Sultanate of Mohamoud Ali
In the late Nineteenth Century, an influential Sultan and Akil (tribal
chief) emerged and ruled the Northern part of Somalia, an area stretching
as far west to Burco from Las Khorey and historically known as
Maakhir(Makhir coast and Makhar). One of the most respected heroes among
Warsangali Sultanates was Mohamoud Ali Shire. Akil Dhahar of Warsangali,
ruled south of Sanaag and some portions of the Bari region.
Though there are insufficient writings available on Akil Dhahar, from oral
tradition, he was said to have fought against the Abyssinians and uprooted
Christian communities in Galgala, a town that used to have churches and
temples. The edifices are still present as historical landmarks. In honor
of his accomplishments Akil Dhahar's name bears not ephemerally but
eternally on the great valley and mountains of the city known as Dhahar.
I.M Lewish, in his book
"Pastoral Democracy: A study on Pastoralism and Politics of Northern
Somali," refers to the Sultan from the colonial literature sources as a
"Man of unusual influence," "A man of mercurial image," and "A man of
unusual strength." Several Somali Sultanates did exist in Somalia prior to
the European imperialism of the 19th Century,but the Warsangali
Sultanate,was the only Sultanate with tax base centralized administration.
I.M Lewis writes,
Vestiges of a similar degree
of centralized administration on the pattern of a Muslim Sultanate,
survive today in the Protectorate amongst the Warsangali. Prior to 1920,
the Garaad had at his command a small standing army with which, with
British support, he fought Sayid Mahamad Abdille Hassan’s forces. But
Garad’s powers’ are dwindling under modern administration.
Sultanates such as these,
generally only arose on the coast or through commanding an important trade
route, and were largely dependent on the possession and control of a pot
or other exploitable economic resources. They were in direct trade and
diffuse political relations with Arabia, received occasional Arab
immigrants, and were the centres from Islam expanded with trade into the
interior. They had to fight to maintain their positions of supremacy
against the periodic incursions of raiding parties of nomads, and their
authority was never great.
Northern Somali sultanates
2. British treaty with the Warsangali
3. Civilization, society and Islam
4. Sultan's assistance
5. Chronological order of events in North Somalia
7. Further reading
In 1896, A challenge of
leadership emerged between a father and son. The powerful Garad Cali
Shire's authority was dwindling and young Mohamoud Ali, with the tacit
support of Isse Garad (Bohogayslabe)a sub clan, saught to undermine the
power of his father. Before then, Internal conflict amongst Warsangali
clans resurfaced and had an effect on Sultan Mohamoud Ali Shire and his
rise to power. The disarray caused by the young Mohamoud within Warsangeli
was finally settled by the proposal that young Mohamoud become the sultan
while his father could remain Garad. The Bihidor clan (Warsangali
subclan)first withdrew their loyalty and support from the Sultan as an
upstart and young authority figure. He made, once, an unflinching decision
to ally his Sultanate with Mohammed Abdullah Hassan's "Dervishes" in an
attempt to defeat the British and Ethiopia. Robert L Hess's article, "The
'Mad Mullah' and Northern Somalia," cites this alliance. "In attempt to
break out of Obbian-Mijertein circle, the Mullah sought closer alliances
with the Bihidor Warsangali of British Somaliland and Bah Geri of Ethiopia"
(Hess, 423). The Dervishes and their lots planned ahead their venom routes
and strategy of destruction. (In fact this was their gravest mistake in
attacking a country that the English treated different from the way it
treated the rest of the protectorate). The Sultan was said to have ordered
his army to retreat from their main military posts in Erigavo(which was at
that time a reserve well for the sultan horses and base for his army),
following an unexpected onslaught. Sayid Mohamed Abdule Hassan's alliance
with Bihidor clan was instrumental in strechting the Dervish sphere of
influence and expanding his dominions. On March, 3 1905, Italy was very
close to sign a treaty with the Mad Mullah at Illig. They offered him the
Nogal territory. Unfortunately, the new territory, which was recognized as
a protectorate wasn't established due to the Dervish resistance. In its
early proposal, both the Mijertein and Warsangali sultanates opposed to
its implementation as they foresaw potential wave of threats immersing
their political interest. once again, Hess cites the first Anglo-Italian
success against the Dervishes, a scheme masterminded by the MIjertein and
The first success in this
Anglo-Italian cooperation came in December 1910. In that month, the
British Warsangali and the Italian Mijertain peacefully resolved all their
outstanding disputes and, convening in Bander Kasim,
agreed to act jointly in combating Muhammed Abdullah and his Dervishes.....The
Mijertain--Warsangali Accord led to a common
offensive against the Mullah, whose forces were cut off from arms and
munitions smuggled in from the coast, (Hess, 427)
In 1920, the Dervishes
unexpectedly captured Badhan and besieged Las khorreh.
The British Governor at Aden soon sent RAF biplanes to contain the advance
of the Dervish army into the Warsangali country. Though the air strikes
that bombarded Badhan, Jidali and
Talex never did a considerable harm to the
Dervishes. The Dervishes were still powerful but disorganizd and dispersed
into unknown areas. Finally, forces of Warsangali and Dervishes met at
Jidali and this was in fact the final decimation of the Dervish movement.
The Mijertein Somalis who in
June succeeded launching counter-attack with the aid of their Warsangali
allies....Mullah and his followers were driven out of Italian Somaliland
into British Somaliland, where they occupied Buhotleh with great cruelty
and oppressed the Dolbahante who had shifted their allegiance back to
British Somaliland. (Hess, 428)
The Dervishes deserted the
Nogal Protectorate as a result and disappeared into the deep jungle of
Hawd Reserve Area.
with the Warsangali
Historically, The British used
Indirect Rule for their colonial advantages to control and exploit clans.
Just subsequent to British treaty with Warsangali in 1886, the Somaliland
protectorate was formed. Much of the country’s economic dependency was the
trade relationship it had with Aden, Yemen, which was chiefly based on the
export of livestock, frankincense, and myrrh in return for food, cloth,
and other materials. Since then, the protectorate was administered from
Aden till 1898 just before the rise of Sayid Mohammed Abdulle Hassan.
The British also realized that the effort to pacify native authority with
treaties was not sufficient and it could insinuate mischief within the
protectorate. In 1884, the British government made protection treaties
with Ciise, Gudabirsi and Isaaq, all at once. This particular tripartite
treaty was beneficial to the English colony in operating internally and in
harmony with the clan social systems of North Western Somalia. Sultan
Mohamoud Ali Shire, however, and his independent operation in his country
was a nonpareil and a historically remarkable organized administration.
How his Regency wielded such power to exercise independent operation and
rule is still a baffling question to most historians. In article five of
British treaty with Warsangali states the historical context of Warsangali
territory as a legitimate country that in which the British government
appointed an ambassador and was in the process of building an office there:
Article V. The British
Government shall have the power to appoint an Agent or Agents to reside in
the Territories of the Warsangali, and every such Agent shall be treated
with respect and consideration, and be entitled to have for this
protection such guard as the British Government deem sufficient. (Art V).
In another article of the
treaty entered by British with Warsangali highlights the independence of
Warsangali from colonial interventions against their territories:
III. The Warsnagali are bound
to render assistance to any vessel, whether British or belonging to any
other nation, that may be wrecked on the shores under their jurisdiction
and control, and to protect the crew, passengers, and cargo of such
vessels, giving speedy intimation to the Resident at Aden of the
circumstances; for which act of friendship and good-will a suitable reward
will be given by the British Government.
society and Islam
It is important to emphasize that the Somali people have been Muslims for
many centuries. Islam was introduced into Sanag as early as the tenth
century. The type of sect introduced into all parts of Somali coast follow
the Shafi code of Islam. Thus it appears perfectly that Sufism and saint
veneration, the mystical movement and ecstacy in Islam, was highly
embraced amongst the Warsangeli clans in Sanaag and by extension to all
over Somalia. For instace, a place that is 20 km south of Badhan, Haylan,
houses the sepulcher of Darod Ismaiil, the founder of Darod. Said Ali Nur
states that regions such as Zaila, Sanag,  and Harar became the centers
of dispersal for the founders of many Muslim communities. In fact, the
founder of Darod is considered by the large communities of Darod as
venerated saint. It is internalized in the custom of all Somalis and are
known as “ancestor saints”. They are means by which man’s appeal to the
mercy and blessing of God through the saints is strengthened. These saints,
however, are not worshipped , but venerated, and the respect shown to them
is clearly based up on their intermediary role. The structure of the
Ceelaayo mosque is still of remarkable strength, almost marble.
Laskhorey and Celanyo formed a
growing international hub because of the significance of the ancient
settlements in these two cities. The Sultan's revolt against the British
led to the decline and significance of these coastal areas after the
British shifted their administration to the west side of North Somalia.
Therefore, the commercial centers of Celanyo and Laskhorey diminished as
an International hub. (Title 1Pre-Independency Socio-Economic of British
The ascendancy of Northern society in Somalia in terms of trade,
civilization, contact with ancient pharaohs continued for many centuries.
For example, the Land of Punt (currently Warsangali territory), Makhir, (commercial
center of the North also territory of Warsangali), were all societies that
excelled in the art of architecture, agricultural and civil engineering.
Irrefutable evidence is the present 15 storey towers in Las Khorreh that
were built during the Makhir dynasty. From 15th century, Somalis were
already engaged in profitable commercial activities with the rest of the
world. In addition, they discovered a gum producing tree that aided
architectures build towers and big boats.
The gum-producing trees grow
on the sterile hills near the coast in the Sanaag and Bari regions. In
this districts there also grows a tree known in Somali as 'damask,' a
species of willow which is valuable for house- and boat-building purposes.
It grows along the banks of the 'tugs' or dry water-courses which in the
rainy season drain the interior." (Burale).
In the Land of Punt (Sanaag),
when Hatshepsut, the well known 18th Dynasty Queen visited these areas, it
was mentioned in the journal of her expedition a very remarkable supply of
frankincense, (in Somali it is called Maydi, Adaad, Beeyo, Malmal Murre,
Murkud) myrrh, spices, diamond and gold that were provided as gift to her
kingdom in exchange of other goods and services. The land of Punt was also
known as the land of Gods. Hathor and Bes, which are two deities that
Egyptians worshipped, had their origin in Eastern Sanaag in a city now
known as Galgala. Hatshepsut writes in her journal,
It is the sacred region of
God's Land; it is my place of distraction; I have made it for myself in
order to cleanse my spirit, along with my mother, Hathor...the lady of
Moreover, according to
Lieutenant Speke in his journal of "What led to the Discovery of the
Source of the Nile" states the decline of the empire of Warsangali 31
years before the British treaty with Warsangali in 1886 of which the
English provided military and logistical support to the clans of Isaaq
near Aden in Yemen:
The Warsangali complained to
me sadly of their decline in power since the English had interfered in
their fights with the (Isaaq), which took place near Aden about seven
years ago, and had deprived them of their vessels for creating a
disturbance, which interfered with the ordinary routine of Traffic. They
said that on that occasion, they had not only beaten (Isaaq) but had
seized their vessels; and that prior to this rupture, they had enjoyed
paramount superiority over all the tribes of the Somali; but now they were
forbidden to transport Soldiers or make reprisals on the sea, every tribe
was on an equality with them." (Chapter II the Voyage-Somali Shore, Gerad
Mohamoud ali Shire).
The traveler also recounted
the administration of the sultan, which was an impeccable source for the
security, and the general weal of every foreigner visiting Warsangali
country. "Of course no Mortal man was like their Gerad Mohamoud Ali in
leading them to war. He was like the English or the French, and in
settling disputes, he required no writing office, but sitting on the
The two sultanates of Majertein, Sultan Mohamoud Ali Shire, and Sayid
Mohamed Addule Hassan, were in the spotlight. The colonial administration
had dealt with each one of them secretly and worked to prevent a possible
tripartite alliance of power-sharing and common economic and political
integration. A notable incident took place in 1908, when British airplanes
bombarded Jidali, Badhan and Taleh, This led to the Dervish dispersal into
many areas, and it took a long period for the Sayid to recoup his strength.
However, Sultan Mohamoud Ali Shire and his army within the British
Somaliland Protectorate's claimed areas of Sanaag were severely disturbed
by the decline of the Dervish movements despite the rift between them. To
show his concerns, he ordered his army to fire on a British ship that was
landing on LasQorey port. According to I.M Lewis, in his book Modern
History of Somalia, cites this brief incidence:
The Warsangali clan within the
British protectorate on the eastern coast who under their spirited leader
Gerad Mohamoud Ali Shire had now decided to throw in their lot with the
Dervishes and in Jan 1908, fired on a British dhow as it was landing on
their coast. This incident has led to a hostile exchange of letters with
the consul at Berbera and it was evident that the Dervishes would soon be
on the March again.(Lewis, 55).
Furthermore, his association
with Mohamoud Ali Shire as brother-in-law gave him access to the Makhir
Coast, a door to the Arabian peninsula to import firearms and ammunition.
The Dervishes marched again, and once again, their movement was in the
limelight. The British became extremely anxious about the return of the
Dervishes. Moreover, the colonial alliance with clans of Isaaq proved
unsuccessful after signing treaty with them in 1885.
The British ran out of options and were impelled to collaborate with
Italian Somaliland and the Majerten Sultanates for an attack that forced
the Dervishes from their main strongholds such as Taleh and Jidali.
Sporadic resistance using guerilla tactics ensued. Gerad Mohamoud Ali
Shire's government was feared by the British and the clans in Somalia.
Some clans of Warsangali also viewed the Sultan's government with
suspicion because of its cruelty. They declared independence from his
dominions, and began a rebellion to topple him. This internal conflict
occurred amongst the Warsangali clans during the struggle of the Dervishes
for the expulsion of the British and Italian imperialists. The Sayid was
said to have composed a poem for this incident in an attempt to lure
supporters to side with him:
|Mar hadday kudoortan isku
diirad ma ihin
Dabcigaygu maoggola nin ku dallaasa e
War sow deero iyo cawl adigukamadhigin?
Iney se Kuududahayaan sow ma ba dareensanid?
Sow dukaammadoodi daarahaaga kuma guran?
Sow doonyahodii dukhan naar ahkamashidin
Our visionary are varied once they
My nature is averse to those who contempt you
Didn't I turn you into gazelle and antelope
(refers to the internal conflict among the Warsangali clans)
Hast thou sense their fierce resentment
Hadn't you taken their stores into your houses
(refers to the English)
Hadn't I shelled their ships into plumes of smoke
The Sultan killed many men of
the Bihidoor clan (a subclan of Warsangali). This led to defiance and
hostility based accoridng to the 1855 journal of Speke and elders of the
Warsangali tribes. They settled, nonetheless, in Xiingalol (the most
populated city in Sanag) and the long Plateau of "Xadeed" in large numbers.
Despite the lack of stability and the pursuit of imperialists to defeat
what they perceived to be their enemies, the Sultan was secretly invited
to a conference in Yemen to discuss issues of solving their differences.
After a short session before the conference began, he was taken into
custody by the British. Later, he was tried without prosecution and
defence on his case. The verdict was to deport him out of his native
country for at least seven years, based on accusations for forming his own
Chronological order of events in North Somalia
- 1884 - Egypt evacuated Somali Coast,
British Garrison to Berbera from Bombay.
- 1885 - British treaties with Esa,
Gadabuursi, and Isaaq tribes.
- 1886 - British treaty with Warsengeli.
- 1895 - Mohammed Abdullah Hassan's
Saleher religious revival in Berbera failed.
- 1898 - The British Foreign Office took
over administration of British Somaliland Protectorate from the India
Office. The Protectorate was then only self-supporting British
dependency in eastern Africa.
- 1899 - First truculent letter from
"Mullah" at Kirit to Protectorate
- 1900 - Abyssinians fought Mullah at
Haradigit. Mullah took 2,000
- 1900, November - Swayne's first
expedition: engagements at Kirit,
- 1901, October - Swayne's second
- 1904, March -
Jidbali occupied: Higligab, and
- 1904, 21st March -
- 1904, October
- 1909, November - British withdrawal to
coast.(as a result of the Sultan)
- 1913, 9th August - Dul Madoba(Corfield
- 1913, 5th September Mullah raided Burao.
- 1914, 12th March - Mullah raided Berbera.
Somaliland Camel Corps started.
- 1914, November
- 1916, May - Dervishes shelled from sea
whilst besieging Las Khoreh.
- 1919, November - Fifth and "final"
- 1920, January - Defeat of Mullah:
Badan, Taleh,. 3,000 H.Y. Warsangali, and Dhulbahante attacked Mullah at
Gorah near Shinileh.
The year of aeroplanes (Daiurada).
- 1920, November - Mullah died of
influenza, or perhaps smallpox. Gerad Mohamoud Ali Shire of Warsengeli
deported to Seychelles for seven years for exerting his own form of
- Lewis. I. M. A Modern History of
Somalia: Nation and State in Horn of Africa. Ohio: Ohio University
- Hess. Robert L. "The ‘Mad Mullah’ and
Northern Somalia." The Journal of African History, Vol 5, No.3
P.415-433. Cambridge: Ohio Cambridge University Press, 1964.
- Speke. John Hanning. "Sultan/Garad
Mohamoud Ali—Hidden Treasure—Royal Reception—Sultan Tries my Abban."
What Led to the Discovery of the Source of the Nile. Edinburgh:
Edinburgh William Blackwood and Sons 1864.
- British Empire. "Protection treaties
with Somaliland tribes." Edinburgh: William Blackwood and sons, 1887.
- Lewis. I.M. "Pastoral Democracy: A study
on Pastoralism and Politics among the Northern Somali clans." Ohio: Ohio
University Press, 1958.
- Alinur, Said. "Abyssinian Invasion:
Reminder of a Seven Century old Animosity." 17 Jan, 2007.
History of Somalia |