Mahmoud Harbi

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Mahmoud Harbi
محمود الحربي
Mahmoud Harbi.jpg
Vice President of the Government Council of French Somaliland
In office
1957 – December 1958
Preceded byn/a
Succeeded byHassan Gouled Aptidon
Personal details
Ali Sabieh, Djibouti
Died29 September 1960
Political partyRepublican Union

Mahmoud Harbi Farah (Arabic: محمود الحربي‎) (1921 – 29 September 1960) was a Somali politician. A pan-Somalist, he was the Vice President of the Government Council of French Somaliland from 1957 to December 1958, during Djibouti's pre-independence period.[1]


Harbi was born in Ali Sabieh, Djibouti in 1921 to a Somali family from the Fourlaba sub-clan of the Issa clan.[1][2] He learned to read the Koran and linguistics Arab from a young age, and when he was seventeen his father died in 1938. He was forced to work and headed towards the capital Djibouti and worked there as a waiter in one of the restaurants and while he became aware of visitors to the restaurant, most of whom were foreign tourists and benefited from cultural differences. He volunteer, sailor in the French Navy with the brother of the Sultan of Tadjoura, Ibrahim Mohamed in the Second World War. He nearly lost his life when the French warship crashed, which was being served where the Germans in the Mediterranean Sea, but he went to France. He later joined the colonial army, and was awarded the French Croix de guerre in World War II.[3]

Political career[edit]

When he returned to Djibouti in 1946, and began his career working in the port of Djibouti, and then became president of the Union of Somali workers, and in 1947 founded the Democratic Union Party, which branched off from the union, he was able in his youth that dominates the political scene for a decade. He increased his circle of friends in the Middle East through gifts such as the lions he gave to the Imam of Yemen and the King of Saudi Arabia who in return (as is customary) backed him with funds. Harbi's main political rival was Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who in the mid-1950s allegedly expressed a desire to see all foreigners expelled from Djibouti. Harbi capitalized on the blunder by coming to the defense of the foreign communities. As a consequence, he gained the material support of the resident Arabs in general and of Ali Coubeche in particular, son of one of the territory's wealthier merchants.[4] Harbi would later appoint Coubeche as Finance Minister in his Cabinet.[5]

Through the Sultan of Tadjoura, a former comrade in the French army during the World War II campaign, Harbi was introduced to Ali Aref Bourhan, a young Afar politician whom Harbi would eventually take under his wing. Bourhan subsequently served in the territory's representative council as a Harbist politician, strongly supporting Harbi's independence-oriented platform.[6]

In 1958, on the eve of neighboring Somalia's independence in 1960, a referendum was held in French Somaliland to decide whether or not to join the Somali Republic or to remain with France. The plebiscite turned out in favour of a continued association with France, partly due to a combined yes vote by the sizable Afar ethnic group and resident Europeans.[7] There was also widespread vote rigging, with the French expelling thousands of Somalis before the referendum reached the polls.[8] The majority of those who had voted no were Somalis who were strongly in favour of joining a united Somalia, as Harbi had proposed.[7] After the launch of French President Charles de Gaulle, which states that France be with the republics that accept this Constitution, Mahmoud who campaign against the constitution and demanded the right to decide the fate of the French colony in the Horn of Africa, and he led a demonstration against the Constitution of de Gaulle, Vobad for presidency government, and dismissed as well as all the ministers who supported his position.

On September 29, 1960, he and his comrades Djama Mahamoud Boreh and Mohamed Gahanlo disappeared on a flight from Geneva to Cairo. Officially, they were killed in a plane crash, but a possible role of the organization de l'armée secrète is speculated. He went to African and European capitals in order to reach the goal of liberation before he died.[9]

Later years[edit]

Harbi would eventually settle in Mogadishu, where he frequently joined Somali radio programs and preached Pan-Somalism to the Somalis of the Horn of Africa. In 29 September 1960, he and several of his associates died in a plane crash under mysterious circumstances in Italy on a return trip from China to Somalia.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Djibouti -
  2. ^ Touval, p.125
  3. ^ Hempstone, p.158
  4. ^ Virginia Thompson, Richard Adloff, Djibouti and the Horn of Africa, (Stanford University Press: 1968), pp.65-66.
  5. ^ Virginia Thompson, Richard Adloff, Djibouti and the Horn of Africa, (Stanford University Press: 1968), p.68.
  6. ^ Jacques Foccart et Ali Aref
  7. ^ a b Barrington, Lowell, After Independence: Making and Protecting the Nation in Postcolonial and Postcommunist States, (University of Michigan Press: 2006), p.115
  8. ^ Kevin Shillington, Encyclopedia of African history, (CRC Press: 2005), p.360.
  9. ^ a b United States Joint Publications Research Service, Translations on Sub-Saharan Africa, Issues 464-492, (1966), p.24.


  • Hempstone, Smith (1961). Africa, angry young giant. Praeger.
  • Touval, Saadia (1999). Somali Nationalism: International Politics and the Drive for Unity in the Horn of Africa. IUniverse. ISBN 1-58348-411-6.
  • page on the French National Assembly website