Feuding hostilities led to several confrontations between Italy and the Somali tribes. Eno reveals, “Merca, Jilib, Jesira and Dhanane are some of the notable battlefields where the Bimaal (Hawiye) pastoral tribe engaged colonial soldiers constituting Somalis.”27 Nevertheless, revelations such as by Italian naval officer Gaetano Bossi had already done the damage. He recommended the pertinence of a more organized government role. Commander Onorato di Monale who undertook an investigation upon the early announcements of the Benadir Coast slavery scandal wrote another equally discrediting report. Some excerpts of the report, including information given by the local chiefs and other outstanding figures of the community, read:
…not only did slaves enter Benadir ports, but that the last slaves to enter the town date back only to last December. Slaves are bought and sold in the Benadir towns, not only under the eyes of Italian authorities…but according to registry of the cadis of Mogadishu…with the sanction of those authorities. In the Benadir, a slave can be bought, sold, imprisoned, inherited, given as a gift, exploited, and rarely liberated. Far from taking steps towards the gradual disappearance of domestic servitude, the company is perpetrating it and aggravating the condition.28
In a gesture to consolidate its colonial activities firmly, Italy succeeded in the purchase of the Benadir ports for the estimated amount of 3,600,000 Italian Lira , the equivalent of 144,000 British pounds, an achievement seen as a step forward. But within the colony, as Italy was aware, resistance was unavoidable since some tribes were discontented by the abolition policy.
The Somali slave owners, as is paradigmatic of the nomadic psychology, tinted the abolition policy as a religious issue in a bid to gain legitimacy for their cause of war and sympathy from other clans, under the philosophy of Jihad (holy war). Mohamed Abdulle Hassan, the Mad Mullah and leader of the Dervish, assisted the Bimaal cause to that end. The colonial administration recruited soldiers to face the arrogant and unabiding Bimaal. When the battle erupted, several Bimaal villages were torched off. The Bimaal, in retaliation, forged several attempts to overrun the Italian askaris in Dhanane, situated between Merca and Mogadishu. They were all in futility until the Bimaal were relentless subdued.
In a diplomatic move to step up the scale of ‘pacification’, the colonial officials approached chiefs and notables of the various tribes to win their support and maintain good relationship between the colonists and the colony. The Somali pastoral tribes seized the opportunity. The two ensuing reasons were for access to the colonial officials (as a medium between the Italians and the community), and secondly for the payroll which displayed a recognition of their social status as the leadership. The Sultan of the Geledi was one of such leaders who subscribed wholeheartedly to this kind of colonial appeasement.29
Skirmishes between the Bimaal and the Italians continued for quite some time, though
intermittently.30 The colonial troops got a breakthrough and eventually penetrated the towns of Bariire, Malable, Audegle (Aaw-Dheegle) in the Dhoobooy area of Merca, and Afgoi a few kilometers from Mogadishu. The event has finally tamed Bimaal resistance, widening the aspiration for peace and liberty.
Sheikh Hassan Barsane’s Resistance to the Abolition of Slavery
One Sheikh who was exaggeratedly honoured as a hero in Somali history, Sheikh
Hassan Barsane of the Gaal-Jecel sub-clan of the Hawiye clan, has resisted abolition
of slavery to the extent of misinterpreting the Holy Scripture – the Qur’an, by writing to
“All our slaves escaped and went to you and you have set them free.
We are not happy with the [Antislavery] order. We abandoned our
law, for according to our law we can put slaves in prison or force them to work.”
And what law was the ‘respected’ Sheikh referring to?
“The government has its law and we have ours. We accept no law
other than our law. Our law is that of God and of the prophet….
“God has said: The few can defeat the many. The world is near its end;
only 58 years remain…It is better to die following Muslim law. All Muslims are one.31
In the preceding statement, Barsane has made not less than three discrepancies contrary to the Islamic faith. But a Jareer poet who was against enslavement of Muslims, an un-Islamic practice, sets the main response in this verse:
* Ninki Ashahaato Adoon ma Ahaado
Amar Eebe diidi yaa kaa Aqbalaayo32
Whoever announces the oneness of Allah in submission, no longer remains a slave;
So, nobody abides by your orders regarding what Allah has illegitimated.
Sheikh Hassan Barsane is one of a few heroes honoured in the history of Somalia. He is, as far as we have seen in the history curricula of schools in the country, dignified as a sharp protestant against the Italian colonialists, and one who died for the cause of nationalism. But on the contrary, he died due to his rejection to free Muslim lives in the campaign to the abolition of slavery and of slave trade. As far as Islam is concerned, a good model is Abubakar who paid money to purchase Bilal’s freedom after the latter converted to Islam. In this case, the two acts of Abubakar and Sheikh Hassan Barsane are contrary to each other, but the former’s gesture accommodates well with the harmonious tenets of Islam. Barsane’s, in retrospect, amounts to a villain’s misuse and abuse of the Holy Scripture.
Previously, many scholars have written concern over the obstruction of the truth about Somali historiography, ethno-anthropology, culturology and other areas, with the focus and scope of criticism succinctly directed onto the nomadic pastoralist in the north. In fact, it is now in the south that we learn about religious scholars engaging in both misuse and abuse of the Islamic faith for personal gains. And rather than condemining their ill effects to society, the Jileec pastoral authorities have eulogized their villainy by building monuments and naming academic institutions after the great sinners.
Drawing from an archival evidence, Sheikh Hassan Barsane and a large number of the Somali people of his day and even today, have been correctly described by colonial officers as people who corrupt and contaminate the Islamic faith by twisting it for personal goals. An extract of the nature reads:
1. With reference to attached - in my opinion the Somali…accepts the Sheria just as far as it suits him.
2. He claims to be a Mohammeddan but during my service…both Sir Reginald Wingate – Serdar and Major General Von Slatin Pasha, told me that they did not consider the Somali as a true Mohammeddan…33
That this is a persistent paradigm of Somali attitude can also be seen in recent events in the civil anarchy period when the so-called Islamic courts discriminatively arraigned the unarmed and ethnically oppressed communities like the Jareer.34 Suffice it to say that many religious scholars have used their Islamic knowledge as an income generation project rather than preach the doctrine of peace and equality for all muslims. (See Chapter Two, The Barawaan.)
After the war of words, a number of confrontations took place between the Galjel (Gaal-jecel) tribe of Hassan Barsane and colonial forces, which pressed the former into submission. Eventually, the so-called religious leader was captured, as his kinsmen could not save him in their plea at submission. They were disarmed while Barsane was taken to the dungeons in Mogadishu and sentenced to death. Later the death sentence was revoked to life imprisonment where he remained incarcerated till his death
The most celebrated national heroes, in the northern nomadic version, come in the persons of Mohamed Abdulle Hassan, Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Ghazi – known to the Somalis as Axmed ‘Gurey’ (the left-handed) and Ahmed ‘Gran’ to the Abyssinians, and Hawo Osman Tacco, popularly known as Xaawo Taako. For reasons known to Siad Barre and his kinsmen, these were made the celebrated heroes and heroine whose recognition was depicted in their monuments, exclusively towering through the skies of Mogadishu.
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