29 September, 2011

The Hadhrami Influence in the Horn of Africa

Any one who has been in Hadhramaut for long, knows of the very close ties that it has with the Horn of Africa. In Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Eritrea - Hadhrami communities have been there for generations, and despite ups-and-downs, internal conflicts and political changes in these countries - the Hadharem have thrived in all. In Hadhramout itself, where there are many of its citizens with mixed Hadrami-Somali blood, especially along the coast, in Mukalla in particular - it is very normal to find many Hadhramis with relatives or extended families in the Horn of Africa, especially in Somalia. It is also very normal to find many Hadhrami communities in all of the Horn of Africa countries.

Most of these Hadhramis are descendants of those who had migrated in the late 19th Century; and the tens of thousands of people from Hadhramaut, who - due to hardship back home early and in the mid 20th Century, had to flee. To quote Harold Ingrams: he estimated that in the mid-1930s some 90,000 Hadhramis, out of a total population of 260,000, migrated at some time in their lives. They either went east to southern Asia, or west to Africa. Of those who went west, many settled in the Horn of Africa. The Horn of Africa too, had a large number of other Yemeni immigrants. While in Somalia, the Hadharem were many and many had/have intermarried with locals, and before the destabilization of Somalia, many were influential there.

Hadhramis in the Horn of Africa, were and have always been mainly involved in trade; many had and still have shops there and many have become economically and politically very influential in these countries. Many Hadhramis too, have very much helped in the spreading of Islam and the building of mosques in the Horn. Political changes and conflicts in the Horn of Africa, have always affected the Hadharem living there. Be it the Somali-Ogaden war or the present continuing instability and protracted conflict in Somalia, or the very long, continuing struggle between Eritrea and Ethiopia or the many other changes that have taken part in this part of Africa.

For instance: in the late 1960s, many Hadharem were expelled from Ethiopia (which then included present day Eritrea) for purportedly supporting the Eritrean liberation movement. And in 1974, the over throw of Haille Selassie in Ethiopia, and the development of socialism in the country - had a very adverse effect on the many Hadhrami traders and shop keepers in the country; most of who were regarded as 'capitalists'. The same can be said of Eritrea where its government, since its independence from Ethiopia in 1993, has tightly controlled businesses; this, too, has adversely affected the Hadharem - who love trading and who thrive best where they can freely do business. The conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea; the past socialism in Ethiopia and the continuing, not so free business atmosphere in Eritrea, have made many Hadhramis to leave these countries; most of those who remained, have had to face many economic and political hardships.

Presently, there are still many descendants of Hadramis in the Horn of Africa. Most of the Hadharem, live in the large cities like Addis Ababa, Asmara, Keren, Massawa and Djibouti and many are still involved in trade. Before the instability and civil strife in Somalia, there was a very large community of Hadhramis in Mogadisho, Kismayo and Baidoa. In Ethiopia, go to the largest open-air market in Africa - in Merkato, Addis Ababa - and there, you will find Hadhramis or their descendants: of mixed Hadhrami and Ethiopian blood, doing business or simply being there to socialize with other Hadharem. It is the same in other large cities in the Horn of Africa: there can still be found communities or families of Hadhramis - even in Hargeysa, Berbera and Bossasso in northern Somalia. There can also be found, Hadhrami families in many of the smaller towns and villages. It is not surprising to find this single Hadrami shopkeeper, with his family - in some remote trading center in Ethiopia.

Today, many young Hadhramis - most of whom are of mixed blood of Arab and African, having inherited shops or businesses from their parents, are still involved in trade and businesses. And many too, having gone to colleges, especially in Addis Ababa - are highly educated and have become professionals. Since the 1970s, many Hadhramis have migrated from the Horn to seek better livelihoods, to - Saudi Arabia, to the Gulf countries or to Indonesia or to Malaysia or to India' or to Europe and America. Many too, especially from Somalia, have returned back home to Hadhramout.