Chapter 14: The International Environment 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 14: The International Environment

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 this chapter

The conflict between Somali nationalism and the interests of the neighboring peoples is by itself dangerous for the peace of the Horn of Africa. This danger is greatly increased by the involvement of a number of more distant foreign countries in the affairs of the region. Britain, France, Italy, the United States, the Soviet Union, China, and Egypt have all displayed considerable interest in the Horn, and appear to be involved in its politics. This involvement compounds the dangers to peace in two ways. First, foreign support tends to encourage the contending parties to pursue militant policies and thus increases the likelihood of war. Secondly, if and when a local conflict erupts into violence, foreign powers may be drawn into it.

Some of the factors that pulled Britain, France, and Italy to the Horn of Africa in the nineteenth century have ceased to play a role in international politics. Britain and France are no longer competing for control of the upper reaches of the Nile. Colonies have lost their prestige value; indeed they are now regarded as a liability. Of the interests which played a role in the original establishment of European authority in the region, only the defense of sea communications remains significant.


To be sure, the element of competition has not disappeared, but now it is different in kind. At the turn of the century, the chief rivals were Britain, France, Germany, and Italy, and the object of the competition was the establishment of colonies. Today, the competitors are two power blocs, seeking influence among the uncommitted nations. The mode of competition has changed, and increasing emphasis is put today on indirect influence over countries and peoples, rather than the establishment of direct control. Yet strategic considerations continue to play a role in the power contest, each side striving to acquire positions which might be of value in case of war, or at least deny these positions to its adversary.

A glance at the map is sufficient to realize the strategic importance of the area. The Horn of Africa flanks the approaches between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. The Somali coast could serve as a base for interference with vessels using the Suez route between Europe and Asia, and for harassment of shipping in the Indian Ocean. The area has potential importance for air communications as well. There are numerous airfields, although at this writing none has been developed as a stopover on intercontinental trunk routes. With the extension of the range of aircraft, the potential importance of these airfields is likely to decline, though overflight rights will remain of some consequence. The safety and unhindered use of these sea and air communication routes is not merely a European interest, but the interest of South Asian countries as well.[1]

The efforts of the various powers to make themselves felt in this strategically important region are greatly facilitated by the weaknesses of the various territories in the area and their dependence on foreign assistance. They require aid to overcome internal economic difficulties. Furthermore, the contending internal forces in the Horn seek external political and military support against each other.

All the external powers, in their policies toward the Horn, have been influenced by these general considerations regarding the strategic significance of the area and its inner weaknesses; and, in addition, each outside nation has been affected by factors having special application to itself.


Britain’s interest in the Horn stems, probably more than that of any other power, from concern for the safety of its sea communications through the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. The sea lanes, in addition to their economic importance, are regarded as essential “for the intercommunications of ideas, and possibly for the movement of military and economic assistance” between members of the Commonwealth.[2]

British policy has consistently sought to prevent the establishment in the Horn of Africa of a hostile power which might interfere with these communications. In the nineteenth century, the potential threat to sea communications emanated mainly from Britain’s European rivals. Today these communications would be threatened if the Soviet Union, or any extremist anti-Western power, gained influence over the area.

In the nineteenth century, the most effective means to safeguard imperial communications was to take possession of strategically important areas in the Horn and on the Arabian Peninsula. Now that the continued possession of territories in Africa or Asia has ceased to be practicable in the era of nationalist awakening on these two continents, the British have sought to retain their influence in the region through the cultivation of good relations with Somali nationalism.

At the conclusion of the Second World War, Great Britain apparently did not foresee the rapid pace of Somali progress toward independence and sought to secure a firmer hold over the area through the placing of the entire Horn under British administration. This attempt did not bring the British into conflict with Somali nationalism; on the contrary, it received some support from nationalist quarters. The nationalists did not consider immediate independence attainable at that time. Thus, their objective of the unification of Somali territories coincided essentially with British aims.

During the period of British Military Administration over Italian Somaliland, the British authorities maintained close and friendly relations with the Somali Youth League. Indeed, as indicated earlier, the British Military Administration was apparently associated with the League’s establishment. In British Somaliland, as well, the government maintained generally friendly relations with the nationalists. Somali complaints over the transfer of the Haud to the Ethiopian administration met with an apologetic response on the part of the British government. Official statements about British support for the closer association between British Somaliland and Somalia were another manifestation of British policy. However qualified, the statements were nevertheless in harmony with Somali nationalist aspirations.[3]

British relations with Ethiopia have been marred by several vexatious episodes. In 1923, Britain opposed Ethiopia’s admission to the League of Nations. Two years later, in an exchange of notes, it confirmed Italian claims to a sphere of influence in Ethiopia. The abandonment of Ethiopia by the League of Nations in 1935 and the British attitude at that time are remembered by the Ethiopians. Later, at the time of the liberation of the country, there was considerable skepticism in British government circles about the emperor’s ability to reestablish his authority. This skepticism was reflected in the terms of the 1942 Anglo-Ethiopian agreement and apparently affected the attitude of the British military authorities toward the Ethiopian government. Both the 1942 agreement and the 1944 agreement which superseded it included clauses which were repugnant to Ethiopia and were accepted by it only with the greatest reluctance.[4]

Anglo-Ethiopian relations were further disturbed by the aforementioned British proposal to place certain Somali-populated areas, including the Ethiopian territories of the Ogaden and the Haud, under British administration. The delay in restoring the Ogaden to the Ethiopian administration until 1948, more than three years after the end of the war, and the subsequent delay in the return of the Haud, did not help to allay Ethiopian suspicions regarding British intentions. The British reputation for sympathizing with Somali nationalism tended to augment Ethiopian misgivings. Anglo-Ethiopian disagreements came into the open again in February 1959 in connection with the declaration by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. Lennox-Boyd that under certain conditions Britain would be ready to help arrange negotiations between Somali representatives concerning the closer association between Somalia and British Somaliland.[5] The declaration was apparently followed by some sharp diplomatic exchanges.

As long as Somaliland remained a British protectorate, the strong pro-Somali attitudes of the colonial administration tended to differ from the views held in the Foreign Office about the region’s problems. The termination of British responsibility for the territory will probably enable the British government to take a more detached view of these problems. This is not to say that Britain ceased to be interested in Somali friendship. On the contrary, as pointed out earlier, the decision to withdraw was prompted by the desire to maintain and strengthen this friendship. Evidence of continued British interest in the region and the desire to maintain a measure of influence upon events there is the provision of assistance to the independent Somali Republic. The British government promised financial assistance to its former protectorate amounting to 1.5 million pounds in the first year of independence, and a smaller sum as assistance to the former trust territory of Somalia.[6] In addition, Britain provided an aid mission to staff certain civil service posts, and a military mission to remain with the Somaliland Scouts for a transition period of six months. In cooperation with Italy, Britain also undertook to provide military assistance to the Somali Republic.[7]

Currently, British policy is up against the difficult task of preserving friendly relations with Somali nationalists while at the same time encouraging the maintenance of peace and stability in the region. Somali nationalism is not a stabilizing factor; on the contrary, it is committed to the revision of the status quo. Unrest may develop in the area either as a consequence of the frustration of Somali nationalism or as a result of its success—that is, its success in undermining the Ethiopian position in the Ogaden and in preventing an independent Kenya from establishing its authority in the Northern Frontier Province. In either case, unrest might open the way for the rise of local extremist movements or to outside intervention.


France’s involvement in the Horn stems from its position in French Somaliland. As mentioned above, France, though its interest in the region has been modified since the nineteenth century, appears determined to preserve its position in strategic Djibouti. In this, French policy conflicts with Somali nationalism.

French and Ethiopian interests coincide in opposing Somali nationalist ambitions in French Somaliland. France and Ethiopia have traditionally maintained good relations, though marred to an extent by the abandonment of Ethiopia to Italy in 1935. A border dispute between French Somaliland and Ethiopia has been settled amicably, and never seriously disturbed relations between them. The question of Ethiopian dissatisfaction with the operation of the Djibouti-Addis Ababa railroad has also been resolved, and an agreement for the transfer of the railway from the French to the Ethiopian administration was signed in 1959. The visit of Emperor Haile Selassie to Paris in July 1959 afforded an additional opportunity for cementing friendly relations and perhaps discussing the political problems of the Horn.[8]

It is difficult to speculate as to whether the conflict between France and Somali nationalism will become violent, and as to whether Franco-Ethiopian cooperation will be lasting. Though Somali nationalism does not appear to be strong in French Somaliland, its challenge to the status quo is being taken seriously. As long as the challenge persists, the coalition of the forces opposing it (the Danakils, Ethiopia, and France) is likely to hold together. However, Ethiopia’s dependence upon Djibouti, its periodic claims for the coastal regions, and its aversion to foreign influence along its borders point to the possibility that at some future date, Ethiopia may wish to annex Djibouti. The French response to this likely move and its effect upon French policy toward the region’s problems are difficult to predict.


Italy’s loss of its African colonies as a result of the Second World War greatly facilitated its adjustment to the new postwar spirit on the colonial question.

In the peace treaty, Italy formally renounced “all right and title to the Italian territorial possessions in Africa.”[9] In fact, however, before as well as after the signing of the treaty, the Italian government persistently pressed for the return of the territories. Considerations of domestic politics probably played the largest part in the Italian government’s claim. An additional factor seems to have been the ambition to regain the status of an influential world power, and still, another was probably the desire to afford protection to Italian economic investments.[10]

In any event, Italy’s efforts to regain its formerly influential position in Africa have generally been adjusted to the new postwar conditions there. The Italian administration in the United Nations trust territory of Somalia strove to demonstrate to the world, and particularly to African and Asian nations, Italy’s desire and ability to play a constructive role in Africa. From their own prewar experience, and from the experience of other nations after the war, the Italians apparently concluded that the mere possession of an African territory would not afford them the influence to which they aspired. It was necessary to win the goodwill of the local population, and indeed of other emerging nations in Asia and Africa. Italian policy in Somalia during the ten-year period of trusteeship was strongly motivated by the desire to win this goodwill. Italy seems to have been largely successful in its policy. THE strong anti-Italian sentiments displayed by Somali nationalists prior to the Italian return to the territory have given way to understanding and goodwill.

After Somalia’s attainment of independence in 1960, Italy retained its interest in the territory. Italy takes pride in the way it advanced the country’s readiness for independence and considers itself as bearing a special responsibility for the future of the territory. THE continued Italian interest in the Somali Republic is reflected in the provision of financial and technical assistance to the territory, in the continued purchase of the country’s banana crop under specially favorable conditions, and in extensive technical training and scholarship aids. This interest may be in part the result of a sentimental attachment to a territory which has been so long an Italian possession. But it probably stems in large measure from the traditional Italian policy of seeking to play the role of a major power. Before the Second World War, the reasoning behind the aspiration for such a role was purely nationalistic, but the emphasis has since shifted to considerations of European interests. Italy seems to see itself particularly well suited to act as a bridge, or mediator, between Europe on the one hand and Africa and Asia on the other. Italy’s policy in the Horn should be viewed in the general context of Italian efforts in this sphere.

THE unification of Somalia and British Somaliland, of course, occasioned some set-back to Italian influence. This is most noticeable in the cultural field, and in the prospect of the replacement of Italian by English as the principal European language taught in schools. It is possible to discern a slight sensitivity on the Italians’ part concerning the decline of their influence in the territory formerly administered by them, while British influence increases. Yet, as this is written, their sensitivity has not developed into overt competition with Britain for influence in the area.


American involvement in the Horn of Africa was motivated by the same concern which has been the principal preoccupation of American foreign policy since the Second World War—the containment of Russian and Chinese influence.

Along with Britain, France, and the Soviet Union, the United States participated after the war in the deliberations on the future of the former Italian colonies. In these discussions, the Western powers were agreed on the desirability of excluding Soviet influence from the territories in question, but otherwise maintained at various times divergent views about the territories’ future. France consistently supported the return of the former colonies to Italy, probably on the assumption that the alternative might be their placement under British administration. The British sought to acquire trusteeship over Somalia and were willing to change the status of British Somaliland from protectorate to United Nations trusteeship provided the Ogaden were added to this grouping. The United States at first proposed the establishment of an international administration responsible to the U.N. Trusteeship Council. However, in 1948, concern over the domestic political situation in Italy induced the Western Big Three to propose the return of Somalia to the Italian administration under the United Nations trusteeship.[11]

The United States, in its attitude toward the Somali nationalists, was consistently friendly. This attitude was clearly reflected in the late 1940s in the general tenor of the remarks of the United States representative on the Four Power Commission of Investigation for the former Italian colonies.[12] Subsequently, during the ten-year period when Somalia was under trusteeship, American goodwill showed itself in the provision of various assistance programs. American aid was increased after the attainment of independence and the creation of the Somali Republic.

While developing friendly relations with the Somalis, the United States has also maintained close relations with Ethiopia. By 1960, however, American policy seemed to have evoked some displeasure on the part of Ethiopia. Total American assistance over the 1953-1959 period amounted to $107 million, not an impressive figure compared to the loan of $100 million which Ethiopia received in 1959 from the Soviet Union. Ethiopians apparently felt that their country had not been accorded sufficient recognition for its contributions to Western causes, such as its participation in the Korean War and the provision of facilities for an American military communications station within their territory.[13] Ethiopian irritation reached a climax as a result of American participation in unspecified diplomatic representations to Ethiopia connected with the abovementioned Lennox-Boyd declaration of February 1959.[14]

On the other hand, the Somalis in the Somali Republic have exhibited resentment over the reluctance of the United States to support their efforts at establishing an army. Like most newly independent states, the Somali Republic views a national army as a symbol of its sovereignty. It is concerned about its military weakness relative to its principal adversary—Ethiopia. The Somalis’ appeals for American assistance in establishing and equipping an army did not bear the expected fruit, and their disappointment was greatly augmented by the knowledge that Ethiopia had received substantial American military assistance. The anti-American demonstrations that followed a clash between Somali tribesmen and Ethiopian forces in which the Ethiopians allegedly used equipment furnished by the United States reflected Somali feelings in this respect.[15]

Thus, American interest in the Horn, motivated by the desire to prevent the extension of Russian and Chinese influence there, brought increasing involvement in local regional quarrels. The United States, and indeed the Western powers, found it more difficult to remain dissociated from such quarrels. One of the problems of being a major world power is that both its actions and its abstention from acting are likely to affect regional politics.


Thus far, Soviet involvement in the affairs of the Horn has been limited. The Soviet Union participated after the war in the deliberations on the future of the Italian colonies. Its position during the protracted negotiations in the Council of Foreign Ministers and the United Nations was not wholly a consistent one. In 1945, it proposed the principle of individual trusteeship over the Italian colonies by the great powers. The Soviet Union demanded to be assigned trusteeship over Tripolitania and was apparently ready to concede to Great Britain the trusteeship over the former Italian Somaliland. But in 1946 it proposed that the former colonies be placed under joint administration by Italy and one of the Big Four powers. At the same time, it expressed strong opposition to the “Bevin Plan” which envisaged the unification, under British administration, of the former Italian colony, British Somaliland, and Ethiopia’s Ogaden. Later, during the same session of the Foreign Ministers, probably with an eye to the forthcoming elections in Italy, Foreign Minister Molotov proposed that the former colonies be returned to Italy under trusteeship. Finally, in September 1948 (after the Four Power Commission had made its report) the Russians shifted their position and proposed collective trusteeship by the United Nations.[16]

During these negotiations, the Russians did not display particular ambitions with respect to Somaliland, as they had with regard to Tripolitania. Their maneuvering was motivated largely by their desire for the Tripolitania trusteeship and by their interest in the Italian elections. Their 1948 proposal for a collective United Nations trusteeship was probably a last-ditch attempt to win a role in the administration of the territories. It marked also the new trend in Soviet policy of supporting the Asian-Arab anticolonial bloc, which at the time opposed Italian trusteeship.

Still another consideration which may have played a role in changing Soviet policy was the bitter opposition of Ethiopia to the return of Somaliland to Italy. Traditionally, from Tsarist times, the Russians had felt particular sympathy for Ethiopia. In the late nineteenth century, there was considerable discussion in Russia about the supposed affinity between the Orthodox Church and Ethiopian Christianity. Russian adventurers, along with those of other nations, were active in Ethiopia, and one of them played a prominent part in the battle of Adowa. Furthermore, the first hospital in Addis Ababa was established by the Russian Red Cross. After the Second World War, the interest in Ethiopia was reaffirmed with the dispatch of a Soviet medical team to staff a new hospital. The loan granted to Ethiopia during the emperor’s visit to Moscow in 1959 and the renewed contacts between the Ethiopian and Russian churches are other manifestations of continuing Russian interest.[17]

Soviet attitudes toward Somali nationalism were at first not marked by friendliness. In the report of the Four Power Commission in 1948, the Soviet representative inserted a reservation stating that “the program prepared by the Somali Youth League is a primitive document, has many contradictions and cannot be considered serious.”[18] At that time, the Soviet Union still favored the return of the colonies to Italy, while the Somali Youth League opposed it and demanded Four Power trusteeship instead. Russia’s critical attitude toward the S.YJL. was not, however, long-lasting, and changed in 1949.

After that, the Russians were friendly toward the Somalis but made no special effort to court Somali nationalism. On the question of the Somali-Ethiopian border disputes the Russians have maintained complete neutrality. The Russian attitude in the United Nations during the discussions on the problem might even be described as one of detachment. The training of Somalis in the Soviet Union did not turn out particularly well; some of the Somalis who had been studying in Moscow returned in 1960 prior to the completion of their projected programs, dissatisfied with the treatment they were accorded.

An intensification of Soviet interest in the Somalis was signified in April 1961 when a Soviet governmental delegation visited the Somali Republic. In the following month, the Somali Prime Minister traveled to Russia, accompanied by several members of the cabinet and senior officials; the result was an agreement whereby the Somali Republic was to receive loans and credits amounting to $50 million, and agreements concerning Soviet technical assistance, commercial relations, and cultural cooperation.[19]

At the time of writing it is still unclear whether the Soviet Union has decided to support Somali aspirations for a “Greater Somalia” or whether it is delaying further involvement until it can better assess Somali claims—their effects upon African alignments and their implications for Soviet policy.


There have been growing indications since the late 1950s that Communist China is becoming a factor in the politics of the Horn of Africa. There is nothing extraordinary about the establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of a Chinese embassy in Mogadishu, but Chinese support of certain Somali political groups and the granting of dozens of scholarships to Somali students indicate that China looks at the area with interest.[20]

The Somali political groups supported by China were generally regarded as extremists and were in opposition to the government of the Somali Republic. As related earlier, Haji Mohamed Hussein, president of the Greater Somalia League, visited Peiping and reportedly received financial support from Chinese sources. So did Abubakr Socorro, the leader of the Somali National Union, and Mahmoud Harbi, the late nationalist leader from French Somaliland. Scholarship grants for study in China have been made available to leaders of the Greater Somalia League and the Somali National Union and have been distributed among the supporters of these parties. In 1961 there were reportedly forty to fifty Somali students in China, a high proportion of them teenagers because the number of secondary-school graduates qualified to attend universities is still small. The attention directed at the opposition parties has not been viewed favorably by the Somali government. Nevertheless, diplomatic relations between the two countries appeared to be normal.

The indications of Chinese interest, which are conspicuous because China is a newcomer to the region, raise the question of Chinese motives. The motives are somewhat obscure, and in any case, a detailed analysis of Chinese foreign policy is impossible here, but a few aspects of interest can be mentioned.

First, it should be pointed out that the Somali Republic is not the only African country to attract Chinese attention. For example, China aided Guinea, offered assistance to the Algerian nationalists, and was reported active in the Congo. Moreover, China has assumed a leading role in promoting the Afro-Asian Solidarity movement. Its activities in the Horn of Africa are to be seen in this context.

Yet the political climate in the Somali Republic is quite different from the political atmosphere in Guinea, Algeria, and the Congo. The bitterness against the West that was so common among the nationalist leaders in those territories is not characteristic of the Somali Republic. As of this writing, relations between the Somalis and the former colonial powers are friendly. The Western powers may be blamed for the problems of French Somaliland, but elsewhere Somali nationalism is not in conflict with Western powers. The Somalis’ main adversaries are their African neighbors, the Danakils, Ethiopians, and Kenyans. Therefore, China’s gestures in the Horn do not readily fall into the general pattern of its encouragement of political movements inimical to the West.

It is unlikely that China’s support for the opposition parties was motivated by any dislike for the policies of the Somali government, which may have a slight pro-Western bias but is essentially neutralist in its orientation. China may consider its replacement as desirable; yet the replacement of neutralist governments by pro-Chinese regimes does not appear to be a major Chinese preoccupation elsewhere in Africa at this time.

Pending further developments of the 1960s, the most plausible explanation for China’s interest in the Horn may lie in the region’s geographic location. It could be that the interest is the reflection of a tendency to view the shores of the Indian Ocean as being of special importance for China. Whatever the motives of Chinese policy, one would hardly like to suggest that China’s increasing involvement in the politics of the Horn of Africa is lacking in significance.


Egypt has been the most persistent supporter of Somali nationalism. In the early 1960s, radio broadcasts from Cairo were carrying the nationalist message to all parts of the Horn, attacking Britain, France, and Ethiopia as “imperialist powers” engaged in the suppression of Somali nationalism. Egypt has served as host to Somali political leaders who for various reasons wished to live abroad. Among the influential politicians who lived in Cairo were Haji Mohamed Hussein, president of the Greater Somalia League, and the late nationalist leader from French Somaliland, Mahmoud Harbi. Egypt has furnished extensive aid to the Somali Republic in a number of fields. Egypt has granted credits for development purposes, has promised to increase its purchases of Somali export goods, and has operated an elaborate educational assistance program consisting of a network of “Egyptian-assisted schools” and hundreds of Egyptian teachers. Moreover, hundreds of Somali students have received scholarships to study in Egypt. Perhaps most significant of all, politically, was the military assistance furnished by Egypt for the equipping and training of the new Somali army.[21]

Egyptian involvement stems in part from religious solidarity; but the principal reason behind it is political. Dependence on the Nile has led Egypt throughout its long history to view the sources of the river and its upper reaches as vital to Egyptian security. Most of the Nile waters which reach Egypt originate in the Ethiopian highlands. Egypt has always feared interference with the flow of the river by Ethiopia or other powers controlling its headwaters.

A protagonist of the idea of an Anglo-Egyptian empire over the Nile basin wrote at the end of the last century that “Egypt must always, as a matter of self-defense, be in a position to dominate Abyssinia, either directly or indirectly.”[22] Similar appreciations of Egyptian interests have marked Egyptian policy toward Ethiopia from time to time, throughout history. In the 1870s, as we have seen, Egypt under the Khedive Ismail sent expeditions to occupy portions of the East African coast, and Egyptian forces penetrated inland as far as Harar. The same Egyptian ruler also made war on Ethiopia. He suffered a costly defeat, but nevertheless retained possession of the coast.[23]

The fear that the Ethiopian government could unilaterally interfere with the flow of the Nile, disregarding Egyptian interests, is probably unjustified. Nevertheless, it appears that Egyptian policy in East Africa continues to be guided by Egypt’s traditional concern with the Nile. During the last decade or so, under the leadership of President Nasser, a vigorous policy aimed at increasing Egyptian influence in the countries containing the headwaters of the Nile has been followed.[24] A convenient lever to exert pressure upon the Ethiopian government seems to be the encouragement of Somali nationalism and of the self-consciousness of other Moslem minorities in Ethiopia. Such pressure, though it might not necessarily ensure Ethiopian subservience to the wishes of the Egyptian government, is likely to induce them to give full consideration to Egyptian views on any project which could affect the flow of the Nile.

Egypt’s desire to extend its influence in the Horn is probably motivated not only by its interest in the Nile but also by its realization of the area’s strategic importance with respect to sea communications between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Possession of the Suez Canal assures control over access to the Red Sea from the north, and it is likely that Egypt is mindful of the possibilities of extending its influence at the southern end of the Red Sea as well.

The Somalis’ need for support for the promotion of nationalist goals, as well as the religious connection, render them receptive to Egyptian influence. On the other hand, the Somalis have certain traditional antagonisms toward Egypt; they also have their pride and their dislike of foreign interference in their affairs. Those factors are likely to be obstacles to the extension of Egyptian influence.

The Somali ambivalence toward Egypt was reflected in the assassination of the Egyptian member of the United Nations Advisory Council in 1957, an incident reportedly connected with Egyptian interference in Somali internal politics.[25] Another event illustrating the difficulties inherent in the Somali-Egyptian relationship was the detection of a clandestine shipment of arms reportedly unloaded near Berbera in the Northern Region of the Somali Republic in October 1960. The bulk of the shipment was destined for the supporters of the late Mahmoud Harbi in French Somaliland, but a portion of it found its way to the hands of the Habr Yunis tribe who live in the Northern Region. Egypt was believed to have been involved in the operation, and the incident reportedly irritated the Somali government.

Yet the intractable nature of the issues raised by Somali nationalism, and Egyptian interests in the Nile basin and at the Straits of Bab al Mandab seem to presage continued Egyptian involvement in the affairs of the region.

# # #

Thus, the present involvement of external powers in the Horn of Africa is motivated by their varying interests and also has been encouraged by the weaknesses of the territories in the region and their need for political and economic support. The involvement of foreign powers in the Horn should not be surprising. Yet it is not conducive to peace. It aggravates regional tensions. It may well result in the serious extension of the cold war to the Horn. In such an event, the local struggle in this remote elbow of the continent may make its contribution to the instability of the world.


[1] See Defence and Security in the Indian Ocean Area, a report by a study group of the Indian Council of World Affairs (London: Asia Publishing House, 1958), pp. 5-25; British Interests in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, a report by a Chatham House study group (London: Oxford University Press, 1958), pp. 25-27, 32-34; Adm. R. L. Conolly, “Africa’s Strategic Significance,” in Africa Today, ed. C. G. Haines (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1955), p. 61.

[2] British Interests, just cited, p. 33. Other relevant discussion is on pp. 25-27 and 32-34 of that report.

[3] See statement by the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Lloyd, May 29, 1956, quoted in Somaliland Protectorate 1956-1957, PP· 58-59, and statement on Feb. 9, 1959, by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, A. T. Lennox-Boyd, quoted in Commonwealth Survey (London), vol. 5, no. 4 (Feb. 17, 1959), pp. 178-179. For an official expression of sympathy for nationalist grievances regarding the Haud issue see Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, vol. 537, col. 1285 (Feb. 23, 1955).

[4] M. Perham, The Government of Ethiopia (New York: Oxford University Press, 1948), pp. 63, 93-94, 345, 357, 390-396.

[5] See our note 3, above.

[6] Some disagreements have developed between the British and Somali governments regarding the distribution and administration of these funds. The British government maintained that its assistance should be apportioned between the Northern and Southern Regions in the manner envisaged prior to independence. The Somali government, on the other hand, assumed the position that it, rather than the regions, is the recipient of this aid, and that the manner in which British assistance is to be apportioned between the regions is its own concern—not to be determined by the British government.

[7] See Great Britain, Colonial Office, Report of the Somaliland Constitutional Conference (London: H.M.S.O., 1960), Cmd. 1044; and Great Britain, Agreements and Exchanges of Letters in Connexion with the Attainment of Independence by Somaliland (London: H.M.S.O., 1960), Cmd. noi. Also Africa Digest (London), August 1962.

[8] On the border, settlement see The Times (London), Sept. 10, 1945. On the railway see Journal Officiel de la République Française, Lois et Décrets, 92nd year, no. 114, May 15, 1960. On the Emperor’s visit see New York Times, July 21 and 22, 1959.

[9] Article 23 of “Treaty of Peace with Italy,” United Nations Treaty Series, vol. 49 (1950J.n0. 747), p. 139.

[10] See Italy and the United Nations, report of a study group set up by the Italian Society for International Organization, prepared for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (New York: Manhattan Publishing Co., 1959), pp. 54-58; and B. Rivlin, The United Nations and the Italian Colonies (New York: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1950), pp. 42-43.

[11] They could not agree, however, on a joint proposal with respect to Eritrea and Libya. Rivlin, pp. 9-12, 24-25.

[12] Four Power Commission, report and appendices, passim, and particularly pp. 15-16 and 117-119 of the report. The text is interspersed with separate comments and reservations by the representatives.

[13] New York Times, July 5, 1959. See also New York Times, Jan. 31, 1960, and Christian Science Monitor, April 7, 1960. For the agreement granting facilities for defense installations, see United States Treaties and Other International Agreements, vol. 5, part 1, 1954, pp. 750-761.

[14] The Times (London), Feb. 11 and 19, 1959.

[15] New York Times, Jan. 3 and 4, 1961.

[16] Rivlin, pp. 11-13, 24.

[17] W. L. Langer, The Diplomacy of Imperialism, second edition (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956), pp. 274, 280, 291. For a detailed study, see C. Jesman, The Russians in Ethiopia (London: Chatto & Windus, 1958). See also Perham (our note 4, above), pp. 238, 394; Ethiopia Observer (Addis Ababa), vol. I (1957), pp. 131-132; New York Times, July 13 and Aug. 24, 1959; and Y. Tomilin, “Soviet-Ethiopian Friendship,” International Affairs (Moscow), July 1959, pp. 91-93.

[18] Four Power Commission, p. IInI.

[19] New York Times, June 18, 1961.

[20] For a recent account of Chinese activity, see Robert Counts, “Chinese Footprints in Somalia,” The Reporter, Feb. 2, 1961.

[21] U.N. Advisory Council 1957-58 (U.N. Doc. T/1372), par. 261 and annex VI; U.N. Advisory Council 1958-59 (U.N. Doc. T/1444), pars. 247, 258; Le Monde (Paris), April 7, 1961.

[22] A. Silva White, The Expansion of Egypt under Anglo-Egyptian Condominium (London: Methuen & Co., 1899), P· 29.

[23] For a summary of these developments see Langer, pp. 102-107. See also Chapter 4 above. For a thorough study .of Egyptian policy under Ismail see G. Douin, Histoire du Règne du Khédive Ismail, vol. III, part 3 (Cairo: Société Royale de Géographie d’Egypte, 1941).

[24] For Nasser’s reflections on Egypt, the Nile, and Africa, see G. Abdul Nasser, Egypt’s Liberation (Washington: Public Affairs Press, 1955), PP· I09-111.

[25] A. A. Castagno, “Somalia,” International Conciliation, March 1959, pp. 396-397. See also Castagno’s article in Africa Special Report, December 1958, p. 14.

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.

Previous Chapter

Next Chapter

The book is worth buying: Available from De Gruyter


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.