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1959: The rebellion of the “Majerteen” MPs

By M. Trunji 
Sunday April 10, 2022


As the country became increasingly jittery on the eve of independence, competing factions within the ruling party, the Lega dei Giovani Somali, started scrambling for leadership of the country. A group, of mainly Majerteen MPs, led by Abdirashid Ali and Abdirazak Haji campaigned for a change of leadership in the country.

The rebellion emerged soon after the political elections of 1959 resulted in the formation of a government, led by Abdullahi Issa, composed of 15 members, evenly divided among the 3 main clan families represented in the Legislative Assembly: the Darod, the Hawiye, and the Rahanweyn. In consideration of a large number of Majerteen MPs in the group, the rebellion was soon dubbed as the “rebellion of the Majerteen MPs”.

The dissident group protested against the composition of the new government on the following grounds: The executive was excessively large and imposed an unnecessary strain on the economy of the country; it was tribalistic in character and would not heal the rift in Somalia’s national unity; it gave no recognition to the Somali ‘intellectuals” and the inclusion in the government of Ministers not fit for the office.

In a move meant to placate the anger of the dissidents, the Prime Minister offered the posts of Councilors of non-ministerial rank for Parliamentary and Foreign Affairs to Abdirashid and Gabio, respectively. The offers were refused (TNA CO 371/138311, June 17, 1959). Other disappointed aspirants, led by Nour Hashi Alas, Hagi Moussa Bogor, Gabio, and Mohamoud Ahmed Mohamed Addan “Kitaba-hor”, threatened to form a new political party to include “all good Somalis, irrespective of tribes”. They accused the Prime Minister of bad faith in declaring at every opportunity that tribalism was dead while “forming the government strictly on tribal lines” (Diary June 19, 1959).

It was also rumored that Administrator Mario Di Stefano, in a bid to cool down the tension, had suggested to the Prime Minister to drop Salad Abdi and Osman Ahmed Roble from the Cabinet, and replace them with Gabio and Abdirashid, whose recent return from Rome with university degrees was given so much publicity. However, the Prime Minister remained committed to his list of Ministers.

Di Stefano confided to Aden Abdulla that the two graduates were frustrated for not achieving their dream to become members of the government: both had hoped to become Deputy Prime Ministers (Diary June 27, 1959) Abdirashid is quoted as saying “the rising class of Somali ‘intellectuals’, must be given representation in the government”, and that is was ‘nonsensical’ to give expensive training abroad to Somalis and then not make use of their education” (TNA FO 371/138312 of June 24, 1959) Di Stefano also shared with Aden Abdulla intelligence report suggesting that Abdirazak Hagi considered the appointment of  Mohamoud Yousuf Aden “Muro” as Minister as an affront to him and to his reer (sub-clan) on the grounds of his reer’s numerical superiority over that of Minister “Muro”, a report Aden Abdulla did not believe. (Diary July 18, 1959)

According to analyst, the dissatisfactions may have been genuine to a certain degree, but there was also an element of “sour grapes” for those Deputies who had failed to gain ministerial position. The following summary of the situation made by a British diplomat, based in Mogadiscio, is probably close to the reality when he said: “I find it very difficult to believe that the rebel group within the SYL will settle down into a ‘healthy’ opposition; tribal feelings are involved, much personal bitterness exists between contending factions, and they are moved by different interests and different aims” (TNA FO 371/ 138312, July 3, 1959). There was also little prospect of the Prime Minister being able to satisfy all aspirants to high office without increasing the new cabinet to a ridiculous number of Ministers”.

Di Stefano rejects the rebel claim

On June 23, the Administrator received the dissident group in the persons of Abdi Rashid Ali, Abdi Razak Haji, Dahir Nour, Mohamed Ossoble, and Mohamed Gabio’. The latter had broken ranks with the group following his appointment as Minister for the Constitutional Affairs. The Administrator took great pain to persuade the dissidents to find support among all deputies for their campaign to remove those Ministers not fit for the office and refrain from seeking to achieve their ends by means that are improper and harmful to the national interest.

When appeals to reason produced no results, Di Stefano adopted a sterner line with the group. After explaining that the Prime Minister had 65 Deputies, whereas the dissidents could only mobilize 14 Deputies in the Legislative Assembly, the Administrator told the dissidents that he would stand by the Prime Minister and that they will carry heavy responsibility if they sought to depose him in any but a democratic way. He added that threats would not deter him, and “as Sicilian”, he knew about tribalism and its workings than they did”. (TNA FO 371/138312 of July 2, 1959) After uttering this warning, he dismissed them and they proceeded to the Post Office to dispatch their telegram of protest to the government in Rome and the Trusteeship Council in New York.

The signatories to this petition to the United Nations Trusteeship Council included: Mohamed Ossoble Adde (El Bur), Nour Hashi Alas (Galkaio), Abdi Razak Haji (Eyl), Ahmed Egag (Eyl), Abdi Rashid Ali (Gardo), Dahir Nour (Eyl), Moussa Bogor (Alula), Said Mussa (Gardo), Yassin Nour (Galkaio) Moussa Samatar (Iskushuban), Ibrahim Haji Moussa (Kismaio), and Sugulle Mohamed (Galkaio) (UN Document T/Pet. 11/L45, July 1, 1959) To guard against the possibility of postal censorship, the rebels handed a copy of the message to Mr. J. Cebe-Habersky, a Czechoslovak serving as Principal Secretary for the United Nations Advisory Council for Somalia (UNACS) who was leaving Mogadiscio for New York that day.

The text of the telegram sent to the United Nations read: “We, the undersigned Legislative Assembly and Somali Youth League members on behalf of other colleagues and Somali people strongly protest against Chief Administrator Di Stefano for having formed a new Somali government on a tribal basis with an unjustified superfluous number of Ministers and Undersecretary beyond our modest budgetary means. Such policies endanger our national unity and reduce the ability to be self-supporting strictly connecting with our political independence” We further submit this appeal with the request that you intervene and recall Ambassador De Stefano to avoid further consequences which may cancel brilliant work done by his predecessor, namely Anzilotti) (UN Document T/Pet. 11/L45, July 1, 1959).

A similar telegram, though longer and more detailed, was sent to the Italian Foreign Minister, Giuseppe Pella. The Central Committee dismissed all the allegations of the dissident faction as “absurd accusation cabled to the United Nations by a small group of Deputies belonging to the party concerning the formation of the government” and expressed its full confidence in the “enlightened and farsighted work of His Excellency Ambassador Di Stefano”. (UN Doc.T/Pet.11/L44, July 1, 1959)

To counter the moves of the dissidents, a group of Mogadiscio tribal Chiefs, notables, and religious leaders, all from the Hawie clan family went to call on the Administrator to ensure him their unwavering confidence and support for the Prime Minister. Mediation efforts between the dissident faction and the Prime Minister, promoted by the President of the Legislative Assembly, in collaboration with the Central Committee of the ruling party, ended in failure. (Diary July 10, 1959), The group was advised to use their constitutional powers to challenge the government in the Legislative Assembly when discussing its political programme by a motion of no-confidence, but they were not open to compromise.

In a long report to Rome on the political situation, Dr. Piero Franca, AFIS Secretary-General, had this to say: “The current Prime Minister is heavily criticized not for his direct responsibilities (he is generally considered only as a weak person), but for his entourage, considered as responsible for maladministration, squandering and corruption. Many called on him to get rid of, at least, some of the old Ministers of his government, if not all of them. The most frequently mentioned personalities, according to Minister Franca, were Sheikh Ali Giumale, Minister of Social Affairs; Mohamoud Abdi Nour, Minister of General Affairs, and Salad Abdi Mohamoud, Minister of Finance. Others added even to the list, Hagi Moussa Bogor, Minister of Interior, and Hagi Farah Ali, Minister of Economic Affairs, the latter, whose long absence from the territory had raised a wave of antipathy against him, was seen as an opportunist who enjoyed avoiding internal bickering by staying abroad. (Asmae Telespresso n.2071 of 14 June, 1959)

After almost 7 months since the elections of March 1959, the Legislative Assembly approved the programme of the government in August by 57 votes in favour against 10 and 1 abstention. The 10 ‘ney’ votes came from the dissident MPs present and voting as two of them, Abdirazak Haji and Mohamoud “Kitaba –Hor” left for New York to challenge the legitimacy of the Somali Government before the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations. The abstention vote came from Osman Mohamoud Adde, (Il Correre della Somalia, August 2, 1959).

In the next episode, we shall be talking about how the SYL internal bickering landed at the United Nations.

M. Trunji
E-mail: [email protected]


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