Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/398

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382
SOMALILAND

On the 2nd of June a small force, zeribaed under Captain Malcolm McNeill, was attacked by the mullah's followers but repulsed after desperate fighting. Colonel Swayne thrice defeated the enemy, who lost 1200 men and 600 taken prisoners, and the mullah fled across the Haud, taking refuge with the Mijertin in Italian territory. In December 1901 the mullah was, however, once more raiding in the neighbourhood of Burao, Wars with the Mullah Mohammed Abdullah.and in May 1902 Colonel Swayne led another expedition against him, the Somali levies being strengthened by the 2nd King's African Rifles, consisting of Yaos from Nyasaland. Overcoming in a remarkable manner the difficulties of operating in the dry season, Colonel Swayne harried the mullah incessantly, and followed him across the Haud into the more fertile region of Mudug in Italian territory, permission so to do being granted by Italy. On the 6th of October, while marching through dense bush at Erigo, the British force was ambuscaded. The British lost 101 killed and 85 wounded, but put the enemy to flight. The mullah lost some 700 men and retreated to Galadi, west of Mudug, a place with ample water supplies. Colonel Swayne was not able to continue the pursuit, and returned to Berbera. It was then determined that in the further operations against the mullah the main advance should be from a base on the east coast of Italian Somaliland—the open roadstead of Obbia being chosen. The command was given to Brigadier-General W. H. Manning, and small numbers of British and Boer mounted infantry, Indian and African troops were employed, while an Abyssinian force held the line of the Webi Shebeli. Manning advanced from Obbia in February 1903, and in March got in touch with the northern column, the line of communication stretching over 500 m. The mullah was west of this line in the neighbourhood of Galadi. The wells at Galadi were occupied by the British early in April without opposition. A reconnoitring force of 500 men under Lieut.-Colonel A. S. Cobbe (who had gained the V.C. at Erigo) was pushed west to Gumburu, and came into contact with the enemy. A detachment of this force, consisting of 200 Yaos and Sikhs under Lieut.-Colonel Plunket, was attacked on the 17th of April and overwhelmed. Of the whole party only 40 Yaos, of whom 36 were wounded, escaped; 10 British officers being among the slain. Meantime from Bohotle a force had advanced under Major Gough to Daratole, a spot not far from Gumburu. It had a stiff fight on the 23rd of April and was obliged to fall back. After these events the Obbia line of communication was closed up, and Manning's force concentrated at Bohotle. The mullah now broke away to the north, and, crossing the line of the British communication, established himself in the Nogal district.

Another campaign being deemed necessary, reinforcements bringing the fighting force up to 7000 men were sent out, and Major-General Sir C. C. Egerton assumed supreme command, Manning retaining command of the first column. In October 1903 a new forward movement was begun, the mullah being still in the eastern Nogal, while he had also seized the Italian seaport of Illig, north of Obbia. In a pitched battle fought on the 10th of January 1904 at Jidballi in the Nogal country the enemy were routed, losing over 1000 men in killed alone, while the British loss in killed and wounded was 58. The mullah and his chief adviser, a Haji Sudi, formerly an interpreter on a British warship, were not at the battle, and with his Ali Gheri followers he now fled north across the Sorl, apparently intending, if further pressed to retreat to Illig. This port was accordingly for a short time (April 1904) occupied by a British naval force. By May the mullah had been driven out of the British protectorate and became a refugee among the Mijertin. It was decided therefore to abandon offensive operations. In 1905 the Italians effected an arrangement apparently satisfactory to all parties (see § Italian Somaliland).

For some three years the mullah remained quiescent, but in 1908 he quarrelled with the Mijertins and in 1909 he was again raiding tribes in the British protectorate. Evacuation of the Interior.The British government (the Asquith cabinet) came to the conclusion that another expedition against the mullah would be useless; that they must either build a railway, make roads and effectively occupy the whole of the protectorate, or else abandon the interior completely. The latter course was decided upon, and during the first months of 1910 the advanced posts were withdrawn and the British administration confined to the coast towns. In support of this decision it was urged that it was no good pursuing people whom it was impossible to catch, that the isolated posts in the interior had not been able to protect the friendly tribes; and that the semi-desert nature of the country did not justify any attempt at economic development. (The proposal to build a railway from Zaila or Berbera to Harrar, which would have competed with the French line from Jibuti for the trade of southern Abyssinia, had been vetoed on grounds of general policy.) Before the withdrawal arrangements—more or less ineffective—were made for arming and organizing the tribes in the protectorate in their own defence.

From 1884 to 1898 the protectorate was attached for administrative purposes to Bombay, and was immediately dependent on Aden; in the last-named year it was transferred to the Foreign Office, and in 1905 passed under the control of the Colonial Office. From 1902 to 1906 Colonel Swayne was commissioner; he was succeeded by Captain H. E. S. Cordeaux, who had served in Somaliland since 1898. Legislative power is in the hands of the commissioner, and revenue is obtained largely from customs. The revenue, £22,000 in 1900–1901, was £30,000 in 1908–1909, while the expenditure, £51,000 in the first-named year, was £134,000 in 1908–1909. Deficits are made good by grants from the imperial treasury.

French Somaliland

French Somaliland (Côte française des Somalis) lies at the entrance to the Red Sea. The sea frontier extends from Ras Dumeira on the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, a little north of Perim Island, to Ras Gurmarle, a few miles south of the Gulf of Tajura. The protectorate is bounded N. by the Danakil country; S. by British Somaliland; W. by the Harrar province of Abyssinia. It extends inland at its greatest depth about 130 m.

The country consists chiefly of slightly elevated arid plains, largely waterless save along the southern frontier. The only good harbour along the coast is at Jibuti. The Gulf of Tajura is 28 m. across at its entrance and penetrates inland 36 m. At its western end an opening 870 yds. wide leads into the circular bay of Gubbet-Kharab (Hell's Mouth), behind which rise a chaotic mass of volcanic rocks, destitute of vegetation and presenting a scene of weird desolation. A pass through the hills gives access to Bahr-Assal; the last of a chain of salt lakes beginning 60 m. inland in the depression in which the waters of the Hawash (see Abyssinia) lose themselves. It is conjectured that at some remote period the Hawash flowed into Tajura Bay and that the present condition of the country is the result of volcanic upheaval. Assal Lake, according to this theory, formed part of the sea bed. It is now 5 m. inland from Gubbet-Kharab, is 5 m. long by 4 broad, and lies 490 ft. below sea-level. About 160 ft. above the present level of the lake a white band marks distinctly a former level. The waters of Bahr-Assal are deeply impregnated with salt, which, in thick crusts, forms crescent-shaped round the banks—dazzling white when reflected by the sun. Two streams, one saline and at a temperature of 194° F., flow into the lake. The climate of the protectorate is very hot, but not unhealthy for Europeans if reasonable precautions be taken.

Inhabitants and Towns.—The inhabitants are, on the north side of the Gulf of Tajura, chiefly Danakils (Afars, q.v.); on the southern shore Galla and Somali. There are a number of Arabs, Abyssinians, Indians, and about 2000 Europeans and Levantines. The chief town and seat of administration is Jibuti (q.v.), pop. about 15,000, which has taken the place of Obok (q.v.), on the opposite (northern) side of the Gulf of Tajura. Also situated on the gulf are the small towns of Tajura, Sagallo, Gobad and Ambabo.

Trade and Communications.—The collection of salt from Bahr-Assal is an industry of some importance. In 1903 a beginning was made in the cultivation of cotton in the dry river beds, where water can always be obtained at a depth of 10 ft. On the coast turtle and mother-of-pearl fishing are carried on. But the value of the protectorate depends upon the carrying trade with Harrar and the supplying of victuals and coals to French warships. In 1897 the building of a railway from Jibuti towards Harrar was begun. By Christmas 1902 the railway, called the Imperial Ethiopian railway, was completed to Dire Dawa (or Adis Harrar), 30 m. short of Harrar, and 188 by rail from Jibuti, of which but 64 m. are in French territory. By a law passed by the French chambers in 1902 a subvention of £20,000 a year for fifty years was granted to the company owning the railway (see further Abyssinia).
The exports are chiefly coffee, hides, ivory (all from Abyssinia), gum, mother-of-pearl and a little gold; the imports cotton and other