|Duke of the Abruzzi in Mogadishu|
The rule of Italy over Somalia was careful to respect existing native institutions. Friendly rulers maintained their traditional positions, the clan structure of native society was kept in place and Islam remained upheld as the dominant religion of the colony. Some Somali warriors earned great fame during this period and a unit served as the escort of the Italian Viceroy of East Africa. The Sultan of Olol Dinle, for example, led his Somali troops in several victories on the southern front in the war in Ethiopia. During World War II they were among the last Italian forces still holding out in Ethiopia against the Allied invasion and put up such a heroic fight against impossible odds that when finally forced to surrender the British received them with full military honors. They had earlier participated in the conquest of British Somaliland which was particularly important to them as it was the first time that all the Somali tribes became united under one flag. Of course, the war brought the end of the colonial period but in terms of the local economy and the standard of living of both the Somalis and the Italian settlers, Somalia under Italian rule had been one of the most advanced and successful parts of Africa.
|Princess Maria in Mogadishu|
Unfortunately, since becoming totally independent as the Somali Republic in 1960 the condition of Somalia has deteriorated rapidly. Within a decade a brutal communist dictatorship seized power, erecting the “Somali Democratic Republic” which held power until 1991 when it was toppled in the Somali Civil War. The Italian Republic dispatched troops to try to keep the peace but the effort was minimal and the country has all but fallen apart completely. No government or faction has held control over the whole of Somalia since 1991 and the country has fractured with warlords fighting each other for power and position while the people starve, are murdered or forced into rival tribal gangs. In more recent years Somalia has also become known as a nest of piracy and a place of complete anarchy and chaos. Attempts by the international community to intervene have met with little to no success and, after such a promising start at development and modernization during the colonial period, since independence Somalia has become the classic definition of an utterly failed state.