Somalia: 1960 Documents Indicate UK Intelligence Predicated Violent Conflict and Anarchy


Travellers on the border of British and Italian Somaliland in 1935

Somalilandsun – British intelligence services warned Somalia could lapse into anarchy and tribal warfare just months before the country gained independence, it has been revealed.

Newly released documents from the National Archives also described Somalis as “volatile and opportunist” people whose “deepest loyalty” was towards family and tribe.

The secret report prepared by the joint intelligence committee in 1960 said there was a possibility of violence in the East African country.

“Their traditional way of life is nomadic and insecure and their character consequently tends to be volatile and opportunist, quick-witted and quick tempered,” noted the report on the outlook for the Horn of Africa, dated April 1960.

“Although the concept of unity between all Somalis has a great emotional appeal, the deepest loyalty is towards the family and the tribe.”

Somalia became a federal republic in July 1960, after Britain and Italy granted independence to their two respective sectors of the country.

The report noted three key tribal groupings, the Hawiye, the Darod and the Digil-Rahanweyn.

“Any successor Government would be likely to be more nationalistic in character than the existing regime,” the report noted.

“The posssibility should not, however, be discounted that one of the three groups might resort to violence, and that Somalia might lapse into anarchy and tribal warfare.”

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