Information on what minority clans have traditionally resided in Barawa [SOM20113.E]

Various spellings are provided for Barawa, although the most frequent forms found among the sources consulted by the DIRB refer to Brava and Baraawe.

A historical account of the population of the Somali peninsula states the following:

The urban cultures which evolved in the largest of these towns-Seylac (ZEILA) along the Gulf of Aden coast, and Muqdisho, Marka, and Baraawe along the Indian Ocean-contrasted with the nomadic culture around them. Their populations, though presumably always containing some local Somalis, were made up largely of Arabs, Persians, and Indians, who lived in one- or two-storied stucco dwellings with their kinsmen, dependents, and slaves (Cassanelli 1982, 25).

Baraawe was one of three port towns (together with Mogadishu or Muqdisho, and Marka) where one of the main caravan network routes ended (ibid., 150). The same source describes the evolution of Somali trading centres, Baraawe among them:

As other (predominantly Hawiyya) pastoral clans came to occupy pastureland in the environs of Muqdisho, the process of urban-rural economic integration repeated itself ... Each suuq (market) had its own abbaans, brokers, and qaaddis (legal experts), with the entire scene mirroring the complex clan makeup of the adjacent hinterland. Analogous urban-rural links evolved in the regions of Marka and Baraawe to the south; around Seylac and Berbera, on the Gulf of Aden coast; and even in the environs of the interior towns of Harar and Luuq. None of these commercial centers relied for its prosperity exclusively on trade in pastoral products; the collection and export of gums, incense, ivory, and the like were generally more important to their commerce. None was ever governed wholly by men with pastoral roots; authority was typically exercised by councils of elders representing the leading mercantile, religious, and property-owning families in town. These towns were each part of a regional exchange system, and their social histories invariably reflected the vicissitudes of the nomadic world around them (ibid., 74).

On the relationships between Somali and non-Somali inhabitants in the southern trading towns, the source provides the following information:

As might be expected, successful abbaan-trader relationships could evolve into more permanent ties between lineages. Reciprocal bonds of exchange and protection were particularly common between Somali clans living along the lower Shabeelle River and Somali or Arab families resident at the coast. Thus the Abikerow lineage of Afgooye district had special ties to the Shanshiiye of Muqdisho, while the Adawiin lineages in the same district had numerous abbaans among the Reer Faqi. In the same way, Biimaal lineages inhabiting the hinterland of Marka traded under the auspices of particular Arab families from that town. The urban Hamarani that were settled in Baraawe divided their inland trade among the five segments of the Tunni confederation. Such corporate commercial alliances were not limited to the coastal districts (ibid., 158).

The above-cited book states that while the merchants of Baraawe were able to negotiate for themselves in the distant interior, coastal Arabs and Indians rarely ventured beyond the market towns of the lower Shabeelle valley (ibid., 159).

It adds that moreover, those Arab merchants who resided in the Benaadir towns of Somalia and who enjoyed good relations with the Somalis of the interior were predominantly of Hadrami origin. The Omani Arabs who fanned out from Zanzibar in the nineteenth century-and who tended to be Ibadi rather than Sunni Muslims-never acquired comparable influence in the Benaadir hinterland (ibid., 160).

In the latter half of the nineteenth century, when Zanzibari presence was noticeable in the southern coastal towns of Somalia, anti-colonial sentiments provoked Somali hostilities against the Zanzibari authorities and soldiers (ibid., 198). The Zanzibari authority or wali in Baraawe was forced to flee, and soldiers were later killed in the town, prompting a Zanzibari sultan to establish a garrison there (ibid., 198). The Zanzibari influence in the region was later replaced by an Italian colonial and commercial presence (ibid., 199-203).

A DIRB document reports that people of Arab descent live in the Lower Shabelle towns of Merka and Baraawe, while "descendants of slaves from eastern and southern Africa-known as Gosha-have established communities in the thick forests of the lower Juba River" (IRBDC 1992).

The attached excerpts from Somalia: A Country Study provide details on specialized occupational groups and social change since colonial domination. These documents describe the interaction and coexistence of diverse groups defined by occupation and lineage, and on the evolution of urban centres. For example, it states that

[l]ocally, particularly in the larger towns, a combination of outsiders and area residents provided middle-level administration. One administrative component would consist of members of the national subelite brought in by the Somali government. Typically, this group would include the district commissioner, the judge, the secretary to the municipality, the staff of some of these officials, teachers, and the national police. Locally elected councillors would constitute the other administrative component. Some councillors were lineage heads; others were businessmen or had some other basis for their local status. Some of the local notables had sons serving as district officials but, by regulation, not in their home communities (1993, 84).

The source describes some of the occupational groups which have their own lineage, although it does not provides details on their demographic and geographic distribution that would define the concentration of their members in the town of Bawaare (ibid., 82). Other sections of the same book describe the populations that inhabit the riverine southern areas, in or around the valleys of the Jubba and Shabeelle rivers, including those of non-Somali origin (see pages 77-80). Among the Somali groups, the source names the Digil and Rahanwayn, commonly known as Sab (not to be confused with persons described as sab or ignoble); among the non-Somali, it names the Boni, the Bajuni and the Amarani (ibid.). Please consulted the attached excerpts for additional information.

Response to Information Request SOM10720 of 23 April 1992 indicates that the Dir Bimale, of the Dir clan, are found among the Tunni of Baraawe. Response to Information Request SOM11262 of 7 August 1992 states that Swahili is spoken there. Another document states that "both the Bajuni and the Amarani speak dialects of Swahili" (Somalia: A Country Study 1993, 80). Response to Information Request SOM18958.E of 9 November 1994 states that the Iroole clan, which speaks the Dabaare language, inhabits or has inhabited the Baraawe district. The DIRB Human Rights Brief Women in Somalia (Apr. 1994) refers briefly to women of the Brava ethnic minority, but provides no further details. Response to Information Request SOM10348 of 20 February 1992 states that the Ogaden (Darood subclan) Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM) controlled a part of Lower Shabelle, from the Kenyan borders to Baraawe.

The attached documents provide additional information and maps of clan affiliation and movements in the Baraawe area.

This response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the DIRB within time constraints. This response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Cassanelli, Lee V. 1982. The Shaping of Somali Society: Reconstructing the History of a Pastoral People, 1600-1900. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Documentation, Information and Research Branch (DIRB), Immigration and Refugee Board, Ottawa. 9 November 1994. Response to Information Request SOM18958.E.

_____. April 1994. Women in Somalia.

Immigration and Refugee Board Documentation Centre (IRBDC), Ottawa. March 1992. Somalia: Inter-NGO Committee for Somalia (UK) (INCS-UK) 1991 Reports Executive Summary. (Refquest database).

_____. 7 August 1992. Response to Information Request SOM11262.

_____. 23 April 1992. Response to Information Request SOM10720.

_____. 20 February 1992. Response to Information Request SOM10348.

Somalia: A Country Study. 1993. Edited by Helen Chapin Metz. Washington, DC: Department of the Army.


Cassanelli, Lee V. 1982. The Shaping of Somali Society: Reconstructing the History of a Pastoral People, 1600-1900. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 10, 151.

Minority Rights Group International. August 1991. Somalia: A Nation in Turmoil. London, UK: Minority Rights Group (np, map "Clan-Families in Somalia").

Somalia: A Country Study. 1993. Edited by Helen Chapin Metz. Washington, DC: Department of the Army, pp. 77-85.

Tribal Distribution of the Somali, Afar and Saho. nd, na.