Italian Imperialism in Somaliland

Want to learn more about imperialism in Somaliland by Italy? Read on for a historical overview of the imperial power plays exercised by Italy over Somaliland…

Somaliland is today an independent country by the name of Somalia situated in the Horn of Africa next to the Arabian Peninsula. This region has a long and varied history and has seen many different inhabitants throughout the course of time. Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks and medieval Arabs have all set foot on Somaliland and left evidence of their presence there. The region was also subject to imperialism on the part of Italy over the course of its history.

The last quarter of the 19th century was perhaps the most productive for Somaliland in terms of political development. The developments that took place during this period of time had a profound effect on the future of the region. Throughout the 19th century Somaliland became a subject to state systems under the flags of various countries. Among the imperial powers that applied their force upon Somaliland were Britain, France, Egypt and Ethiopia as well as Italy.

Italy began to colonizing Somaliland shortly after Italy itself had been unified. However at this point in time Italy lacked the experience that the other nations like Britain and Egypt had in terms of exercising imperial power plays. For this reason Italy adopted a somewhat different strategy for colonizing Somaliland. Rather than overtly confronting Somaliland’s rulers with another colonial power intent on colonizing the entire region at once, Italy focused its attention on gaining control over small territories wherever it got the chance.

Soon enough Italy became the main colonizer in the southern region of Somalia known as the Banaadir coast. However the extension of Italian imperialism over Somaliland was extremely slow. This was primarily because of the lack of enthusiasm on the part of its parliament for gaining overseas territory. It was in 1888 that Italy managed to acquire its first possession in the southern region of Somalia. This event was made possible by the willful intent of the Sultan of Hobyo to seek Italian protection.

Following this successful agreement the leader of Italy’s imperialist movement, Vincenzo Filonardi demanded that Majeerteen Sultanate of Ismaan Mahumuud sign a similar agreement. Both sultans decided to accept Italian protection in 1889 as they were growing suspicions of each other. Italy used the platform of the Berlin West Africa conference of 1884-85 to publicize its signatory powers in southern Somaliland. A few years later Italy managed to seize full control over the Banaadi coast proper. This region had long been under the rule of the Zanzibaris but now became an Italian colonized state. In 1925 the Somali region of Chisimayu which was originally under British rule was ceded to Italy. This event completed the Italian internalization of southern Somaliland.

The Italians were later ousted by the country of Ethiopia under the Emperor Menelik II. The Emperor put up fierce resistance against the British and Italian forces for regions of Somaliland that he considered to be part of Ethiopia. By the end of the 19th century Somaliland was divided between Ethiopia, France, Britain and Italy.