Divide and Rule in British Somaliland

The Crows Plucked Your Sinews, is a play written and directed by Hassan Mahamdallie, that was performed at The Curve theatre in Leicester between February 22 and 24.  Here follows a transcription of a segment of an interview that the Director gave to Live! Arts Radio Birmingham in February 2016:

“There’s a whole area of politics and geopolitics today that were encouraged to not to talk about, or we are told not to talk about, or we fear talking about — or making the links. I wanted to make the links in this play between what we do over there and the impact on our lives over here, and the legacy of violence, and the notion that violence can be used to solve problems for humanity.

“The way in which the British dealt with the rise of this particular anti-colonial figure was divide and rule, as they did in other areas of the Empire at the time. These actions set a time-bomb ticking under Somalian society, which then led directly to the civil war, which then led directly to Somalis being dispersed across the world, including going to places like Woolwich in SouthEast London. So history lives with us today. I wanted to try to explore how now we’re meddling in other places of the world like the Middle East, Iraq, Libya, Syria, you name it, and how actually that is going to have repercussions in the future. And what I am interested in, I guess, is not drawing direct parallels, but looking at these cycles of history and violence, and dispersal, and division, and violence and retribution, and how actually it is impacting upon us all. …

“I did a lot of research for the play, so I tried to get as many books as I could on Mohammed ‘Abdille Hassan that are printed in English. I also searched the Public Records Office for dispatches that were sent back via the British Administration in British Somaliland to the British Government, and reports of political officers and things like that. I also found a lecture that was given by an officer who’d been involved in the campaign against Mohammed ‘Abdille Hassan to fellow soldiers looking at his military tactics.

“One of the things that I was, not surprised to see, but was interesting to see, was that the British in their newspaper reports called him the Mad Mullah, and they said he was a religious fanatic. When they talked about him in private they said, (1) he wasn’t mad, (2) he had just cause, even though they had to fight him because they were trying to uphold the British Empire, and (3) that he was a military genius. But they said that amongst themselves. In public they accused him of all sorts of things, cannibalism and being a religious fanatic and so forth. And so what was interesting was that notion that what the powers that be say about people in public and what they say to one-another about that particular person.”

Manchester, United Kingdom – Tuesday 26 January 2016, THE CROWS PLUCKED YOUR SINEWS – Written and directed by Hassan Mahamdallie, Performed by Yusra Warsama and Abdelkader Saadoun at Contact Theatre Manchester.

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