In 1899, a charismatic man with exceptional leadership qualities and oratory skills convinced a strong Somali clan to join him in his struggle against the occupation of Somalia by foreign powers: Great Britain, Italy and France. According to a British officer, the Somali clan, before joining the Sayed in his struggle for freedom, could muster more than 80,000 horsemen at a time in times of war. In Mad Mullah, the colonial officer Jardine described the clan as one that possessed more than its fair share of the legendary Somali pride and conceit. The clan that inhabited the Nugal Valley and extended into the Hawd and reserved area, Somali territories that were later ceded illegally by Britain to Ethiopia, formed the bulk of the Darwish movement that transformed a nomadic clan into the inhabitants of a functioning state with its capital in Taleh where the Sayid built his famous fort. The State had its own legislative, judicial and Executive branches. The Sayid and a few trusted individuals formed the Executive Branch, highly educated religious scholars formed the judicial branch while the Khususi, or the inner circle, formed the legislative branch. The army had its own hierarchy and command structure and functioned like a modern military. The Sayid had informal diplomatic relations with countries like Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The Turks even sent him experts who helped him build a sprawling compound in Taleh which was known to Somalis as “Xarunta” or the HQ. A German engineer sent by the Turks helped him maintain his weapons.
After 21 years of a costly struggle in terms of life and resources, the Darwish movement was finally crushed with the help of superior air power that destroyed most of the buildings in Darwish strongholds like Medeshi and Taleh, and massacred thousands of men, women and children. The British infantry later destroyed the fort in Taleh with explosives, but it stubbornly defied total destruction and many sections still stand today as reminders of a proud Somali heritage that defied colonization by foreign powers. Despite its many detractors who mostly collaborated with the British in its colonization of Somalia, the Darwish Movement is the longest of its kind in many parts of Africa. The Sayid escaped the bombardment and tried to resurrect the movement but died of natural causes after refusing to consider British offers of peace and collaboration. He even derided the delegation sent to him by the British and they barely escaped with their lives for being emissaries of a colonizing power that killed thousands of their fellow countrymen.
Even after defeat, the Darwish survivors refused to sign any agreements with the British unlike the other Somali clans in the area that willingly signed protection treaties with the British Raj when its first ships landed on the Somali shores. These surviving warriors remained loyal to their cause and commander in chief until their death. In the early 1970s, as a school boy, when I visited our nomadic hamlets in the summer holidays, I remember seeing a number of these surviving Darawish who were ready to fight against anyone who bad mouthed the Sayid and his movement in any manner. The aging Darawish were always ready to defend their legacy with the paraphernalia of weapons they still had access to such as daggers worn around their waists, despite their frailness and aging bodies. Some of them still bore the scars of the numerous battles they witnessed in their youth when they rode sturdy stallions and mares for hundreds of miles with no food or water. Some of them were among the lucky few who traveled from Taleh to Berbera on horseback to surprise the British in their seat of power. The thundering sound of their horses must have brought fear to the hearts of those who collaborated with the British by getting the impression that the earth must have been sinking under their feet. The unwavering loyalty of the surviving Darawish is testimony to the high esteem they held their commander of chief in who refused to the last minute to betray their cause and make peace with the enemy.
Taleh in Ruins
After independence in 1960, a mobile unit in the Somali police adopted the name of the Darawish and used uniforms reminiscent of the fierce Darwish warriors and their white turbans and matching flowing robes. The famous Somali poet Qassim sent the Sayid a moving tribute and message to inform him in his grave that the struggle that the he, the Sayid , started finally bore fruit and that his people kicked out the colonialists from their country. The Darwish movement was later honored by the revolutionary government of Siyad Barre by erecting a magnificent monument that commemorated its struggle for freedom and Somali honor. A surviving Darwish used to guard the monument until he resigned in disgust when a crow perched itself on the turban of the Sayid as if that was a bad omen that somehow foretold the ignominious fate of the monument when it was dismantled and desecrated at the hands of angry mobs motivated by clan hatred after the collapse of the Somali Government. As a matter of fact, the statue of the Sayid itself was toppled and cut to pieces only to be sold as scrap in Dubai for a few thousand dollars. Let us hope that the current Somali government will restore the monument to its former glory. Only then will Mogadishu truly be a Somali capital for all Somalis since the preservation of Somali history is a shared responsibility.
The descendants of the Darwish warriors are now faced with a big challenge. They are expected to singlehandedly defend Somali Unity as if such unity does not concern other Somalis. The one clan SNM rebel movement that collaborated with other clan-based rebel movements to destroy Somalia, has embarked on a genocidal campaign to ethnically cleanse them from their ancestral lands. They, the Darawish descendants, have been given an ultimatum to either join the SNM in their quest for seceding from Somalia or face forced eviction from their territories. Such inhumane threats have been unequivocally voiced by prominent SNM politicians like the chairman of the Justice and Welfare Party in Somaliland, a prominent Islamic Scholar known as Sheikh Siro and a member of the Upper House of Parliament called Abdi Warabe. The SNM considers all Somali territories that were once a colony of Great Britain as being part of Somaliland and should therefore join the secession bandwagon by force. While it is immoral and wrong to break up Somalia into cantons, it is more serious to force others to join in a wrong cause and threaten them with deadly force and eviction. What else is open for people faced with such a life threatening situation except taking up arms and fighting to the last man and woman?
After 20 years of anarchy and the absence of a strong central government, the descendants of the Darawish have finally decided to form their own administration. On 12 January 2012, they assembled from all over the world in the Darwish stronghold of Taleh. The conference was held under an ancient tree dubbed as “Birdaha Khaatumo”. The tree must have been a witness to the hundreds of Darwish expeditions that embarked on missions to fight the British Colonialists such as the one in which Ismail Mire, the Dariwsh Commander, defeated the British colonial officer Richard Corfield. The participants were owed by the magnificence of the albeit destroyed fort and the hospitality of the Taleh residents who shared their meager resources with them and opened their homes for them. Despite the remoteness of the area and the lack of paved roads, they all felt energized by a mysterious force once they made it safely to Taleh. They were welcomed with fine horses that raced with the 4 wheel drive vehicles that welcomed every delegation. One could easily visualize the thousands of horses and white turbaned Darawish roaming the area in the heydays of Taleh.
Somaliland AggressionAfter lengthy deliberations and consultations, the Darwish descendants from all walks of life joined their 12 traditional leader to announce to the world the formation of a new Federal State known as the Federal State of Khaatumo. The State seeks to uphold Somali Unity and to develop Khatumo territories peacefully. These territories have been ignored by all development agencies after he Somaliland and Puntland administrations managed to portray them as disputed no-go areas inhabited by wild and inhospitable clans. This inhuman behavior could have been motivated by the perception of the leaders of both administrations that the Khatumo residents supported the Somali government when they took up arms against it.
Just after the formation of the Khatumo State, Somaliland forces attacked and entered the city of Buhodleh to prevent the group that was instrumental in forming Khatumo from crossing the border with Ethiopia, the only outlet for them to return to their homes after Somaliland and Puntland threatened them with imprisonment if they tried to travel from their airports. But the people of Buhodle defended their city with valor and managed to evict the secessionist forces. Battles raged for weeks and many innocent lives were lost.
After being defeated in Buhodle, the Somaliland Administration, in its futile attempts to portray Somaliland as a democratic bastion, redeployed its forces to another area known as Hudun in order to force its residents there to vote in the recent rigged elections. However, the residents of Hudun defended their city against the invaders and rejected the entrance of any ballot boxes into their city. These blank ballots were later forged and tallied despite the declaration of the International observers that Hudun did not participate in the election when hostilities broke out in the area.
Unfortunately more Somali blood was shed in Hudun and another round of fighting is expected soon since the secessionist forces are still in the area and are looking for more trouble despite being asked to leave in peace.
December 4 will be a day etched in the memory of the people of Khatumo. On that day, the first aircraft touched down at Sayid Mohamed Abdulla Hassan airport in Taleh. The airport was built with the help of the Khatumo diaspora to serve as an outlet for the landlocked State. The aircraft carried the Khatumo delegation from Mogadishu after successfully participating in the ratification of the draft constitution and the election of the new Somali parliament that elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud as the president of Somalia. A few days ago, the elected president for all Somalis hastily congratulated Somaliland on a successful election at a time when Somali blood was being shed in Hudun by forces that have resolved to dismantle the very country that he presides over. Khatumo and the Somali people expect an apology and an explanation for such a hasty decision.
The people of Khatumo will continue in their struggle despite being abandoned by the other Somalis. They have sworn through their traditional leaders to take up arms against the Somaliland secessionist forces until they evict them from their territories which they continue to occupy by force. Since the Somaliland administration continues to imprison journalists, ordinary citizens, students and anyone who dares challenge their Illegal presence in Khatumo territories, the Khatumo resistance is a morally justified one that is based on the basic human rights of its people.
If you are a true Somali patriot who cares about Somali Unity and future, join us in this just cause. Khatumo is not an aggressor and has a legitimate right to stand up to arrogance and aggression. Somalis in the Diaspora are also invited to charter special direct flights to Taleh and witness firsthand the history that has so far being hidden from them for years. Somali children can wander among the Taleh Fort ruins which are expected to be rebuilt to their former glory soon. The children can ride horses that are the progeny of famous breeds like Xiin Finiin, Tuurre and Walhad.
Such trips will demonstrate your support for Somali Unity and help Khatumo in its struggle against a determined enemy of that Unity. It will also help the Khatumo residents defeat the invisible Berlin Wall that has been erected around them by both Puntland and Somaliland.
Finally, Many thanks to sister Roda Afjanno for her beautiful poem that has motivated all Khatumites in their struggle. I would also like to thank the pilot who transported the Khatumo delegation from Mogadishu to Taleh safely and opened the door for many future flights that will hopefully carry members of the Somalia Parliament, the Somali cabinet and the International Community to witness firsthand the efforts of the Khatumo State to develop its territories peacefully.
Ali H Abdulla
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