Sultanate of Hobyo

Sultanate of Hobyo

The Sultanate of Hobyo was carved out of the former Hiraab Imamate by a Majerteen pretender to the throne Yusuf Ali Keenadid.

Yuusuf Ali Keenadid initially desired to use his new Sultanate in order to press his claim to the Sultan of Majeerteen. He sought to gain Italian support in order to defeat his old rival, Boqor Ismaan Mahamuud, and to expand his Sultanate of Hobyo north of the Warshekh region at the expense of the Sultanate of Zanzibar, and so in December of the year 1888, he agreed to Hobyo becoming a protectorate of Italy. Soon afterwards however, Boqor Isman Mahamud also signed a protectorate agreement, and the Sultan of Zanzibar his own with the British, so Yusuf Ali's expansionist plans were stifled. Hobyo's borders were agreed upon by bilateral Italian-British negotiations to constitute the territory from El-Dhere through to Dusa-Mareb in the south-west, from Galladi to Galkayo in the west, from Jerriban to Garad in the north-east, and the Indian Ocean in the east.

As the protectorate agreement was not working quite as he had wished, it comes as no surprise that Yusuf Ali Kenadid refused the Italians' request in April 1903 that he allow a contingent of British troops to disembark in Hobyo to facilitate their conflict with the the forces of the Sayyid Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, or the "Darawiish". This controversy would be a big contributor to the Italian decision to annex the sultanate directly in 1925.

With the rise of Fascism in Italy, the Italian government decided to end the independence of their Somali protectorates. The Italians placed Governor Cesare Maria De Vecchi in charge of Italian Somaliland on 15 December 1923 as the first phase in their "La Grande Somalia" plan for the region. On 10 July 1925 Benito Mussolini gave the order for Governor De Vecchi to annex Hobyo.

De Vecchi first hoped that he could disarm the sultanates, and so he created a colonial force, the Corpo Zaptié, to do just that. Hobyo and Majerteen reacted with alarm to the Italian disarmament plan, and put aside their now-generation-old enmity, and vowed to support each other in preserving their independence.

De Vecchi ordered his Corpo Zaptié to invade Hobyo on 1 October 1925, and had overrun the sultanate by November. The sultan, Ali Yusuf Kenadid (son of Yusuf Ali Kenadid) surrendered, and Hobyo became an administrative division of Mussolini's Italy.

Omar Samatar's Rebellion (November 1925 to January 1926)

Though victorious against the sultan's forces, the populace had yet to accept Italian rule without a fight. Commissioner Trivulzio, assigned with administering Hobyo, reported the movement of armed men towards the borders of the sultanate before and after the annexation. As preparations were underway to continue the Corpo Zaptié's advance into Majeerteen, a new threat emerged.

One of Sultan Ali Yusuf's commanders, Omar Samatar, attacked and captured El-Bur on 9 November. The local populace sided with Omar, and soon enough the Italians had a full scale revolution on their hands after Omar followed up his previous success with the capture of El-Dhere. The Corpo Zaptié tried and failed to recapture El-Bur from Omar. By 15 November the Italians had fled to Bud Bud, ambushed by partisans the whole way and rather diminished in forces and resolve.

A third attempt was planned, but before it could be executed the commander of the operation, Lieutenant-Colonel Splendorelli, was ambushed and killed between Bud Bud and Bula Barde. Italian morale hit rock bottom, and Hobyo seemed a lost cause as Omar stood poised to reconquer Hobyo itself. In an attempt to salvage the situation, governor De Vecchi requested two battalions from Eritrea and assumed personal command. The rebellion soon spilled over the borders into the Benadir and Western Somaliland, and Omar grew increasingly powerful.

The disaster in Hobyo shocked Italian policymakers in Rome. It was the Adwa fiasco of the First Italo–Ethiopian War all over again, and Italy's plans for East Africa were unraveling before their very eyes. Blame soon fell on Governor De Vecchi, who's perceived incompetence was blamed for Omar's rise. Rome instructed De Vecchi that he was to receive the reinforcement from Eritrea, but that the commander of the Eritrean battalions was to assume the military command and De Vecchi was confined to Mogadishu and limited to an administrative role. The commander was to report directly to Rome, bypassing De Vecchi entirely.

As the situation was extremely confused, De Vecchi took former Sultan Ali Yusuf with him to Mogadishu. Mussolini vowed to reconquer all of Hobyo and move on to Majertin by any means necessary. Even reinstating Ali Yusuf was considered. However, the clans had already sided with Omar Samatar, so this was not as viable an option as it would appear.

Before the reinforcements arrived, De Vecchi chose the age old tactic of divide and rule, and offered great rewards, money and prestige to any clans who chose to support the Italians. Considering the eons-old clan rivalries which have been the bane of Somali states from time immemorial, it is a wonder this strategy hadn't been attempted sooner, and turned out to be far more successful than the Eritrean regiments in reversing the rebellion.

With the steam taken out of the rebellion, and the military forces heavily reinforced with the battalions from Eritrea, the Italians retook El-Buur on December 26 1925, and compelled Omar Samatar to retreat into Western Somaliland.

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