n Journal of Somali Studies - The “historic sins” of colonialism in Somalia

Volume 6 Number 1
  • ISSN : 2056-5674
  • E-ISSN: 2056-5682



Italy makes landfall in Somalia towards the end of the nineteenth century, last in the race to colonize Africa, starting according to the usual script that envisages visiting travellers and exploratory expeditions seeking potential markets or dressed up as scientific studies. The earliest Italian explorers and travellers find an immense and sparsely populated territory with good agricultural and commercial potential, lacking any political organization or central administration which might give it political unity. A territory lacking even defined political frontiers, subject to the inroads of the army of the most famous and the strongest neighbouring African empire thrusting towards the Indian Ocean, which imposes tribute of produce on a population mostly engaged in pasture and agriculture and especially limited to the riverine areas as the country's only ready resource. The management and administration of the seaports and their adjacent areas (as stipulated by contract), but effectively only within accessible range, were allotted by Italy to private companies. These bodies, rather than ease the inhabitants' living conditions, give them a deal which is certainly no better—at least not for the majority. Between the end of the Compagnia Filonardi administration and the end of that of the Società del Benadir, events occur which are of extraordinary importance in the history of Italian colonialism and of Somalia; events which call for greater attention and historical analysis than can be given here.

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