Southwest State of Somalia: Land, People and History

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Azania is a name given by ancient Greeks to a region in the Horn of Africa extending from Djibouti to Northern coast of Tanzania. Later Ptolemaic seafarers defined as the region stretching from port of Adulis in Eritrea today across the straits of Bab Al-Mandab to Cape Guardafui then to Cape Agul has today's Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. This region includes the hinterlands of most of modern Somalia.

However, it is believed that ancient Egyptians called the North and Northeastern part of the Horn as the Land of Punt and the south and southwestern part as Azania. In other wards Azania would cover what is today's Central Somalia, Ethiopia's Harar Province, the Riverine regions of Southern Somalia, and Northern Province of Kenya.

PEOPLES OF AZANIA

The inhabitants of Azania are the Reewin or Reewing, sometimes transcribed as "Rahanweyn," "Rahanwein," or "Reewung". They are one of the largest ethnic groups in the Horn of Africa. The majority of the Reewing practice some form of agro-pastoralism (mixed herding and farming).

The Reewing are divided into two major clans, the Digil and the Mirifle, who claim to be brothers and descendants of Mat or Mad, historically known by the eponym Mat Reewing, Digil being the older son and Mirifle being the younger.

The Digil mainly inhabit the coastal regions and the adjacent Hinterlands, while Mirifle live in the central and southwestern parts of modern Somalia and Ethiopia. Significant group of them reside in Northeastern Kenya.

The Mirifle fall into two main branches: the Sagaal, or "nine," and the Siyeed, or "eight."

The Sagaal are:

1. Lammy Gannaany "the two of Gannany, which is another name for Juba River," and they are: a) the Gassara Gudy, b) and the Gobawiing.

2. Lammy Eel Qody "the two from the Qody well," and they are: (a) theJilibly, (b) and theGeelidly.

3. Lammy Boroosily "the two of Boroosily," which are: (a) the Hadamy, ( b) and the Luway.

4. Lammy Dhahy "the two of Dhaahy," which are (a) the Hubeer, (b) and the Yantaar.

5. And the Eyly "Eeyli"

The Siyeed are:

1. Afar Reer Bay "the four of Bay," which are: (a) the Mallyng Wiiny, (b) the Reer Dumaal, (c) the Jiroong, (d) and theGarwaaly.

2. Lammy Midoowy "the two darks," which are: (a) theHariing, (b) and the Eelay.

3. Lammy Harqaang "the two of Harqaang," which are: (a) the Laysaang, (b) and the Haraw.

4.Boqol Hore Which Are Disow, Emid Qomal And Yalale, 5. Waanjal, 6. Heledi, 7. Ashraaf

The Digil: on the other hand are seven clans, known as todobaadi aw Digil (the seven Digil).

1. the Geledy , 2. the Bogody, 3. the Dabyrry, 4. the Jiiddy 5. the Tunny, 6. the Garre or Karre, 7. theReer Dafeed.

In addition, there are communities that have no ethnic affiliation with the Digil Mirifle but cohabited in Azania for centuries or millenniums. These include the coastal people of Reer Hamar, Reer Barawa and Bajuni. They are of Afro-Asiatic mix, like the Swahilis of East Africa.

Another group that do not fall under the Digil Mirifle, but reside in Azania are the Reer Goleed, sometimes called Jhereer or Jareer (hard-hairs) who are descendants of East African slaves.

Since 1991, this group is called the Somali Bantu. Moreover, there are low caste groups such as tummal, boong and moddy. Azania's location, its fertile land and relative mild weather was favorable to attract migrants from within the Horn of Africa such as Hawiye and Darood clans as well as peoples of Southern Arabia, Persia, Southeast Asia and Polynesia i.e. Arabs, Iranians, Indians and Indonesians. Finally, there are sheegat "adopted clans" assimilated in the native Digil Mirifle clan.

LANGUAGE

Azanians speak several languages, including Af-Jiddy, Af-Dabyrry, Ki-Swahili, Orominya, Af-Adari, Ki-Chimini, but all speak Af-Maay, and use it as lingua franca. Modern linguistic studies suggest that the Azanian languages are some of the oldest languages in the Horn of Africa and less influenced by Asiatic languages.

HISTORY

Located at the juncture of the Arabian and African tectonic plates, the Eastern (Great) Rift Valley, Azania is one of the oldest regions of the Horn of Africa. There are Paleoanthropological excavations in Azania, where the most significant sites are in the Doi region such as Buur Heybe "the mountain of the clay sand," referring to the abundant clay materials available in the area. Historically, Buur Heybe has been an important political and religious center of the area.

The oral tradition of the Doi belt suggests the existence of pre-Islamic dynasties using Buur Heybe as their Headquarters. In the 1930s, archaeologists found partial skeletons of Australopithecus Afarensis in rock shelters, dating back to 3 million years ago. The pre-historic aspect of Buur Heybe is also evident in the history of pottery production in the region and the survival of prehistoric form of hunting practiced by the Eyle (hunters with dogs) even today.

The region had commercial ties with ancient Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Indians and Polynesians. Mesopotamians called it "Black land of Meluha," and Egyptians called it "the land of gods, the Arabs named as "Bilad al-Zanj," and the Greeks referred as "Azania," just to mention some. The navigational value of the monsoon winds boosted the trade in the Indian Ocean particularly with the rise of Islam. Azania ports of Mogadishu, Merca, Brawa and Lamu flourished.Muslims of Azania established also some powerful hinterland states and emirates such as Lug, Bali, Hadya and Harar just to mention some.

During the colonial times, the region suffered from colonial partition. South of Juba River "Oltre Juba," fall under British and incorporated with Kenya where the Inter-riverine areas, between Juba and Shabelle, went with Italy amalgamated with the Hawiya and Darood territories of Hiran, Mudug and Mijurtinia, today Puntland. The northwestern parts went with Ethiopia. Under these diverse colonial administrations, the Reewing suffered a lot from colonial exploitation.

From independence to the fall of Mohamed Siad Bare the region and its people started losing their historical identity. Under the name of nationalism and homogeneity their culture eroded; their languages were banned and they were marginalized.

Their historical regions were repartitioned and broken down into several regions to accommodate the Hawiye and Darood expansion and migration. Out of resettlement schemes of 1973/74, new regions were carved such as Gedo for Marehan, Middle Juba and Bakool for Ogaden, Lower Juba for Harti.

The historic Banadir was scrambled to become Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle and Mogadishu for both Hawiye and Darood.

In March, 1995, in the midst of the Civil War, the Reewing established their own autonomous state, the Reverine State, with two houses; an elected house of representative presided by Dr. Hassan Sheikh Ibrahim "Hassey," and the House of elders chaired by Malak Mukhtar Malak Hassan, the traditional Chief of Chiefs of the Reewing people. However, in September 17, seven months later, this initiative was aborted and the Riverine State was overthrown by Mohamed Farah Aideed.

In 1997, the Somali Peace and Reconciliation Conference, held at Sodere, Ethiopia recognized that, the Reewing or Digil Mirifle will have the same political claims as the Hawiye, Darood and Dir in Somali governance. At Mbeghati, Kenya, in 2004, one of their languages Af-Maay was acknowledged as another official Somali language.

ADMINISTRATIVE REGIONS

Azania
falls in six regions: Shibeely (Shabelle), with capital Afgoy; Doi, with capital Bur Hakaba; Dehy (Banadir), with capital Mogadishu; Jubba, with capiatal Lug; Adybly (Adable), with capital Bardhera; and Gol, with capital Kismayu.

HEADQUARTERS:
Baidoa City.

MAJOR ECONOMIC RESOURCES:

This include, agriculture resources such as grain, corn, sesames, bananas, mango; diverse marine resources; livestock and minerals i.e. gold and uranium.