Italian Somalia before the World War Part I

By | December 15, 2021

Justice is administered by the residents and the judge of the colony for Europeans; by cadi, by residents and by the indigenous tribunal for indigenous people. A civil health and hygiene directorate presides over the health services: in addition to the hospital in Mogadishu, there are 4 colonial hospitals and 18 civilian infirmaries directed by doctors, an agricultural colony for lepers in Gelib, etc. Subsidized primary schools exist at the various missions in various centers; in Mogadishu there is a kindergarten, an orphanage, a school of arts and crafts. The secondary school in Mogadishu depends on the school supervisor. In normal times, the military organization includes: the R. Corps of colonial troops, the zaptiè corps, the armed border bands (dubat), the navy command and an autonomous department of the M.VSN The budget of the colony in 1933-34 was about 22 million lire of income, of which 14 from customs proceeds; the breakeven was achieved with a contribution from the Treasury.

The beginnings of colonization. – When Italy began its colonial activity in the Red Sea, on the coast of Somalia, the Egyptians exercised their dominion, proceeding from north to south, in the regions of Zeila and Berbera; the sultans of the Migiurtini and the Obbia; the sultan of Zanzibar, who owned the ports of Chisimaio and Mogadishu and other minor ones. In the hinterland, the various Somali tribes were divided. For Somalia 2002, please check

So it was that immediately after the occupation of Massawa, the Italian government sent a warship to Zanzibar (the Barbarigo). Having explored the mouth of the Juba, the Italian envoys managed to establish a general consulate in Zanzibar and conclude a trade treaty with the local sultan (May 28, 1885). Italy’s subsequent action turned, hence, to obtain the protectorate of the sultanates of northern Somalia. Thus the protectorate agreement was reached with the sultan of Obbia (February 8, 1889) and with the sultan of the Migiurtini for a part of Migiurtinia with the commitment not to accept the sovereignty of other states for the other part of the sultanate (April 7, 1889). A year later, in the southernmost Somali regions under the nominal sovereignty of Zanzibar, a reconnaissance of the Volta ship in the Uarsceich bay (April 1890) had to withdraw after a treacherous attack on the few men landed.

Determined to react, the government of Rome commissioned the consul of Zanzibar, Captain Filonardi, to occupy the village of El Athale (which later became Itala) in the name of Italy. This took place in February 1891. With the territorial occupation of Italy thus begun, the governments of Rome and London agreed on the delimitation of their respective areas of influence (protocol of 5 May 1894). In the meantime, Italy had rented the ports of Brava, Merca, Mogadishu and Uarsceich from the sultanate of Zanzibar. The exercise of this concession was entrusted for three years to a private company (Compagnia Filonardi) whose work was insufficient to dominate the turbulent local tribes. This company had assumed, among other obligations, that of paying 160,000 rupees (equal to about 270,000 lire) to the sultan of Zanzibar, while he had received an annual grant of only 300,000 lire; these conditions are certainly not favorable where it was necessary to start everything from nothing.

Add to these difficulties the almost complete lack of interest of the government of the time and the scarcity of military means intended for the defense of the components of the company. The country was in very poor condition while the vali, without any control to hold them back, they indulged in all sorts of harassment. Nonetheless, Filonardi managed to partially remedy the abuses and above all to give a certain regularity to the functioning of justice. In addition, traffic was increased and customs revenues improved. However, the results were, on the whole, very poor, due to the shortage of capital (the hoped-for subscription of a million did not even reach the third of that sum) and the company was also accused of being lukewarm with regard to the abolition of slavery, and too indulgent in the face of the greed of the worthy.

At the end of the term, a new contract entrusted the management of the ports for 48 years to the Italian commercial company Benadir, after a transition period, with provisional government management, which was entrusted to the consul Cecchi, flanked by a representative of the concessionary company. But on November 26, 1896, a few kilometers from Mogadishu (in Lafolè), Cecchi and a small armed body accompanying him were attacked. Cecchi, 9 naval officers, 6 white and 70 askari were killed. Sent immediately on the spot, the commander Giorgio Sorrentino had the villages of Nimo and Gezira bombed from the coast and set fire to internal villages, while from Eritrea two companies of the 5th indigenous battalion were sent to reinforce them. With these troops, Sorrentino managed to inflict a harsh lesson on the guilty.

The Mullah’s aggression. – However, the new concessionary company found itself facing a rather difficult situation, also due to the coexistence of the Zanzibari sovereignty and therefore to the permanence of the sultan’s values alongside the Italian authorities.

While the Italian government was concerned about all this and was studying the most convenient way to put an end to this state of affairs (the management of the new commercial company began to develop in full towards the beginning of 1900. The defensive forces were then somewhat increased. and the most important services improved: hospital, communications, public works, etc.), the offensive of Mullah Sayed Mohammed ben Abdullah, a native of English Somalia and settled after a pilgrimage to Mecca in Bohotleh, which became the center of propaganda and armed attacks against infidels. The objectives of these ferocious, repeated attacks were both the English possessions and the Italian ones. Punitive expeditions were therefore repeatedly conducted against the Mullah by the English, by the Italians and also from the Abyssinians. After the British and Italian units had razed the fort and the village of Ilig to the ground (21 April 1903), laborious negotiations began with the Mullah, concluded on 5 March 1905 with agreements with Italy and on 24 March with agreements with England. With these stipulations, the cessation of hostile acts against the sultanates of the coast. But the Mullah continued, nonetheless, to excite the aggression of the tribes of the interior and to send weapons and bands of raiders into the valley of the Uebi Scebeli. With these stipulations, the cessation of hostile acts against the sultanates of the coast. But the Mullah continued, nonetheless, to excite the aggression of the tribes of the interior and to send weapons and bands of raiders into the valley of the Uebi Scebeli. With these stipulations, the cessation of hostile acts against the sultanates of the coast. But the Mullah continued, nonetheless, to excite the aggression of the tribes of the interior and to send weapons and bands of raiders into the valley of the Uebi Scebeli.

Direct management of the Italian state. – All this required direct state interference. Reasons for non-compliance on the part of the concessionary company led the government of Italy (March 19, 1905) to take over the management of the colony, which was entrusted to Mercatelli with the functions of governor, and the title of General Commissioner for Somalia. He was authorized to carry out a temporary reorganization of the colony to last until the promulgation of definitive laws. He was succeeded by Cerrina-Feroni (1906) and then by Carletti (1907). An expedition had to be sent in 1905 (Captain Pentano) to free the garrison of Merca, surrounded by rebels. After successive victorious actions in Gilib (August 26) and Mellet (October 14) the garrison of Italian arms was strengthened. Another attempt of two thousand Bimàl, made in February 1907 in Danane,

Italian Somalia before the World War