The Struggle for Independence in 1920 – 1960

April 17 23:15 2011 Print This Article

Modern political organization in the inter-riverine area has it origins in a Philanthropic movement that appeared in the in the 1920s under the name of al-jam’iyyah al- khayriyah al-wataniyah (the National Benevolent Organization). In 1947, the Jam’iyyah was transformed into a political party, Hizbia Dighil-Mirifle (HDM)(Dighil Mirifle party).

By 157, it had changed its name to Hisbia Dastur Mustaqbil al- Somal (HDM) (Somali Independent Constitutional Party). For more than 20 years (1947-19680, especially before independence in 1960, HDMS was the true opposition party in the country, given the fact that the dominant nationalist movement, the Somali youth league, worked closely with British Military Administration in the 194s and later with Italian Trusteeship authorities in the 1950s.

During this period, it raised several important issues for Somali political development, including the necessity of undertaking a census of the Somali population as a basic step toward to democratic government, and demanded the adoption of a federal system of government as the only way of creating a harmonious Somali state.

The HDMS call for decentralization and a federal system of government was motivated by fear, later justified, that the powerful nomadic Clans would dominate the Somali state. The Somali Youth League rejected a Proposed census in 1956, because of fear in might show the Dighil and Mirifle population outnumbered the Darood who claim to be the largest clan in the country. Indeed, Somalia has never carried out a proper census of its population.

The HDMS was clearly disenchanted in 1956, when the victorious Somali Youth League formed the first Somali cabinet consisting of three Hawiye (including the prime mister), two Darood and one Dir. Though twenty of the sixty elected members of the legislative assembly were Reewin they received not one ministerial portfolio.

The HDMS therefore had no choice but to call for decentralization. In fact, the party Boycotted the general elections of 1959

The Independence Era 1960 – 1969

The former Italian colony of Somalia became independent in 1960, and some moths later united with the former British Somaliland Protectorate To from the Somali Republic. Before unification, sets in the southern Assemblies were proportionately divided among the three major clans families: 30 Reewin, 30 Hawiye, and 30 Darood, irrespective of party affiliation.

Unification with the north diminished the political importance Of the Reewin in because and HDMS party could not expect support from the north. Subsequently regional and clan cleavages became sharper. One Issue was language. The Reewin speak a distinct language, Mai, which is Different from the Maha spoken by most of the Hawiye, Darood and Isaaq Clans.

Until 1960, both languages were used as means of communication in The south, and Radio Mogadishu used to broadcast in both. However, the First government after independence cancelled the Mai programmes for the sake of language uniformity.  

Due to the new clan alignments in the aftermath of independence and unification, the Darood dominated the SYL.president Osman’s nomination of two successive Darood prime misters-Abdirashid A. Shermarke in 1960 and Abdirizak H.Hussein in 1964- indicated this development.

In 1964 election, the SYL won only 69 out of 123 seats in the national assembly but Managed to co-opt many members of other parties. Among those who crossed the aisle was Mohamed H. Ibrahim Egal, an Isssaq former leader of the nationalist movement in the British colony, the Somali National League.

This marked a shift in Somali clan alliances, from Hawiye-Issaq to Darood -Issaq, and brought about the victory of Shermarke, a Darood, in the 1967 Presidential election. Egal was called to from a new government. For the First time a northerner, was premier and a Darood president of the republic.

These developments greatly reduced the significance of other political parties. Between 1976 and 1969, Somali political life was in turmoil, caused Partly by the disintegration of alliances and the fragmentation of clans, which passed the political initiative to smaller lineage groups. The Reewin in the HDMS were also divided.

The 1969 elections confirmed this trend. More than 60 lineage parties, most of them contesting a single seat, competed for the 123 seats of the national assembly. Weaving a net of Lineage groups and clans, the SYL, commanded 73 seats, and when the remaining 50 opposition members (three from HDMS) crossed the floor Join it; Somalia had become in effect a one-party state.

During 1960-1969,when the Somali Youth League dominated the political life of independent Somalia, Reewin found themselves increasingly marginalized and discriminated against in education and state employment, And the inter-riverine region suffered from the actions of the state.

The Somali government collaborated with former Italian concessionaires to take over the majority of shares in the Banana, sugar and livestock estates in the south. This was followed by a policy of forcing small farmers of the region to sell their land to state officials and army officers. What Ahmed Qasim calls ‘the land rush’ stripped thousands of small farmers of their lands and pushed them into the bush.

Because of nomadic background, the new landlords not only lacked knowledge of farming but also, like their Italians predecessors, were also harsh and exploitative. Like the Italians as well. They spoke a language, Maha that was alien to the region. Land hunting was not confirmed to the countryside.

It went on in the towns of the region, where new landlords build houses and shops in the most preferred sections. The bulk of these ‘land hunters’ belonged to the Hawiye, Darood and Issaq clans. Read more on the Southern Resistance of Northern Somalia.

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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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