Chapter 7: Nationalism and Politics in the Trust Territory Of Somalia –  from the book Somali Nationalism: International Politics and The Drive For Unity In The Horn Of Africa – The Horn of Africa can be thought of as a triangle, whose up-tilted eastern point extends so far into the Indian Ocean that it is approximately due south of Tehran. The “Horn,” of course, is not a definite territorial jurisdiction, but for the purposes of this book, we define it arbitrarily (but conveniently) as the region inhabited mainly by Somalis.


Chapter 7: Nationalism And Politics In The Trust Territory Of Somalia

From the book Somali Nationalism: International Politics And The Drive For Unity In The Horn Of Africa

Somali Nationalism International Politics And The Drive For Unity In The Horn Of AfricaSaadia Touval

Harvard University Press

Cambridge, Massachusetts • 1963

In all parts of the Horn, probably the most significant fact about Somali politics is its essentially tribal basis. Politics in the Horn, like the politics of industrial societies, consists of competition among groups for influence in the management of public affairs. The distinction lies in the character of the groups. In developed industrial societies the competing groups are made up of individuals united by common economic or social interests or perhaps a common ideology. Among the Somalis, they are determined by common ancestry.

Somali nationalists with modernist tendencies are greatly troubled by the tribal nature of their political system. They are opposed to tribalism because it hinders a rational approach to economic and social problems. Moreover, they view the assertion of tribal interests as diametrically contradictory to the ideal of Somali national unity. Like nationalists in many other African territories, they strive to achieve unity as their most pressing internal political goal.


Yet the eradication of tribalism is not an easy task. It cannot be eliminated by an act of the will. Despite the efforts of modern nationalists, tribalism still pervades all aspects of public life. Political parties are based upon tribes or tribal alliances. Allocations of political spoils or civil service posts are carefully calculated to fit a tribal balance. Recruitment to the police force and the army is also conditioned by the need to preserve a tribal balance—in this case, to have all tribes represented. The maintenance of this balance in the lower ranks of the civil service and the police and army is not always easy. In the Southern Region of the Somali Republic— formerly Somalia and before that Italian Somaliland—the Darod, who live in poorer areas, are more readily disposed to join government service than are the slightly better-situated Hawiya; and among the agricultural Dighil and Rahanwein the proportion of those interested in joining government service is the lowest of all.[1]

The eagerness and determination of nationalists to eliminate tribalism lead them sometimes, in conversations with foreigners, to deny that tribes play a role in politics. They apparently believe that the less said about tribalism, the better; and the easier it will be to eliminate it. Yet even the most Westernized Somalis, the most modern ardent nationalists who violently oppose tribalism, are not oblivious of their tribal connections. They cannot be, since their political careers depend essentially on the hard core of support they can generate “at home”—among their own tribe. To understand Somali politics, one must recognize the ambivalence of politicians toward tribalism—their concessions to it as well as their struggle to eliminate it.


The first Somali political organization to emerge in the territory that is now the Southern Region was the Somali Youth Club, which was established at Mogadishu in May 1943, apparently with the encouragement of the British Military Administration. Details on the Administration’s role in this development are difficult to ascertain. There is good reason to believe that it was not merely a benevolent onlooker but provided during the early 1940s guidance and help to the inexperienced Somali politicians.[2]

In 1947, preparing for the arrival of the Four Power Commission of Investigation, the Somali Youth Club reorganized itself as a political party assuming the new name of the Somali Youth League (S.Y.L.). In addition, an association of the Sab, the Hizbia Dighile Mirifle, also changed from a nonpolitical association into a political party on the eve of the Commission’s visit. Still other organizations, more short-lived, were formed in order to facilitate the presentation before the Commission of specific points of view.[3]

Between 1948 and 1950 the question of the political future of what had been Italian Somaliland engendered considerable excitement. But after the Italian trusteeship administration established itself in 1950 the atmosphere gradually calmed down. The Italians were skillful in winning the confidence of some of those who opposed their return; and even the S.Y.L., which had violently opposed the placing of the trust territory under Italian administration, was won over to cooperate.

The new status of Somalia as a U.N. trust territory with a target date for independence, and the political institutions introduced by the administration, provided the framework within which the political parties operated. As independence was assured, the remaining goal of national unification received increased attention. But the political parties and the various tribal groups were mainly occupied with capturing the positions which the Italian trusteeship administration was gradually transferring to the Somalis.

The initial step in Somalia’s evolution toward self-government and independence was the establishment of a Territorial Council in 1950. This council was an appointed body with advisory functions. The majority of the Somali representatives on it were tribal leaders; the political parties received only seven out of thirty-five seats. The first elections were held in the territory in 1954, on the municipal level. In 1956, the first territory-wide elections took place, and the appointed Territorial Council was replaced by an elected Legislative Assembly. Also, a government responsible to the Legislative Assembly was formed. After that, two more elections were held: municipal elections in 1958 and general elections to the Legislative Assembly in 1959. The 1954 and 1956 elections were held under universal adult male suffrage; in the 1958 and 1959 elections women too were given the right to vote. The administration of the elections among the nomadic population was of course difficult, and left much room for improvement. In all four elections, the S.Y.L. emerged victorious, as shown in Table 3. Since the transfer of executive authority to the Somalis in 1956, the S.Y.L. has been the dominant force in the government as well as in the Assembly.[4]

TABLE 3 Election Results in Somalia, 1954-1959

Municipal elections General elections
1954 1958 1956 1959
Party Votes Seats Votes Seats Votes Seats Votes Seats
Somali Youth League (S.Y.L.) 17,982 141 39,178 416 333,820 43 237,134 83
Hizbia Dastur Mustaqil Somali (H.D.M.S.) 8,198 57 38,214 175 159,967 13 40,857 5
Somali National Union (S.N.U.), formerly U.G.B 2,273 5 6,322 6 21,630 0 0 0
Greater Somalia League (G.S.L.) 0 0 10,125 36 0 0 0 0
Liberal Somali Youth Party (P.L.G.S.) 0 0 11,004 27 0 0 35,769 2
Somali Fiqarini Youth (G.F.S.) 0 0 341 3 0 0 0 0
Somali Democratic Party (S.D.P.) 0 0 0 0 80,866 3 0 0
Marehan Union 0 0 0 0 11,358 1 0 0
Somali African Union (U.A.S.) 2,584 28 0 0 0 0 0 0
Other parties 6,660 50 0 0 7,268 0 0 0
Totals 37,697 28Í 105,184 663 614,909 60 313,760 90

NOTES: Zeros in this table do not mean that a party tried and failed to obtain a vote; rather the party either did not exist at the time or it boycotted the election. The Assembly elected in 1956 contained, in addition to the 60 Somali members, 10 representatives of the immigrant communities: 4 Italians, 4 Arabs, 1 Indian, and 1 Pakistani. In 1958 there were contests in only 27 municipalities. In 18 other municipalities only a single list (S.Y.L.) was presented, and 226 council seats in those municipalities went to the S.Y.L. without contest. The 1959 elections were boycotted by the principal opposition parties, H.D.M.S., G.S.L., and S.N.U.; a splinter of the H.D.M.S. participated, and was thereupon expelled from the party. Only 29 Assembly seats were contested; the other 61 seats were assigned to the S.Y.L. without contest.

Sources: Based on A. A. Castagno, “Somalia,” International Conciliation, March 1959, p. 358; and Report of the United Nations Advisory Council for the Trust Territory of Somaliland under Italian Administration, from 1 April 1958 to 31 March 1959 (U.N. Doc. T/1444) pars. 103-142 and annex V.

Nationalism And Politics In The Trust Territory Of Somalia – Chapter 7Fifteen parties participated in the earliest election in 1954—a reflection of the tendency of tribal groupings to establish political parties of their own. But only six parties remained on the Somalia scene in 1958. The disappearance of a large number of local and clan parties can be attributed in part to the growing influence of the major parties and also to the gradually increasing political sophistication of the electorate. Electoral laws, prohibiting parties from employing tribal names, probably contributed to this trend.[5] Furthermore, most of the clan or local parties were not political parties in the normal sense of the term. They were temporary political groupings formed for the purpose of putting up candidates for the elections.

Among the political groupings active in 1960, there were five which maintained permanent organizations and could be regarded as political parties.

The Somali Youth League (S.Y.L.), the party holding a majority of the Legislative Assembly seats and government positions, derived the bulk of its support from the Darod and Hawiya tribes. It was a coalition of a large number of clans and lineage groups, engaged in continuous rivalry and competition. For a number of years, the Hawiya predominated in the party and received a greater share of the government posts. Dissatisfaction among the Darod came to a head on a number of occasions. It contributed to a split within the party in 1958 when Haji Mohamed Hussein, one of the party’s top leaders, was expelled and formed the rival Greater Somalia League (G.S.L.). Haji Mohamed himself is of the Rer Hamar (the natives of Mogadishu, who are outside the framework of the Somali lineage system). But a sizable number of Mijertain (Darod) followed him out of the party.

Another crisis occurred when Haji Mussa Boqor, a prominent member of the Osman Mahamoud (Darod, Mijertain), quarreled with the then Prime Minister, Abdullahi Issa (Hawiya). Haji Mussa, in what he considered a tactical move, resigned from his post as Minister of the Interior; but, to his surprise, the resignation was accepted.

The internal struggle revolving around personalities, and questions as to the relative share of various clans and tribes in top government posts, were later responsible for a more prolonged crisis, which delayed the formation of a new government after the 1959 elections. Those elections were held in the first half of March, but a government was formed only at the end of June. The composition of the cabinet reflected a victory for the faction of the then Prime Minister Abdullahi Issa. However, a powerful group of Darod leaders, headed by Dr. Abdirashid Ali Shermarke and Abdirazaq Haji Hussein (both of the Mijertain), continued to campaign for a change in leadership and against what they considered excessive attention to tribal interests.[6] The group was expelled from the S.Y.L. but was soon readmitted, and it won a partial victory in early 1960 when the government was expanded and reorganized. Its views finally prevailed after the attainment of independence and the unification with British Somaliland, during the negotiations on the formation of the first government of the Somali Republic. Dr. Abdirashid Ali Shermarke, the leader of the party rebels, became Prime Minister, and his associate, Abdirazaq Haji Hussein, became Minister of Interior. The former Premier, Abdullahi Issa, was named Foreign Minister in the new government.

Although the S.Y.L. represented the majority of Samaale tribesmen in Somalia, it was not the sole representative of the Darod and the Hawiya. Competing with the S.Y.L. for Darod support was the Greater Somalia League (G.S.L.). As mentioned above, the League was established by Haji Mohamed Hussein after a split in S.Y.L. ranks in 1958. Haji Mohamed had been president of the S.Y.L. The split occurred after his return from a prolonged stay in Egypt. Upon his return, he was reelected S.Y.L. president, but differences developed between him and other party leaders including Abdullahi Issa, the Prime Minister, and Aden Abdullah, Chairman of the Legislative Assembly. Probably the differences were, at the bottom, of a personal nature. They soon evolved into a dispute over the party’s policy. Haji Mohamed insisted upon a more militant Pan-Somali policy, demanded a strong stand against the Italian administration, and advocated that the party orient itself toward Egypt.

After his expulsion from the party and his formation of the Greater Somalia League, the new party criticized the S.Y.L. government for being too closely identified with the Italian trusteeship administration, and for permitting “economic exploitation” by certain Italian companies. The G.S.L. adopted a pro-Egyptian policy, as manifested in its identification with Egypt on international problems, in its campaign for the adoption of Arabic script for the Somali language, and in its promotion of Arabic culture.

The Greater Somalia League seemed to possess a vigorous organization and a considerable following, especially in Mogadishu and among the Darod of the Mijertain and lower Juba provinces. It was weakened, however, by internal differences. In 1959, Haji Mohamed established connections with the Soviet Union and China and has consequently been regarded as having Communist leanings. A conservative and religious-oriented group within the party challenged Haji Mohamed’s leadership, accusing him of misappropriations of party funds. These divisions notwithstanding, the party’s relative success in organizing a following indicated that among the Darod-Hawiya groupings, there was dissatisfaction with the S.Y.L. which could be taken advantage of through skillful manipulation by a rival party, and could indeed lead to a tribal and political realignment.

The Hawiya, like the Darod, are not united in their support of the S.Y.L. The Liberal Somali Youth Party (Partito Liberale Giovani Somali, or P.L.G.S.), which was formed as a result of a union between the Somali Democratic Party and smaller tribal groups, acquired a following among the Abgal branch of the Hawiya. The Liberals’ second important source of support was the Bimal (Dir), who inhabit an area south of Mogadishu. The party, however, was weak in its organization, and its stability was therefore doubtful.

The Sab appear to be more united politically than the Samaale. They have been represented mainly by the Hizbia Dastur Mustaqil Somali (H.D.M.S.), which can be translated Somali Independent Constitutional Party. The H.D.M.S., like the S.Y.L., was founded in 1947 in preparation for the arrival of the Four Power Commission of Investigation. The party was originally known by its tribal name Hizbia Dighil e Mirifle (the Party of the Dighil and Mirifle) but changed to its new name in 1958 in preparation for the general elections of 1959 and in conformity with the law prohibiting the use of tribal designations by parties participating in the elections.

The 1959 elections caused a split in the H.D.M.S. The party officially decided to boycott the elections because of alleged intimidations by S.Y.L. supporters. However, a few prominent members, including a former president of the party, a former vice-president, and a former secretary-general, succumbed to what appears to have been a combination of extreme pressure and political inducements and stood for election.

The complexity of tribal and political loyalties is glaringly illustrated here. Only four of the Rahanwein deputies of Upper Juba were elected on an H.D.M.S. ticket—officially repudiated by the party. The remaining eighteen Rahanwein deputies were elected on the S.Y.L. ticket. Their loyalty to the S.Y.L. seemed uncertain; so the S.Y.L. leadership resorted to the expedient of naming to the government the prominent Rahanwein personalities, and former H.D.M.S. leaders, who were elected to the legislature on the H.D.M.S. ticket, in order to keep the S.Y.L. Rahanwein deputies in line. Thus a former vice-president of the H.D.M.S., Abdinur Mohamed Hussein, became Minister of General Affairs in the 1959 government, and in 1960 became Minister of Public Works and Communications. The former secretary-general of the party, Abdulqadir Mohamed Aden, became Minister of Finance.

Another party representing a tribal grouping was the Somali National Union (S.N.U.). The mainstay of its support is the Rer Hamar, the natives of Mogadishu. The party was previously known as the Union of Benadir Youth (Unione Giovani Benadir, or U.G.B.), but took its new name in 1958 when preparing for the 1959 general elections.

Of the parties so far mentioned, only the S.Y.L. and (to a more limited extent) the Greater Somalia League could claim to possess a nationwide following. Both of these parties were based upon the Darod and Hawiya, spread throughout Somalia. However, the S.Y.L. also enjoyed some support among the Sab and other minorities, as indicated by the returns in the 1958 municipal elections (the best test available, since the 1959 general elections were boycotted by most opposition parties). Table 4 shows how the parties fared in the provinces of Benadir, Upper Juba, and Lower Juba, the ones that contain significant Sab populations. The Greater Somalia League, too, apparently found some support outside of purely Darod areas. On the other hand, all other parties were strictly limited to a tribal base. The Liberals entered candidates and won a substantial proportion of the votes only in areas having a significant Abgal population. The Benadir Youth Union registered a following only in Mogadishu and Merca. The H.D.M.S. obtained support only in the three provinces covered in the table—those with strong Sab elements.


The tribal composition of the population provides the key to the understanding of the party structure and of the competition for political influence, but it would be wrong to assume that Somalia’s parties have differed only in the genealogies of their followers. Ideological divisions have also begun to appear.

TABLE 4 Results of 1958 Municipal Elections in Benadir, Upper Juba, and Lower Juba Provinces

(percentage of votes obtained by each list)
Municipality S.Y.L. H.D.M.S Greater Somalia League Liberal Somali Youth


Benadir Youth Union
Mogadishu . 30.4 19.6 14.4 20.3 15.2
Merca . 31.4 34.2 14.4 9.9 10.0
Afghoi 32.8 58.8 0.0 8.4 0.0
Audegle . 20.3 79.7 0.0 0.0 0.0
Villabruzzi . . .. .. 60.2 12.0 0.0 27.7 0.0
Mahaddei . 86.4 0.0 0.0 13.5 0.0
Hauadlei . . 45.0 0.0 17.6 37.3 0.0
Brava . 25.0 73.4 1.5 0.0 0.0
Balad . 64.8 0.0 0.0 35.2 0.0
Wanle Wen … . 26.4 70.0 0.0 3.5 0.0
Baidoa . 45.5 54.5 0.0 0.0 0.0
Bardera . 27.9 72.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Dugiuma . 35.3 64.7 0.0 0.0 0.0
Saco . 44.8 55.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Lugh Ferrandi . . 43.0 57.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Dolo . 58.0 42.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Oddur . 46.3 53.7 0.0 0.0 0.0
Wegit . 50.0 50.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Tijeglo . 24.7 75.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Bur Acaba . 19.0 81.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Dinsor . 33.4 66.6 0.0 0.0 0.0
Kismayu . 37.8 15.7 34.0 0.0 0.0
Margherita . 44.0 44.8 11.1 0.0 0.0
Gelib . 55.1 44.9 0.0 0.0 0.0
Afmedo 61.8 0.0 38.2 0.0 0.0

NOTES: Zeros mean the party refrained from contesting in that municipality. Results in the other three Somalia provinces, Mijertain, Mudugh, and Hiran, which are populated exclusively by the Darod and the Hawiya, are not given, because, except in two municipalities, the elections were not contested there. All seats in the uncontested municipalities were captured by the S.Y.L. The Somali Fiqarini Youth (not shown above), a local group in the Kismayu area, obtained 12.4 percent of the votes in Kismayu. In all the above lines except the one for Kismayu, the percentages when added horizontally equal 100, though not always exactly, because of rounding. Source: Based on election returns in Report of the United Nations Advisory Council for the Trust Territory of Somaliland under Italian Administration, from 1 April 1958 to 31 March 1959 (U.N. Doc. T/1444), annex I.

Nationalism And Politics In The Trust Territory Of Somalia – Chapter 7Regarding the fundamental nationalist goals of independence and unification, there were no differences of opinion among the parties in 1960. This was not the case during the early stage of Somali political activity. During the 1940s, the S.Y.L. had been the only party with a Pan-Somali ideology. During the 1950s other parties integrated their special tribal or regional interests into a nationalist framework. By the time the Somali Republic was created, all parties in Somalia were nationalist—in the sense that they supported Somali independence and advocated a Greater Somali state.

The S.Y.L.’s program demanding the unification of the Somalilands was voiced by the then president of the party, Haji Mohamed Hussein, in his testimony before the Four Power Commission of Investigation in 1948. The S.Y.L. also submitted a memorandum to the Commission saying:

We wish our country to be amalgamated with the other Somalilands and to form one political, administrative, and economic unit with them. We Somalis are one in every way. We are the same racially and geographically, we have the same culture, we have the same language and the same religion. There is no future for us except as part of a Greater Somalia.

The present international frontiers are artificial and the divisions are placing an unfair strain on the political, administrative, and economic welfare of the country. The existence of several foreign official languages within the several territories, is enough, in itself, to make aliens out of brothers of the same race, religion, and country, and, put back our national advancement indefinitely . . . We want it [unity] and the Somalis of the other territories also want it. By this union only can we have the opportunity to give full expression to our national spirit and work out our destiny as a nation of normal human beings.

Union with the other Somalilands is our greatest demand which must take priority over all other considerations.[7]

The S.Y.L.’s position on Somali unity has not changed since this statement in 1948. In order to further its Pan-Somali objectives the party has maintained branches in British Somaliland. It also had branches in Jibuti and in Kenya, but these were proscribed by the authorities.

The Sab-oriented H.D.M.S., in the early stage of its evolution, had a narrow tribal outlook upon political problems, although even then the party supported certain broad nationalist objectives. In 1947, in preparation for the Four Power Commission, the H.D.M.S. (then called by its tribal name Hizbia Dighil e Mirifle) joined in forming the “Somalia Conference”—a convention of associations demanding that the territory be placed under Italian trusteeship— a step violently opposed by the S.Y.L. The first point of the manifesto of the conference stated that “the Somali people aspires to its full political independence and to its admission—as between equals— into the peoples’ international community.” The declaration went on to ask that Italy be given trusteeship over the territory under the auspices of the United Nations, in order to prepare the country for independence.[8]

This, however, was the limit of the H.D.M.S.’s nationalism. Its narrow tribal outlook on political problems was reflected in the testimony of its representatives before the Commission. Sheikh Abdullah, then the party president, when asked by the Soviet member whether “he is not interested in the political activities of the country,” replied: “I have only interest in the Dighil Mirifle.” In answer to another query, he stated: “When we asked for the trusteeship, we only meant for the country where the Dighil Mirifle live, not the rest of the country. We do not mean the rest of Somalia.”[9]

The H.D.M.S. later adapted itself to the nationalist spirit of the times and has joined in espousing the goal of a Greater Somalia. On the question of the constitutional form of the proposed union, however, the H.D.M.S. retained a distinct point of view, advocating a federal constitution for the future Somali state. A federal arrangement whereby the component units would enjoy considerable autonomy was viewed as the best safeguard for the special interests of the agricultural population, in an otherwise nomadic society. This position was reiterated in 1958 when Jelani Sheikh bin Sheikh, at that time the party president, said in a speech to the party convention that “the party has become convinced that the only method of unifying the Somalis . . . is through a federal constitution which accords full regional autonomy.”[10]

On the other hand, the S.Y.L. favored a unitary centralized state. The view was restated by Prime Minister Abdullahi Issa when he outlined his government’s program to the new Legislative Assembly on July 26, 1959. He declared: “In the interest of union among the Somali and in the interest of the very safeguarding of the Nation, the Government herewith declares that it does not pursue any regionalist or federalist goal because unity alone can ensure the durable existence of a Somali national life.”[11]

This position stemmed in part from a recognition of the economic needs of the territory. The Rahanwein and Dighil areas (roughly corresponding to the Upper Juba and Lower Juba provinces) offer the greatest potential for agricultural development in Somalia, which of course is now the Southern Region of the Somali Republic. All plans for future economic development hinge upon the large-scale development of water resources, the extension of agriculture, and the settlement of hundreds of thousands of nomads in the two provinces. But, perhaps even more important in determining the S.Y.L. position was the leaders’ commitment to nationalist centralist principles, very much in the spirit of the general trend of nationalist movements in Africa. This commitment is more remarkable because it implies the voluntary acceptance of a significant diminution of Hawiya political influence, which was bound to occur if a centralized government were established in the unified Somali state.

Despite the general agreement among all parties about the nationalist goals, nuances in emphasis have marked a distinction between the Greater Somalia League and the other parties. The S.Y.L. leaders, entrusted with governmental responsibility, have tended to be more moderate in their pronouncements regarding the Somalis of Ethiopia, Kenya, and French Somaliland than have the leaders of the Greater Somalia League. Unification was part of the government’s official program. But, while declaring themselves dedicated to the goal of unification, government leaders have always been careful to emphasize that it should be accomplished peacefully. The government’s official position on unification was stated by the Prime Minister in his address to the Legislative Assembly in July 1959, when he declared that

all means must be employed—within the framework of legality and the pursuit of peace—in order to obtain the union of all Somali territories, and their reunification under the same flag. This constitutes for us not only a right but a duty which one cannot neglect because it is impossible to want to distinguish between Somali and Somali.[12]

The Greater Somalia League did not advocate war as a means to unification; but its leaders have enjoyed the political advantage of being able to be more extreme than the government in their attacks on Ethiopia and on “imperialism” which is obstructing unity, and to omit any assurance regarding the method of achieving unification. Their ambiguity regarding methods has been explained by the romantic, yet perhaps not invalid, proposition that independence and national unification have seldom been granted to nations for the asking; rather, they had to be won by fighting.

A question that had aroused considerable controversy in Somalia by 1960 was the selection of a script for the Somali language. The matter had not become a clear-cut party issue, but, as mentioned above, the Greater Somalia League had become identified with those urging the adoption of Arabic.[13] In this, it received support from Egyptian representatives and teachers in the country as well as from Muslim religious authorities. The thesis is that because the Somalis are a Moslem people, it is only natural that their culture should have an Arab orientation.

Those who were opposing the adoption of Arabic were not particularly identified with any political party. They were mainly young intellectuals, who advocated the development of a Somali culture and a distinct “Somali personality,” and feared that the adoption of Arabic would result in cultural assimilation and in the loss of Somali cultural identity. There were differences of opinion among them. Some favored the adoption of the Osmaniya alphabet, specially devised for the Somali language in the 1920s by an early Somali nationalist, Yusuf Kenadid Osman. The advocates of Osmaniya, however, lost ground after a conference of educators and linguists from Somalia and British Somaliland recommended its abandonment in 1955, because its adoption, they argued, would impose upon school children the burden of learning three alphabets: Osmaniya would be taught as the national language, Arabic would be taught for religious purposes, and the Latin alphabet would be taught with European foreign languages.[14]

A larger section of the young secular intellectuals favored the adaptation of the Latin alphabet to the Somali language. They argued that the adoption of Osmaniya would encourage cultural isolation. The adoption of the Latin alphabet, on the other hand, would make the contact between the Somali and Western cultures easier. These intellectuals were not concerned primarily with Western humanistic traditions, but rather with the scientific achievements of Europe and America, the adaptation of which they regarded as essential for the development and prosperity of their country.

At the time of writing, the controversy regarding a Somali script has not been resolved. The matter is still in the hands of committees studying the problem.[15]

On foreign affairs, there was a distinct divergence of views among the parties. All parties advocated “neutralism,” a principle which has been gaining favor among African nationalists. However, while the S.Y.L., the H.D.M.S., and the Liberals could be described as “neutral with a pro-Western bias,” the Greater Somalia League and the Somali National Union appeared to be “neutral in favor of the Communist powers.” Both Haji Mohamed Hussein and Abubakr Hamud Socorro, presidents of the Greater Somalia League and the Somali National Union respectively, had paid visits to Moscow, Peiping, and other Communist capitals. They were generally believed to have received considerable financial support from China, and their followers had been granted scholarships for study in Communist countries.

These issues of internal and external policy have been gradually gaining public interest. The increasing attention being paid to such issues marked a new trend in political life, whereby political controversies were gradually ceasing to revolve exclusively around personal and tribal interests. As the population of what used to be Italian Somaliland becomes more sophisticated politically, and as economic and social development takes place, new interests are beginning to assert themselves, and issues of principle and ideology are gaining in prominence.


[1] For example, the quotas allocated to provinces of the trust territory of Somalia for the 1960 recruitment into the police force were filled without difficulty in all provinces except in Upper Juba (predominantly Rahanwein). For some figures on tribal proportions in government service, see Lewis, “Political Movements,” p. 355»3· See also A. A. Castagno, “The Republic of Somalia,” Africa Special Report, July 1960, p. 9.

[2] The British Military Administration’s role was referred to recently by F. M. Thomas, who had served with the Administration in Somalia during the war, during a discussion at the Thirteenth Conference of the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute for Social Research. Commenting on an observation by Dr. I. M. Lewis that “there had been real political progress in Somalia and that there was a growing national consciousness,” Thomas said that “if that were so, then it had been worth starting the Youth Club even though this had called down on him the wrath of many other administrators including the late Governor of British Somaliland, Sir Gerald Reece.” See From Tribal Rule to Modern Government, the Thirteenth Conference proceedings of the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute for Social Research, ed. Raymond Apthorpe (Lusaka, 1959), pp. 169-170. For some additional information see I. M. Lewis, A Pastoral Democracy (London: Oxford University Press, 1961), pp. 305—306.

[3] See Four Power Commission, report and appendices.

[4] For further details on the constitutional progress see Rapport sur la Somalie 1959, pp. 22-30; also United Nations Visiting Mission to Trust Territories in East Africa, 1951, Report on Somaliland under Italian Administration (U.N. Doc. T/1033), pars. 64-88; U.N. Advisory Council 1956-57 (U.N. Doc. T/1311), pars. 52-64. On the municipal elections see U.N. Visiting Mission, 1954, Report, pars. 31-33; and U.N. Advisory Council 1958-59 (U.N. Doc. T/1444), pars. 82-96 and annex I.

For details of the general elections see U.N. Advisory Council 1955—56 (U.N. Doc. T/1245), pars. 25-26; U.N. Advisory Council 1958-59 (U.N. Doc. T/1444), pars. 103-142 and annexes II-V. See also A. A. Castagno, “Somalia,” International Conciliation, no. 522 (March 1959), p. 358. See also notes to our Table 3.

[5] See articles 15 and 19 of the “Law on Political Elections,” in U.N. Advisory Council 1958-59 (U.N. Doc. T/1444), annex III.

[6] The group’s point of view was ably presented at the United Nations Trusteeship Council by Abdirazaq Haji Hussein. See the Council’s Official Records, 24th session, 1022nd meeting, July 22, 1959. See also U.N. Docs. T/1473 and T/PET.11/L.43.

[7] Four Power Commission, sec. II, chap. 4, app. Ρ, p. 3. For Haji Mohamed Hussein’s testimony, see ibid., app. A, p. 15.

[8] Ibid., app. R.

[9] Ibid., app. N, p. 9. The same is reflected also in other parts of the testimony.

[10] Quoted by Castagno (our note 4, above), p. 359. See also U.N. Doc. T/PET.11/583 and U.N. Advisory Council 1957-58 (U.N. Doc. Τ/1372), par. 61.

[11] Rapport sur la Somalie 1959, p. 168.

[12] Ibid., p. 167.

[13] The author, during his visit to the Greater Somalia League headquarters in Mogadishu at the end of 1960, was struck by the fact that the language spoken among the members was Arabic, rather than Somali.

[14] Rapport sur la Somalie 1955, pp. 131-132. On Osmaniya see M. Maino, “L’Alphabeto ‘Osmania’ in Somalia,” Rassegna di Studi Etiopici (Rome), vol. Χ (1951), pp. 108-121. See also Martino M. Moreno, Il Somalo della Somalia (Rome: Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato, 1955), pp. 290-297.

[15] The most recent committee was appointed in October 1960 and was supposed to submit its report by March 1961. See Corriere della Somalia (Mogadishu), Oct. 27, 1960. See also Castagno (our note 4, above), pp. 370- 372·

To be continued …..

About This Book

In this first book on the emergence of Somali nationalism, Saadia Touval draws on extensive research and firsthand knowledge to explore the complex and dangerous situation in easternmost Africa. He describes the land and people, the spread of Somali tribes with their Moslem culture, the arrival of Europeans during the nineteenth century, the development of national consciousness, politics in the new Somali Republic and French Somaliland, problems presented by the Somalis of Kenya and Ethiopia, and the overriding question of boundary lines. Finally, he discusses the prospects for a peaceful solution.

About the Author(s)

Saadia Touval lectures on Political Science and African Politics at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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