SOMALIA – Nomad Nation,1960
Laaska News January 14,2011.
Time.Monday, Jul. 11, 1960
Of the new nations born last week, none faced bleaker prospects than the Somali Republic. Combining the former Italian and British colonies on Africa’s horn, the country is largely a desert plateau, studded with anthills as tall as a man, and roamed by a Moslem nomadic people whose per capita income from their herds is just $10 a year. In a way, Somalia’s only asset for nationhood is a small group of capable, moderate leaders. They bear no grudge against the West, because they bear no scars of a struggle for independence.
Standard bearer of freedom in the old Italian colony (pop. 1,500,000) is Abdullahi Issa, 38. His counterpart in the old British colony (pop. 640,000) is a British-educated rich man’s son, Mohammed Ibrahim Egal, 32. When Issa brought up independence last year, Italy told him he could have it whenever he liked. Egal promptly asked for permission to join his colony to the new nation. Britain readily agreed.
The two men quickly worked out a merger agreement, and last week the two legislatures simply combined. As the Somali Republic’s Provisional President, Issa and Egal agreed on Aden Abdullah Osman, 51. Once a medical student, long a civil servant, Aden Abdullah is the closest thing Somalia has to a father of the country.
Aden Abdullah’s main job will simply be to keep the country afloat, a task that the World Bank estimates will take $6,000,000 a year in outside aid. Yet to the new officialdom, optimism came easy last week in the sidewalk espresso shops of sun-scorched Mogadishu, the capital and only major city, where the hot monsoon sometimes blows hard enough to whip off the tablecloths.
Construction was being rushed on two jerry-built but air-conditioned hotels. And like tribalists all over Africa, Somalis were talking ambitiously of redrawing the borders imposed by the white men to reunite their fellow tribesmen.
Over the years, as their own land eroded, Somalis have settled thickly in the fertile regions of northern Kenya and eastern Ethiopia. Besides these areas, Greater Somalia would also include French Somaliland and its deep-water port of Djibouti. But however desirable from the Somali point of view, the plan was not likely to make for cordial relations with Somalia’s neighbors.
Madagascar, the world’s fourth-largest island, whose 5,000,000 inhabitants are largely descended from a far-voyaging group of Malayo-Polynesians who settled there perhaps 20 centuries ago, became the independent Malagasy Republic last week to the theme of banners reading “Long Live France, Country of Great Men!” Bulky, autocratic Philibert Tsiranana, the country’s most popular figure, holds the offices of both President and Premier, and to avoid bothersome annoyance from Parliament, persuaded the legislators to give him the power to rule by decree. Though completely independent, the new republic will remain in the French Community. In return, France has promised to continue economic aid that in 1960 will total $24 million, a fourth of the Malagasy budget.