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Somalia: Haji Mohamed Hussein’s election as leader of SYL in 1957 put him ad odds with the government, his party and the Administering Authority. Brief Note

Mohamed I. Trunji
Monday, November 23, 2020

Haji Mohamed Hussein Hamud was one of the 13 founders in 1943 of what was then known as Somali Youth Club (SYC). When the SYC became a fully-fledged political party in 1947 with the name of Somali Youth League (SYL), Haji Mohamed was chosen as the Leader of the new party, a position he kept in successive years up to August 1952. In that year he left for Egypt to pursue higher education. Between 1952 and 1957, the leadership of the party was taken up in succession by Haji Farah Ali, Aden Abdulla and Abdirazak Haji, During his stay in Egypt, which lasted some five years, he used the political platform offered to him by the Egyptian government in Cairo, then under the dictatorship of Colonel Nasser, to accuse the Somali government of being too close to the West, and to Italy in particular, and doing allegedly little to realize the national goal of creating Greater Somalia. This hostile propaganda against the Somali government, at variance with the official party policy conducted in a foreign country, predictably annoyed the ruling party and represented a source of embarrassment to the Somali government and to the Italian Trusteeship Administration alike.

Haji Mohamed Hussein Elected Leader of the Party in Absentia 

In spite of his maverick attitude, referred to above, Haji Mohamed was elected president of the party in 1957 while he was still in Egypt. The first friction between the central committee of the party and the newly elected president came to the surface immediately when, after his election, he was instructed to return to Mogadiscio. He replied by saying that he needed some time to take examinations in the studies he had been pursuing and also that he would like to go to Syria and Bahrain and to other countries in the Middle East on behalf of the party in order to get funds, etc. He was granted only the time absolutely necessary to take his examinations (a month or little more), and was required to retake the oath of office and become president before going anywhere, in the name of the party or of Somalia. Not only did Haji Mohamed not return to Somalia until December 4, 1958, four months after he had been elected, but contrary to the party line, he also travelled to the countries he had said he would visit. “He finally arrived on December 4, the day after the Prime Minister and the President of the Legislative Assembly had left for Addis Abeba, to receive an uproarious welcome from a clearly organized crowd in which anti-American banners were prominent.” (TNA FO 371/125676 monthly summary October and November 1957)

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Available records indicate that, prior to his departure for Egypt, his attitude towards the new Italian administration (Afis) had seemed to be showing all signs of moderation and openness. In fact, on May 26, 1950, during an official reception held at the official mansion of the chief administrator to welcome Giuseppe Brusasca, Undersecretary of Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Haji Mohamed, speaking on behalf of his party, made the following remarks: “Your Excellency, on behalf of the Lega dei Giovani Somali, I have the honour to extend to you our most sincere welcome to Somalia anticipating that your visit will mark the beginning of an era of peace and understanding between Somalia and AFIS. Your Excellency, the Lega would like to point out that it has as its prime objective the interest of Somalia and the Somalis and consequently AFIS may fully count on the Lega’s support in all what is being done for the interest of the territory. Once more, you are welcome.” (Corriere della Somalia, Maggio 27, 1950)

By the time Haji had returned from Egypt, the country had changed a great deal. There was a functioning government, led by his own party, in charge of the domestic affairs of the territory; his party held the majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly; the process of Somalization had gone faster than many had predicted and the political atmosphere between AFIS and the SYL party was one of co-operation, with a focus on a smooth transfer of power even ahead of the date originally sanctioned by the United Nations.

Haji Mohamed had returned from Egypt a much-changed person, at odds not only with the Administering Authority, but also with members of his own party who had elected him as their leader. “His 5 years in Egypt had left a deep mark on him and, for the time being, he was unable to see things except through Egyptian-made glasses,” (TNA FO 371/131462, of March 1958). The newly elected president of the SYL was clearly out of step with the mainstream of party politics. The tense relations between the party and its leader have eventually brought about the expulsion of the latter from the Party in May 1958.

The Cabinet split on Clan Line

On his return to Mogadiscio, Haji Mohamed continued launching violent tirades against the government and the Administering Authority in the same way he used to do in Egypt, putting a strain on the unity of the Cabinet Taking advantage of the absence of the Prime Minister and the President of the Legislative Assembly, on mission abroad, Haji Mohamed demanded that Acting Prime Minister, Sheikh Ali Giumale, Minister of Social Affairs, consult him on all State affairs. The Acting Prime Minister refused to have anything to do with him and, after consultations with Haji Farah (Minister of Economic Affairs) and Mohamoud “Juju” (Minister of General Affairs), went to see Haji Mussa Bogor, the Minister of the Interior, to enlist his support against interference from Haji Mohamed. The Minister of the Interior pleading sickness, declined to intervene, and asked not to be disturbed, “although he had spent three hours the previous evening with Haji Mohamed”, (TNA FO 371/131459 of December 23, 1957). Sheikh Ali then called on Acting Administrator, Dr. Piero Franca to tender his resignation; the Ministers of Economic Affairs and the Minister of General Affairs followed suit, albeit reluctantly. Franca asked them to stay on in their posts until the Prime Minister and the President of the Legislative Assembly returned to Somalia.

On returning to Mogadiscio, the President of the Legislative Assembly Aden Abdulla hastened to meet with the Minister of the Interior, who had been ‘hiding in hospital’ since 3 December, and demanded his written promise of support for government policy, a request the Minister rejected. According to British sources in Mogadiscio, the Minister, at the last minute, decided against travelling with the President of the National Assembly and the Prime Minister to Addis Abeba at the invitation of His Majesty the Emperor of Ethiopia, giving medical reasons as a justification for not showing up.

The Prime Minister, on his part, demanded and obtained loyalty pledges from his other ministers; all agreed except the Minister of Finance, Salad Abdi, a relative of Haji Moussa’s. Haji Moussa came under pressure to resume his duties or tend his resignation; bur he preferred not to take action. The Prime Minister, reacting to the attitude of the two ministers (Salad Abdi and Haji Moussa) took personal control of the internal and financial affairs and, without consulting the Minister of the Interior, published in the official newspaper an order for the dismissal or transfer to remote provinces of all prefects and sub-prefects known to be sympathetic to Haji Mohamed and Minister Haji Mussa (TNA FO 371/131459, December 23, 1957) The Prefect of Benadir, Hassan Nour Elmi, was transferred to Migiurtinia Province (now Punt Land), while Nour Ahmed ‘Castelli’, Prefect of Lower Juba, was put on reserve.

It was not easy, but persuaded by a group of traditional chiefs closed to him, Haji Moussa finally agreed to resume his duties, provided there was no interference in his department by the Prime Minister and that the Prefects of Kisimayo and Mogadiscio whose transfer to other posts had been published in the press were allowed to remain in their posts. The Prime Minister ceded on these points and went to inform the Acting Administrator that the crisis had been resolved. However, in despite of that the crisis have been put to rest nevertheless, as we will report in separate writing, the relations between the Prime Minister and the Minister continued to deteriorate leading eventually to the Minister being  relieved of his post in 1959. 


 M. Trunji
Email: [email protected]



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