History, European Colonization
trust territory, British protectorate, Italian Somaliland, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Suez Canal
The first European power in the region was Britain. In order to protect British trade routes and provide safe anchorage for ships, Britain took possession of Aden (now in the Republic of Yemen) on the Arabian coast in 1839. Subsequently, about 1875, Egypt, disregarding Turkish claims, occupied some of the towns on the Somali coast and part of the adjacent interior. When the Egyptian troops left the area in 1882 to help stem the revolt of Muhammad Ahmad (known as the Mahdi) in the Sudan, Britain occupied the territory in order to safeguard the route to India through the Suez Canal, which had been opened in 1869. In 1887 a British protectorate, known as British Somaliland, was proclaimed. The protectorate, initially a dependency of Aden, was placed under the administration of the British Foreign Office in 1898 and of the Colonial Office in 1905.
Italian interest in the Somali coast developed in the late 19th century. By the terms of the treaties with native Somali sultans, and conventions with the United Kingdom, Ethiopia, and Zanzibar, Italy acquired a foothold along the Indian Ocean coast.
British control of the interior of the protectorate was challenged by native revolts between 1899 and 1910. In 1910 the British abandoned the interior and withdrew to the coastal regions. They finally subdued the rebels in 1920. During this period Italy extended control over the area inland from the Indian Ocean coast by the Treaty of London in 1915 and by various postwar agreements. In 1936 Italy merged Italian Somaliland, Eritrea, and the newly conquered Ethiopia into the colonial state of Italian East Africa. After the Italian entrance into World War II (1939-1945) on the side of Germany in 1940, Italian troops invaded British Somaliland and succeeded in expelling the British. The United Kingdom reconquered its protectorate in 1941.
By the terms of the Italian peace treaty adopted in 1947, Italy was forced to renounce title to the possessions in Africa, and responsibility for disposition of these colonies was allocated to the so-called Big Four (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR). In 1948 the Big Four, having failed to reach an agreement on disposition, referred the matter to the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN). A plan granting independence to Italian Somaliland after ten years as a UN trust territory under Italian administration was approved by the General Assembly in November 1949. On April 1, 1950, after Italy had accepted the terms of a UN trusteeship agreement, the British military government was replaced by a provisional Italian administration. The territory was named Somalia.
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