Saturday, August 11, 2007

History of Darwiish Ismaaciil Mire, Part 3

In 1910 the colonial authorities in British Somaliland protectorate adopted a policy of coastal concentration after their lack of success in subduing the Darwiish movement. Realizing that this policy would be expose their protected tribes and put them at the mercy of the Daraawiish they decided to arm the civilian population of the protectorate. This move led to an "appalling internecine warfare" among the tribes friendly to the British as they began settling old scores with the modern arms and ammunition that they received from the English. A British official conceded that he could "could not see any good in concealing the fact that during this period, it is estimated that about one-third of the male population of the friendly tribes of this Protectorate was exterminated in inter-tribal fighting. We can see how the rash actions and lack of foresight of the British led to this holocaust. By the end of the 1912 the Protectorate administration took steps to change this situation by creating a mobile force mounted on Camels and Horses named the Camel Constabulary. It was headed by Mr. Richard Corfield, a man of considerable political and military experience in the Somali theatre. From November 1912 to March 1913 the force met with great success in restoring order but at the cost of losing the confidence of some friendly tribes because of the harsh methods of Collective Punishment that he adopted. There is a story of a man named Ina Weysaxume, a victim of Corfield's injustice, who composed a maledictory poem wishing the death of Corfield for his unjust ways and the suffering, poverty and misery that he brought on the poet's family:

Sayidkoo wax galay raacdadoo la isku soo gaadhay
Adiga iyo gubniga aad wadaa goobataal noqoye
Girligaanku kaa joogsay oo guuxa kaa damiye
Ku googooste nimankii kufriga gaajaduu qabaye
Afkuna "gaw" ku yidhi xaajadaad gees u badisaaye
Guga ha gaadhin adigaa reer tolkay gaajadaa badaye


The Sayid on the warpath, on the trail of his enemies
May the your corpse and those of your soldiers litter the field
May your heavy guns break apart and fall silent
May you be torn apart by the men who thirst for infidel blood
May you not reach the springtime in safety
For you have misery and pain on my kinfolk

Corfield's mounted Constabulary became as feared as the Darwiishes and order among the friendly tribes was restored. The incident that cost him his life however began with an aggression against a darwiish caravan without escorts.

The caravan was sent by Khaliif Sheekh Cabdille from the Qorraxey fort and it was bringing necessary supplies of arms, ammunition and clothing to the Darwiish forts.The caravan was intercepted near Beer by a force that was sent from Burco, heavily armed, led by a man named Axmed Ilkacase and they managed to loot the Caravan. When news reached the Xarun of this terrible disaster the Sayid personally took charge in mobilizing a force. Every member of the qusuusi was ordered to open his arsenal and hand over the last bullet to retrieve the Darwiish caravan and punish the people who attacked the Daraawiish.

A force of 1000 men was readied comprising of members of 5 Darwiish divisions: Shiikhyaale, Golweyn, Taargooye, Miinanle and Ragxun, all of them under the overall command of Yuusuf Sheekh Cabdille. Ismaaciil Mire was commanding the elite Shiikhyaale division, exclusively Dhulbahanante(Cali Geri, Baharasame, Qayaad and Xasan Ugaas).The Daraawiish recovered much of the goods that were in the caravan and they also looted a very large stock from the various settlements tp whom the caravan raiders belonged. On 6, August 1913 the British received alarming reports of heavy Darwiish activity between Idoweyne and Burco, their operations extending to within 3 or 4 miles of Beer. Deputy Commissioner of Somaliland Protectorate Geoffrey Archer was in Burco, coincidentally, at the time and was surprised by the extraordinary Darwiish attack. He may have suspected, even though he did not write so, that he was the primary object of the Darwiish attack:

"Upon that very morning I had been listening in durbar for four hours to the representations of the friendlies - representations to the effect that, unless Government would come to their assistance and protect them with an adequate force, their annihilation at the hands of the Darvishes would be complete within a year or two. I admit therefore, that at first I was sceptical as to the imminence of danger represented as pressing at 1:30pm of the same day. The dervishes had not attacked the locality in force for two years; and that they should have selected this very time, when I happened to be present, to arrive on the scene, from the Haroun (Xarun), 170 miles distant as the crow flies, --and I need scarcely say that we can get no reliable information, of course, of dervish intentions in advance --appeared to me to be too extraordinary a coincidence to be credited. However, after a discussion on the situation with Mr Corfield, I adopted the view that some action was obviously indicated, even though I still regarded the information as likely to be without foundation in fact, and supplied by their friendlies merely to impress me with the extreme seriousness of their plight. I, accordingly, ordered a strong reconnaissance by the Camel Corps in the direction of Beer to ascertain the facts, and instructed Captain G.H. Summers, Indian Contingent, to accompany the force with a view to forming his own conclusions and advising me later on the military situation before I decided on future action."

Despite his scepticism when discounting the reports of Darwiish activity, Deputy Commisioner Archer did not take chances with his life and immediately retired to Sheekh, seeking safety in distance. The Darwiishes after the death of Corfield were singing songs that included lines alluding to the cowardice of Archer after he fled from the theatre:

Markaan Koofil coobigii jaray miyaa kufrigii calaacalay
Markaan Caarshe weeraray miyuu baqa Ceeri kala dhacay
markaan ku callaqay rasaastii miyuu habas candhaaqsaday

The Camel Constabulary set out of Burco at 3 pm on the 8 of August led by Corfield, Assisted by Captain Dunn and Captain G. H. Summers with 116 soldiers. Corfield had intelligence that the Darwiish forces were bivouacked at Ulasan 30 miles southeast of Burco and proceeded in that direction. On their approach the Camel Constabulary could hear some shots fired and the dervish fires illuminating the night sky. Friendlies who reconnoitred the Darwiish forces estimated its strength at 2000 riflemen, with 150 horse. The numbers may be unreliable. Now let us take a look at some passages from the Ismaaciil Mire's Poem on the "Death of Corfield":

Habeenkii fardaha waw tudhnaye taag ku sii miranay
Tun biciida lagu qoofalyow xamashka loo taabay
Talaaduhu markii ay dhaceen telelay oo reemay
Tixda gabay markii aan akhriyay toose niman jiifay
Tiraabkaygu meeshii uu ka baxay la isku soo tuumi
Salaadii markii aan tukaday yaarka kaga teednay
Togga Ulasameed dooyadii horay u tuuryaynay
Intay timacad noo soo arkeen marada noo taage


Mindful of our horses we pastured them at night
Gently we hobbled them, and let them eat lush fronds
When the Triplet Stars began to set I stirred and Sang
And when I chanted my poem, the sleeping awoke
Gathering around the place where my voice sounded
And when I said the Dawn prayer, we saddled for the march
By the Ulasameed rivulet I sent out the scouts

The die was cast and an engagement between the British and the Darwiish Mujaahids became inevitable. The British high command did not wish to engage the Darwiishes but Corfield was a rash man and disregarded his orders. Archer later wrote that Corfield disregarded express orders not to engage the enemy:

"My standing orders communicated to you as an enclosure to my secret despatch of the 23rd of June, and duly approved by your despatch of the 18 of July, gave, as you are aware, no discretionary powers whatsoever, in the matter of engaging the dervishes, or even proceeding on these extended patrols;"

It was fated that the two forces would meet and on 9th of August at 5 30 am Corfield and his men left Dharkaynle and proceeded to Magaalayar to cut off the Darwiishes. At 6 45 am the Darwiishes, having earlier spotted the British movements, 'severely attacked' the Constabulary and the attack continued for the next five hours. Archer wrote:

"At 7:15 am Mr Corfield, fighting gallantly was shot through the head and died instantly. The bodies of his interpreter Xaaji Jaamac Geelle, a well-known and loyal servant of this protectorate, and his two personal servants were found during the action lying close beside him."

The Darwiish forces, realizing the automatic fire of the British Maxim gun posed the greatest danger to themselves, made the gun's destruction a priority. As a result the Maxim gun was put out of action by the Daraawiish from the outset. It was later reported that the Maxim position drew heavy darwiish fire and was put out of action by Darwiish shooting after firing little more than three belts. Of the five-man team serving the gun, one man was killed and three were wounded. Having achieved that initial objective the Darwiishes wanted to capture it and began moving in on the position. On one occasion hand-to-hand fighting ensued and a darwiish was shot by Captain Summers, actually within the british stronghold.

The Darwiishes were intent on annihilating the small force and capturing their heavy guns but the British force fought tenaciously in their strongholds and around midday the Darwiish force ran out of ammunition and decided to retire with their looted stock before finishing their adversaries.

At 3:30 pm, Mr Dunn, the only Englishman who was unscathed, started organizing the British retreat back to their garrison in Burco, after ascertaining that the Darwiishes had drawn off.

Darwiish Ismaaciil Mire had this to say about the episode:

Sida teyse roob oo onkoday tininigtii yeedhay
Girligaanka meeshuu tarquday lagu tunsii geela
Tirsan mayno uunkii tirmiyo tulushle Iidoore
Turjubaanadii iyo halkaa Koofil lagu toogay


We rumbled into battle roaring like thunder
Our camels trampled where he held the Maxim gun
The dead littered the field including the toadying Iidoor
There, Corfield and his interpreters were slain

The British casualties were 33 killed and 17 wounded. The official inquiry into the Dulmadoobe fiasco placed Darwiish casualties at 200. Prevost-Battersby claims 375. No one can be certain about Darwiish casualties but those inflated numbers were surely fabricated by the officers who blundered by taking the small force into action. The Daraawiish celebrated Ruuga, as they named the battle, as a massive victory that destroyed the meddling Camel Constabulary and avenged the men who were killed when the Darwiish caravan was looted.

Deputy Commissioner Archer lamented the fact that many of the tribes on the frontier were not more engaged in the Anti-Darwiish efforts of the British by fighting proactively against them. The Darwiish attack on the friendly tribes that precipitated the engagement had reduced the hardline anti-Darwiish tribes at the sharp end of the frontier to destitution after the looting of a stock conservatively estimated at: 6000 Camels, 20,000-30,000 sheep. The looted tribes were:

Habar Yoonis, Muuse Ismaaciil
Dhulbahante, Barkad, Reer Hagar and Khaalid
Habar Jeclo, Reer Yuusuf.

About 300 members of those tribes rode along with Corfield and the Camel Constabulary in a bid to recover their looted stock but they melted away at the start of the fight.

The Daraawiish consolidated this victory by expanding their influence into Togdheer by building 3 forts at the Shimbibiris Wells that are strategically located and protected by commanding heights on all sides. That left a strong Darwiish force only 28 miles from the largest British Garrison in the area, Burco. Shimbibiris was supplied from the coast, 160 miles north.

This proved unacceptable to the British and a year later, 17, November 1914, the British mounted an expedition to destroy Shimbibiris. The Daraawiish received intelligence of the impending attack and sent their herds easwards and prepared for battle. After an 11 hour battle the British withdrew after failing to dent the impregnable defenses of the forts. A new plan was developed by the British calling for the destruction of the fort using explosive charges at the base of the forts instead of bombardment. In February, 1915 the British finally succeeded in dislodging the Darwiish forces from Shimbibiris using the the explosives. All the Darwiishes inside perished fighting valiantly to the last man. They punctuated every volley from their rifles with the chant: gaalo qudhunley, qiiq ma kaa karay.

The destruction of the fort and the death of the glorious Darwiish mujaahids who perished in its defense was a shocking development that filled the Daraawiish movement with anguish and sorrow. They turned their grief into action and they immediately started organizing a small elite force to attack Berbera in order to strike a blow against British rule of Somalia by attacking the very heart of their authority. At all events to strike chaos and fear into the British and the inhabitants of Berbera with the message that they could not feel safe anywhere.

40 Cavalrymen were selected for this mission headed by Darwiish Xaaji Mursal Aw Saacid with Ismaaciil Mire as the second in command of the assault. In early March, 1915, the group of forty Darwiishes set off for Berbera guided by Mujaahid Seeraar Shawe who had specialized knowledge of the terrain and on 8 March they reached Cillaan Bidoole where they set up a bivouac, getting some rest and watering their horses. They left the plains behind safely without being spotted and reached the cover of the mountains. It was here that they found their passage blocked by a British garrison that was guarding the mountain passes. This development caused great trepidation among the Darwiishes and some of them even counseled that the mission should be aborted. Ismaaciil Mire was dismayed by this and he managed to change their minds by stiffening their resolve and reminding them of the rightness of their ultimate cause; and their obligation to endure its pangs and toils. He also suggested a practical way, short of frontal assault, to solve their dillema. It was agreed that they should use the cover of night travel to elude the English sentries and in this they were succesful. He composed the following poem for the occasion:

Nin wahsaday Wacaysow ma helo war iyo liibaane
Nimankaa wadada jiifsadee laga wayiigaayo
Ee siday wax dilayaan qalbigu inaka waansheeyey
Walaahaan ku dhaartaye naagahaa igala waawayne
Waddadaan ku diifaynayaa walahsayow Boode
Walaabiga dhashiisaa fardaha loo wanaagsadaye
Waagoo guduudtaa Berbera lagu wadhaayaaye
Rabbi wuxu ka qaybshaba wallee wegeredkuu jiiday


O' Wacays, an indolent man receives neither blessing and nor increase
The men who are on the road who have filled us with dread
And who have unsettled our spirit as if they were conquering lions
I will swear by Allah that women are more formidable than they
I shall set Bood(his horse) on the warpath, towards Glory
It was bred to kill the Children of Filth
At daybreak will their corpses litter Berbera
Whatever portion Allah has decreed for us
I shall tighten the girth-strap on my Stallion

On the afternoon of 13 March, 1915 the 40 Darwiish Horsemen furiously rode into town shooting in all directions and destroying property. One of the casualties that day was a citizen of Berbera who used to boast that the Darwiishes will only discomfit those people who choose to herd camels in the interior of the country. He composed a comical poem to emphasize that point which ran this way:

Ninkii Teeyo dhaqay baa darwiish kala tegaayaaye
Haddaan tiro riyaa leeyahaan tuulada ag joogo
Ma tunkay i soo qaban haddaan Timirlahaa dhaafin


A man who raises camels will lose it to the Darwiishmen
If I herd a small number of goats and hew to the town
How will they reach me If I never stray past that date tree?

This hapless man was one of the people who died that day at Berbera. This assault caused consternation among the British authorities and it necessitated the withdrawal of all non-essential personnel from Berbera.

We will take up our story next time at the denouement of the Darwiish struggle and continue onto the story of the murder of Jaamac Cali Nuur.

1 comment:

Abdurahman said...

Thanks, Keep up the good work