This article examines an Aulihan Somali uprising that occurred in the
northeastern frontier of Great Britain's East Africa Protectorate,
or EAP, during World War I.
The disorder began with a major livestock raid in December 1915 by
Aulihan on some Samburu who had ventured with their herds into the
region of the Lorian Swamp. Less than two months later, the sack of
the British frontier post at Serenli on the Juba River followed. At
the time of the disturbances, the colonial authorities were acutely
aware of their precarious position on the frontier. Their insecurity
was highlighted by clashes with Ethiopian "Tigre," or bandits, that
had resulted in the death of one British officer and the wounding of
another in 1913 in the Northern Frontier District (NFD). Furthermore,
there had been several earlier armed clashes in Jubaland to the east of
the NFD. Since the arrival of the first British agents in the region,
colonial policy unsuccessfully
[End Page 7]
sought to halt continued westward migration of Darood Somalis across
the Juba as well as to stem the flow of firearms into the north. Thus,
local affairs increasingly ensnared frontier officials. Despite these
considerations, the British were preoccupied with the perceived "Tigre"
threat, so when trouble occurred with the Aulihan, it took imperial
administrators largely unawares. Added to these problems, budgetary
constraints and confused and inconsistent policies had earlier led
to the withdrawal of colonial troops from Jubaland, after which only
a company of Armed Constabulary (AC) remained at Serenli. Finally,
the advent of the First World War had left British officers and men,
as one contemporary critic described them: "more or less marooned in
the desert," short on provisions and instructions.
Consequently, an almost complete collapse of colonial authority followed
the Aulihan rebellion in the northeastern frontier region and the
fundamental weakness of the British rule over Somalis was unmasked. It
would take a full two years for the British to reestablish control over
[End Page 8]
The Aulihan disturbances have received some attention in unpublished
dissertations by Thomas Cashmore and E. Romily Turton and relatively brief
treatment in monographs by Moyse-Bartlett and Charles Chenevix Trench.
The wider, colonial historiography of Kenya, lamentably, has neglected
the Somali unrest. Those familiar with Kenya's past, thus, know much
about the hardships endured by Kenyan peoples such as the Kikuyu and
Luo, who served in the Carrier Corps during the First World War, and
perhaps also about the Giriama uprising. Fewer are acquainted with
what took place in the sparsely populated and vast semi-arid NFD and
Yet, an understanding of the Aulihan emolué and its suppression
is important not only for filling a missing gap in our knowledge of
one particular Somali clan, but also for interpreting the history of
British-Somali relations as a whole.
This study analyzes the causes of Aulihan unrest, the "punitive
expedition" that finally led to its suppression, and events immediately
thereafter. It argues that the colonialists imagined themselves impartial
arbitrators who were bringing a more enlightened system of governance to
a people so caught up in narrow and parochial disputes that they could
not recognize the blessings that were being bestowed upon them. It is,
of course, difficult to reconstruct the Somali perspective from British
archival records, as this work has been compelled to do. The reader
nevertheless will appreciate something of how disruptive the imposition
of alien rule was to the indigenous political culture as well as to
influential individuals who saw their personal authority increasingly
under assault. The ensuing clash would be tragic for both those agents
who stood in the vanguard of the so-called pax Britannica and
for the Aulihan who hoped to rid themselves of their unwanted and
The Samburu Raid
The first major blow to colonial authority in the northeast occurred
in December 1915 when Aulihan Somalis residing in the area between
the Lorian Swamp and Wajir mounted a huge raid on the Samburu to their
west. Since the commencement of colonial rule in the north during the
first decade of the twentieth century, the British had left the Samburu
almost without administration. The government transferred its official
in what then was Southern Samburu District to the NFD in 1915.
Conducted mainly by the Reer Tur Adi section of
[End Page 9]
the Aulihan but also with Jibrail participation, the attack had
devastating results. The Samburu lost 54 persons, including babies
speared on their mothers' backs, according to one lurid account.
Besides the Samburu, three Meru also perished, and the Somalis took
thousands of cattle, small stock, and donkeys. A British officer
joined the party of Samburu murran, or warriors, who chased and
overtook the assailants. These so-called southern Aulihan turned and
routed their pursuers, however, and forced them to quit the field in
what another colonial officer described as "rather a bad show."
Meanwhile, the few Europeans living in the north became apprehensive
if not panicked concerning their safety.
Ethel Rayne, wife of a King's African Rifles, (KAR), lieutenant assigned
to the north, later remembered being reassured by a British officer
left in charge of the boma, or government post, where she was
staying. He told her that she could sleep secure in the knowledge that
if Somalis attacked the outpost in the night, he would shoot her and
Things were not much better at Wajir. On 18 December, there was an alarm
in the night owing to the garrison being jumpy about the intentions
of some Aulihan who were roaming about the boma. A couple of
days later, a runner arrived with a note from another British official
inquiring whether the Aulihan had killed John Llewellin, the Wajir
Assistant District Commissioner (ADC).
Receiving anxious reports from the frontier, officials in Nairobi
immediately reacted by dispatching reinforcements to the north including
50 police under Captain J. F. Wolseley-Bourne. Nevertheless, one must
seriously question the determination of the colonial administration when
one considers the fact that Wolseley-Bourne was originally under orders
to return to the south by the end of January. Such would have compelled an
immediate move against the southern Aulihan, before adequate preparations
could have been made to give it any real chance of success.
One who demanded such "immediate and decisive action" was Lieutenant
Harry Rayne, husband of the aforementioned Ethel and a veteran of
the Nandi punitive expeditions, who was given charge of organizing a
British patrol to bring back the stolen cattle. Rayne hoped to surprise
the Aulihan in a dawn raid, kill as many as possible, and afterwards
seize hostages to open talks on his terms.
At the same time that preparations for military reprisal were underway,
the colonial administration sought nevertheless to negotiate with the
[End Page 10]
Aulihan. The British authorities held shirs, or public meetings,
with the Somalis where they demanded that the Aulihan return the stolen
livestock to the Samburu and pay them dia, or blood money, at a
rate of 20 cattle per victim.
Meanwhile, British representatives sought to get more information about
the raid and learn the identities of its perpetrators.
Because of these meetings, the Reer Jibrail sections of the Aulihan
returned most of their portion of the spoils, but not the Reer Tur Adi
Aulihan who, according to the EAP's Acting-Governor Charles Bowring,
"escaped practically unpunished." By the end of the year, the Aulihan
still owed 2,400 cattle, 15,800 sheep and goats, and 350 donkeys by
the government's reckoning.
Only the Reer Abukr section of the Reer Tur Adi paid the entire fine
assessed against them.
Finally, in January 1916, the colonial government had had enough with
talking. British officials gave the Aulihan less than a week to pay
their fine, and when the Somalis did not fully comply and asked for
more time, their request was denied. Still, the British failed to take
offensive measures against the Aulihan. At Wajir, the only action that
the ADC took was to double the guard since he feared a night attack from
the many Somalis who had assembled near the boma. The British
deadline came and went with apparently little effect.
By mid February, the Wajir ADC was aware that there had been a dramatic
change for the worse in the British position. From out of Jubaland to
the east, survivors of a mule safari owned by the white-settler Denys
Finch-Hatton, best remembered for his romance with the writer, Karen
Blixen, appeared at Wajir. They reported that some of the more northern
elements of the Aulihan had attacked their caravan south of Serenli;
13 of their party had been killed, and their stock stolen. Several
wounded men were left behind as the survivors trekked through scorched
country without water, and a couple of the men who did reach Wajir later
succumbed from thirst.
A few days after their arrival, the Wajir ADC's worst imaginings were
confirmed when he received a telegram with the news that these so-called
northern Aulihan had overrun the British post at Serenli.
The Sack of Serenli
On 2 February 1916, the disaster that British officials had feared
would one day happen in the NFD occurred in neighboring Jubaland. There,
a large party
[End Page 11]
of northern Aulihan led by Hajji 'Abdurrahman Mursaal surprised and
killed the Serenli DC, Lieutenant Francis Elliot, and many of the
British garrison. It is important to understand the motives that lay
behind the sack of Serenli. The incident actually arose from a dispute
between Aulihan and Marehan Somalis not long after the outbreak of
the First World War and from which a series of raids and reprisals had
followed. Following the deaths of nine Marehan at the hands of northern
Aulihan and the looting of hundreds of camels, Lieutenant Elliot had
publicly given 'Abdurrahman Mursaal an ultimatum to surrender the
stolen animals to him within three days. Instead, the government-paid
Reer Waffatu headman defiantly delivered a gift of black animals that,
by Somali custom, constituted an open challenge to the Serenli DC.
The undaunted, but injudicious, Elliot apparently was contemptuous of
the threat and failed to take precautions. Instead, he continued his
incredible practice of locking the garrison's rifles in the guardroom
each evening before sunset.
Moreover, he allowed a large contingent of Aulihan to camp just 100
yards from the boma.
At 7 p.m., while the askaris, or African soldiers, were settling
down to evening meals, the Aulihan burst upon the British post. The
Somalis set the surprised soldiers' huts on fire, and killed many of them
as they fled the flames. By one account, 'Abdurrahman Mursaal himself is
said to have shot Elliot beneath the ear with a revolver, and by another,
to have donned Elliot's sun helmet after the raid. Dozens of Elliot's men
were killed in the attack, while the survivors escaped across the Juba
River to the nearby Italian post at Baardheere. The Somalis captured the
company's maxim gun along with large quantities of arms and ammunition.
For the next 18 months, 'Abdurrahman Mursaal's northern Aulihan,
strengthened by the acquisition of British weapons, held free reign over
much of Jubaland and threatened British rule in the NFD as well. Indeed,
a British officer with service in the region would later describe the
Ogaden, of whom the Aulihan were a part, as "one of the most formidable
fighting tribes in Africa" because of their mobility with their ponies,
remarkable endurance, and the skill with which they wielded their spears.
The calamity that befell Elliot was undoubtedly partly his own
doing. Nevertheless, the root of the problem stemmed from the
unwillingness of higher authorities to bear the costs and accept the
responsibilities of frontier
[End Page 12]
administration. As had been the case with other frontier representatives
from the inception of British rule in northern Kenya, officials in Nairobi
had placed Elliot in a position of weakness and forced him to improvise
in a hostile milieu. Like those other British administrators and contrary
to official policy, Elliot found himself thoroughly entangled in local
politics. Reading the official records from the period, the historian is
struck by the degree to which colonial officers became involved in petty
disputes. At times, this involved an attempt to prevent Somali groups,
including the Aulihan whom the officer-in-charge of the NFD blamed for
"crowding in," from wresting the Wajir wells from the Boorana and their
In other cases, it entailed intrusion into feuds among the Somalis
so that kaffirs, or infidels, became judges in conflicts that
had heretofore been resolved by traditional means or with reference
to shari'a, or Islamic law. Believing themselves impartial
and just, British administrators presided over Somali shirs,
mediated dia disputes, settled bride-wealth cases, and decided
rights to watering sites. Such intervention could become dangerous for
frontier representatives since they lacked legitimacy in Somali eyes and
were without the means to enforce their decisions. That this was part
of the reason for the Aulihan uprising is evidenced by the fact that,
after the sack of Serenli, 'Abdurrahman Mursaal wrote a letter to King
George V complaining of Lieutenant Elliot's partiality to the Marehan.
Meanwhile, although the taxation of Somalis had not yet been sanctioned,
the authorities had long since pressured them to surrender camels for
Elliot, who took pride in his knowledge of the Somali language, did
not fully appreciate the subtleties of Somali politics.
Moreover, he counted too much on his own abilities, and consequently
paid the ultimate price for his folly.
Understanding something of the character of 'Abdurrahman Mursaal is
also important, not only for appreciating the events which lay behind
the Aulihan rebellion, but also for comprehending the critical fact
of why other Somali groups failed to join his resistance to colonial
rule. 'Abdurrahman Mursaal was the son of Mursaal bin Omar, an important
Ogaden leader in Italian Somaliland.
The Aulihan chief and "holy man" came to the EAP after working for
the Italian Benadir Company and running amiss of the Italian colonial
'Abdurrahman Mursaal briefly served the Kismaayo
[End Page 13]
administration after 1896, when the British sent him and 18 constables
to establish a customs post at Serenli.
He became a leader of an Ogaden rebellion in British territory in 1898,
however, and was involved in the death of the Jubaland subcommissioner,
A. C. W. Jenner in late 1900.
Nevertheless, the Reer Waffatu chief was soon working with the British
again. So slight was the influence of the colonial authorities over
the Somalis that they took help where they could get it. Some were not
so ready to secure his services. John Hope, one of the first British
officials to serve in the NFD, condemned 'Abdurrahman Mursaal's
proclivities for independent action, and C. S. Reddie, a Jubaland
Provincial Commissioner (PC), accused the Aulihan leader of gun-running.
Nevertheless, Captain R. E. Salkeld, a British officer in Jubaland who
subsequently became the PC, was willing to rely on 'Abdurrahman Mursaal.
In fact, the Aulihan leader had the opportunity to meet with the
EAP governor in 1915, and used his interview to promote his personal
authority when he returned to Serenli.
Obviously, the Aulihan leader was a man who took his own counsel, and one
who could not be pushed too far. Elliot's inability to grasp this led to
tragic consequences for him and his men as well as the Aulihan chief's
followers when colonial troops finally suppressed their rebellion.
The Aulihan and Other Somali Clans
Much to the relief of anxious colonial authorities, the leaders of other
Somali clans, who likewise experienced the indignities of British rule,
refused to join 'Abdurrahman Mursaal.
Without doubt, part of the reason for their reticence lay in the already
existing conflicts among the Somali clans, and had nothing to do with the
Aulihan headman per se. To take the case of the Marehan, 'Abdurrahman
Mursaal had supported a British attempt to disarm them in 1913 and,
not surprisingly, the Marehan still had not forgotten his collaboration.
Indeed, the Marehan's feud with the Aulihan, not to mention the camel
raid led by 'Abdurrahman Mursaal himself, had been the proximate cause
for the dispute with Lieutenant Elliot. Why then should they join his
rebellion? Much the same can be said for the Muhammad Zubeir whose
elders refused to participate in a general uprising even though they
were heavily pressed by some of their more restless youth who sympathized
with the Aulihan.
39[End Page 14]
Beyond these reasons lay the fact that some of the chiefs and headmen felt
that they had more to gain by siding with the colonial authorities than
with their Aulihan cousins. The Muhammad Zubeir chief, Hajji Hasan Yera,
was the most prominent figure who remained steadfast in the British
camp. Like 'Abdurrahman Mursaal, he too had once been implicated
in Jenner's death, but now showed himself an invaluable ally to the
To whit, Hajji Hasan was left in charge of Wajir when the British
withdrew from the post, and was given 2,000 rupees worth of trade goods
as provisions by the departing British officer. The Muhammad Zubeir
chief responded to his charge by punishing Somalis who had raided the
Boorana after the British withdrawal. He even went so far as to beat a
member of his own clan who had been caught looting the Wajir boma.
Finally, Hajji Hasan himself opened the gates of the fortress to British
soldiers when they reoccupied Wajir.
'Ali 'Abdi, a Garre Somali, was another chief who sided with the colonial
administration. While it is difficult to gauge Hajji Hasan's motives for
standing with the British, the Garre chief well understood the dangers
of actively resisting the colonial authorities. He had been released from
imprisonment in Nairobi for abetting Ethiopian shifta, or bandits,
after having been shown the military might of the British in the capital
and having been compelled to take a loyalty oath. Apparently William
Barrett, the British officer who recommended 'Ali 'Abdi's repatriation
to the north, was right when he told Governor Sir Henry Belfield that
'Ali 'Abdi recognized that it was "in his interest and that of his tribe
to be loyal" for, in 1916, the Garre chief volunteered to cooperate with
the British against the Aulihan.
Another concern that preoccupied the colonial administration was that
somehow 'Abdurrahman Mursaal might combine with their nemesis in British
Somaliland, Sheikh Muhammad 'Abdille Hasan. While this Ogaden Somali,
anti-colonial leader styled himself "the Poor Man of God," he was known
by the more pejorative sobriquet "the Mad Mullah" by the British whom
he had defeated on several occasions.
Throughout the Aulihan uprising, the colonial administration
closely monitored any information linking the two resistance
leaders. Fortunately, from the British point of view, whatever contacts
might have existed between the two groups never amounted to anything.
Another Somali whom the British were watching because of his suspected
[End Page 15]
was Sheikh 'Ali Nairobi. The sheikh had come to Jubaland in 1896 as
the first representative of the puritanical Salihiyya sufi tariqa,
an Islamic brotherhood. In August 1916, the British received intelligence
that he was erecting a mosque in Italian territory near the Dawa River,
collecting large tithes from the Marehan, and "attempting to emulate
Although similarly wary Italians removed 'Ali Nairobi to Muqdisho,
the British had information that he was later in contact with Muhammad
'Abdille Hasan, himself a devotee of Salihiyya Sufism. 'Ali Nairobi's
brother had reportedly joined 'Abdurrahman Mursaal, and there were
also rumors that 'Ali Nairobi himself was considering a move across the
Juba to join the Aulihan rebels. According to Major E. G. M. Porcelli,
the British officer commanding troops in Jubaland, 'Ali Nairobi worked
"hand in glove" with 'Abdurrahman Mursaal.
Finally, a third Somali leader from outside the protectorate is worthy
of mention. He was Sheikh Muhammad Yusuf, a Somali from Jibuti. From
his headquarters 60 miles north of the Dolo, in mid 1917 Muhammad
Yusuf proclaimed the imminent advent of the Mahdi, and began calling
for jihad against the colonialists. Luckily for the British,
this time the Ethiopians intervened and quelled any potential rebellion
by driving the sheikh from territory claimed by Addis Ababa.
Thus, relations among Somali groups defy simple explanation although
they often were characterized by tension, if not outright enmity, at
the time when Serenli was plundered. In the absence of Somali primary
sources it is difficult to reconstruct the exact circumstances that lay
behind each particular alliance or feud. Nevertheless, pausing to reflect
on the ecological and historical milieu may enhance our understanding
of the dynamic that fueled frontier conflicts among the Somalis. The
semi-arid climate resulted in limited water resources and scarce grazing
for the pastoralists who inhabited the Juba region. Hunger and thirst
were ubiquitous realities to people who herded camels along with sheep
and goats for their sustenance in this harsh environment. Added to these
"perennial twin scourges" was the threat that animal disease might
suddenly make one destitute.
It is not surprising then that Somalis, like the other peoples of the
region, engaged in the time-honored tradition of livestock raiding
as a survival strategy. Moreover, the late-nineteenth century had
witnessed a puritanical Islamist awakening among the Somalis, and the
concomitant rise of wadaads, or men of religion, as a challenge
to the traditional authority of the
[End Page 16]warrenlehs, or secular men.
Indeed, one of the centers of this revivalist movement was at Baardheere,
which lay just across the river from Serenli in Italian-controlled
territory. The unasked for and unwelcomed imposition of British, Italian,
and Ethiopian rule in Muslim lands surrounding the Juba contributed
further to regional instability.
It is informative also to note that the British role among the Somalis
was complex. Indeed, the standard description of their imperial policy
as being one of "divide and rule" needs some qualification. First,
the Somalis were not then and never had been really united. Reviewing
volumes of reports concerning the activities of the Somalis, one finds
interminable accounts of feuds among the various clans, disputes that
had nothing to do with the British. Secondly, British representatives
often intervened in Somali politics as peacemakers, and they did so when
it was not necessarily in their own immediate interest. This fits well
into John Lonsdale's comments concerning segmented lineage societies
in western Kenya where "political advantage accrued to the conqueror
more often by arranging external peace between segments rather than by
manipulating divisions within them."
That being said, it was more commonly the case that Nairobi's policy
was to stay out of internal Somali feuds. This was because frontier
officials generally lacked the means to enforce their decisions. Bluff
could have fatal consequences not only to British prestige, but also more
concretely to highly exposed frontier officers. In the specific case
of the Somalis, Igor Kopytoff's general conclusion that what colonial
authorities in Africa tried to do was to control rather than abolish
frontier conflicts proves accurate.
Yet, the fact that the colonialists sought to create divisions among
the peoples they ruled to maintain imperial authority is certainly
also an important component to understanding events surrounding the
Aulihan rebellion. The British use of chiefs like Hajji Hasan and
'Ali 'Abdi has already been mentioned. Beyond this, most of their
intelligence came from Somali spies, friendly traders, or other Somalis
who were doubtless interested more in their own concerns than in imperial
prerogatives. Moreover, some of these Somali agents did more than gather
information--some spread disinformation among fellow Somalis while
the authorities employed others to ensure that no combination could be
accomplished by poisoning any negotiations with the Aulihan.
Indeed, when the punitive expedition actually got underway, many of the
[End Page 17]
British askaris were Isaak Somalis from British Somaliland,
and a number of local Marehan joined the colonial troops in suppressing
Thus it was that 'Abdurrahman Mursaal was able to cultivate few allies in
what might have been fertile soil. While sections of the northern Aulihan
soon joined the Reer Waffatu chief, the only other Somali clan to join
his rebellion was the Bartiri, a wealthy but small group living just
to the south of the northern Aulihan and already under their neighbor's
influence. Save for a section of Herti Somalis, no one else would stand
with 'Abdurrahman Mursaal against the colonialists. In fact, the Aulihan
themselves never fully united against the British. Although the colonial
authorities blamed 'Abdurrahman Mursaal for having instigated the Samburu
raid, they had no evidence for their assertion.
Nor was there any information that directly linked the attack on the
British post at Serenli with the happenings on the Ewaso Nyiro. That
the two events occurred independently is also supported by the fact that
the Aulihan did not present a united front against the British. Already
within a few months of the fall of Serenli, British intelligence reported
that at least two sections of the southern Aulihan, the Reer Gharsin and
Reer 'Ali, had renounced their connections with the northern Aulihan
and "demonstrated their loyalty" to the government by paying most of
the fine they owed to the Samburu for the December 1915 raid.
Early British Responses
Returning to the days immediately following the sack of Serenli, one
finds that the British generally appreciated their weakness in the
northeast. Immediately they sent reinforcements to the affected areas
and removed their officers from harm's way. A British cruiser steamed in
the waters of the Indian Ocean off Kismaayo, and the arrival of the Arab
Rifles at that port helped to keep the crisis from getting out of hand.
Fearing an attack led by 'Abdurrahman Mursaal with possible Muhammad
Zubeir support, the authorities ordered the evacuation of the NFD post
at Wajir. Before leaving Wajir, Llewellin held numerous shirs
and swore Muhammad Zubeir on the Qur'an to defend the boma. Then,
in mid March the Wajir ADC reluctantly fell back to Bulesa.
The following month, Vincent Glenday, then Gurreh ADC, withdrew from the
Dawa region to safety at Moyale. His departure left the Garre to their
[End Page 18]
own devices as they faced encroachments from other Somali clans not
to mention deprivations from Ethiopian shifta. Significantly,
Glenday feared not the Aulihan, but attack from either Ethiopian Degodia
Somalis or from the Marehan.
Meanwhile in Nairobi, the Executive Council of the EAP met with
representatives of the military and police on 8 and 12 February. At
the same time, British soldiers were launching an offensive across the
border into German East Africa towards Taveta. They met with disaster at
Saliata hill on the morning of the twelfth when 1,300 entrenched German
troops routed Brigadier General Wilfred Malleson's 6,000-man force.
Not surprisingly, authorities in Nairobi resolved that any punitive
expedition against the Aulihan was out of the question for the time
being, and that offensive operations would have to be delayed until
sufficient forces were available to put down the rebellion. Henceforth,
the British took a cautious approach towards the Somalis and considered
defensive contingencies. Accordingly, these officials were concerned that
50 constables under Samuel Deck and Wolseley-Bourne who had advanced
from the NFD provincial headquarters at Archer's Post to Marti--over
100 miles southwest of Wajir--should be prepared to fall back or even
retreat to Meru just northeast of Mount Kenya if it became necessary.
Deputy-Governor Bowring informed London that it was "quite impossible"
to launch a punitive expedition against the Somalis while the military's
hands were tied with operations against the Germans. Officials at the
Colonial Office (CO) saw no alternative but to leave the problem in
the hands of the local authorities.
Thus, the British held their collective breath and anxiously watched
to see what would happen next. Yet, the northern Aulihan remained
relatively quiet. Soon after overrunning the British post, the Tur Adi
Aulihan raided some Gosha villages, but little happened to threaten the
'Abdurrahman Mursaal, as has been pointed out above, was busy trying
to recruit other Somali groups to join his rebellion. Besides trying to
enlist the Marehan and Muhammad Zubeir, elements of the northern Aulihan
also traveled to the Tana River region where they made a failed bid for
'Abd Wak and 'Abdulla Somali support. Unable to garner Somali allies,
'Abdurrahman Mursaal was even reported to be trying to establish
contacts with Fitawrari Waldi, the local Ethiopian frontier
governor. Although the British did not know
[End Page 19]
the whereabouts of 'Abdurrahman Mursaal, they heard rumors that he had
crossed into Ethiopia. More significantly for British policy in the NFD,
without the colonial state to check their progress, other Somali groups
were moving west from Wajir into Boorana domains near Arbajahan.
As might be expected, some among the British urged action. The ardent
Harry Rayne was one who, already by the end of April, was calling for
the reoccupation of Serenli. Rayne blamed the weakness of the civilian
authorities with encouraging 'Abdurrahman Mursaal's actions in the
first place, and considered the northern Aulihan the only threat among
From Addis Ababa, the British minister to Ethiopia, Wilfred Thesiger,
likewise advocated stronger measures. Thesiger urged a move against
the Aulihan because he feared that otherwise the Africans would "lose
respect" for the British. Though not so plucky as Rayne, Thesiger
suggested the British should reestablish themselves at Wajir and in
Governor Belfield and his military advisors remained more
reticent. At a 1 May conference, they upheld their Fabian policy in
the northeast. Troops were needed elsewhere as General Jan Smuts was
then trying to coordinate a complex pincer movement against General
Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck's Schutztruppe, or colonial forces,
that was directed towards the Central Railway in German East Africa.
The military would not risk a disaster by undertaking actions against
the Somalis with inadequate troops. Instead, they were patiently working
to reorganize and augment their frontier forces.
Officials accordingly created a new 5th Battalion of the KAR in Jubaland,
and John Llewellin assembled a 36-man mounted infantry force for duties
in the northeastern frontier.
At Bulesa, where colonial forces had assembled, the "men on the spot"
were arguing among themselves over what to do. Harold Kittermaster,
the officer-in-charge of the NFD, was prepared to reoccupy Wajir and,
in preparation for that move, gave permission for John Llewellin to take
40 men on patrol. Nevertheless, Major P. Rigby, the military commander,
vetoed this as "within his province."
Thus far, Rigby's idea of a display of force had amounted to nothing
more than showing off his maxim gun to impress what he considered
credulous Boorana and Somali government-appointed headmen, and then
secretly packing the gun away so that he might use it elsewhere.
[End Page 20]
to let the matter drop. He suggested that the idea of abandoning the plan
to retake Wajir was based on "silly reports" that claimed the Muhammad
Zubeir had joined or been beaten by the Aulihan. Kittermaster turned
to Nairobi for backing, and the governor and Executive Council gave him
their support by granting him permission to act at his own discretion.
Finally in June, two detachments of British forces moved east towards
the castellated fortress.
Before reoccupying the government post, Kittermaster instructed Llewellin
to reconnoiter the area to obtain information concerning the whereabouts
of the Aulihan. By the beginning of July, Llewellin received information
that the rebels were four days from the boma, so he continued to
advance toward it cautiously. Kittermaster was not reckless either and
specifically ordered Llewellin "not to engage the Aulihan."
Even so, another minor flap occurred when the timorous Rigby upbraided
Llewellin for displaying the flag while the ADC was looking for water.
One almost gets the sense that the British major would have preferred
that his men retake Wajir only by stealth in the night. In any event,
when he and Llewellin eventually entered the British post on the 15th,
Hajji Hasan and some friendly Muhammad Zubeir were already there to
greet them. Before pursuing the Aulihan, Rigby apprehensively awaited
reinforcements. In the interim, he had his men strengthen the defenses
at Wajir boma, which was already protected by two-feet thick
All the while, the frontier remained relatively quiet. By June, British
authorities had concluded that there was no chance of a combination
between the Marehan and Aulihan.
Llewellin's patrol had, as Kittermaster had explicitly intended it,
served the colonial goal of strengthening the hands of its ally, Hajji
Hasan. In addition, tensions heightened between the Muhammad Zubeir
and the Aulihan when the former killed two Aulihan not far from Wajir
Elsewhere, there were conflicting reports about whether the Garre had
given 'Abdurrahman Mursaal permission to transit their lands, although
apparently no agreement had been achieved.
Beyond that, the Aulihan raided a half-dozen Habr Sulieman villages and
killed 14 people while looting camels. Though Rigby and Llewellin gave
chase, the Aulihan successfully eluded them.
Nevertheless, the salient point is that 'Abdurrahman Mursaal was doing
more to alienate his neighbors than to recruit them to his cause as
time went on.
[End Page 21]
With colonial forces back in control of Wajir, and little likelihood of
a general uprising, London in late July gave its approval in principle
to Serenli's reoccupation. Although Charles Lane, the Jubaland PC, now
added his voice to those of hawks like Rayne and Thesiger by advocating
an immediate move on the post, the Secretariat in Nairobi and the military
remained more circumspect.
In early September, Kittermaster and William Barrett, now a lieutenant
colonel, met with Governor Belfield. They decided to increase forces at
Moyale and Wajir so that there would be 350 men, including ACs, in the
NFD. They also dispatched a patrol into Garre country to check Degodia
raids. On the other hand, Rigby was ordered to disband his police units
and return to Nairobi. Moreover, nothing was resolved concerning Serenli.
That decision came later in the month when Nairobi officials acceded to
authorities at the War Office who were still absorbed with the effort in
German East Africa and did not want to spare the troops. Another factor
that influenced Nairobi's opting not to launch a punitive expedition
at that time was the fact that the Juba River was then too shallow to
be used to bring gunships upriver. Besides that, the British needed to
consult with Italy before commencing operations so that their troops
might be permitted to cross Italian territory east of the Juba.
Beyond such considerations, the authorities in Nairobi hoped first
to prepare the logistics for military operations. They called for
strengthening of the communications and transportation infrastructure
in the region by establishing wireless stations in the NFD and Jubaland
and constructing a road from Kismaayo to Serenli.
A fanciful scheme also arose when Kittermaster put forward the idea of
using airplanes or naval airships for operations against the Aulihan.
As usual, London was loath to accept the expenses that accompanied
imperial responsibilities, even though officials there knew that such
were unavoidable. In any event, there was no time for such measures,
and the punitive expedition was launched without doing much to lay the
logistical groundwork for the operation.
Months of inaction had followed London's initial approval of the
reoccupation of Serenli as conflicting proposals were shuffled between
East Africa and England and from department to department. Another
element to this exchange would be consequential later. The majority of
the military concerns discussed in connection with the Aulihan uprising
remained unresolved even after the suppression of the Somalis, and
[End Page 22]
become the justification for improvements in roads and communications
in the north throughout the rest of the colonial era.
While all this was going on, developments on the frontier generally
continued to favor the British. In August, one of the most vociferous
opponents of colonialism among the Marehan, Shirre Jama, was murdered
by members of another section of that clan.
Meanwhile, the Aulihan position continued to deteriorate as they
became embroiled in disputes with their neighbors. In September, they
had a minor skirmish with the Habr Suleiman near Salagli on the Juba
River. There were also rumors of a larger clash with the Muhammad
Zubeir that supposedly had left forty Aulihan dead. Likewise, there
were a series of encounters in the wake of successful Marehan stock
raids on the Aulihan.
The Aulihan elsewhere killed almost all of 30 Marehan and Dolbahanta
Somali traders whom they attacked, while their Bartiri allies struck
a mail party near Salagli and took the lives of an askari,
and two porters.
The following month, a large party of Aulihan raided the settled Gosha
for chickens and maize.
Meanwhile, the Aulihan sought to obtain more arms and ammunition for
their impending showdown with the British. These they hoped to get from
Ethiopia or from friendly Garre. The scuttlebutt was that the Aulihan
bartered stolen Marehan camels for forty cartridges per head.
At the same time, the most that the British had done was to launch a
patrol that penetrated 30 miles from Yonte on the lower Juba.
Intelligence reports predicted that 'Abdurrahman Mursaal would escape
across the Dawa or Juba before the end of the year.
Such internecine fighting among the Somalis gave the colonial authorities
the breathing space they so desperately needed. Early in the crisis,
Colonel George Thesiger, the KAR Inspector General, had expressed the
crux of British policy succinctly. He wrote that playing the Marehan
and Muhammad Zubeir off against the Aulihan was "the essential need of
our frontier policy for the duration of the war."
While the fighting between the Muhammad Zubeir and Aulihan continued,
by late 1916, the conflict with the Marehan overshadowed it. Indeed,
Ahmed Hajji, a son of 'Abdurrahman Mursaal, was killed in October by
Marehan, and unconfirmed reports attested that the rebel leader had
been wounded in the leg.
The Marehan decided to take even more effective action against their
rivals. They suspended their internal feuds so that they could deal
[End Page 23]
with the Aulihan and, according to Sa'id Ahmed bin Sheikh, a British
intelligence agent at Baardheere, organized a force of 700 men to oppose
Aulihan egress through their domains into Italian Somaliland.
Paradoxically, when the Marehan asked for British assistance, the
Jubaland PC voiced the opinion that the Somalis were simply "agitating
in order to obtain arms and ammunition from the Government."
Imperial authorities now were taking allies on their own terms, and
remained wary of armed Marehan.
As 1917 began, 'Abdurrahman Mursaal was at Serenli, and the dispute
with the Marehan continued. At the end of January, the Aulihan staged
a surprise night attack on Marehan in Jubaland and dozens were killed
before the raiders made off with 500 camels and some rifles. In reprisal,
Marehan killed 60-70 Aulihan in early March. At the same time,
Aulihan raids on the Gosha continued, only now with Bartiri connivance.
Thus, with 'Abdurrahman Mursaal preoccupied with the Marehan, the British
finally decided to act. Instead of striking the northern Aulihan, however,
they initially chose to punish the southern Aulihan who had yet to pay
their fines for the Samburu raid. Kittermaster placed William Barrett,
now commandant of the newly created 5th Battalion, in command of the
In February 1917, Barrett moved into the Lorian region with a patrol
to expropriate Aulihan livestock. Accompanied by 30 men from the Camel
Corps and 30 mounted-infantry, he then proceeded towards Marehan country
from Wajir to Elwak. Altogether, Barrett claimed some 1,800 head of
stock as forfeit for the December 1915 raid.
Not until May did Acting-Governor Bowring give his approval in principle
for the long-in-coming punitive expedition against the northern Aulihan.
Lieutenant Colonel Barrett trekked to the Juba at Luuq from where his men
constituted the northern part of a pincer movement directed at Serenli.
Moving south, his forces intended to block 'Abdurrahman Mursaal's escape
across the Ethiopian frontier. Under Barrett's plan, a detachment of
250 men would constitute the second element to the pincers. They would
move by steamer up the flooded Juba and rendezvous with him, Serenli
being reoccupied in the process.
That the Juba was inundated was important, not only because
[End Page 24]
it made the river navigable, but also because it blocked flight into
Italian Somaliland. Aware of Marehan hostilities with the Aulihan,
Barrett still thought the Marehan unreliable allies, and proposed that
the British go it alone against the rebels.
It is significant to recognize that Barrett later changed his mind,
and decided to take help where he could get it. In October, the colonel
secretly ordered the Reer Farah Ogas section of the clan to send men to
free his askaris from tending captured stock during operations
against the Aulihan.
Thus, 800 Marehan would accompany the punitive expedition that defeated
the northern Aulihan.
Yet, back in May, not everyone had been persuaded that the time was
propitious to reoccupy Serenli. Most importantly, Lieutenant General
Arthur Reginald Hoskins, who had replaced Smuts as Commander-in-Chief of
East African Forces in January, had demurred. Lettow's Schutztruppe
by then had been pushed far south below the Rufiji River so that
Hoskins's reasons for hesitation had mainly to do with the situation in
the northeastern frontier. He wondered if Barrett had all the information
he needed, and expressed concern about the reliability of the colonel's
sources. When Hoskins further considered the number of troops that
would be necessary to retake and hold Serenli, he decided to oppose
the proposed action. Fortuitously, it was at that very time that Field
Marshal Sir William Robertson, pressured by Smuts and apparently hoping
to appease South African political interests, relieved Hoskins of his
command in East Africa and replaced him with an Afrikaner, Lieutenant
General Louis Jacobus van Deventer.
Charles Bowring believed he saw an opportunity to reestablish British
prestige in the north and moved to assert himself on the issue with
his chief opponent out of the way. He turned to London and asked that
the matter be put before the War Office and be treated as urgent.
Referring the question to the military command for its views, the CO took
Bowring's side in the matter, reasoning that, "An adequate show of force
[was] the only thing that [would] keep the frontier tribes in order."
While the British tarried, 'Abdurrahman Mursaal made one final attempt to
sway the Muhammad Zubeir to his side. The indecisiveness of the colonial
authorities had not done much to bolster their supporters or to convince
possible straddlers of the seriousness of their intentions. 'Abdurrahman
Mursaal promised immediate settlement of the numerous outstanding claims
for dia[End Page 25]
which had arisen with the Muhammad Zubeir, while at the same time he
appealed to anti-colonial sentiments. British intelligence placed him
forty miles inside of Muhammad Zubeir country and apparently intent on
an attack on Wajir.
Yet, before any such attempt at union could be made, another minor dispute
arose between the Somali clans. This involved an Aulihan killing a Herti
Somali who was living in a Muhammad Zubeir village and was apparently
a sheegad, or adoptee, of the Muhammad Zubeir.
Uncertain of a Muhammad Zubeir move against his rear, and perhaps because
he dared not attack such a well-defended fortress, 'Abdurrahman Mursaal
did not set upon Wajir, but instead withdrew towards the Juba. Whatever
the case with the Aulihan, the Muhammad Zubeir had proved that they
could not be taken for granted by the British. Indeed, they had already
demonstrated their contempt for the administration by refusing to comply
with government orders that they bring in meat and baggage camels.
To local officials such a recalcitrant attitude underscored the urgency
of launching a punitive expedition against the Aulihan and reoccupying
Serenli. Act now, they argued, to save British prestige, and thereby
forestall future problems with other Somali groups. Having assured
themselves that the Muhammad Zubeir would not join the rebels, the
only reason to delay was to get the troops who would steam up the Juba
into position. At the last moment, however, Bowring began to have cold
feet. The Acting-Governor expressed his trepidation about the campaign,
and feared that the Muhammad Zubeir and the rest of the Somalis might join
'Abdurrahman Mursaal's estimated 600 and 1000 northern Aulihan. A general
uprising would result in a costly campaign in Jubaland. Consequently,
Bowring summoned Harold Kittermaster from Archer's Post to the capital
for last minute consultations.
In the meantime, nevertheless, he allowed the plan to continue apace.
Before discussing the details of the punitive expedition, one observation
may be instructive. In several respects, the British had planned their
expedition well, taking into account not only political and military
factors, but also using ecological conditions to their advantage. Jubaland
was then in the midst of a severe drought which would constrict
'Abdurrahman Mursaal's movement options and hinder his water supply.
Ironically, at the same time the Dawa and Juba
[End Page 26]
Rivers, fed by rains to the north in the Ethiopian highlands, were
in flood. As has been mentioned, this not only allowed the northward
movement of troops by river craft, but also obstructed the Aulihan's
escape routes. Everything was set for what the colonialists hoped would be
'Abdurrahman Mursaal's last stand.
On 28 August 1917, imperial troops left Kismaayo bound for Serenli
and a planned rendezvous with Barrett around the middle of the
following month. Officials in the EAP still feared a widespread Somali
rebellion, and expressed anxiety that delay might cause such a dreaded
consequence. Bowring met with his Executive Council in Nairobi where
they decided to give Barrett a free hand in the north. A few days later,
on 5 September, Kittermaster arrived at the capital and added his voice
to those who called for immediate action.
When the CO was informed, London supported its "men on the spot."
At the time that Barrett's column reached Baardheere on 10 September
1917, it was unlikely that there were any Aulihan within 50 miles of
the Italian post.
He heard encouraging news that the Muhammad Zubeir were still at
loggerheads with the Aulihan and had looted 200 of the latter's
cattle. Across the border to the north, the Ethiopians had driven
Muhammad Yusuf from their country. There was also a rumor that the
Bartiri had clashed with their erstwhile Aulihan confederates.
More cheering still was the intelligence that the Italian resident at
Baardheere shared with Barrett--there were no Aulihan on the Juba.
To Barrett the only disappointing revelation was that, contrary to
earlier rumors, 'Abdurrahman Mursaal was still alive.
Having joined with troops from the south, Barrett reoccupied badly damaged
Serenli on 26 September 1917, nearly 20 months after its sack. There soon
proved to be large numbers of Aulihan along the river, however, despite
what the Italians had told Barrett. Indeed, Major E. G. M. Porcelli,
leader of the advancing southern British column, was slightly wounded
along with a few of his askaris when a group of 100 Aulihan
attacked them on the Juba at the end of September. Towing an Italian
vessel, the English steamer repelled two more assaults leaving at least
two dozen slain Somalis by British estimates.
While Porcelli repulsed these charges, Barrett learned that the Aulihan
had massed near Salagli 43 miles south of Serenli on the Juba River. The
lieutenant colonel immediately set after the kill. An advance party
under the Canadian,
[End Page 27]
Captain Owen Martin, moved by land near the river while Barrett
and a second group went down the Juba by steamer hoping to mount a
surprise attack. On 11 October 1917, part of Barrett's force engaged
the Aulihan at Salagli, killing only a handful of them, but capturing
750 cattle. In the days that followed, colonial troops continued to
bring in large numbers of stock and kill or capture the Aulihan who
engaged them. More devastating than British bullets were the drought
conditions that prevailed in the interior. The British reported large
numbers of Aulihan were dying of thirst when they could find no water
after being driven into the bush. Since an expected counterattack by
'Abdurrahman Mursaal never materialized, Barrett finally retired again
to Serenli. His troops had suffered no casualties, and the only losses
on his side were the death of one of the Marehan who had cooperated with
him and another seriously wounded. An Italian official told Barrett that
the Aulihan were planning to escape to Ethiopia.
When a relieved Bowring received word of these actions, he sent word
to London and commended Barrett's operations as "well conceived and
capably carried out."
The British did not deliver the coup de grâce against the northern
Aulihan until over a month later, at the end of December 1917.
On the 23d, a column of the 5th KAR attacked some Aulihan watering
their herds at Hafanli and Baso, and killed 50 and wounded numerous
others. Again, many of those who escaped died of thirst. Subsequently,
British reinforcements killed several more Aulihan at Karao and
confiscated 2,000 camels. Only a small number of these were taken to
Serenli, however, as the Marehan levies with whom they were entrusted
bolted with the confiscated animals. On Christmas Day, the main British
column moving down the Juba surprised a group of Aulihan at Illa Armo,
and killed or wounded a handful of them. That night, a large party of
Aulihan riflemen surprised Captain Martin as his unit marched on the main
body of Aulihan at Hagagabli. The four-hour running battle culminated
when Martin's forces captured Hagagabli with a bayonet charge. Still
the Aulihan fought on for another four hours before they were finally
routed. The retreating Somalis left 15 dead and many more wounded in
their wake. Three colonial soldiers were seriously wounded, and there
were ten casualties among the Marehan accompanying the patrol. British
Lewis guns, one of which was specially mounted and fitted on a mule
saddle, were an important determinate in deciding the outcome of
124[End Page 28]
Finally, on 28 December, Martin led his outfit on an 11-hour night march
to 'Abdurrahman Mursaal's village. Here a son and brother of the rebel
leader were killed when the British attempted to surprise the Aulihan
in the moonlight.
The British captured 1,200 camels (which they managed to retain this
time), some rifles and ammunition, and 600 water pots with which
'Abdurrahman Mursaal planned to escape to Ethiopia. Francis Elliot's
effects were also returned to Serenli. As the new year began, British
forces surprised the rebels at Hafanli, and captured hundreds of camels
and killed several more Aulihan. Yet 'Abdurrahman Mursaal eluded them.
By now, the northern Aulihan were "completely demoralized . . . and
eager for peace."
This the obdurate Barrett refused until the defeated Somalis brought
in 'Abdurrahman Mursaal--even though he had intelligence that the
rebel leader had escaped to the north. Further intelligence confirmed,
however, that the Aulihan chief and 15 of his followers were in Italian
territory near Luuq. There he had been joined by Muhammad Yusuf with
a few loyal devotees. It was therefore impossible for the Aulihan to
hand him over. Consequently, the British commander presented his terms
to the Aulihan. He directed them to surrender their ringleaders for
trial by courts martial. The Aulihan were also charged to return all
weapons and government property they had stolen from Serenli as well as
looted stock. In addition, Barrett ordered the Aulihan to pay a fine
of 2,000 more animals. By 15 January, the Aulihan had capitulated and
the British were disarming them. Up to this point, the authorities had
captured 5,200 Aulihan, although a few fought to the end. The British
estimated Martin's column had killed 250 rebels, but it is impossible
from official records to estimate how many others, including women and
children, perished from thirst in the bush.
Meanwhile, London was pleased with the entire operation. Walter Hume Long,
the Secretary of State for the Colonies, sent Bowring the following wire:
"Great credit is reflected on all concerned."
W. C. Bottomley, head of the East African Department of the CO,
concluded that 'Abdurrahman Mursaal was "not likely to be popular with
the Aulihan in future." The heavy penalty imposed on the Aulihan did
not seem excessive to Bottomley, and the execution of the Somali leaders
fit well with the "public example" he deemed necessary.
129[End Page 29]
Nevertheless, the bloodletting was not over yet.
The southern Aulihan had not yet demonstrated sufficient prostration. By
the end of 1917, the Reer Afgab, Reer Songat, and Reer Hawash had met
the colonial government's terms, but other sections had not. With the
northern Aulihan well in hand, colonial authorities demanded that the
southern sections comply or else. Although many of them appeared, they
failed to surrender all the stock Kittermaster had insisted on and
left him suspicious of their intentions. Thus, on 28 February 1918,
the NFD officer-in-charge decided to send an expedition against the
Somalis as retribution for the Samburu raid. Captain Wolseley-Bourne
led the British forces that divided 170 askaris into 2 columns,
each with a machine gun. Opposed to them were a roughly equal number
of Aulihan warriors. The two colonial detachments marched southeast of
the Lorian Swamp, unknown country to the British, on either side of
Lak Dera moving to the east. Wolseley-Bourne worked quickly not only
so that he could catch the Somalis by surprise, but also so that he
could beat the guu, or major rains, which were due at any time.
During this final operation, the British burned 17 villages and killed, by
their count, at least 100 people, three-quarters of whom were women. Many
others, including children, certainly died of thirst or lost their animals
when they fled towards the Tana River--the only water available 80 miles
away. Others were wounded or captured when they tried sneaking back to
water their herds. Some of the Aulihan survived by receiving assistance
from Maghabul Somalis in the area. Only two KAR soldiers were killed in
action, although two others were wounded and a couple of Boorana levies
lost their lives to "friendly fire." By the time operations ceased on
16 March, the patrol had captured 300 cattle and 3,500 sheep and goats
as well as a handful of camels and donkeys. The British also had taken
The British held women and children as hostages until the last
resisters came in with their firearms, and 20 men were impressed into
corvée labor to do bridge work. Officials in Nairobi,
later relented their original demand for the surrender of 5,000 cattle
when they allowed that such a heavy penalty was "excessive."
In addition, the Maghabul also were fined for abetting their Ogaden
cousins. At last, Harold Kittermaster told the Aulihan that this put
an end to the Samburu matter. Because of this devastating operation,
the NFD officer-in-charge said he was gratified to see the change in
the Somalis' attitude, and reported that "no further trouble need be
feared from the Aulihan for
[End Page 30]
some time to come."
Acting-Governor Charles Bowring agreed, adding that the punitive
expedition would without doubt prove a beneficial lesson to the other
inhabitants of the north.
For their "salutary" efforts, the British commanders were mentioned
in the London Gazette for distinguished service in the field, and the
troops received the African General Service Medal.
Soon thereafter, William Barrett was invalided home owing to "intense
The Foreign Office expressed the government's appreciation for
Italian help during the Aulihan operations to Rome through the British
It should be added that besides providing intelligence and transit
rights to the British, as mentioned above, the Italians also set up
pickets on the left bank of the Juba. The Italians also permitted the
British to use their wireless at Luuq to report Somali movements and
prevent the Aulihan from escaping.
Nevertheless, the imperial lion had failed to seize its African
prey. British intelligence reported that 'Abdurrahman Mursaal was trying
to join the Ethiopian Ogaden, and had released all his wives but one. He
allegedly told the women to wait for him for ten months when he would
wage a big war against the colonialists.
No such campaign ever materialized, and 'Abdurrahman Mursaal soon faded
from the consciousness of the colonialists.
A military court later tried 17 Aulihan leaders at Afmadu in
Jubaland. Eight of these men were hanged, and the rest were sentenced
to rigorous imprisonment, although they were subsequently deported.
While the authorities collected the fines from the Aulihan, they did
not compensate private traders or property holders for the losses they
sustained during the upheavals.
Finally, in London, an official gave the CO's assessment of the Aulihan
campaign: "Another remarkable account of fine deeds well done of wh[ich]
nothing is known by the British Public."
This article has focused on the conflict between the Aulihan Somalis and
the British colonial administration. The troubles with the Aulihan began
when over 50 Samburu were killed and thousands of their stock looted as
the result of an Aulihan raid in late 1915. British authorities could
do nothing about the Aulihan attack except to demand that the Somalis
make restitution for their
[End Page 31]
actions. Yet, the raid on the Samburu was only the preliminary to a more
serious challenge to colonial rule as sections of the Aulihan subsequently
sacked the Serenli boma and killed Lieutenant Elliot along with
many ACs. As has been seen, much of the blame can be attributed to the
foolhardy actions of the DC, but the rebellion was also the consequence
of colonial intrusion into local disputes about which the alien rulers
had little understanding.
In the wake of the disaster, colonial authorities recognized their extreme
weakness and could only respond to the uprising by reinforcing Kismaayo
as well as temporarily removing their forces from Garre country and
Wajir. Consequently, the northeast was abandoned to rebellious Somalis
for nearly two years. Luckily for the British, however, no real planning
had gone into the rebellion besides the immediate destruction of the
Serenli garrison. The Somalis proved so divided among themselves that
the colonialists' fear of a united Somali front was never realized. The
leader of the uprising, 'Abdurrahman Mursaal, had enlisted no allies
before embarking on his reckless course. In fact, it was over a dispute
with rival Marehan that he had come to blows with Elliot in the first
place. Because of this, colonial representatives were able to find
important allies among the Somalis so that 'Abdurrahman Mursaal was
never able to organize a broad, Somali anti-colonial resistance. When
the Aulihan sheikh did at last seek to build an anti-colonial
coalition, his last hope came undone when the Somalis chose to feud
among themselves rather than unite against the British.
Nevertheless, British authorities responded cautiously and deliberately to
the Somali unrest. The colonial government delayed a punitive expedition
because they overestimated the ability of the Somalis to mount a united
resistance. Officials responded with trepidation to every rumor that
the rebellion was spreading. Finally, only after prolonged bureaucratic
infighting and when victory was certain in the war in German East Africa,
did the British move to reestablish themselves in the northeast. The
authorities first directed retribution against the southern Aulihan for
their raid on the Samburu in 1915, and imposed heavy fines of livestock
on the Somalis. Then, after yet another round of official wrangling and
further hesitations, the British moved to suppress the northern Aulihan
and reassert themselves over the Somalis. In the event, however, the
British military expedition proved a well-coordinated affair with deadly
[End Page 32]
consequences. After routing the Aulihan just south of Serenli, the
British once again turned to those southern sections of the clan that
had escaped them earlier. Their subjugation was complete with hundreds
of Somali men, women, and children killed, nearly a score of villages
razed, and thousands of head of livestock seized. The British declared
victory and awarded themselves medals for bravery.
The Aulihan, indeed, had paid a heavy price at the hands of the British
punitive expedition. Not only did they lose many of their animals--and
thus their means of subsistence--but also they had to surrender many
of their leaders who were then either hanged or deported. Nonetheless,
the campaign had not been a total success for the British. 'Abdurrahman
Mursaal had eluded colonial troops and eventually escaped into Ethiopia
with a small number of followers. Meanwhile, Marehan levies conscripted
to help the British with the seized Aulihan stock had scrambled off with
many captured animals to the embarrassment of colonial officials. More
importantly, this inability to control the Marehan illustrated just
how little control the colonial state exercised on the northeast
frontier. This example of Somali resistance certainly would make the
British think twice about imposing their dictates in the northeast
for some years to come. Indeed, the presence of so-called recalcitrant
Somalis there had much to do with the nature of the cession of Jubaland to
Italy in 1925. Potential Somali opposition to the imposition of taxation
likewise delayed effective collection until the early-1930s.
The author wishes to express his gratitude to Robert Maxon, Frederick
Schneid, June and Oliver Knowles, Charles Chenevix Trench, Amy Davis,
and the journal's readers for their help and comments on an earlier
version of this article.
Quoted in Charles Chenevix Trench, Men Who Ruled Kenya: The Kenya
Administration, 1892-1963 (London: The Radcliffe Press,
Maxamed Cabdille Xasan, "Perhaps the Trumpet has Sounded" 11-14,
trans. B.W. Andrzejewski with Sheila Andrezjewski, in An Anthology
of Somali Poetry (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), 42.
The EAP became Kenya Colony in 1920. The area under discussion also
included territory situated east of the Juba River that the British
transferred to Italian Somaliland in 1925.
The commentator was William Lloyd-Jones, the British officer who was
wounded near Lake Turkana in 1913 by "Tigre." See Lloyd-Jones, K.A.R.:
Being an Unofficial Account of the Origin and Activities of the King's
African Rifles (London: Arrowsmith, 1926), 119. For the historical
background to this article, see George L. Simpson, Jr., "Frontier Banditry
and the Colonial Decision-Making Process," International Journal of
African Historical Studies (1996).
Thomas H.R. Cashmore, "Studies in District Administration in the East
African Protectorate," (Ph.D. diss., Cambridge University, 1966); Edmond
Romilly Turton, "The Pastoral Tribes of Northern Kenya 1800-1916,"
(Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 1970); H. Moyse-Bartlett, The
King's African Rifles (Aldershot: Gale and Polden Ltd., 1956);
and Chenevix Trench, Men Who Ruled Kenya.
Geoffrey Hodges, The Carrier Corps: Military Labor in the East
African Campaign, 1914-1918 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986);
and Cynthia Brantley, The Giriama and Colonia Resistance in Kenya,
1800-1920 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981).
Northern Frontier District Annual Report (NFDAR), 1915-16,
H.B. Kittermaster, Kenya National Archives (KNA): PC/NFD1/1/2. Apparently,
such neglect is what J. Gerald Hopkins, the Bulesa ADC, had in mind when
he wrote that "The Somali Unrest is Largely of Our Own Making." Bulesa
District Annual Report (AR), 1917-18, J.G. Hopkins, KNA: PC/NFD1/4/1.
Bowring to Long, 18 February 1918, Public Record Office (PRO)/Colonial
Office (CO) 533/193/17538; and Ethel K. Rayne to Charles Chenevix
Trench, 11 and 25 July 1963, in Charles P. Chenevix Trench, Papers on
the Northern Frontier District, Kenya, 1894-1916, Rhodes House,
Oxford, Mss. Afr. s. 583. The author wishes to express his gratitude
to Mr. Chenevix Trench for his kind permission to use these manuscripts
for this article.
Llewellin, Kenya administration diary, 14 December 1915.
Cashmore,"Studies in District Administration," 362.
Ethel K. Rayne to Charles Chenevix Trench, 11 and 25 July 1963, in
Chenevix Trench, Papers on the Northern Frontier District.
Llewellin, Kenya administration diary, 18 and 20 December 1915.
Llewellin, Kenya administration diary, 10 and 11 January 1916. In any
event, Wolseley-Bourne was destined to stay on long after what the
military authorities originally had planned.
Rayne was very critical of what he termed the weakness of the civilian
authorities, who acted too slowly and would not give him the latitude he
desired. In Rayne's view, their policies encouraged 'Abdurrahman Mursaal
to embark on his reckless actions. Ethel K. Rayne to Charles Chenevix
Trench, 25 July 1963, in Chenevix-Trench, Papers on the Northern Frontier
District. For a brief biographical sketch of Rayne, see W. Robert Foran,
The Kenya Police, 1887-1960 (London: Hale, 1962), 18-19.
Lloyd-Jones, K.A.R., 215; and Chenevix Trench, Men Who Ruled
Kenya, 63. According to H. Moyse-Bartlett, 'Abdurrahman Mursaal had
gone to Nairobi where he failed to get the administration's support for
his claim to all the country between Wajir and Serenli. Moyse-Bartlett,
The King's African Rifles, 434.
It is hard to fathom why he locked the arms away from his men unless he
feared them or felt that the askaris might get into trouble with
the weapons. It might be noted that another source blamed Elliot's death
on a Somali woman who, after talking him into locking away the garrison's
rifles, betrayed the British officer to 'Abdurrahman Mursaal, while
Moyse-Bartlett claims that the foolish act was done at the suggestion of
'Abdurrahman Mursaal himself. Ethel K. Rayne to Charles Chenevix Trench,
11 and 25 July 1963, in Chenevix Trench, Papers on the Northern Frontier
District; and Moyse-Bartlett, The King's African Rifles.
Official accounts of the raid can be found in Bowring to Law, telegram,
19 February 1916, PRO/CO 533/167/8413; Bowring to Long, confidential, 10
August 1917. (These are also in KNA: PC/NFD4/7/1.) One colorful account
states that the retreating troops heard the screams of their abandoned
comrades as they were "stabbed and mutilated by the dervishes." It should
be borne in mind that the same source, written many years later for a
popular audience, attributes the unrest to the "Mad Mullah." J. A. Hunter
and Daniel P. Mannix, Tales of the African Frontier, (New York:
Harper & Brothers, 1954), 278. For additional sources see Llewellin,
Kenya administration diary, 24 February 1916; Chenevix Trench, Papers
on the Northern Frontier District; and Cashmore, "Studies in District
Samuel Frederick Deck, The Ogaden, 1931, Rhodes House, Oxford,
Mss. Afr. s. 424.
Kittermaster to Bowring, 12 March 1916, enclosure in Belfield to Law,
18 April 1916, PRO/CO 533/168/23980. Some British officials tended
to side with the Somalis so that two factions emerged within the
administration. Lloyd-Jones colorfully describes these schools as those
who were pro-Somali or supporters of a "Glaxo policy" and Somaphobes,
or supporters of a "Hell-Fire policy." Lloyd-Jones, K.A.R., note
122-123. See also Vincent B. Thompson, "The phenomenon of shifting
frontiers: the Kenya-Somalia case in the Horn of Africa, 1880s-1970s,"
Journal of Asian and African Studies, 30(1995): 12.
Compare the following characterizations of Somalis by two KAR officers.
All Somals loathe and detest Europeans. Europeans generally
reciprocate. All East African tribes without exception detest Somals,
but fear them. The Somal pride of race is stronger than that of other
tribes. He (the Somal) is arrogant, overbearing and 'showy,' and is
undoubtedly in some ways very brave, but hysterical and unbalanced.
The majority of the people dislike them [Somali
askaris]. Personally, I don't want to serve with any other brand of
troops. The Somalis are not natives in any sense of the word. They
are endowed with as good a brain as any European. They are inclined
to be rather rogues, [and] want watching, but as soldiers they
are superior to anything else out here.
Notes on Somal tribes, Lt. H. Rayne, enclosure in Rayne to Director
of Intelligence Division, Admiralty War Staff, 1 November 1916,
PRO/CO533/177/53130; and private letter, Martin Mahony to his father,
1 Feb. 1922, Meru, Rhodes House, Oxford, Mss. Afr. s. 487.
Précis for week ending Saturday June 3rd, T. S. Thomas, enclosure
in Belfield to Law, 10 June 1916.
Reddie to Hollis, 10 July 1911, KNA: PC/NFD4/1/3.
Ethel K. Rayne to Charles Chenevix Trench, 9 May 1963, in Chenevix Trench,
Papers on the Northern Frontier District.
Turton, "The Pastoral Tribes of Northern Kenya," 259.
Cashmore, "Studies in District Administration," 359.
Turton, "The Pastoral Tribes of Northern Kenya," 201, 229.
Charles Chenevix Trench, Men Who Ruled Kenya, 50. After the sack
of Serenli, the British reported that 'Abdurrahman Mursaal openly
boasted that his intrigue had resulted in Jenner's death. Third
Somali rebellion--known as Mr. Jenner's Expedition, u.d., KNA:
PC/NFD6/6/1. Romilly Turton also states that 'Abdurrahman Mursaal was
indirectly implicated in the PC's death. Chenevix Trench, based on what
the Muhammad Zubeir chief, Hajji Hasan, told John Llewellyn, believes that
Mursaal Omar instigated Jenner's murder. Turton, "The Pastoral Tribes of
Northern Kenya," 232; Llewellin's replies to an undated interview with
Chenevix Trench, in Chenevix Trench, Papers on the Northern Frontier
District; and verbal information provided to Chenevix Trench, in ibid.
Hope to [Chief Secretary, Nairobi, June 1910]; and Reddie to Hollis,
10 July 1911, KNA: PC/NFD4/1/3.
John Llewellin later described 'Abdurrahman Mursaal as "Salkeld's blue
eyed boy." Llewellin's replies to an undated interview, in Chenevix
Trench, Papers on the Northern Frontier District.
Cashmore writes that 'Abdurrahman Mursaal "claimed that the Governor
had given him all the territory between Serenli and Wajir for the
Aulihan." Cashmore, "Studies in district administration, 360.
Bowring to Long, confidential, 10 August 1917. The author could find
no evidence to verify Moyse-Bartlett's contention that 'Abdurrahman
Mursaal sought "overlordship" over all of Jubaland. Moyse-Bartlett,
The King's African Rifles, 435.
Bowring to Long, confidential, 10 August 1917. See also, Chenevix Trench,
Men Who Ruled Kenya, 57.
T. S. Thomas, Précis for weeks ending Saturday April 15th,
enclosure in Belfield to Law, 26 April 1916, PRO/CO 533/168/27359;
and Saturday June 3rd, enclosure in Belfield to Law, 10 June 1916.
Précis for week ending Saturday, 19 August, T. S. Thomas, enclosure
in Belfield to Law, 25 August 1916.
NFDAR, 1915-16; and Llewellin, Kenya administration diary, 22
Belfield to Harcourt, 13 May 1915, PRO/CO 533/154/28470; and précis
for week ending Saturday, 26 August, T. S. Thomas, enclosure in Belfield
to Law, 30 August 1916, PRO/CO 533/169/46838 (or KNA: PC/NFD4/7/1).
The "Holy Man" as the Somalis called Muhammad 'Abdille Hasan was anything
but mad and very much had his wits about him. Charles Chenevix Trench,
personal letter, 14 September 1999. Recent scholarship on the Somali
leader can be found in Said S. Samatar, Oral Poetry and Somali
Nationalism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982) and 'Abdi
Sheik-'Abdi, Divine Madness: Mohammed 'Abdulle Hassan (Atlantic
Highlands, N. J.: Zed Books, 1993).
As might be expected, information in the British records about the
extent and nature of 'Abdurrahman Mursaal's overtures to Muhammad
'Abdille Hasan is limited. See précis for weeks ending Saturday,
May 20th by T. S. Thomas, enclosure in Belfield to Law, 31 May 1916;
and Saturday, 30th September, T. S. Thomas, enclosure in Belfield to Law,
4 October 1916.
Précis for week ending Saturday 5 August, T. S. Thomas, enclosure
in Belfield to Law, 11 August 1916, PRO/CO 533/169/44764 (or KNA:
Précis for week ending Saturday, 30 September, T. S. Thomas,
enclosure in Belfield to Law, 4 October 1916.
Bowring to Long, telegram, 8 June 1917, PRO/CO 533/182/29260; Bowring
to Long, confidential, 10 August 1917; and précis for period 4
August 1917 to Saturday 8 September 1917, T. S. Thomas, enclosure in
Monson to Long, 12 September 1917, PRO/CO 533/184/54746.
Samatar, Oral Poetry, 101. For the role of ecological
considerations in the recent Somali troubles, see Lee Cassanelli,
"Explaining the Somali Crisis," in The Struggle for Land in Southern
Somalia: The War behind the War, ed. Cynthia Besteman and Cassanelli
(Boulder: Westview Press, 1996), 13-26.
To underscore this, Said Samatar refers to the period between 1880
and 1920 as "the era of the sheikhs in Somali history." See Oral
John M. Lonsdale, "The Politics of Conquest: the British in Western Kenya,
1894-1908," Historical Journal, 20 (1977): 844.
Igor Kopytoff, "The Internal African Frontier: The Making of African
Political Culture," in The African Frontier: The Reproduction of
Traditional African Societies, ed. Igor Kopytoff (Bloomington and
Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1987), 21.
Despatch on operations against the Aulihan on the Juba River, Barrett
to Staff Officer, KAR, Nairobi, 30 October 1918, enclosure in War Office
Secretary of State for the Colonies (USSC), 11 September 1918; and
Llewellin, Kenya administration diary, 8 July 1916.
Bowring to Long, confidential, 10 August 1917.
Précis for weeks ending Saturday, 6 May, T. S. Thomas,
confidential, enclosure in Belfield to Law, 10 May 1916; and Saturday,
17 June, T. S. Thomas, enclosure in Belfield to Law, 23 June 1916.
Bowring to Long, confidential, 10 August 1917.
Llewellin, Kenya administration diary, 24 February through 18 March 1916.
T. S. Thomas, Précis for week ending Saturday 15 April, enclosure
in Belfield to Law, 26 April 1916.
One might also note that the British forces in East Africa were awaiting
the arrival of their new commander, Jan Smuts, who would arrive at
Mombasa on 19 February. Byron Farwell, The Great War in Africa,
1914-1918 (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1986),
250-68; and Geoffrey Hodges, The Carrier Corps: Military Labor
in the East African Campaign, 1914-1918 (New York: Greenwood
Press, 1986), 47.
T. S. Thomas, The Somali unrest in the northern territories, 14
February 1916, enclosure in Bowring to Law, 16 February 1916, PRO/CO
533/167/13328. NFD headquarters was transferred from Moyale to Archer's
Post at the beginning of April 1916. NFDAR, 1916-17.
Bowring to Law, 16 February 1916; and minute by Machtig, 21 February 1916,
on Bowring to Law, telegram, 19 February 1916.
Bowring to Long, confidential, 10 August 1917. The Gosha were Communities
of Bantu-Speaking, Former Slaves who Inhabited the Juba River Valley. See
Lee Cassanelli, "Social Construction on the Somali Frontier: Bantu
Former Slave Communities in the Nineteenth Century," in The African
T. S. Thomas, The Somali unrest in the northern territories, 14 February
1916, enclosure in Bowring to Law, 16 February 1916; précis for
weeks ending Saturday, 22 April 1916, confidential, enclosure in Belfield
to Law, 26 April 1916; and Saturday, May 6, T. S. Thomas, confidential,
enclosure in Belfield to Law, 10 May. Following the sack of Serenli,
the Ethiopians refused to assist the Aulihan. The British attributed
this to the fact that they also were Christians. Précis for week
ending Saturday, 20 May by T. S. Thomas, enclosure in Belfield to Law,
31 May 1916.
Ethel K. Rayne to Charles Chenevix Trench, 25 July 1963, in
Chenevix-Trench, Papers on the Northern Frontier District; précis
for week ending Saturday, 22 April 1916, confidential, enclosure in
Belfield to Law, 26 April 1916.
Précis for week ending Saturday, 20 May by T. S. Thomas, enclosure
in Belfield to Law, 31 May 1916.
Having conquered the Kilimanjaro region, this was the second phase of
Smut's offensive into German territory. Unfortunately, for the British,
heavy rains and widespread disease among the troops and porters caused
serious delays in their advance. See Farwell, The Great War,
268-283; and Hodges, The Carrier Corps, 48.
Précis for week ending Saturday, May 6, T. S. Thomas, confidential,
enclosure in Belfield to Law, 10 May 1916.
Colony and Protectorate of Kenya, Text of Speech delivered by His
Excellency the Governor and Commander-in-Chief on the Presentation of
the Colours to the 3rd and 5th Battalions, Kings' African Rifles at
the Parade at Nairobi, Kenya Colony, Saturday, 26th January, 1924
(Nairobi: Government Printer, 1924), 3. East Africa Pamphlets; and
précis for week ending Saturday, 17 June, T. S. Thomas, enclosure
in Belfield to Law, 23 June 1916.
Llewellin, Kenya administration diary, 16 May 1916.
The maxim was concealed by taking it apart and packing pieces in sacks
of flour to get it away. Llewellin, Kenya administration diary, 20 March
1916. To give some idea of how impressed the Somalis were with some of the
British weaponry, they referred to the old, breach-loading Martini-Henry
rifle which still used black powder and with which some of the ACs were
equipped as "big fart." Verbal information provided to Charles P. Chenevix
Trench, in Chenevix Trench, Papers on the Northern Frontier District.
Précis for week ending Saturday 27 May by T. S. Thomas, enclosure
in Belfield to Law, 31 May 1916. Officials at the CO did not understand
that Wajir would be reoccupied, but only that a mounted patrol was
to be sent into the area "with a view to steadying the neighbouring
tribes." Minute by Machtig, 27 June 1916, ibid.
Précis for week ending Saturday, 3 June, T. S. Thomas, enclosure
in Belfield to Law, 10 June 1916.
It should be noted that part of the reason why Kittermaster dispatched
the patrol in the first place, was to make a show of force and thereby
cause some of the more restive Muhammad Zubeir to think twice about
joining the Aulihan. Ibid. For an account of the incident between Rigby
and Llewellin, see Llewellin, Kenya administration diary, 6 July 1916.
Bowring to Long, confidential, 10 August 1917.
Précis for week ending Saturday, 3 June, T. S. Thomas, enclosure
in Belfield to Law, 10 June 1916.
Précis for week ending Saturday, 22 July, T. S. Thomas,
enclosure in Belfield to Law, 27 July 1916, PRO/CO 533/169/42046 (or
Précis for weeks ending Saturday, 27 May 27 by T. S. Thomas,
enclosure in Belfield to Law, 31 May 1916; Saturday, 17 June,
T. S. Thomas, enclosure in Belfield to Law, 23 June 1916; Saturday, 24
June, T. S. Thomas, enclosure in Bowring to Law, 28 June 1916, PRO/CO
533/168/38639; Saturday, 1 July, T. S. Thomas, enclosure in Bowring
to Law, 5 July 1916, PRO/CO 533/169/38650; and Saturday, 19 August,
T. S. Thomas, enclosure in Belfield to Law, 25 August 1916. All are also
in KNA: PC/NFD4/7/1.
Précis for week ending Saturday, 2 September, T. S. Thomas,
enclosure in Belfield to Law, 7 September 1916, PRO/CO 533/170/61849
(or KNA: PC/NFD4/7/1); and Llewellin, Kenya administration diary, 27
Précis for week ending Saturday, 19th August, T. S. Thomas,
enclosure in Belfield to Law, 25 August 1916.
Précis for week ending Saturday, 9 September, T. S. Thomas,
enclosure in Bowring to Law, 15 September 1916, PRO/CO 533/170/61856
(or KNA: PC/NFD4/7/1).
Bowring to Long, confidential, 10 August 1917; and précis for
week ending Saturday, 23 September, T. S. Thomas, enclosure in Bowring
to Law, 29 September 1916, PRO/CO 533/170/61869. The Italians gave such
permission so that the British might reoccupy Serenli. Précis for
week ending Saturday, 16 September, T. S. Thomas, enclosure in Bowring
to Law, 23 September 1916, PRO/CO 533/170/61856.
For information related to erecting telegraph stations see Read
to Secretary, Ministry of Munitions of War, 2 August 1916, PRO/CO
533/172/34261; Law to Belfield, telegram, 6 December 1916, PRO/CO
533/172/57870; enclosures in Crown Agents to USSC, 11 January 1917,
PRO/CO 533/187/2284; Contract for radio telegraph stations in Jubaland
and Northern Frontier District, 22 June 1917, enclosure in Crown Agents
to USSC, 30 June 1917, PRO/CO 533/187/33300; and Long to Bowring,
telegram, 23 July 1917, PRO/CO 533/189/36447. Read to Secretary, War
Office, 11 November 1916, PRO/CO. 533/171/53765 contains a proposal for
Harold Kittermaster wanted to send a couple of aircraft to Lorian in
advance to get used to operating them in desert conditions. While
Lieutenant General A. R. Hoskins, the Commander-in-Chief, East
African Forces, saw merit in the idea, he vetoed the experiment as
unfeasible. Kittermaster to Commandant, KAR, Nairobi, 26 November
1916; Hoskins to Belfield, 12 February 1917; and T. S. Thomas to
D[eputy]A[djutant] & Q[uarter]M[aster]G[eneral], 19 December 1916,
enclosures in Belfield to Long, 5 March 1917, PRO/CO 533/179/23158. It
might be noted that this was the means by which the British at last
defeated Muhammad 'Abdille Hasan in British Somaliland after the First
For more on the subject of the use of aircraft in colonial Africa
see David Omissi, Air Power and Colonial Control (New York:
Manchester University Press, 1990) and David Killingray, "A Swift Agent
of Government: Air Power in British Colonial Africa, 1916-1939,"
Journal of African History (1984).
Yet, some of these were long in coming. To take the case of wireless
telegraphy in the NFD, it was not until 1929, that the government
erected 500-watt transmitters at Wajir, Moyale, and Marsabit. NFDAR,
1929, R.W. Hemsted, KNA: PC/NFD1/1/3.
Précis for week ending Saturday, 19 August, T. S. Thomas, enclosure
in Belfield to Law, 25 August 1916.
Précis for weeks ending Saturday, 9 September, T. S. Thomas,
enclosure in Bowring to Law, 15 September 1916; Saturday, 16 September,
T. S. Thomas, enclosure in Bowring to Law, 23 September 1916, PRO/CO
533/170/61856; and Saturday, 30 September, T. S. Thomas, enclosure in
Belfield to Law, 4 October 1916.
Précis for fortnight ending Saturday, 14 October, T. S. Thomas,
enclosure in Belfield to Law, 20 October 1916, PRO/CO 533/170/57640.
Précis for week ending Saturday, 28 October 1916, T. S. Thomas,
enclosure in Belfield to Law, 3 November 1916, PRO/CO 533/171/61897.
Précis for week ending Saturday, 30 September, T. S. Thomas,
enclosure in Belfield to Law, 4 October 1916.
Ibid; and précis for three weeks ending Saturday, 25 November,
T. S. Thomas, enclosure in Bowring to Law, 2 December 1916, PRO/CO
Précis for week ending Saturday, 20 May by T. S. Thomas, enclosure
in Belfield to Law, 31 May 1916.
Précis for week ending Saturday, 28 October 1916, T. S. Thomas,
enclosure in Belfield to Law, 3 November 1916.
Précis for week ending Saturday, 4 November, T. S. Thomas,
enclosure in Belfield to Law, 10 November 1916, PRO/CO 533/171/61910.
Précis for three weeks ending Saturday, 25 November, T. S. Thomas,
enclosure in Bowring to Law, 2 December 1916.
Précis for period 13 January to 14 March, 1917, T. S. Thomas,
16 April 1917, enclosure in Bowring to Long, 23 April 1917,
PRO/CO 533/180/30873; and the fortnight ending Saturday, 28 April,
T. S. Thomas, 2 May 1917, enclosure in Bowring to Long, 8 May 1917,
The nickname in the British army for punitive expeditions was "butcher
and bolt." James Morris, Pax Britannica: The Climax of Empire
(New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1968), 117.
Minute by Machtig, 2 January 1917, on Belfield to Law, 10 November 1916.
Précis for period 13 January to 14 March, 1917, T. S. Thomas,
16 April 1917, enclosure in Bowring to Long, 23 April 1917.
Bowring to Long, 9 May 1917, PRO/CO 533/181/34467.
Moyse-Bartlett writes that Barrett left Gobwen, near the mouth of
the Juba, in late August. While this author has not had access to the
relevant KAR documents, this would seem impossible. See Moyse-Bartlett,
The King's African Rifles, 435.
The Juba was normally navigable to a few miles north of Serenli four
to five months of the year. Capt. C.N. French, "A Journey from the
River Juba by Dolo, Moyale, and Mount Marsabit to the Uaso Nyiro,"
Geographical Journal 42 (1913): 432.
Read to War Office, confidential and pressing, 12 June 1917, PRO/CO
533/182/29260; and minute by Butler, 7 September 1917, on Bowring to Long,
14 June 1917, PRO/CO 533/182/39820.
Lee V. Cassanelli describes sheegad as a Somali "mode of adaptation
for survival" whereby a treaty is reached where one party becomes a
client to another in exchange for support and services for necessities
as in a time of drought. Other means included in his analysis include
range management, movement to pasture and/or water, the exchange of
livestock for necessities, and subsistence outside of pastoralism as in
cultivation, fishing, or incense gathering. Cassanelli, The Shaping
of Somali Society: Reconstructing the History of a Pastoral People,
1600-1900 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press,
Bowring to Long, confidential, 10 August 1917.
The dair, or light rains of September and October, having
failed. Précis for period 13October to 23 December, 1917,
T. S. Thomas, enclosure in Monson to Long, 4 February 1918, PRO/CO
Monson to Long, telegram, 10 September 1917, PRO/CO 533/184/45147.
Read to War Office, urgent and secret, 13 September 1917, PRO/CO
Monson to Long, telegram, 14 September 1917, PRO/CO 533/184/45688.
Précis for period 4 August 1917 to Saturday, 8 September 1917,
T. S. Thomas, enclosure in Monson to Long, 12 September 1917.
Barrett to Staff Officer, KAR, Nairobi, 7 October 1917, enclosure in
Bowring to Long, confidential, 13 November 1917, PRO/CO 533/185/12640;
and précis for period September 8th to Saturday, 13 October
1917, T. S. Thomas, enclosure in Bowring to Long, 22 October 1917,
Précis for period August 4 1917 to Saturday, 8 September 1917,
T. S. Thomas, enclosure in Monson to Long, 12 September 1917.
Bowring to Long, telegram, 2 October 1917, PRO/CO 533/185/48910; Barrett
to Staff Officer, KAR, Nairobi, 7 October 1917, enclosure in Bowring
to Long, confidential, 13 November 1917; and précis for period
8 September to Saturday, 13 October 1917, T. S. Thomas, enclosure in
Bowring to Long, 22 October 1917.
Barrett to Staff Officer, KAR, Nairobi, 30 October 1917, PRO/CO
533/185/12640; and précis for period 13 October to 23 December,
1917, T. S. Thomas, enclosure in Monson to Long, 4 February 1918.
Bowring to Long, confidential, 13 November 1917.
Details for this phase of the campaign are sometimes conflicting. See
Fortnightly summary of events in Jubaland to 15 January 1918, enclosure
in Monson to Long, 4 February 1918; and Bowring to Long, telegram,
14 January 1918, PRO/CO 533/193/2644.
Moyse-Bartlett, The King's African Rifles, 436.
Bowring to Long, telegram, 4 February 1918, PRO/CO 533/193/6431;
and Fortnightly summary of events in Jubaland to 14 February 1918,
secret, enclosure in Monson to Long, confidential, 24 July 1918, PRO/CO
Long to Bowring, telegram, 16 January 1918, PRO/CO 533/193/2644.
Emphasis in original. Minute by Bottomley, 5 February 1918, on Bowring
to Long, telegram, 4 February 1918.
The following account of the southern Aulihan expedition is based on
Kittermaster to Chief Secretary, Nairobi, 3 and 10 April 1918; and
Wolseley-Bourne to Phillips [Assistant Commandant, KAR], 27 April 1918,
enclosures in Bowring to Long, 11 May 1918.
Again, the exact numbers disagree from one document to the next, and those
contained in the text are not necessarily authoritative. Cashmore gives
a total of 28,000 camels, 400 rifles, and 18,000 rounds of ammunition
captured from the Aulihan by the British for the entire punitive
expedition. Cashmore, "Studies in district administration," 364.
White to USSC, 10 April 1918; and Read to War Office, 17 April 1918,
PRO/CO 533/202/17676; van Deventer to War Office, 24 June 1918, enclosure
in War Office to USSC, 11 September 1918; and Read to War Office, 21
December 1918, PRO/CO 533/199/60889.
For the peculiar circumstances surrounding Barrett's return to Britain see
Barrett to Milner, 26 June 1919; and minute by CO official [Bottomley?],
2 July 1919, PRO/CO 533/225/38739; verbal information provided to Charles
P. Chenevix Trench, In Chenevix Trench, Papers on the Northern Frontier
District; and Chenevix Trench, Men Who Ruled Kenya, 56.
Foreign Office to Rodd, 29 October 1918, enclosure in Under-Secretary of
State for Foreign Affairs to USSC, 1 November 1918, PRO/CO 533/201/52716.
Bowring to Long, telegram, 7 March 1918, PRO/CO 533/194/11837; and
Moyse-Bartlett, The King's African Rifles, 435.
Fortnightly summaries of events in Jubaland to 14 February 1918, secret;
and of events in Jubaland and Northern Frontier from 1st to 15 March 1918,
secret, enclosures in Monson to Long, confidential, 24 July 1918.
The last mention this author found of the rebel leader placed him at
the Webbe Shebelle in 1923. Kenya Colony and Protectorate, Native
Affairs Department Annual Report 1926 (New York: Andronicus Publishing
Fortnightly summaries of events in Jubaland to 28 February 1918,
Maj. C.G. Foster, secret; Fortnightly summary of events in Jubaland and
Northern Frontier from 16 to 31 March 1918, secret, enclosures in Monson
to Long, confidential, 24 July 1918; and Moyse-Bartlett, The King's
African Rifles, 436.
Letter from Power, 7 March and Power to Chief Secretary, Nairobi 16
March 1916, KNA: PC/JUB1/10/1; and Bowring to Long, 5 December 1918,
Minute by W.A.S. Hewins [then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State
for the Colonies], 10 October 1918, PRO/CO 533/195/38656.