This content consists of two documents: A letter dated 19 December 1941 from the Chief Secretary to the Government, Government of Aden, to the Political Agent, Bahrain, and the pamphlet entitled The Tribes of British Somaliland by Lieutenant-Colonel R H Smith. The report is dated 30 January 1941 and was printed by the Caxton Press at Aden.


The record is made up of 1 file (12 folios). It was created on 30 Jan 1941-19 Dec 1941. It was written in English. The original is part of the British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers.



The file consists of two documents:

  1. A letter dated 19 December 1941 from the Chief Secretary to the Government, Government of Aden, to the Political Agent, Bahrain. The letter encloses the pamphlet The Tribes of British Somaliland and advises that ‘difficulty is frequently experienced with identifying individual Somalis or in deciding their nationality by passport authorities’ and that the pamphlet may assist with this task.
  2. The pamphlet entitled The Tribes of British Somaliland by Lieutenant-Colonel R H Smith. The report is dated 30 January 1941 and was printed by the Caxton Press at Aden. The pamphlet consists of a report and geneaological diagrams of the tribes:

The pamphlet commences with a list of the British Protected tribes and their geographical distribution noting that the grazing grounds of the British protected tribes are not all contained in British Somaliland. Furthermore, their lands straddle adjacent frontiers of French Somaliland and Ethiopia and far into Italian East Africa. The pamphlet notes (folio 4) that the ‘arbitrary boundary which divides the Somali grazing grounds into two, has been the chief cause of our administrative difficulties in the past.’ The means of contact between the [British] Government and the tribes is through ‘Akils, and where they exist, hereditary chiefs i.e. Sultans or Gerads’.

There follows a description of each British Protected tribes, their tribal sub-divisions, grazing grounds, towns and ports, and chief means of subsistence: the Warsangeli; the Dolbahanta; theHabr Toljaala; the Habr Yunis; the Habr Awal; the Edagalla; the Arab; the Gadabursi; the Esa.

British Somaliland was divided into five administrative districts each with a District Officer. District boundaries are given for Erigavo District; Burao District; Berbara District; Hargeisa District; Buramo District.

The file includes genealogical diagrams showing the lineage and tribal sub-divisions of the Warsangeli; Arab; Habr Yunis; Eida Galla; Habr Awal; Habr Toljala; Dolbahanta; Esa; Gadabursi.

Written in

English in Latin script


Archival file


Original held at

British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers

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Former external reference(s)

Confidential Office: 15/4



30 Jan 1941-19 Dec 1941 (CE, Gregorian)


East India Company, the Board of Control, the India Office, or other British Government Department

1. A letter dated 19 December 1941 from the Chief Secretary to the Government, Government of Aden, to the Political Agent, Bahrain.


In reply please quote:

No: 778/41/10699

The Secretariat of Aden

19 December 1941


I am directed to transmit 3 copies of a pamphlet entitled “The Tribes of British of Somaliland” prepared by Lieut-Colonel R.H. Smith, O.B.E., for your information and retention.

2. Difficulty is frequently experienced in the identification of individual Somalis or in deciding their nationality by passport authorities, Police, and other Government departments outside their own country owing to inadequate or ambiguous references to their tribal relations and I am to say that reference to this pamphlet may be of assistance in this respect.

I am, Sir,

Your obedient servant,

Chief Secretary to the Government.

The Political Agent,


Tribes Of British Somaliland

2. The pamphlet entitled The Tribes of British Somaliland by Lieutenant-Colonel R H Smith.

Tribes Of British Somaliland

By Lieut.-Colonel R. H. SMITH O.B. E.

The bulk of British Protected Somalis are divided into two main divisions, the Darod and the Ishaak; there are also the Esa and Gadabursi tribes who are not included in the above divisions.

The Ishaak tribes comprise the Habr Yunis, Habr Toljaala, Eidagalla, and the Arab; and the Darod tribes in British Somaliland are the Dolbahanta and the Warsangeli.

The Esa and the Gadabursi occupy the West of the Protectorate, and both straddle the adjacent frontiers of French Somaliland and Ethiopia respectively.

Though the tribes graze more or less within defined areas there is consider able overlapping and there are vast areas common to several tribes.

At the outset, it must be remembered that the grazing grounds of the British Protected tribes are not wholly contained in British Somaliland. Their traditional grazing grounds and the most valuable extend far to the South into what was Italian East Africa. The failure to include all their grazing grounds in British Somaliland was due to past errors of the British Government. The arbitrary boundary which divides Somali grazing grounds into two has been the chief cause of our administrative difficulties in the past.

Contact is maintained between the Government and the people by means of Akils and, where they exist, hereditary chiefs, i.e. Sultans or Gerads. The Akils are headmen chosen by the people and recognized by Government. There are three grades of Akils – 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, and the rates of pay are Rs. 30/-, Rs. 20/- and Rs. 10/- per mensem respectively. There is a keen desire amongst the various sections for representation, and one of our difficulties was in limiting the number of Akils.

Starting from the East, British Protected tribes are:

WarsangeliWARSANGELI: Are found along the coast just east of Harshow to the Ethiopian boundary. Their grazing grounds extend to the South and at some seasons they graze as far as Tale. They are divided into two main divisions— the Omar and Dubais. The Omar owe allegiance to a hereditary chief known as the Gerad, the present holder of office being Mahmoud Ali Shirreh, who is a strong personality.

The Dubais are much fewer in numbers; some sections grazing grounds are in Italian Somaliland, and these have been forced to become Italian subjects. The principal export from the Warsangeli coast is frankincense gum. This gum forms a valuable product and by its sale in Aden, the tribe is enabled to buy almost enough food and clothing to supply their essential needs.

Along the coast within their tribal area, there are numbers of small settlements which are engaged almost exclusively in the gum trade. The principal township for the Omar is Las Korai, and for the Dubais, Elayu; at both ports, the British Government maintain Customs and Police Posts. The Warsangeli are seafaring folk and members of this tribe form the bulk of the crews of the dhows which ply between Aden and Somaliland.

DolbahantaTHE DOLBAHANTA: The two main divisions of this tribe are the Mahmoud Gerad and the Farah Gerad. Both these divisions have hereditary chiefs called Gerad. The present Gerad of the Farah Gerad is called Jama Ali, and belongs to the Ba Ararsama normally living in the Nogal area. The holder of the office of Gerad for the Mahmoud Gerad is Mahmoud Ali. Both are respected by their people and have considerable influence. Some of the Mahmoud Gerad are found in the North-east of the Protectorate around Erigavo but the bulk of the Mahmoud Gerad graze in the Nogal and the Farah Gerad from the Ain Valley up to Wal Wal and Wardir.

It will be noticed from the above that their grazing grounds extend far into Ethiopia. In addition to the two Gerads, there is a number of paid Akils. This tribe is nomadic and is wealthy in livestock; none are engaged in agriculture.

Habr ToljaalaTHE HABR TOLJAALA: There are two main divisions of the Habr Toljaala, the Mohamed Abokor and the Musa Abokor. They have no hereditary chiefs but each section has a headman, most of whom are recognized and paid by the Government as Akils.

The Musa Abokor are found in the Eastern part of the tribal grazing area and are generally poorer in stock than their brothers the Mohamed Abokor. Some of the Musa Abokor own frankincense gum plantations along the coastal belt from Heis and Karin. These plantations are much prized and provide profitable business to the owners and workers.

The Mohamed Abokor grazing areas are common with the Dolbahanta and the Habr Yunis.

This tribe is also nomadic and none are engaged in agriculture. They are less wealthy in stock than the Dolbahanta and the Habr Yunis.

Habr YunisTHE HABR YUNIS: This is the biggest tribe in British Somaliland. Certain sections of this tribe are found in four Districts, the Musa Ismail, Gadwein, the Saad Yunis, and some of the Musa Arreh, in the Erigavo District; the Musa Abdulla in the Berbera District, and the Habr Yunis Ishaak in the Hargeisa District between Hargeisa and Berbera, and the remainder (by far the most important and numerous) in the Burao District.

The grazing grounds of this tribe extend also far into Italian East Africa. At present, they do not recognize any hereditary chief but they have a number of recognized headmen of whom the most influential are paid by the Government as Akils. The wealth of this tribe consists principally of camels and, until very recent years the tribe was continually engaged in raiding with their traditional enemy the Ogaden.

Habr AwalTHE HABR AWAL: This tribe is also divided into two main divisions the Esa Musa and Saad Musa, and some are found along the coast between Berbera and Bulhar, whilst others are found in the Hargeisa District with their grazing grounds extending into Italian territory up to Jigjiga.

The Esa Musa section who graze in the Berbera District are the principal suppliers of burden camels for trade purposes; those in the Hargeisa District, principally the Jibril Abokor, own numbers of cattle in addition to camels and sheep and goats, and quite a number are engaged in agriculture. They have a hereditary Chief who belongs to the Rer Ahmed Abdulla of the Saad Musa section and be is called “Sultan”, the present bolder of office being Deria Gerad. He has not much influence with the tribe which relies upon their elders and Government paid Akils.

EidagallaTHE EIDAGALLA: They are found in the Hargeisa District, but their principal grazing areas are in Italian East Africa. They recognize a hereditary chief who is reported to be nearly one hundred years old. They have also recognized elders and Akils paid by Government.

ArabTHE ARAB: A small tribe members of which are found both in the Burao and Hargeisa Districts. They have no hereditary chief, but have a number of elders and Akils recognized by the Government. Their grazing grounds are common with the Habr Yunis and Eidagalla, (together with whom they are called the Gerhajis).

GadabursiTHE GADABURSI: The Gadabursi have been for some years a problem to the British Government. Great numbers of the members of this tribe living just over the border are engaged in agriculture and have therefore a permanent interest in the land and naturally look up to the power which rules the land which they occupy. It can only be expected therefore that those Gadabursi who are in Italian territory should prefer the Italian Government. It has been said that this tribe is treacherous, but this is due chiefly to our failure to recognize that a man cannot serve two masters.

In the old days, prior to European intervention in this part of the world, the Gadabursi recognized a single hereditary chief known as the Ugas. When the boundaries of British Somaliland were fixed with Abyssinia the best grazing grounds of this tribe came within the Abyssinia sphere of influence, so that the tribe became more or less split into two and each side tried to appoint a Ugas, and each intrigued across the border. They have, in addition, a number of Akils paid by the Government.

EsaTHE ESA: Are found in the extreme West of the Protectorate, and during the division of Africa, their grazing grounds were split among the French, Abyssinians and ourselves. They are nomadic and therefore, unlike idle Gadabursi have no permanent interest in the land. Despite this division of their grazing grounds, they remain very loyal to us. They recognize no hereditary chief but have a number of elders and Akils. Generally speaking, they are the most backward of the Somali tribe.


For administrative purposes, British Somaliland is divided into five districts. Each district has a District Officer in Charge with jurisdiction over certain tribes and sections, which normally graze within the confines of his district. As stated before there is considerable overlapping in grazing and no particular big area can be said to be grazed exclusively by any one tribe,


From El Girdeh to Dabba-Dabba to Las Dureh, to Adad to Ber Weiso, and thence due hast to the frontier.

Jurisdiction over; The Warsangeli; the Hubr Toljaala, Musa Abokor; the Habr Yunis, Musa Ismail Gadwein, and Saad Yunis, and a small section of the Musa Arreh; and the Dolbahanta, Mahmoud Gerad, Nalayeh Ahmed.


Following Northern boundary of the Erigavo District; West Dabba-Dabba to Halo and due to South to the Boundary; Eastern and Southern boundaries formed by the international boundary line.

Jurisdiction over: The Dolbahanta (less the Nalayeh Ahmed); the Habr Yunis (less the Musa Ismail Gadwein, the Saad Yunis, the Musa Abdulla, and the Ishaak); the Habr Toljaala, Mohamed Abokor and the Arab, rer Ali, and the Ibran a small tribe which lives with the Habr Toljaala, Mohamed Abokor.


From El Girdeh to Dabba-Dabba to Halo to Bulhar, with jurisdiction over the Habr Yunis, Musa Abdulla, and Habr Awal, Esa Musa.


The Southern boundary of the Berbera District and the Western one of Burao boundary; and in the South, the International boundary; North Western. Bulhar (exclusive of the Township) to Gabiley and then to the frontier. Jurisdiction over: The Habr Yunis, Ishaak; the Habr Awal, Saad Musa; the Eidagalla and the Arab (less the rer Ali).


Bounded by the Western boundary of the Hargeisa District and the International Boundaries.


30th January 1941.

Source: Qatar Digital Library

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