Afbakayle is a 1905 poem by the Sayid Mohammed Abdullah Hassan made while he was in exile. The poem is a political poem which primarily deals with the topic of treachery and two-facedness, known as jeesjeesnimo in Somali. According to scholar Abdulqadir Sheik Abdi, the poem is a direct denunciation of those described as "friendly tribes" by the British, whom he describes as the Sayid's sworn arch-enemies. A repeated mantra in the poem used to describe the Somali colonial collaborators is naga ajoon waayey, meaning won't even flinch.
The poem Afbakayle is named after the first ever confrontation between the British colonial army and Darawiish. Afbakayle was a week-long battle of which the first phase pitted the Jama Siad Dhulbahante clan under a Darawiish banner against a British force under major Beynon.
Name and background edit
The long version of the name of this poem is Xuseenow caqligu kaama baxo which literally means, Oh Huseen, your memory never falters. The name Afbakayle, the shortened version title of the poem literally means the Hare's Mouth. This is in reference to the name of a week-long battle from 30 May 1901 which through to June 1901 between Darawiish forces and the British Empire's army and their African, including Somali conscripts.
The Afbakayle battle was the first confrontation between the British colonial army and the Darawiish. The first phase of that battle occurred on 30 May between Jama Siad Dhulbahante tribe under the Darawiish banner and the British colonial army under captain-major Beynon. A British war report described the Jama Siad Dhulbahante fighting against Major Beynon, the first Darawiish-British battle, as occurring on 30 May 1901:
Hearing from prisoners that some encampments of the Jama Siad section of the Mahmud Gerad tribe were some 50 miles off, near Mayo, on the left of the line of advance to Yahelli, Swayne seized the opportunity and sent off the mounted corps under Major Beynon to surprise them ... at Samala on arrival at 30 May, when news was brought in that the mounted corps had succeeded in surprising the Jama Siad sections of the Mahmud Gerad and capturing some stock.
The act of producing poetry and orations by Sayid Mohamed is usually chronicled to the post-Jidbaali period. In the 106th verse of the poem Gaala-leged, the Sayid claims to speak on behalf of the contemporaneous supreme garaad of the Ciid-Nugaal, Diiriye Guure; suggesting that the Sayid considered the Darawiish king Diiriye Guure as holding a more senior rank within the Darawiish than himself.
The first verse of the poem introduces Huseen Dhiqle and the poem initially directly speaks to Huseen Dhiqle. This section mostly discusses accusations levelled against Africans being shipped from all over the continent to fight Darawiish of being enablers of colonization, and extends this sentiment to Somalis who it further describes as nihilistic and hedonistic:
1 Xusenow caqligu kaama baxo, idam Ilaahaye
1 Oh Huseen, may God preserve your eidetic memory, that gift of yours
Prime minister Aw Cabbaas Xuseen edit
The person directly addressed in the following verses of this poem is Aw Cabbaas Xuseen Muuse, the first person to be killed for being a Darawiish in the fledgling moments of the 19th century when Aw Cbbaas Xuseen chaired a meeting with the Huwan as spokesperson for Darawiish. Aw Cabbaas Xuseen's death was significant as he was the first Darawiish prime minister:
Subeer elders secretly plotted to assassinate the Sayyid and the entire khusuusi council. Word of the conspiracy, however, leaked out before the assassination was carried out and the Sayyid leapt on his swift pony and escaped, but his prime minister and long-time friend, Aw 'Cabbas, fell to the conspirators.
15 Kuwii ubad nasaaraad noqdee, ferenji aanaysatay
15 those who ask to be adopted into a Christian foster home, and kowtow to their European overlords
Xenophilia & Uncle Toms edit
The following subset of verses speak about xenophilia and the demeanour of the Uncle Tom syndrome among the some African natives during the Scramble for Africa campaign. It also describes the people of Huwan as accomplices to Abyssinian eastward expansionism:
19 Nimankii amxaara u kacee, Adarinuu guurey
19 those who made themselves rootless by moving to Harar and dissimulating as Amhara Abyssinians
This section of verses speaks about the Ubaxcadday or Ubahadday of Harti. Ubahadde literally means fair-skinned flower, and the Ubahadday of Harti refers to a gaashaanbuur or confederation between the Dhulbahante and Warsangeli clans, both subsets of the Harti. Verse 30 of the oration Afbakayle says that Ubahcadde people were the ones executed en masse by the colonial forces, and by extension insinuating that Ubaxcadday were the Darawiish. Since the Afbakayle oration was released in the year 1905, this means that the Ubahadday confederation was in effect during this year, coinciding with the time when the Sayid married Bullo Shubato, the sister of Mohamoud Ali Shire.
30 Ee ubaxcaddaydii hartiga, oofta kaga joojay
30 those who have unlawfully and unjustifiably executed numerous Ubahadde (Ubaxcadday) people of the Harti
Women and children edit
Verse 37 states that the colonial forces robbed not only the camels of Darawiish men but also the goats belonging to women. Traditionally, the act of men robbing women was seen as cowardly and taboo. Here, the Sayid insinuates that colonial forces serving under Charles Egerton and Eric John Eagles Swayne were depraved suggesting that taking goats from women indicates they were degenerates who lacked a moral compass. It also seeks to establish a paradigm for masculinity and that women and children can be the main victims of war:
36 Nimankii uluuf iyo uluuf, igu agoomeeyey
36 those who are the reason why there's a long stream of parentless orphans aimlessly wandering about
Ijaaba (etiquette) edit
These following verses speak about customs and ijaaba (etiquette), as well as violations of war norms of the British colonial army vis-a-vis the laws of war:
42 Nimankii ijaabada ka tagay, aakhiru sabanka
42 those who are without ijaaba (etiquette), like its doomsday
The following verses are about the fury, ire, and wrath felt by the Sayid in the immediate aftermath of the Jidbali battle of 1904:
48 Ee urugadaan qabiyo ciil, igu abaadsiiyey
48 the level of resentment and sourness which I feel in my soul, one could only imagine
I made a suggestion at least ten years ago that this gentleman (sal. the Mullah) ought to be offered, say £2,000 per year, and then he would keep quiet. I do not really know that he has been doing any harm when let alone. I am perfectly certain that for a modest sum he would become entirely friendly to the British Government. And observe the saving it would be supposing you paid this gentleman, as is the custom of the Government in India to pay along the frontier subsidies to tribes as long as they kept quiet, whereas you have spent £4,000,000 and many lives in chasing him, and for what purpose I never could find out.— John Dillon, British MP
In response, the British Secretary of State said the following:
His Majesty's Government have also raised the question whether it would be possible to adopt towards the Mullah the policy which has been followed by the Indian Government in dealing with some of the tribes of the North-western frontier, and to come to some arrangement with him by which he would undertake to refrain from raids on British territory in return for the payment of an annual subsidy.— Alfred Lyttelton, Secretary of State
The conclusion of the Afbakayle poem considers these offers of rapprochement as two-faced and duplicitous in light of previous hostilities:
53 Waxba yey addoomaha Ilaah, nooga aargudine
53 after all that, why should I now trust your offers of restitution?
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- Historical Dictionary of Somalia , Mohamed Haji Mukhtar · 2003, PAGE 27
- Official history of the operations in Somaliland 1901-1904, pge 65
- 78. GUDBAN (GAAL-LEGED); Diiwaanka Gabayadii Sayid Maxamed Cabdulle Xasan
- Diiwaanka gabayadii, 1856-1921 - Maxamad Cabdulle Xasan · 1999 , PAGE 26
- Oral Poetry and Somali nationalism, p 121, Said Samatar
- Parliamentary Papers - Volume 66 - Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons , 1910 , PAGE 27