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FRENCH SOMALILAND: Nasser’s Friend

Monday, June 27, 2011

Laaska News  June 27,2011

Monday, Oct. 20, 1958 (TIME)
Among colonies voting an overwhelming (75%) out for the constitution of Premier Charles de Gaulle was parched, sun-baked French Somaliland, an 8,000-square-mile East African land of dry gullies, thorny scrub and shifting sand, on the Gulf of Aden. The out vote was in effect a vote of no for the territory’s chief native political leader, Mahmoud Harbi.

Though he won the Croix de guerre fighting for the French in World War II, 37-year-old Mahmoud Harbi is now a fervid admirer of Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser, whose radio propaganda urges the Somalis to rise up and expel their colonial masters. Harbi is Somali-land’s only Deputy to the French National Assembly, but he campaigned vigorously for a non vote. He dreams of the day when Somalia (a U.N. trusteeship administered by Italy but slated for independence in 1960) and British Somaliland, a protectorate that is also moving toward independence, will join French Somaliland in forming one nation of 2,000,000 people.

After his own countrymen repudiated him by voting for De Gaulle’s constitution, Harbi was in danger of being removed from office. He fell back on the favorite strategy of desperate Somali politicians—exploiting the bloody rivalry between the Somalis and the nomadic Dana-kils who make up nearly half the population. When a Somali or a Danakil decides to do an enemy in, he usually seals his victory by castrating his victim.

Should he be thrown out of office, cried Harbi, all power would fall into the hands of the hated Danakils. The Somalis rallied to the cry, voted as a bloc to keep him on as vice president of the Cabinet. Last week street fighting broke out between the feuding tribes in the capital city of Djibouti. Among those arrested by police who broke up the battle was none other than Vice President Harbi himself, who had just been banged over the head with a stone. On the grounds that street fighting is no way for a public official to behave, the Paris-appointed French Governor ousted Somaliland’s No. i national leader from the government.

TIME.

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