|50,000 (Italian Somaliland, 1940)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Italian, Somali, Arabic|
|Roman Catholic, Islam|
|Related ethnic groups|
|other Italians, Somalis, Italian Eritreans, and Arabs|
In 1892, the Italian explorer Robecchi Bricchetti for the first time labeled as Somalia the region in the Horn of Africa referred to as Benadir, which was then under the joint control of the Somali Geledi Sultanate (who, also holding sway over the Shebelle region in the interior, were at the height of their power) and the Arab Sultan of Zanzibar.
From the outset, the Italians signed protectorate agreements with the local Somali authorities. In doing this, the Kingdom of Italy was spared bloody rebellions like those launched by the Dervish leader Mohammed Abdullah Hassan (the so-called "Mad Mullah") over a period of twenty-one years against the British colonial authorities in northern Somalia, an area then referred to as British Somaliland.
In 1908, the borders with Ethiopia in the upper river Shebelle River (Uebi-Scebeli in Italian) were defined, and after World War I, the area of Oltregiuba was ceded by Britain and annexed to Italian Somaliland.
The dawn of Fascism in the early 1920s heralded a change of strategy for Italy. With the arrival of Governor Cesare Maria De Vecchi on December 15, 1923, the then-ruling northeastern Somali Sultanates were soon to be forced within the boundaries of La Grande Somalia. Italy hitherto had access to these areas under various protection treaties, but not direct rule. Under its new leadership, Italy mounted successive military campaigns against the Somali Hobyo and Majeerteen Sultanates, eventually defeating the Sultanates' troops and exiling the reigning Sultans. The colonial troops called dubats and the gendarmerie zaptié were extensively used by De Vecchi in this military campaign.
In the early 1930s, the new Italian governors, Guido Corni and Maurizio Rava, started a policy of assimilation of the local populace, enrolling many Somalis in the Italian colonial troops. Some thousands of Italian settlers also began moving to Mogadishu as well as agricultural areas around the capital, such as Jowhar (Villaggio duca degli Abruzzi).
In 1936, Italy then integrated Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Italian Somaliland into a unitary colonial state called Italian East Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana), thereby enlarging Italian Somaliland from 500,000 km2 to 700,000 km2 with the addition of the Ogaden.
From 1936 to 1940, new roads such as the "Imperial Road" from Mogadishu to Addis Abeba were constructed in the region, as were new schools, hospitals, ports and bridges. New railways were also built, such as the famous Mogadishu-Villabruzzi Railway (Italian: Ferrovia Mogadiscio-Villabruzzi).
During the first half of 1940, there were about 22,000 to 50,000 Italians living in Italian Somaliland. In urban areas, the colony was one of the most developed on the continent in terms of standard of living.
In the second half of 1940, Italian troops invaded British Somaliland and ejected the British. The Italians also occupied areas bordering Jubaland around the villages of Moyale and Buna. However, Britain retained control of the almost exclusively Somali-inhabited Northern Frontier District.
In the spring of 1941, Britain regained control of British Somaliland, and conquered Italian Somaliland with the Ogaden. From 1941, the British started to administer Somalia, maintaining the Italian bureaucracy.
This led to resentment between Somali nationalists on the one hand, and Italian Somalis on the other, the latter of whom wanted to preserve Italian rule after the end of World War II.
After World War II
As a result of this failure on the part of the Big Four powers to agree on what to do with Italy's former colonies, Somali nationalist rebellion against Italian rule culminated in violent confrontation in 1948, when a number of Italians and Somalis died in rioting in several coastal towns. The direct consequence of the 52 Italian Somalis killed in these riots, was the start of the process of reduction and disappearance of the Italian community in Somalia.
In November 1949, the United Nations finally opted to grant Italy trusteeship of Italian Somaliland, but only under close supervision and on the condition—first proposed by the Somali Youth League (SYL) and other nascent Somali political organizations, such as Hizbia Digil Mirifle Somali (later Hizbia Dastur Mustaqbal Somali, or HDMS) and the Somali National League (SNL), that were then agitating for independence—that Somalia achieve independence within ten years.
Despite the initial SYL's unrests, the 1950s were something of a golden age for the nearly 40,000 remaining Italian expatriates to Somalia. With United Nations aid money pouring in and experienced Italian administrators who had come to see Somalia as their home, infrastructural and educational development blossomed. This decade passed relatively without incident and was marked by positive growth in many sectors of local life.
In 1960, Italian Somaliland declared its independence and united with British Somaliland in the creation of modern Somalia.
In 1992, after the fall of president Siad Barre, Italian troops returned to Somalia to help restore peace during Operation Restore Hope (UNISOM I & II) under the mandate of the United Nations, and patrolled for nearly two years the central area of Somalia around the Shebelle river.
By the early nineties, there were just a few dozen Italian colonists left, all old aged and still concentrated in Mogadishu and its surroundings.
Italian population in Somalia
The first Italians moved to Somalia at the end of the nineteenth century. However, it wasn't until after World War I that their number increased to about one thousand, a presence that primarily concentrated in the towns of Mogadishu and Merca in the Benadir region of Somalia.
The colonial emigration toward Somalia was limited initially mostly to men alone. The emigration of entire families was promoted only during the Fascist period, mainly in the agricultural developments of the Villaggio Duca degli Abruzzi, near the Shebelle River. In 1920, the Societa Agricola Italo-Somala (SAIS) was founded by the Prince Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi, in order to explore the agricultural potential of central Italian Somaliland and create a colony for Italian farmers.
The area of Genale in southern Somalia (near the Jubba River) was another place where Italian colonists from Turin developed a group of farms, under governor De Vecchi, that were successful for cotton and after 1931 for banana exports.
In 1930, there were around 22,000 Italians living in Italian Somaliland. The majority resided in the capital Mogadishu, with other Italian communities concentrated in in Villaggio Duca degli Abruzzi, Adale (Itala in Italian), Janale, Jamame, and Kismayo.
In 1940, there were more than 50,000 Italians in Italian Somaliland, with around 9,000 to 22,000 residing in the capital Mogadishu (called Mogadiscio in Italian). They frequented local Italian schools that the colonial authorities had opened, such as the Liceum.
Italian Somalis were concentrated in the cities of Mogadishu, Merca, Baidoa, Kismayo and the agricultural areas of the riverine Jubba and Shebelle valleys (around Jowhar/Villaggio Duca degli Abruzzi).
After World War II, the number of Italians in Somali territory started to decrease and by the time of the Somali republic's independence in 1960, their numbers had dwindled to less than 10,000. Most Italian settlers returned to Italy, while others settled in the United States, United Kingdom, Finland, and Australia. By 1989, they were only 1,000 in total. Since the Somali civil war and the fall of Somali president Siad Barre's government in 1991, in Somalia remain only a handful of the old colonists. Many Italian Somalis left for the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Finland, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and other countries in the Middle East.
Of the latter, one of the better known Italian casualties was the former Bishop of Mogadishu, Salvatore Colombo, murdered in 1989. This was followed by the murder of an Italian nun, Leonella Sgorbati, in 2006. With the disappearance of Italians from Somalia, Roman Catholicism was reduced from a record high of 8500 parishioners in 1950 (0.7% of Mogadishu's population) to just 100 individuals in 2004.
|The Italian Somali population in Somalia, from 1914 to 1989|
Italian language in Somalia
Prior to the Somali civil war, the legacy of Italian influence in Somalia was evinced by the relatively wide use of the Italian language among the country's ruling elite. Up until World War II, the Italian language was the only official language of Italian Somaliland. Italian was official in Italian Somaliland during the Fiduciary Mandate, and the first years of independence.
In 1954, the Italian government established the post-secondary institutions of law, economics, and social studies in Mogadishu. These institutions were satellites of the University of Rome, which provided all the instruction material, faculty, and administration.
All the courses were presented in Italian. In 1964, the institutions offered two years of study in Somalia, followed by two years of study in Italy. After a military coup in 1969, all foreign entities were nationalized, including Mogadishu's principal university, which was renamed Jaamacadda Ummadda Soomaliyeed (Somali National University).
In 1972, the Somali language was officially declared the only national language of Somalia, though it now shares that distinction with Arabic. Due to its simplicity, the fact that it lent itself well to writing Somali since it could cope with all the sounds in the language, and the already widespread existence of machines and typewriters designed for its use, the government of Somali president Mohamed Siad Barre, following the recommendation of the Somali Language Committee that was instituted shortly after independence with the purpose of finding a common orthography for the Somali language, unilaterally elected to only use the Latin script for writing Somali instead of the long-established Arabic script and the upstart Osmanya script.
Until 1991, there was an Italian school in Mogadishu (with courses of Middle school and Liceum), later destroyed because of the civil war.
Alongside English, Italian was declared a second language of Somalia by the Transitional Federal Government in the Transitional Federal Charter adopted in 2004. Somali (Maay and Maxaa-tiri) and Arabic were the official national languages. Following the adoption of the Provisional Constitution in 2012 by the Federal Government of Somalia, Somali and Arabic were retained as sole official languages.
Many Italian words have also been incorporated into the Somali language. The most widely know and used is ciao, meaning goodbye.
Notable Italian Somalis
- Prince Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi, mountaineer and explorer; member of the royal House of Savoy.
- Annalena Tonelli, lawyer and social activist.
- Zahra Bani, athletic champion (javelin).
- Fabio Liverani, professional football player and coach.
- Saba Anglana, actress and international singer.
- Cristina Ali Farah, writer and poet.
- Salvatore Colombo, Bishop of Mogadishu.
- Leonella Sgorbati, Catholic nun.
- Memories from Somalia
- I. M. Lewis, A modern history of Somalia: nation and state in the Horn of Africa, (Westview Press: 1988), p.38
- Mariam Arif Gassem, Somalia: clan vs. nation, (s.n.: 2002), p.4
- Laitin, David. Politics, Language, and Thought: The Somali Experience Section: Italian Influence. p. 73
- Bevilacqua, Piero. Storia dell'emigrazione italiana. p. 233
- Tripodi, Paolo. The Colonial Legacy in Somalia. p. 66
- Gallo, Adriano. Memories from Somalia http://www.hiiraan.com/op2/2011/july/memories_from_somalia_part_one.aspx
- Federal Research Division, Somalia: A Country Study, (Kessinger Publishing, LLC: 2004), p.38
- http://www.lasecondaguerramondiale.it/africa_orie_2.html The first map shows the Italian occupied areas around Moyale/Buna
- Africa Watch Committee, Kenya: Taking Liberties, (Yale University Press: 1991), p.269
- Women's Rights Project, The Human Rights Watch Global Report on Women's Human Rights, (Yale University Press: 1995), p.121
- Francis Vallat, First report on succession of states in respect of treaties: International Law Commission twenty-sixth session 6 May-26 July 1974, (United Nations: 1974), p.20
- Melvin Eugene Page, Penny M. Sonnenburg, Colonialism, (ABC-CLIO: 2003), p.544
- Zolberg, Aristide R., et al., Escape from Violence: Conflict and the Refugee Crisis in the Developing World, (Oxford University Press: 1992), p.106
- Gates, Henry Louis, Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, (Oxford University Press: 1999), p.1749
- http://www.somalianonsolo.it/immagini2/MyWeb.htm Photos of social life of Italian Somalis during the Fifties and Sixties
- Tripodi, Paolo. The Colonial Legacy in Somalia p. 88
- http://www.ilcornodafrica.it/rds-01emigrazione.pdf Essay on Italian emigration to Somalia(Italian)
- Article with photos on a 2005 visit to 'Villaggio Duca degli Abruzzi' and areas of former Italian Somaliland (in Italian)
- Nicolle, David, "The Italian Invasion of Abyssinia 1935–1936", p. 41
- Italian population in Italian Somaliland in 1939 (in Italian)
- Somalia, a nation that does not exist (In Italian)
- The Italian Rationalism in the colonies 1928 to 1943: The "new architecture" of Terre Overseas (In Italian)
- http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/diocese/dmgds.html Statistics of the Catholic Church in Somalia
- Andrew Simpson, Language and National Identity in Africa, (Oxford University Press: 2008), p.288
- Mohamed Diriye Abdullahi, Culture and Customs of Somalia, (Greenwood Press: 2001), p.73
- According to article 7 of Transitional Federal Charter for the Somali Republic: The official languages of the Somali Republic shall be Somali (Maay and Maxaatiri) and Arabic. The second languages of the Transitional Federal Government shall be English and Italian.
- According to article 5 of Provisional Constitution: The official language of the Federal Republic of Somalia is Somali (Maay and Maxaa-tiri), and Arabic is the second language.
- http://www.worldmusic.net/wmn/news/item/saba Saba Anglana
- Antonicelli, Franco. Trent'anni di storia italiana 1915 - 1945. Mondadori Editore. Torino, 1961.
- Bevilacqua, Piero. Storia dell'emigrazione italiana. Donzelli Editore. Roma, 2002 ISBN 88-7989-655-5
- Hess, Robert L. Italian Colonialism in Somalia. University of Chicago Press. Chicago, 1966.
- Laitin, David. Politics, Language, and Thought: The Somali Experience. University of Chicago Press. Chicago, 1977 ISBN 0-226-46791-0
- MacGregor, Knox. Mussolini unleashed 1939-1941. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, 1980.
- Mohamed Issa-Salwe,Abdisalam. The Collapse of the Somali State: The Impact of the Colonial Legacy. Haan Associates Publishers. London, 1996.
- Page, Melvin E. Colonialism: An International Social, Cultural, and Political Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO Ed. Oxford, 2003 ISBN 1-57607-335-1
- Tripodi, Paolo. The Colonial Legacy in Somalia. St. Martin's Press. New York, 1999.
- Website of Italian Somalis in Italy (in Italian)
- Blog of Italian Somalis (in Italian)
- Article with photos on a 2005 visit to 'Villaggio Duca degli Abruzzi' (Jowhar) and areas of former Italian Somalia (in italian)
- Website of the exiled Italians of Somalia, with photos of the colonial era (in italian)
- Photos of the destroyed Catholic Cathedral of Mogadiscio, similar to a norman Cathedral in Sicily
- Detailed map of Somalia in 1936