8/15/2020
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A short Note on the Administrative Order introduced in Somalia by the Italian Trusteeship Authorities (1950-1960).

by Mohamed I. Trunji
Saturday, July 25, 2020

Upon assuming the responsibility to administer the Trust Territory of Somalia in 1950, the Trusteeship Administration, assigned to Italy, had put in place new institutions meant to replace the old administrative structure left by the British military occupation with a new administrative order adequate and compatible with the new status of the Trust territory.

At the head of the administrative system was the Administrator, who was chief executive and possessed powers of legislation in accordance with article 4 of the Declaration of Constitutional Principles annexed to the Trusteeship Agreement. He was assisted by a secretary general, who might act on his behalf, and an administrative staff divided into seven departments: the Cabinet of the Administrator, Department of Internal Affairs, Department of Financial Affairs, Department of Legislative and Judicial Affairs, Department of Personnel and General Affairs, Department of Economic Development, Department of Social Development. This structure was to become the basis for the future Somali administration after independence.

Four career Diplomats with the title of Administrators ran the territory in the following order and time: Giovanni Fornari (1950-1953); Enrico Martino (1953-1955); Enrico Anzilotti (1955-1958) and Mario Di Stefano (1958-1960)

The administrative regulation introduced by AFIS was not entirely new. Of necessity, much of it was an outgrowth of the system employed during the colonial period.

The first step taken was to revamp the organization of the regions and districts in the hinterland. At the beginning, the territory was divided into 5 ‘commissariati regionali’, namely Migiurtinia, Mudugh, Benadir, Upper Juba and Lower Juba, each under a ‘commissario regionale’ and 21 ‘residenze’ (districts), a division broadly reflecting the characteristics and tribal nature of the inhabitants. (Ordinanza n. 8 of April 12, 1950)

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The Commissariato of Migiurtinia included the districts of Bender Kassim, Alula, Gardo and Iskushuban. In July and September 1950, two new districts, Candala and Eyl, were created and added to Migiurtinia (Ordinanza n° 49 luglio 28, 1950).  The Commissariato of Mudugh included the districts of Belet Uen, Bulo Burti, Galkayo, El Bur and Dusa Mareb (Ordinanza n. 8 of April 12, 1950). In July 1950, the new district of Obbia was added to the Mudugh Province (Ordinanza n° 49 luglio 28, 1950), In July 1951, the Commissariato of Mudugh was split into two separate regions, as a result of which a new region, which included Belet Uen, Bulo Burti, Villaggio Duca degli Abruzzi (Jowhar) and Itala (Cadale) was established with the name of Commissariato dell’Uebi Scebeli (Corriere della Somalia, Luglio 2, 1951). In 1954, the Commissariato of Uebi Scebeli was renamed Hiran, which included Belet Uen and Bulo Burti (Ordinanza n° 12 giugno 22, 1954). The Commissariato of Benadir included Mogadiscio, Afgoi, Villaggio Duca degli Abruzzi, Merca and Brava. In July, two new districts were added: Balcad and Itala. (Ordinanza n° 49 luglio 28, 1950) The Commissariato of Alto Giuba (Upper Juba) included the districts of Baidoa, Bur Hakaba, Dinsor, Oddur, Lugh Ferrandi and Bardera. The Commissariato of Basso Giuba (Lower Juba) included the districts of Kisimayo, Margherita (Jamama) and Jelib (Ordinanza n. 12 of Giugno 22, 1954)

In anticipation of the 1956 political elections, the Trusteeship Administration hastened to introduce reforms which resulted in the abolition of the Residence Council (established under Circular no. 22809 of July 27, 1951) and the creation of District Councils. The policy of the Administration was designed to make this body a more democratic organ, with deliberative powers, elected through universal suffrage. A draft ordinance submitted to the Territorial Council for discussion laid down the procedure for the election of district councilors through traditional gatherings known as shir (Ordinanza n° 5 Marzo 20, 1955). Under this ordinance, each tribal group was required to hold a shir and elect traditional chief to represent it in the District Council. Special provision had been made to ensure that certain traditional chiefs, whose prominence derived from hereditary, not to be affected by the ordinance. Approximately twenty such leaders were involved where “the Chief’s leadership was so indisputable that to elect him at a shir would merely cause offence.” (TNA FO 371/113455 of March 25, 1955) As a result, paramount chiefs owing to their influence and prestige within their communities were automatically included as members in the District Council. Such was the case of Ugas of the Deshishle (Bender Kassim), Beldaje of the Siwaqron (Alula), Sultan of the Osman Mohamoud (Iskushuban), Ugaas of Ali Soleiman (Candala), Islan of the Issa Mohamoud (Nugal), Islan of the Omar Mohamoud (Galkacyo), Ugas of the Marehan (Dusa Mareb), Ugas of the Murusade (ElBur), Ugas of the Ayr (Elbur), Ugas of the Duduble (Elbur), Iman of the Abgal (Cadale), Iman of the Abgal (Mogadiscio), Ugas of the Hawadle (Belet Uen), Uabar of the Jeejeele (Belet Uen), Ugas of the Gaaljecel (Bulo Burti), Ugaas of the Daut (Cadale), Ugaas of the Issa Harti (Cadale), Ugas of the Mobilen (Balcad), Uabar of the Illivi (Balcad), Sultan of the Bimal (Merca), Sultan of the Elai (Bur Hakaba), Garad of the  Gassargudde (Lugh Ferrandi), Ugas of the Awlyahan (Bardera), and Ugaas of the Mohamed Suber (Kisimaio).

The traditional chiefs were classified into notables and paramount chiefs, all on government pay-roll. They were the point of contact between the government and the rural population. On the local level they were an invaluable source of information on tribal politics and customs to the Italian officials.

Their wages ranged from Sh.So 60, for the less important chiefs, to Sh.So1, 000 for the most influential. The highest salary went to Sultan Mussa Yousuf Bogor of the Osman Mohamoud, resident at Iskushuban (Migiurtinia), with a monthly salary of ShSo 1,000 (Decreto n°. 131 Ottobre 18, 1950),, followed by Islan Mohamed Mussa of the Issa Mohamoud, resident at Eyl, with a salary of Sh.So500 (Decreto n°. 131 Ottobre 18, 1950),  the Iman Omar Ali of the Abgal, resident at Itala (Cadale), with a salary of Sh.So 400 (Decreto n° 105 Settembre 30, 1950,. and Abdurahman Ali Issa, the Sultan of the Bimal, (Merca) with a salary of Sh.So 310 (Decreto n° 133 Settembre 30, 1950). They were the point of contact between the government and the rural population.

The number of stipend clan elders, between chiefs and notables in the provinces, was 50 in Migiurtinia, 40 in Mudugh, 11 in Hiran, 50 in Benadir, 23 in Upper Juba and 9 in Lower Juba.

An attempt made by the Somali government in 1958 to abolish the system of traditional chiefs was quickly abandoned in the face of mounting pressure and protests from every corner of the country. Within a short time, the Lega-led government realized how the reckless move would have resulted in alienating the clan elders who operated in the rural constituencies, a reservoir of strong electoral backing for the ruling party. The issue was again discussed in 1959 at the Congress of the party and all agreed that, in view of their political force and the enormous electoral and general influence of the clan elders in their own communities, the policy of paying salaries to the traditional chiefs should be retained. The Committee recommended eliminating the disparity in economic treatment among the traditional chiefs.

Few months before the elections of 1969, the Minister of Interior of the time, Yassin Nour upgraded Jerriban, a small watering point east of Galkacyo, to the level of electoral district, moving two seats from Galkacyo, far more populous than Jerriban. The new district became uncontested power base for the Minister of the Interior, where only the Lega list was allowed to be presented.  However, it is pertinent to mention that in 1963, the government of the time took similar step by upgrading the small watering point of El-Deer to district level and allocating to the new district two seats detached from El Bur, a densely populated electoral district.

Linea Tomaselli (Tomaselli Line)

Although physical unification of the southern regions and northern sultanates of Somalia had been achieved through the coercive measures adopted by the Italian fascist regime in late 1920s, a true national unity was never achieved. Nomadic survival patterns and pervasive poverty worked against the formation of a national conscience. “The nomad has his own principles of association, law, justice, and government. His loyalty is to his clan, beyond those he owes no civic obligation or duties”, (Castagno). Somali national identity is not very strong, and comes second after the much stronger and more important clan identity.” The popular perception among Somalis is that each clan owns the traditional areas it inhabits. So only that clan would have a say in the political and economic issues that are related to that part of the country” (Afyare Elmi, 2012). This perception found legitimacy by a legislation enacted by the Trusteeship Authority on the base of which tribal boundaries were established (Ordinance no. 6 of March 31, 1955). The most contentious being that applied in Mudugh which gave each clan exclusive political, land and grazing rights over the areas assigned to it. In fact, the trusteeship administration traced on the ground, ostensibly for security reason, a line popularly known as ‘Linea Tomaselli’ (Tomaselli Line), named after the then Italian Governor of Mudugh separating the Darod from the Hawiye clans. The area east of the line was assigned to the Habarghidir ethnic group, and the area west of the line to the Marehan and Majerten clan families. To this day, Galkayo is a divided city, split by the Tomaselli Line separating two ethnic groups. “The division of Galkacyo city between Darod and Hawiye evokes memories of West Berlin and East Berlin as well as East and West Jerusalem”, (Ismail A. Ismail, 2010). The system had generated a legacy of inequality and injustice in the area where political violence used to reach its flash point particularly during political election times which claimed the life of score of men being killed or injured. Successive civilian administration led by the Lega dei Giovani Somali, made no attempt to abolish or reform the system to avoid the recurrent tribal conflicts.


M. Trunj
E-mail: [email protected] 



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