British Somaliland in 1920

from : South and East African Year Book and Guide, 26th edition, 1920, pp. 521F, 543A-543B



Minor Transfers of Territory in East Africa, incident to the close of the War

British Somaliland. - There is a probability that access to the coast for Abyssinia may be effected by the concession of a narrow "corridor" in the West of British Somaliland, but this has not yet been confirmed.


Area, Population and Resources

British Somaliland is a comparatively small portion of the Somali territory that, forty years ago, formed what is known as "the Horn of Africa". Prior to 1884 this great extent of country was loosely held by a few Egyptian garrisons, which were withdrawn in that year owing to the rise of the Madhi. To avoid a relapse to barbarism and, at the same time, to conserve the country from possible annexation, it was divided between France, Italy, Abyssinia and Great Britain. Great Britain administered the territory allotted to it on the Gulf of Aden as a Protectorate under the Indian Office. The extreme southern portion of Somaliland, between the Juba and Tana Rivers, was incorporated with British East Africa. In 1898, the Protectorate was transferred to the Colonial Office.
The area of British Somaliland is about 68,000 square miles with a coast line of about 400 miles; its population, a mixed race of the Mahommedan religion, are estimated at about 300,000, but as it is largely nomadic, an approximation only is possible. The alien population at the three coast towns of Berbera, Bulhar and Zeyla was in 1911 - Indian 741, Arab 1,857, and mixed, 798.
The climate is hot and usually arid, the highest temperature registered at Berbera in 1916 was 111 degrees, the lowest 62 degrees. The rainfall is uncertain and badly distributed. During the monsoons, rainstorms are apt to occur, which for a few hours, may transform the dry gullies into impassable torrents.

Year

1914-15
1915-16
1916-17
Revenue

L 23,831
29,270
40,400
Expenditure

L 113,283
124,467
125,624


The Parliamentary Grant-in-aid for the last two years were, respectively, L 89,000 and L 85,000.

Currency. - The monetary unit is the Rupee, which was usually reckoned for exchange purposes at 15 to the sovereign, but is now (Oct. 1919) much higher. The smaller Indian coinage of pice and annas is in use. There are no banks.

Year

1914-15
1915-16
1916-17
Imports

Rs. 3,043,250
3,176,710
4,529,832
Exports

Rs. 2,643,395
2,858,947
3,300,621
Total

Rs. 5,686,645
6,035,657
7,830,453


The imports for 1916-17 excluding specie to the value of Rs. 300,776 amounted to Rs. 4,529,832. The principal headings were : - Country grey sheetings, Rs. 654,271; Europe white long cloth, Rs. 176,906; dates, Rs. 238,178; jowaree, Rs. 294,662; and rice, Rs. 199,285.
Exports include cattle, sheep and camels, largely to Aden, hides, gums (such as frankincense and myrrh), coffee etc.

Shipping
1915-16 1916-17


Entered
Cleared
Nos.

1,645
1,651
Tons

71,294
71,227
Nos.

1,691
1,700
Tons

51,183
51,997


The police force numbered 228. There are about 500 convictions yearly at the District Courts. Murder and manslaughter in the interior are dealt with under tribal custom.

Education. - There are Government native schools at the three coast towns. Educated natives use Arabic, as Somali, strictly speaking, has never been a written language, although a few books, mainly religious, have been produced in foreign characters by Europeans.

The last few years have shown a marked advance in the settlement of the country. Under British rule crime, both on the coast and in the less accessible inland districts is diminishing, the caravan routes are secure and the increasing volume of the trade return indicate the gradual growth of peaceful industries.





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Last revised on February 13th 2002

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