Characteristics of the Inter-riverine Resistance

March 04 23:07 2011 Print This Article

In the dealing with Somali resistance to colonialism, much scholarly attention has been given to the northern Somalia, particularly the rebellion led by Ina ‘Abdulle Hassan, known as ‘dervish movement; Southern resistance is not often discussed in Somali scholarship.

There were a number of reasons for this. Perhaps the most important is the fact that Somalia’s history has been seen mainly though they eyes of what some scholars call the ‘oreintalist scholarship ‘which classified southern Somalis as Bantu, culturally inferior to the northern Arab influenced nomads.

In addition, Somalia’s historiography became obsessed with a mythic monolithic culture, diverting scholars from examining other important themes of Somalia’s past. Current scholarship is pointing out the significance of anti-colonial Resistance in the inter-riverine region.

The list of scholars includes Lee Cassanelli, Virginia Luling, Bernhard Helander, Herbert Lewis and those who contributed Ali Jimale’s recently edited volume, The Invention of Somalia.

Inter-riverine society was more versified than its northern counterpart. At the advent of colonialism, it was divided not only along clan lines, but also the basis of Sufi order affiliation. Moreover, the region had absorbed people from neighboring regions; Arabs, Oromos and Bantu among them one wonders how such a complex society could raise serious resistance against colonialism.

Nevertheless, the region produced movements that transcended particular clan interests fought for the protection of broader regional political and economy was integrated; threats to any sector affected the others. The early Italian blockaded of the Banadir ports was a threat not only to particular clans or traders, but threatened to damage the sophisticated network linking the hinterlands with the coast.

The caravan routes started to fade, and the value of goods dropped sharply. The oral tradition of the time records the inflation caused by the blockade. Indeed, inflation triggered the resistance that involved numerous clans of the coast, such as the Biyamals, of these clans prevented the Tunis, the gheledis, the Wa’adans, the Abgals, the Shikhals and others. Inter-riverine region for over two decades (1886-1908).

From 1893 to 1905, when the Italian government assumed direct administration of the southern portion of the inter-riverine region, two companies-the filonard Company 1893-1896, and the benadi Company 1896-1905- introduced customs and tariff regulations which were anathema to the people of the region.

Most early protests were provoked by these measures. Italian colonial oppression and the moral disruption of inter-riverine society should lead to the emergence of movements to defend that faith. The Jama’a movement played a leading role in raising the political consciousness of its followers.

The sheikh s who led them were the educated elite in mass of illiterate people. Most of the Jama’a centers were located in the agricultural part of the region where colonial plantations also developed, and they posed a threat to colonial activities.

9these centers became safe havens for runway slaves and outcasts, giving them a fresh start and helping them to integrate into the religious and economic life of the region. The practising the faith. Jama’a centers were actually a means by which the Somalis could evade the colonial forced-labour regime.

In brief, these communities played a tremendous social and economic role and led most the southern resistance at the time. As we have seen, the Jama’a were scattered throughout the inter-riverine region, and the colonial authority failed to suppress their activities decisively. Italian frustration is clearly manifested in the reports sent to Rome.

Governor Riveri (1920-1923) noted in 1921 that the multiplication and extension of Jama’a communities might be a cause for concern since they were acquiring more land and more adherents along the Shabelle valley. ‘By substituting the universal ties of the religion for strictly ethnic. Read more on the land and the people of the Shabelle River.

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Alan Davison
Alan Davison

Alan Davison, internet researcher, full-time writer for 15 years. Writer and publisher of or Follow me on Twitter.

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