO, W.O. 32/10863, Details of S.C.C. Askaris Absent, 7 July 1944.

[34] PRO, W.O. 32/10863,13th Witness: Sgt Musa Galaal.

[35] PRO, W.O. 32/10863, General Officer in Command to War Office, 25 June 1944

[36] PRO, W.O. 32/10863, G. T. Fisher, ‘Burao Disturbances’, June 1944. Fisher was the military governor of the territory from 1943 to 1948.

[37] PRO, W.O. 32/10863, ‘Statement of Clothing, Equipment, etc. Missing from “C” Squadron Stores’, June 1944.

[38] PRO, W.O. 32/10863, 11th Witness: Sub-Inspecter Mohamed Hallah of the Somaliland Police Force.

[39] 1st Witness: Lt Colonel A. A. B. Harris-Rivett.

[40] Platt, ‘Report on Somaliland Camel Corps’, June 1944.

[41] As previous note.

[42] PRO, W.O. 32/10863,15th Witness: Michael Joseph Mariano.

[43] Fisher, ‘Burao Disturbances’, June 1944.

[44] PRO, W.O. 32/10863, G.T. Fisher, ‘Note by the Military Governor on Disturbances Amongst Troops and General Political Conditions in British Somaliland’, 11 June 1944.

[45] Lord Rennell of Rodd, British Military Administration of Occupied Territories During the Year 1941-1947, HMSO, 1948, p. 482.

[46] Mohamed, ‘Epidemics and Public Health’, 1999.

[47] Prevost-Battersby, Richard Corfield.

[48] PRO, W.O. 106/23, ‘Memorandum by the Commissioner on the Political Situation in Somaliland’, 12 April 1912.

[49] Prevost-Battersby, Richard Corfield, p. 192.

[50] Prevost-Battersby, Richard Corfield, p. 194.

[51] PRO, W.O. 106/22, R. C. Corfield to His Majesty’s Commissioner, 26 Dec. 1912.

[52] PRO, W.O. 106/22, H. A. Byatt, Commissioner of Somaliland, to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, 9 April 1913.

[53] Fisher, ‘Burao Disturbances’, June 1944.

[54] Platt, ‘Report on Somaliland Camel Corps’, June 1944.

[55] I am writing a paper on this topic:’ “The Dung Business is all Bunk”: the Politics of the 1937 Somaliland Camel Corps Mutiny.’

[56] Fisher, ‘Note by Military Governor … on Disturbances …’, 11 June 1944.

[57] To mention a select few: Myron Echenberg, ‘ “Morts pour la France”: the African Soldier in France during the Second World War’, Journal of African History 26, 1985, pp. 363-80; Myron Echenberg, Colonial Conscripts: the Tirailleurs S6negalais in French West Africa, 1857-1960, Heinemann, Portsmouth, NH, 1991; T. O. Ranger, Dance and Society in Eastern Africa, 1890-1970, Heinemann Educational, London, 1975; Charles Van Onselen, Chibaro: African Mine Labour in Southern Rhodesia, 1900-1933, Pluto Press, London, 1976; Charles Van Onselen, The Seed is Mine, Hill and Wang, New York, 1996; Charles Van Onselen, ‘Worker Consciousness in Black Miners: Southern Rhodesia, 1900-1920’, Journal of African History 14: 2, 1973, pp. 237-55; John Higginson, A Working Class in the Making; Belgian Colonial Labor Policy and the African Mineworker, 1907-1951, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison WI, 1990.

[58] Van Onselen, ‘Worker Consciousness’.

[59] Van Onselen, ‘Worker Consciousness’, p. 255.

[60] Echenberg,’ “Morts pour la France”‘, p. 379.

[61] Echenberg,’ “Morts pour la France”‘, p. 377.

[62] PRO, W.O. 32/10863, ‘Opinion of the Court’.

[63] PRO, W.O. 32/10863, 18th witness: Sgt Hassan Gabobeh. (Only the NCOs testified. But note that R.S.M. Burreh Gulaid did not. He absconded with the rest of the askaris, as he organized and led the rebellion.)

[64] 1st Witness: Lt Colonel A. A. B. Harris-Rivett.

[65] 7th Witness: Sgt Mohamed Elmi.

[66] 1st Witness: Lt Colonel A. A. B. Harris-Rivett. He tried to convince the District Commissioner and the commander of the corps ‘to take refuge in Armored Cars, saying that they feared we should be picked out and shot. This we naturally refused to do’.

[67] 14th Witness: Sgt Ahmed Hersi.

[68] 13th Witness: Sgt Musa Galaal.

[69] ‘Opinion of the Court’.

[70] ‘Convening Order’.

[71] PRO, C.O.535/506/3, Miss P. M. Fisher for the Private Secretary’s Office, Kenya, August 1939.

[72] PRO, C.O.535/506/3, British Ishak Community, Nairobi, Kenya, to His Excellency, the High Commissioner and Commander-in-Chief, British Somaliland, 16 Nov. 1939.

[73] As previous note.

[74] Fisher, ‘Note … on Disturbances …’ June 1944. (Fisher appreciated the role played by Somali Kenyans in the mutiny because he had worked in Kenya, and thus knew about the propaganda waged by Somali Kenyans in Somaliland and Kenya on the issue of improved salary, services, and status.)

[75] Georg Lukacs, History and Class Consciousness, transl. Rodney Livingstone, Merlin Press, London, 1971.

[76] Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, Grove Press, New York, 1967. For a recent and brilliant work on Fanon see Ato Sekyi-Otu, Fanon’s Dialectic of Experience, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1996.

[77] A. A. Castagno, ‘The Somali-Kenya Controversy: Implications for the Future’, Journal of Modem African Studies 2:2,1964; E.R. Turton, ‘Somali Resistance to Colonial Rule and the Development of Somali Political Activity in Kenya’, Journal of African History 13:1,1972.

[78] E. R. Turton, ‘Somali Resistance’, p. 128.

[79] As previous note.

[80] PRO, CO. 535, Ega Musa, President, British Ishak Community, Nairobi, Kenya, to His Excellency the High Commissioner & Commander-in-Chief of British Somaliland, 16 Nov. 1938. (This was a petition the community sent to the commissioner of Somaliland from Kenya.)

[81] PRO, C.O.535/506/3, B.W.P. Morgan, Cardiff, to Capt. Arthur Evans, MP, 5 June 1939. (Morgan was the solicitor hired by the Kenya community to present its case in London. Evans was MP for Cardiff, a city with a large and longstanding Somali population. He often corresponded with the Secretary of State for the Colonies on behalf of the Somali community in Cardiff and Kenya.)

[82] Ega Musa, President, British Ishak Community, Nairobi, Kenya, to His Excellency the High Commissioner and Commander-in-Chief of British Somaliland, 16 Nov. 1939.

[83] As previous note. (Haji Farah Oomar, the first Somali graduate of a university (India), was an important political figure in Somaliland politics throughout the early colonial period. He worked for the government, but in 1905, was expelled from the civil service for sympathy toward the Sayyid. In 1925, he formed the first civil association in Somali colonial history, the Somali Islamic Association, which campaigned for the modernization of the protectorate. In 1939, he formed the ‘Spokesman Movement’. In a convention held in the middle of the year, in which the most active political figures in the country participated, he was nominated as the leader of the movement, but it did not survive for long, as his erstwhile supporters turned quickly against him. In the same year, the administration arrested him and interned him for seven years in an island off the coast of Somaliland, for supposedly inciting the 1939 riot in Burao. After his release from jail in 1944, he was denied entry into Somaliland. He died in 1947, in exile in Ethiopia. The choice by Kenya-Somalis of Haji Farah Oomar as their representative was thus strategic. At least it guaranteed that their ideas would have legitimacy, and widespread circulation, among the urban population.)

[84] PRO, C.O.535/506/3, ‘Extract from Intelligence Summary No. 47 for the Period 1/1/1939 to 31/1/1939’.

[85] PRO, C.O.535/506/3, Telegram from British Ishak Community, Nairobi, Kenya, to Secretary of State for the Colonies, 26 May 1939.

[86] B. W. P. Morgan to Captain Arthur Evans, MP, 5 June 1939.

[87] PRO, C.O.535/506/3, B.W.P. Morgan to the Under Secretary of the State for the Colonies, 5 June 1939.

[88] PRO, C.O.535/506/3, Mr Paskin, Colonial Office, June 1939.

[89] Fisher, ‘Burao Disturbances’, June 1944.

[90] As previous note.

[91] Mahmood Mamdani, Citizen and Subject, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 1996, p. 193.

[92] Luli Callinicos, A Place in the City: The Rand in the Era of Apartheid, Raven, Johannesburg, 1993, cited in Mamdani, Citizen and Subject, p. 193.

[93] Chaskalson, ‘Rural Resistance’, cited Mamdani, p. 192.

[94] Abdirahman Ali Mohamed, Tufah al-Mushtaq li-Nisib al-Sayyid Ishaq, Dar Mufiis li-Dabac’, Jidah, no date.

[95] As previous note, p. 8.

[96] Haji Adan Afqlooc, ‘Sheikh Bashir’, 1945, Cassette, personal copy. He migrated early in the century to Aden, and probably visited East Africa. He returned to the country in 1945, just as the Sheikh Bashir rebellion was underway.

[97] ‘H.E. The Governor Opens the 13th Session of the Protectorate Advisory Council: Comprehensive Address Followed by Week of Important Discussion’, War Somali Sidihii, 1953.

[98] Gyatri Spivak, ‘Subaltern Studies: Deconstructing Historiography’, in Ranajit Guha and Gyatri Spivak (eds), Selected Subaltern Studies, Oxford University Press, New York, 1988, pp. 21-4.

[99] Fisher, ‘Note … on Disturbances …’, June 1944.

[100] PRO, W.O. 32/10863, ‘Extracts from Moral Reports’, June 1944.

[101] Fisher, ‘Note … on Disturbances …’, June 1944.

[102] Fisher, ‘Burao Disturbances’, June 1944.

[103] Fisher, ‘Note … on Disturbances …’, 11 June 1944.

[104] PRO, CO. 537/3618, T.C. Jerrom, ‘Notes on British Somaliland’, June 1948.

[105] Lewis, Modern History; I. M. Lewis, ‘Modern Political Movements in Somaliland‘, Africa 28,1958; Saadia Touval, Somali Nationalism, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1963; Abdi Samatar, The State and Rural Transformation in Northern Somalia, 1884-1996, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1989; Ahmed Samatar, Socialist Somalia: Rhetoric or Reality? Zed Press, London, 1988; Charles Lee Cheshekter, ‘Anti-Colonial Nationalism and Class Formation: The Eastern Horn of Africa Before 1950’, International Journal of African Historical Studies 18: 1, 1985; Said Samatar, Oral Poetry and Somali Nationalism, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1982.

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