Ahmed Warsama "Haji Sudi" / Xaaji Suudi Shabeel (1857–1920) is one of the founders of the Somali Dervish movement and second in command to Mohammed Abdullah Hassan. He was also the movement's right-hand man till its demise.[1][2] He hails from the Habar Jeclo clan of the Isaaq.

The Somali Dervish "Taariikhda Daraawiishta" 1899-1920

Haji Sudi was born approximately around 1857 in what's now Somaliland before the British occupation of the Somali coast. Nothing is known about his early life, but as most of the Somalis of his time his early life and youth was spent in the interior as a nomad. The nickname " Sudi" in Somali means hot tempered. In Somali language the term means hot or scourging temperature an indication of his temperament. Haji Sudi's real name was Warsame Omar (according to the modern family descendants) but to the British he was known as Ahmed Warsama before the dervish . Later during his dervish years he was popular as Haji Sudi.

The earliest record of Haji Sudi's life was his British navy stint as an interpreter commencing in 1884. He accompanied William Hewett on his mission to Abyssinia according to Cecil Lowther who hired him as a guide and a headman for his 1894 big game hunting expedition in Somaliland (From Pillar to Post).

"Haji Ahmed the interpreter and headman, a tall, slight fellow of thirty-five years of age, with close-shaven head immense mouth disclosing a row of gleaming teeth a great man in the estimation of all( having three times made the journey to Mecca having a fourth trip in prospect). He had been years in the English Navy as interpreter, an accompanied Admiral Hewitt on his mission to Abyssinia " [3]

In 1884-1885 Haji Sudi spent time as an interpreter during the Suakin Expedition directly observing the ways of the Sudanes Dervish during his work abroad HMS Ranger under William Hewett.[4]

“His purely political adherents were almost solely confined to a few dragomen and disgruntled Somalis residing in Aden, who cherished some personal grudge against the British Government. Typical of these was Haji Sudi, an ex-interpreter of the Royal Navy, who had been at Suakin and was conversant with Dervish customs, many of which he imported into Somaliland. For one and twenty years he was the Mullah's trusty lieutenant".[5]

" Haji Sudi was an ex-interpreter of the Royal Navy. He had been at Suakin and was conversant with Dervish ways and had imported many of their customs."[6]

In 1892 he accompanied John Walter Gregory to east Africa, Gregory observing Haji Sudi's habit and manners in 1892 expedition made the following observation regarding his character and his religious dervish devotions.

"The headman Wasama was also the priest of the Somali. His chant was the music which marked time at the dervish dances, and his the exhortations that roused the dancers to their wildest fury. At sunrise and sunset he stood on his praying-mat in front of the line of Somali, and led their devotions. But Wasama would never have preferred death to defilement ; when I mixed brandy with medicine for the sick men, he would give them the dose and swear that the "dowo" contained nothing unholy. He had been for some years an interpreter on a man-of-war, and there he had learnt not only " fo'castle English," but also the differences between an esoteric and an exoteric faith. He preached the one, but was always ready to practise the other, and his sermons were delivered in language of appalling profanity. I remember once when a Somali tried to shirk some work on the excuse that he was bound to go and pray. Wasama expounded the orthodox Mohammedan rules for prayer in language that would have scandalised Billingsgate. Often, when at his devotions in one corner of the camp, his keen eye would detect a man doing something that he ought not to do; Wasama would at once leap from his mat and hurl at the culprit a volley of blood-curdling oaths, and then drop on to his mat again to conclude the interrupted prayer. But in spite of his language, Wasama was a man who did high credit to the Somali race. He was kind-hearted, devoted, energetic, courageous, intelligent, and skilful.[7]

Joining the Tariqa at Kob Fardod (1897-1898)

Haji Sudi retired to the interior of Somaliland in the summer of 1897, after his headman career was abruptly ended after the Somali Coast administration imprisoned him on the recommendations of one Bertram Robert Mitford Glossop a big game hunter.[8] He retired to the interior to his hamlet among his brothers Baashe and Qeybdiid. Sometime between 1897 and 1898 Baashe his brother was killed in a tribal war with the neighboring Dolbahanta clan. Upon capturing Durraan one of the accused Qaybdid (Gaibdeed killed in Ferdiddin battle along his two sons) chose to release him and instead pursue traditional clan settlement. Some British colonial record claim that the Tariqa of Mohammed Abdullah Hassan interfered and meditated between the two clans thus introducing Sudi to the mullahs community at Kob Fardod, but most likely in late 19 century Somaliland due to the small populations and the nomadic nature of the tribes most notable somalis knew one another personnelly. During that time Qaybdid the brother of Sudi married Hassan's paternal aunt. Captain McNeill in his book " in pursuit of the Mad Mullah" having faced Haji Sudi, the Mulah and sultan Nur in the first expeditions narrated this version of Sudi's brother murder and Sudi's joining the Tariqa or Zawiya (institution) at Kob Fardod:

"The way in which he came to be an adherent of Mahomed Abdullah is worthy of mention, as throwing some light on the latter's character, and showing how well he could adopt a conciliatory policy towards those whom he wished to gain over to his side. Ahamed Warsama belonged to the Adan Madoba tribe, and one day, just when the Mullah was beginning to make his power felt, Mullah turned to the latter (Ali Gheri) and threatened to use all his influence, religious and temporal, against them, and to bring down on them all the other tribes who were under his influence unless they obeyed. As the Ali Gheri have very large herds both of sheep and camels, this would have been a grand chance for the neighboring tribes, of which they would not have hesitated to avail themselves. The result of this threat was that the Ali Gheri agreed not only to restore the looted camels, but to pay another hundred as blood -money for the death of Haji Sudi's brother. Thus the latter gained a hundred camels, and the Mullah got as an adherent a man whose experience of the world, and of the British Sahib and his ways, was of the greatest use to him, Haji Sudi having been headman to various expeditions, and having also spent some time as interpreter on an English man-of-war. In addition to Somali he could speak English, Hindustani, Arabic, and Swahili, so he was not a man whose services could be lightly dispensed with. It has often made me think with regret of the many times I could have blown this rascal's head off in 1895 if I had only known! At the same time he might have done the same to me, if he had only known what the future was to be. " [9]

“In 1895 after which he returned to his tariga, Kob Fardod, in the Dolbahanta. Here he gradually acquired influence by stopping inter-tribal warfare, and eventually started a religious movement in which the Rer Ibrahim (Mukabil Ogaden) Ba Hawadle (Miyirwalal Ogaden) and the Ali Gheri(Dolbahanta) were the first to join. His emissaries also soon succeeded in winning over the Aden Madoba, notable amongst whom was Haji Sudi, his trusted lieutenant, and Ahmed Farih and reer Yuusuf, all Habr Toljaala, and the Musa Ismail of the Eastern Habr Yunis, with Sultan Nur.”[10]

When did exactly Haji Sudi joined the tariqa is not known but its generally between 1897 and 1898 when the majority of his clan joined the Tariqa at Kob Fardod.

What's is well-known is that by the outbreak of the dervish rebellion in Aug. 1899 Sudi was among the top five (Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, Haji Sudi, Deria Arrale, Deria Gure and Nur Ahmed Aman ) wanted leaders of the movement.[11]

The British and dervish wars 1901–1905.

Samala June 2–3, 1903.

Before dispatching forces to face the Dervish at Samala Consul-General Hayes Salder made the following instructions to the overall commander of the forces Eric John Eagles Swayne:

"In the unlikely event of the: Mullah offering to surrender, in his case and that of the Following: Ahmed Warsama (known as Haji Sudi), Deria Arale , Deria Gure Only an unconditional surrender should be accepted no guarantee of any kind to future treatment been given. Sultan Nur the late sultan of the Habr Yunis, may be guaranteed his life." J. Hayes-Sadler, His Britannic Majesty's Consul-General, Somali Coast Protectorate. Aden April 11, 1901."[12]

By December 1900, 17 officers were sent from Britain and from India 50 Punjabi were sent to operate the maxim guns by the spring of 1901 1,100 men in addition to 400 mounted infantry on ponies and 100 camel sowars and numerous Ishaak spearmen, all Somalis from the disaffected tribes were ready for battle.[13] To prevent the Dervish to flee west across the Ethiopian border Ethiopian cooperation were sought and the Abyssinian king sent a force of 8,000 soldiers in January 1901, the Ethiopian operations began at once 3 months before the British expeditions, the Ethiopians managed to push the dervish across the Somaliland border and punish the clans who were involved in assisting the dervish.

On May 22 Swayne’s forces in their way burned the entire settlement leaving only the mosque. Their next operation was to punish clans that supported the Mullah, the seized 3,500 camels from the Habr Toljaalaa Adan Madoba[14] and the Dolbahanta Jama Siad[15] On June 2 these tribes along with dervish forces attacked McNeill’s zariba at Samala to rustle back their herds, having failed to regain their stuck both the dervish and their clan allies retreated on June 3. Subsequently, it came to the knowledge of Swayne that the Mullah initially wanted to attack Swayne’s zariba but Sultan Nur persuaded the dervish an attack on McNeill’s zariba would yield some 400 rifles.[16][17]

The Dervish fleeing accidentally encountered the column of Swayne another chase ensued but the dervish managed to escape. The chase continued till the dervish crossed in to the Haud. Later in June 1901 finally the dervish encountered Swayne’s forces, reported by a The London Times correspondence on June 22, 1901 sent a report of the various campaigns describing the next encounter after Samala reported:

"Prisoners asserted that the Mullah had sworn on the Koran to attack us that day, whatever the consequences might be, and Colonel Swayne therefore determined to anticipate him. We prepared to attack the largest body—that on the left side of the valley. The Camel Corps and Mounted Infantry at once moved out, and had proceeded some three miles, when scouts reported that the whole plain beyond the hill was simply swarming with men, both horse and foot, and that an attack' by the Mullah himself, with a large body of cavalry, on the rear of the column, was imminent. It was at once decided to zariba all the transport at the foot' of a small hill under the protection of two companies, and to engage the whole of the enemy with the remainder. Captain Mereweather, with a portion of the Mounted Infantry, was sent back to cover this movement of a large body of the ~ enemy's cavalry began to enter the' valley by an opening in the hills in the rear of our force. They advanced on the Mounted Infantry, firing as they came. The remainder of the Mounted Infantry and the Camel Corps were then reinforced by Captain. Mereweather, and after a few rounds from the Maxim the enemy began to move towards a defile' in the hills. The Mounted and Camel Corps at once started off at a hard galloping pursuit, and' after exciting long chase of about six miles caught up the enemy at the entrance to a "deep gorge in: the hills. At this point some 20-of the enemy were slain, their losses killed during the pursuit being about 100. Our losses were two killed, five wounded,and seven horses killed. The retreat -here became a total rout. As the enemy went ' they dropped rifles and ammunition. Much of their ammunition is of the most deadly kind, flat-nosed bullets, split bullets, and soft-nosed bullets, with crosses cut in the tips, figuring prominently. It appeared certain that all three of the enemy's leaders were in front of our men. Namely, the Mad Mullah himself, Haji Sudi , and Sultan Nur, and we needed no further incentive to do our best. At intervals, hand to land fights took place, and the losses of the enemy were evinced by the number of rider less horses”.[18]

Ferdiddin July 17, 1901.

Crossing the border into Italian Somalia by July the dervish encamped at Ferdiddin .Swayne waited until a permission of the Italian was obtained, along few of his forces and 350 Dolbahnata tribemen they attacked the Dervish at Ferdiddin: Sawyne describing Firdiddin :

“On getting this news I moved my force from Bohotele via Yaheyl and Weyla Hedd to Firdiddin, and attacked the Mullah at later place. The Mullah's Mijjertein rifelmen were in considerable strength with Lebel and Martini-henry rifles. His force were however scattered, and he himself was driven back into Italian territory.The Mijjertein lost heavily, and also the Mullah's own family. His brother-in-law, Gaibdeed, was killed, as well as two sons-in-law, Haji Sudi's brother and nephews, &c. Sultan Nur's camels and the Mullah's cattle were captured. The pursuit was carried on into the bush in the Haud”[19]

“I was impressed with the danger of the Dervish movement. Until I actually saw the Mullah’s men fighting, I had no idea that a Somali could be so influenced by fanaticism. I am speaking of the Dervishes, the men who, following the custom of the Suakin Dervishes, have thrown over father and mother and their own tribe to follow the Mullah. They have passwords, wear a white turban and special bravery, and have sworn to throw up all worldly advantages. Of course a certain number even of these Dervishes have joined the Mullah simply for the sake of loot, but there are, on the other hand, a considerable number who are pure fanatics. At Ferdiddin and at McNeill’s Zeriba these were the men who led and who were shot down. At Ferdiddin, after the others had fled, a number of these men remained behind to fight to end, and were shot down as we advanced. When recording the name of the enemy’s dead, I found that a large number were Hajis or Sheikhs.”

Erigo/Erego October 6–7, 1902.[20] By June 10, Musa Farah's detached Levy of 450 rifles had reached Kurmis. After collecting 5,000 tribesmen from the western side of the Protectorate, Musa Farah had transported them across the waterless Haud where it was over 100 miles broad, had attacked the western Dervish encampments, had routed them in all directions, and had finally succeeded in transporting his force back across the Haud, together with his captured livestock, amounting to 1,630 camels, 200 cows, and 2,000 sheep. For this service His Majesty King Edward VII rewarded the Risaldar-Major with a sword of honour.[21]

In December 1901 the Dervish raided the a sub sections of the Habr Tojaalaa and on February 1, 1902, news reached the Somaliland protectorate British authority that the Dervish were planning a raid against the tribes from their positions east of the protectorate. On February 7 and 13, the dervishes waged a devastating attack on Habr Yunis and Dolbahnata tribes men east of Burao. The London Gazette reported "On the 7th February, the Mullah had despatched another raiding force against our Jama Siad friendly tribes, 100 miles to the east of the scene of his raid of the 13th February, and here again our tribes suffered heavily. Burao and Berbera became filled with destitute refugees and 2000 persons were fed daily at Burao alone.[22] 1903 [23]

On the first week of October the Somali and Yoas led by few British officers at last arrived within the reach of their enemies. They formed a Zariba in a clearing Awan Eergo in a very dense bush, and around 4.pm the enemy were hiding in all the surrounding bushes . The British led forces were compelled to advance slowly, immediately the Dervish attacked from all directions causing the British led forces front line to fall back in a disarray, but the rear companies stood firm holding their position, the 2nd King African Rifles and 6th King Africans Rifles in the extreme right and left however fell back in a sudden panic, rescued by one-half company in the front the troops rallied and held their ground under intense fire. In the severity of the fight the transport camels stampeded with the 2nd African Rifles and two Somali companies Ltd Swayne managed to push the enemies for 2 miles and recover 1,800 of the transport camels. in the aftermath of the battle it was discovered a maxim gun was missing, casualties included 2 officers killed and 56 levies . Both the Somali and Yoa performed great in the 6th but on the 7th of October the severity of the fight sunk their spirit and the officers leading the forces complained that they couldn't rely on their men. The dervish in the other hand lost greatly, some 62 death 40 of them Hajis and Mullahs and all 6 commanders of their force were killed[24]

At the conclusion of the first and second expeditions, the British administrations and the colonial office were satisfied at the conclusion of the first two expeditions, despite the leaders of the Dervish all not been either killed or captured. Gabriel Ferrand, the Vice-Council of France following these events observed that "Neither the Mahdi nor his chief advisor Ahmed Warsama, better known under the name Haji Sudi, nor the Sultan Nur,leader of the Habr Younis clan were killed or captured. The optimism Colonel Sadler and Lieutenant-Colonel Swayne in the latest reports relating to military operations is inexplicable." [25]

Gumburu April 17, 1903 and Daratoleh April 22, 1903.

The third expedition was launched Jaunray 3rd 1903 with a new commander Sir William Henry Manning . The plane was to encircle and trap the dervish from all sides. The main body of the forces were to advance from Obbia in Italian Somalia to the wells of Galkayo while one land at Berbera and form lines through Bohotleh. The dervish leaders upon hearing news of the Obbia forces landing with a body of horsemen left for Milmil and Haradiggitt rallying tribal allies:

Towards the end of march news reached the British forces of whereabouts the bulk of the dervish forces. Defectors and captives claimed the dervish forces were in Galadi. A reconnaissance patrol led by captain Plunkett was sent by Manning to Galadi where they met the bulk of the dervish forces majority made of Somali Bantu clans of the Makana and Derjele tribes. Between 16-17 of April the British small forces made up of Somalis, Indians and Yaos were encircled from all directions and decimated. All 9 officers were killed and 89 rank and file were killed. The battle took place in a small hill Gumburu close to Galadi. Before the news of the disaster at Gumburu made it to the British forces another column from Bohotleh forces engaged another dervish forces at Daratoleh the later forces were defeated by the British forces.

The bulk of the main dervish forces without their tribal allies moved to Halin in June 1903;

"A deserter from the enemy stated that the Mullah. accompanied by Haji Sudi and Sultan Nur, with a large forces of horse and footmen, reached Kurmis on 8th June, camped near Lasakante on 9th June , and moved towards Dannot early on 10th June on their way towards the Nogal. On 12th June mounted scout could not get through from Bohotle to Dannot owing to the numbers of the enemy's horsemen watching the road. On 13th June two deserters from the mullah came into Bohotle and stated that the Mullah with his whole force was on his way to Nogal with a view of establishing his Haroun at Halin. Intelligence Report from 11th July 1903".[26]

4 August 1903. — deserter from the Mullah, nameed Abbas Isman (Ibrahim), came into Bohotle at 5.30 a.m. His story is as follows Haji Sudi is still his trusted adviser. Sultan Nur still lives with the Mullah, but no longer is keen to help him. Abbas was with the Mullah at Wardair during the fight. When the fight was over a horseman galloped to Wardair and announced that the English had been wiped out. The Mullah immediately mounted his pony, Dodimer and rode hard to the field of battle.[27][28]

Jidballi January 10, 1904.[29] Charles Egerton

This was not the mere handful they had fought at Samala, at Gumburu, or at Daratoleh. It was no reconnaissance, nor yet was it a hastily recruited tribal levy such as they had faced at Ferdhiddin or Erigo. In comparison General Egerton’s force at Jidbali must have seemed to them a mighty army; and, in very truth, it comprised some of the best seasoned British, Indian, and African troops at the Empire’s disposal. On the other hand, the Darwishes numbered from 6000 to 8000 fighting men, representing the pick of the Mullah’s forces.

His activities 1906–1919

1914: telegram from Commissioner of the Somaliland Protectorate to Secretary of State for the Colonies 13th August 1914, anticipated Dervish concentration in the Ain has not materialised. No further developments reported from Jidali except successful spread of Dervish propaganda in that locality by the ex naval interpreter Haji Sudi. [30]

According to Hastings Ismay, 1st Baron Ismay during his years in service in Somaliland 1915-1920 on March 1917 haji Sudi begin building Surud forts. [31]

Haji Sudi's death; the last expedition 1920

During the last campaign on January and February 1920 most of the dervish forts in Surad ranges ( Jid Ali, Boran , Medishi ) were aerially bombarded by R.A.F. Haji Sudi then was in Medishi with most of the leaders of the dervish, where the first bombardment began. In the ensuing collapse of the dervish Haji Sudi along most of the dervish headed south to their largest fort in the low land Taleh. On the 5th or 6th of February Haji Sudi forces along with the northern dervish commander Ibrahim Bogol engaged in a fight with the Somali tribal forces of 500 lead by Risaldar Major Haji Musa Farah. Haji Sudi and Ibrahim Bogol both leaders of the dervish forces were killed. ."[32]

Catalogue “de Havilland”, No.1164, (1996 Squadron/Signal, Publications) the Royal Air Force (RAF) Museum in London

See also


  1. ^ Sun, Sand and somals: leaves from the note-book of a district commissioner by Henry Rayne
  2. ^ Imperialismo e Ressitenza In Corn d'Africa: Mohammed Abdullah Hassan e il derviscismo somalo by Gerarado Nicolos.
  3. ^ From Pillar To Post by Lowther, Cecil, Sir, 1869–1940; Kipling, Rudyard, 1865–1936. p.22.
  4. ^ for the expedition see ,Sudan: 1885. By Michael Tyquin.
  5. ^ Mad Mullah Of Somaliland, Douglas Jardin, p. 49-50
  6. ^ Official History of the Operation Volume 1 p.49
  7. ^ p.358, The Great Rift Valley: being the narrative of a journey to Mount Kenya and Lake Baringo : with some account of the geology, natural history, anthropology and future prospects of British East Africa by Gregory, J. W. (John Walter), 1864–1932. Published 1896.
  8. ^ Sporting trips of a subaltern by Glossop, Bertram Robert Mitford.1906.p.92-93
  9. ^ In Pursuit Of the Mad Mullah by Malcolm McNeill pp. 112-114.
  10. ^ Official History of the Operation Volume 1, p.49
  11. ^ Official history of the operations in Somaliland, 1901–04 by Great Britain. War Office. General Staff Published 1907.p.56
  12. ^ Official History of the Operations in Somaliland. 1901–1904 Vol. I p. 54
  13. ^ F.O. 2/2479, Sadler tel. to Lansdowne, no.18, 15 Mar. 1901, and no.21, 5 Apr. 1901.
  14. ^ Official History of the operations Volume 1. 1907. P.73.
  15. ^ The British Somaliland Protectorate to 1905. By A.M. Brockett, p. 324, Lincoln College , Oxford , 1969.
  16. ^ In pursuit of the mad mullah by Malcolam McNeil, p.123
  17. ^ http://querv.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FB0910F93A5DlA728DDDAA0A94DE405B818CF1D3
  18. ^ https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/OAM19010902.2.39
  19. ^ Command Papers volume 69 1902. Page 15.
  20. ^ Frontier and Overseas Expeditions from India Volume VI, Expeditions Overseas, reprinted by The Naval & Military Press Ltd.
  21. ^ Mad Mullah Of Somaliland ,1923. P.78. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  22. ^ The London Gazette, September 2, 1904.
  23. ^ The dervish were brutal in their sudden attacks on the tribes , sparing not women and children and it has become a mark of their 20 years long campaign [Cd. 1394] Africa. No. 1 (1903). Correspondence respecting the rising of the Mullah Muhammed Abdullah in Somaliland and consequent military operations, 1901-1902.pp7-9
  24. ^ .[Cd. 1394] Africa. No. 1 (1903). Correspondence respecting the rising of the Mullah Muhammed Abdullah in Somaliland and consequent military operations, 1901-1902.pp85-87
  25. ^ Les Çomâlis. .Ferrand, Gabriel,1903. p.268.
  26. ^ Official history of the operations in Somaliland, 1901-04 by Great Britain. War Office. General Staff Published 1907.
  27. ^ Official History Of The Operations in Somaliland,1907, p. 410-412, 1901-04 volume 1.
  28. ^ A captain of the Gordons service experiences 1900–1909, edited by his mother Mrs. Margaret Miller, and his sister Helen Russell Miller.p.177
  29. ^ Frontier and Overseas Expeditions from India Volume VI, Expeditions Overseas, reprinted by The Naval & Military Press Ltd.
  30. ^ Folio 81: ADM 137/10/3
  31. ^ Ismay: 3/1/20 " Notes on Dervish personalities" King's college collections.
  32. ^ Sun, Sand and Somals - Leaves from the Note-Book of a District Commissioner. By H. Rayne,