The Banadir and the Inter-Riverine Resistances 1888–1924


Mudug menaces don't mince their words
The Banadir Resistance

The “Bandar Resistance,”¹¹ though religious in origin, was also based on economics
as the Bandar ports played a significant role in the region’s internal and external
trade, supplying the hinterland with imported commodities as well as providing
markets for livestock and major local products. Moreover, it was only in these
coastal towns where significant commercial life existed and cottage industries
like the production of Banadiri cloth and the manufacture of utensils and other
indispensable tools fl ourished. It was, therefore, essential to defend these vital
economic resources.
The Banadiri traders of the interior were also concerned that foreign occupation
of the ports would not only mean they would be put out of business as
independent agents, but indeed that internal trade would be completely dislocated
because inevitably farms and grazing lands whose coastal pastures and wells the
nomads used during the dry season would also be occupied. The Banadiris ambushed
the Italians at Lafoole, in 1896, when the Wa’dan clan attacked the first
Italian expedition on the Shabelle River led by Antonio Cecchi, the Italian general
consul in Zanzibar. Cecchi and all, but three members of his expedition were killed:
Th e Italian media dubbed it La Strage di Lafole, Massacre at Lafoole! For Banadiris,
Lafoole was as glorious a victory as the Ethiopian triumph over the Italians at Adowa
in the same year. Banadiris call 1896 Ahad Shekki, the Sunday year of Cecchi.
Th e Italian colonial advance was halted for the next ten years.¹²
In the early 1890s, another Banadiri group, the Biamal, joined the resistance.
Italy occupied Marka, the center of Biamal culture, but in 1904, the Markans assassinated
the first Italian resident of the city, Giacomo Trevis. Th is action triggered the
Italian occupation of another port town, Jazira, about 30 miles south of Mogadishu.
Biamal leaders called for a shir, “clan assembly,” mobilizing the Banadiri clans,
mainly Biamal, the Wa’dan, the Hintire and other clans of the Geledi confederacy,
against the Italian advance and decided to isolate the ports from trade with the
interior.¹³ Th e ma’allims “Qur’anic school teachers” and imams “religious leaders” of
Marka led the war of resistance to colonial occupation of the interior, but they and
their followers paid dearly. A local lashin poet who attacked those who refused to
take up arms said: Reer Janna waa jid galeen, Reer Jahima iska jooga: “those who resist
are heaven bound. Th ose who submit can stay home in Hell where they belong.”
Italian garrisons in both Marka and Jazira were under siege and barely survived.
Though Italy sent support troops, they suffered considerable losses. In February
1907, at Turunley, also known as Dhanane, north of Marka, some 2,000 Banadiri
warriors, led by Sheikh Abdi Abiikar Gaafle¹⁴ fought 1000 Italian troops, assisted
by some 1,500 Arab, Eritrean, and Somali mercenaries led by Lieutenant Gustavo
Pesenti. The attack started after midnight, February 9, 1907 and lasted to the noon
of the 10t. The Banadiri warriors retreated, leaving behind several hundred dead
and as many wounded. Although the Italians had high casualties, they considered
Turunley a major military victory, one which Lieutenant Pesenti, the commander of
the regiment, celebrated in an eyewitness account, Danane (Dhanane).¹⁵ Turunley
marked the end of the of the mighty Banadir resistance. On July 1908, at Finlow,
the Biamal avenged Turunley defeating some 500 Italian troops. However, by
1908, major centers such as Afgoy capitulated to the Italians. However, the Italian
conquest was not complete, and from 1910 to the 1920s, under the leadership of
Sheikh Abdi Abikar Gaafl e, the Banadiri coalition remained the leading opponent
of Italian rule in the Riverine region.¹⁶


Mudug menaces don't mince their words
The Fascist Era, The Policy of Disarmament and the Inter-Riverine Resistances

The Fascist administration began in December 5, 1923, with the appointment of
Cesare Mario De Vecchi di val Cismon as governor of Somalia. Only the Banadir
coast was under direct Italian control, but with the elimination of the Banadiri in
1908 and the dervishes in 1922, Italian colonial dreams were sure to be fulfilled.
De Vecchi, flushed with military ardor, sought to eliminate all who stood
against what Fascist propaganda called la Grande Somalia “Greater Somalia.” De
Vecchi knew that after the fall of the dervishes, Britain would no longer support
Italian colonial interests in the Horn. Meanwhile, Somalis were heavily armed and
well trained for combat in the Great War. An estimated 16,000 rifles were in Somali
hands, more than what was available for the Italian colonial forces. Thus, after the
war, the governor’s first task was to disarm and confiscate arms and ammunition
from all Somalis, but particularly from the clans in the Inter-Riverine region. To
this end the governor, reconstituted the old Somali police corps, known as the Corpo
Zaptie, and trained them to act as an effective force for carrying out the new colonial
policies. Fresh cadres were recruited, and the older and less eff ective elements were
suspended. New barracks were built. Young Italian officers from the Carabinieri
trained and supervised the new forces.¹⁷ In early March 1924, De Vecchi ordered
leaders of the Upper Shabelle¹⁸ clans and Jama’a¹⁹ Sheikhs to hand over all arms and ammunitions to the Corpo Zaptie within forty days.²⁰
In mid-March 1924, Sheikh Hassan Barsane, the leader of Jiliale Jama’a ²¹
condemned the new Italian colonial policies. Barsane invoked a shir, where the
participants, infl amed with millenarian zeal, denounced the Governor’s order: “In
the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful… I have received your letter and
understood its contents, but must advise that we cannot your orders and join with
you in a covenant… Your government has its laws, and we have ours. We accept
no law other than ours. Our law is the law of Allah and his prophet… We are not
like other people, none of us has ever enrolled in the Zaptie (colonial force), never.
Not even one…²² and if you come to our land to fi ght against us, we will fi ght you
with all possible means, just as we fought the dervishes and the Ethiopians. Allah
said: “Few can defeat many with Allah’s will” (Sura 2, verse 249)… Th e world is very
close to its end, only 58 years remain. …²³ We do not want to stay in this world. It
is better to die while defending our Muslim laws. All Muslims are one.²⁴

As a continuation of Riverine resistance, the Jiliale Jihads resisted and defeated
early Fascist attacks along the north and middle of the Shabelle Valley, defending
the north and central Banadir region. Unfortunately, however, Barsane fell into
the hands of the Italians and was imprisoned and died in a Mogadishu jail in
1928, causing a major setback. From 1925, the Jama’a suff ered from a shortage of
ammunition. Finally, the Jama’a was forced to surrender and hand over its guns to
the colonial forces.
De Vecchi’s problems, however, were not over. Further resistance emerged
from the Qadiriyya settlements, a Sufi order. In 1922, Sheikh Faraj, known also as
Sufi Baraki, launched a campaign against Italian colonial activities on the Banadir.
He united several Jama’a settlements: Buulo Marerto, Golwiing, Muki Dumis and
others scattered in the Lower Shabelle region, and set up his headquarters in Barawa,
the birthplace of Sheikh Uways Ibn Muhammad al-Barawi,²⁵ the founder of the
movement. Sheikh Faraj’s akhwaan “brotherhood” were trained religiously as well
as militarily to protect the farmlands from the Italians penetrating the fertile Lower
Shabelle region. In 1923, the above centers were attacked and mostly destroyed by
Italian colonial forces. Sheikh Faraj traveled to Tiyeglow town in Upper Juba to
coordinate with another movement that emerged there, the Tiyeglow Jama’a led by
Sharif Alyow Issaq al-Sarmani.²⁶ Tiyeglow, where earlier the dervishes had suff ered
a serious defeat was the headquarters of the movement, for it resisted early waves
of Italian occupation. Th e town was also located in between the two holiest places
in the Reewin territory, Sarmaan (the headquarters of Asharaf ) and Bioley (the
headquarters of Uwaysiyya and where the shrine of Sheikh Uways is located).
To consolidate the power of the movement resisting the “infidel” Italians, the
two leaders agreed to put more emphasis on defending the port towns of the Banadir
and the farmlands of the Lower Shabelle. Therefore, forces from the Tiyeglow
akhwaan led by Sharif Alyow went with Sheikh Faraj to support the akhwaan in
Buulo Marerto and other Lower Shabelle centers. The movement sought internal
unification and reform, to counter divisive clanism and those officials, salaried chefs
and qadi’s it labeled hypocrites, actually collaborators in the pay of the Italians. The
movement constructed defenses in preparations for the resistance.
Fulfilling the new strategies of the movement, the construction of two secure
fortresses was finished in early 1924 in Dhai-Dhai, later known as Jama’a Dhai-
Dhai, and in Qorile, later known as Buulo Asharaf, after Sharif Alyow. The Italian
authority was troubled by these developments. De Vecchi warned Sheikh Faraj to
give up what he called “unhealthy activities.”²⁷ Th e two fortified camps dispatched
delegations throughout the Inter-Riverine region to recruit more supporters. They
also contacted Sheikh Murjan, a prominent Qadiri holy man in the Lower Juba,
who not only blessed the movement, but also supported it materially. The colonial
authorities felt endangered and, as a preemptive measure sought to negotiate with
the leaders of the movement to prevent a rebellion. This move failed and a Zaptie
force was sent to strike against Sheikh Faraj and his allies, but defeated.
On October 20, 1924, more Zaptie forces attacked Dhai-Dhai Center. The
akhwaan defended their camp and forced the colonial troops to retreat and leave
behind some of their dead and injured. Sheikh Faraj considered these victories
a miracle and it reinvigorated his jihadic movement. In early November, more
colonial troops attacked the strongholds of the movement; many centers were
burned and the akhwaan fought bravely, but were overwhelmed by superior troops
and weaponry. After many losses, they retreated towards the north and northwest.
Sheikh Faraj and a small number of the akhwaan remained in the Lower Shabelle
region, introducing guerilla tactics to fight the enemy. On May 31, 1925, colonial
troops surprised Sheikh Faraj in his hiding place and defeated his akhwaan. He
was wounded, captured and sent to Barawa, where he died from his injuries soon
after.²⁸ Meanwhile, Sharif Alyow, having survived death or capture by colonial
troops, was able to retreat to Tiyeglow, his hometown and continued the struggle
there. The defeat of Jama’a movements and the death of both Sheikh Faraj and
Sheikh Hassan Barsane and the retreat of Sharif Alyow al-Sarmani cleared the way
for the Italian dream of establishing the Impero Coloniale Fascita (Fascist colonial
empire) in 1936.