Somaliland: Protectorate and the Horn of Africa


As per Declassified British National Archives Document where In many sections in the report , the British refers to the people of Somaliland as “our tribes”.

Somaliland in the Encyclopædia Britannica 11th ed

Somalilandsun – Here is another piece of Somaliland and Somalia history reported by British officials on 15th Feb 1957 and slightly condensed from the British National Archives by Medeshi . The document has been declassified and is available to the public at the National Archives in Kew , West London .


We are confronted by two problems, the first an immediate and relatively limited one, the second of a longer term and wider nature. The first problem relates to the difficulties which have arisen with Ethiopia over their failure to abide by the terms of the 1954 Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement regarding the Haud and former Reserved Area of Ethiopia. The second problem concerns the whole future of
British interests in the Horn of Africa after 1960, when Somalia is due to achieve independence. These two problems are inter-related, in the sense that the solution of either of them depends to some extent on the solution of the other. But it is the second problem which is, fundamentally, the more important; and it is to that problem that this memorandum is primarily directed.
The Territories Involved
2. This is the former Italian Somaliland, now administered by Italy as a Trust Territory and due to achieve independence in 1960. It already has a very considerable measure of self-government, and the leaders of the dominant political Party have as their aim the unification of all Somalis in a greater Somalia—an aim which is supported by most Somalis everywhere. The ability of the indigenous
administration to govern the country effectively after 1960 and to maintain a real, as opposed to a nominal, independence is doubtful, especially in view of the extent to which they are likely to continue to be dependent on external financial and economic support. There is a considerable risk, therefore, that a power vacuum will develop in this area after 1960, as a result of which either the Ethiopians or
the Egyptians will seize the opportunity to try to establish a position of paramount influence in Somalia. There is already evidence of steady Egyptian infiltration into the area by means of teachers and advisers, and Egyptian propaganda is very active in Somalia. These factors combine with the growth of political consciousness among the Somali peoples to create a danger (which could be accentuated by propaganda playing on religious views, economic, needs, and anti-Colonialist sentiment) that Somalia may fall into the Egyptian orbit, or at least into that of the neutralist Powers of the Bandung group. On the other hand, although the inhabitants of Somalia were opposed to our action in Egypt, there
still exists in Somalia a considerable fund of goodwill towards the British connection, dating from our wartime occupation of the territory.
British Somaliland
3. This is a British Protectorate, which we are entitled to occupy and to administer indefinitely. But it. presents a serious political and economic problem, in that the livelihood of its nomadic inhabitants depends substantially on their enjoying access to the Haud and the Reserved Area, which were recognised by -the 1897 Treaty as forming part of Ethiopia. At present about half of the Protectorate^ total population of some 600,000 spend a large part of each year in these areas. The rights of the tribes to graze and water in Ethiopia were established and recognised by the 1897 Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty. By the 1954 Agreement the sovereignty of Ethiopia over the Haud and Reserved Area was reaffirmed, while at the same time the tribes”1 grazing rights were confirmed, and the Ethiopian Government agreed that the tribal organisation set up by the Protectorate Government should continue to function when the tribes are in the Haud and Reserved Area, a liaison organisation being established to preserve the link between the tribes and the Protectorate Government and to transmit to the tribes the structions of that Government on internal tribal matters. In contravention of this Agreement, however, the Ethiopian authorities have put pressure on, and have interfered with, the tribes from the Protectorate, This process, if continued, is liable to lead to the subversion of the allegiance of those tribes to the British Government. If this happened, the Ethiopians would be able (under the ” reciprocal rights ” article of the 1954 Agreement) to penetrate the Protectorate by claiming, in regard to the subverted tribes, the same rights which the Agreement gives to us over our tribes in the Haud and the Reserved Area.
4. But it is more likely, that the Protectorate tribes would refuse to accept Ethiopian sovereignty, and as a result would be deprived of the effective use of the Haud and the Reserved Area. They would then constitute a very turbulent element in the Protectorate, even though provided with famine relief. Already the Ethiopian pressure, both in these areas and in Ethiopia proper, has compelled our tribes during migrating periods to leave in the Protectorate a great number of their more vulnerable members, such as women, children and aged people, to whose support the Protectorate Government have to contribute at considerable expense to Her Majesty’s Treasury.
5. In either case our hold over the tribes would be weakened, and our efforts to foster their gradual political development towards self-government thwarted. Moreover, it must be recognised that, even if Ethiopia were to honour her obligations under the 1954 Agreement in full, this would not wholly satisfy the Somali tribes, who have always claimed that the Haud and the Reserved Area are Somali territory. Their aspirations in this respect might be largely met if Ethiopia would revert to her pre-war practice of not administering the area, though being sovereign in it. But there is no likelihood of her adopting this course.
6. The recent events in the Middle East gave rise to considerable criticism in British Somaliland, particularly of what was regarded as our alliance with Israel; but this,has now largely died down. British Somaliland tribes are bound, however, to be generally pro-Moslem in sentiment (though this does not by any means imply that they would necessarily be pro-Egyptian), and we must recognise
that any course which brought us into conflict with Moslem nationalism in this area would be bound to create difficulties for us in the Protectorate.
Ethiopia ¬
7. Ethiopia is a polygot kingdom containing peoples some of whom have affinities of race, religion and social habits with the Somalis. Although Ethiopia is still in many respects backward and under-developed, internal consolidation and progress are likely to increase with the rise of the younger generation, some of whom were educated in this country. The Central Government have in the last ten
years considerably strengthened their control over the outlying provinces and are endeavouring to improve their administrative and financial services. This strengthening of administration in the outlying provinces is, however, itself part of the cause of recent difficulties over the tribes which migrate from the Somaliland Protectorate to graze in two of these provinces.
8. Ethiopia has a genuine security problem. She has in the past suffered many Moslem (including Somali) invasions. With her periphery so largely inhabited by Moslems, she fears the dangers of Moslem encirclement: and, faced with certain Italian and with possible British withdrawal from the area, she is determined to prevent Egypt filling the vacuum. Consequently, if, after Somalia attained independence, Her Majesty’s Government withdrew entirely from the Protectorate, Ethiopia would probably attempt to establish her hegemony over all Somali territories. The absorption of this large area would admittedly place a great and—depending on the reaction of Somalis—perhaps insupportable strain upon Ethiopian resources; but such a policy would be consistent with her previous history of expansionism during the past hundred years.
The Ogaden
9 . The Ogaden is the Province of Ethiopia immediately to the south of the Somaliland Protectorate and to the west of Somalia, containing the Haud. Although it has been under Ethiopian sovereignty since its conquest in 1895, it has only been administered at all by Ethiopia since we evacuated it in 1948-49.
10. If a Greater Somalia were created, the Somalis of Somalia and the British Protectorate would wish it to include the Ogaden, mainly because the inhabitants are Somalis closely related to the inhabitants of Somalia and the Protectorate; and those inhabitants would probably wish for the same solution.
The Ethiopians are violently opposed to any such development.
French Somaliland
1 1; This is a small territory, but it contains the important port of Jibuti, which is the terminal of the railway from Addis Ababa. All the indications suggest that the French are determined to retain this territory, and will be very suspicious of any solution of the problems of the area which involves any diminution of their present rights. The Ethiopians, on the other hand, would not tolerate the possession of the port of Jibuti by a Somali Government; nor Could they allow Somali control of the areas through which the Jibuti-Addis Ababa railway runs, since that line will be vital to the Ethiopian economy for at least ten years to come.
The Somalis would be equally opposed to Jibuti being owned by Ethiopia; there is, however, reason to believe that they would not wish to press for its inclusion in a Greater Somalia, at least at first.
The Northern Frontier Province of Kenya (NFD)
12. The eastern part of this Province, which marches with Somalia, is inhabited by Somalis tribally related to the neighbouring tribes of Somalia. It is a major interest of the Kenya Government both to defend the Northern and Eastern frontiers against further encroachment by tribes from Somalia, and to prevent the Somali tribes already within the Province from encroaching, as they tend to, on the areas occupied by Bantu and European farmers to the South and by the non-Somali tribes to the west. If, however, the future Somali administration in Somalia were stable and friendly and would co-operate in preventing further encroachment of tribes across the Kenya border, the Kenya Government would be prepared to consider an adjustment of the boundary in favour of Somalia to facilitate such control.

British Interests in the Horn of Africa
Our interests in the Horn of Africa may be summarised as follows:
13. To honour our obligations to the Somalis in the Protectorate, i.e., our duty to assist their progressive constitutional and economic development, and, when we finally leave the Protectorate, to bequeath to the succeeding Administration an orderly State and a contented people.
14. The problem here turns almost entirely upon a settlement of the difficulties which have arisen in the Haud and Reserved Area. The prospect of the cession of these territories to the Protectorate (which would be the only real solution of the immediate and limited problem) must be regarded as extremely remote. But if the attempt is not made to deal with this problem before Somalia achieves independence in 1960, there is some risk that the Somalis in the Protectorate may seek to take the territories themselves. Even with reinforcement from an independent Somalia (assuming that Somalia could organise and finance the necessary effort) the tribes would probably not succeed in that aim; but they could make it difficult and expensive for Ethiopia to hold the territories, and this situation would involve Her Majesty’s Government in the extreme embarrassment, as well as expense, of appearing to side with the Ethiopians against the Somalis. So long as we remained in the Protectorate, we might be able to keep a movement of this kind under control. But we should find increasing difficulty in doing so, and would have to be prepared to face the heavy costs of effective military occupation.
15. To preserve our strategic interests in the Horn of Africa-This is not merely a question of the defence of Kenya (which marches with both Ethiopia and Somalia, and contains some 60,000 Somalis in its Northern Frontier Province) or the importance of insulating the area from unfriendly influences, particularly Egyptian. It is even more, as the Chiefs of Staff have emphasised, a question of over-flying and air staging rights in the Protectorate, together with the right to station forces, to secure concessions in respect of oil and mineral production and pipelines, and to safeguard the use and development of ports arid anchorages. Of these requirements the first is the most important. The Royal Navy’s need to secure port facilities would become actual only if we lost the facilities which we now enjoy in Aden. Equally, the possible need to station military, forces in the area derives mainly from the prior need to preserve air staging and over-flying rights in the Protectorate. Such rightsj including staging rights for, troop carriers, have become important ,for the reinforcement of the Persian Gulf, via Nairobi and Aden. Staging facilities might also be required for short-range aircraft, e.g., for the defence of Aden and the Aden Protectorate.
16. Indispensable to our full use of such facilities in the Protectorate is our need to enjoy, in addition, over-flying rights over cither Somalia or Ethiopia (and possibly staging and emergency landing rights also). Somalia would offer a more direct route. But even if we obtained over-flying rights over Somalia (which is by no means certain), recent experience in the Middle East (e.g., Libya) shows that we could not rely on a Moslem Government agreeing to our exercising those rights for operations against fellow Moslems in the Persian Gulf or elsewhere. Ethiopia, however, grants, us by treaty important over-flying rights (in exchange for reciprocal rights of over-flying the Protectorate); and the chances of our being able to exercise these rights for operations in the Persian Gulf are reasonably good.
17. As the range of aircraft increases, the importance Of air staging rights will be correspondingly diminished; but on the assumption that our strategic policy in the Middle East as a whole remains unchanged, and that our interests in the Persian Gulf area continue to be substantial, we are likely to need these rights for at least the next ten years.
Condensed by Medeshi
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