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Somalia - Government


IN JANUARY 1991, a bloody rebellion that had begun in 1988 finally succeeded in ending the twenty-one-year authoritarian regime of President Mahammad Siad Barre. The civil war had taken more than 50,000 civilian lives and had left the capital, Mogadishu, in shambles. Many other cities and towns also were in ruins, and hundreds of thousands of Somalis had fled to neighboring countries as refugees.

Although the major clans had been united in their opposition to Siad Barre, their leaders had no common political vision of Somalia's future. Consequently, civil strife continued at a reduced level after Siad Barre was deposed. The dominant faction in the north, the Somali National Movement (SNM), refused to accept the legitimacy of the provisional government established by the United Somali Congress (USC). Responding to widespread popular resentment of the central government, in June 1991 the SNM declared an independent Republic of Somaliland in the region that had constituted the British Somaliland before independence and unification with the former colony of Italian Somaliland in 1960.

The legacy Siad Barre left of a country devastated by civil war and riven by intense clan rivalries contrasted starkly with the future he had envisaged for Somalia when he took power in a military coup d'état in October 1969. Siad Barre, at the time a major general and commander of the army, and his fellow officers overthrew an elected civilian government that had become widely perceived as corrupt and incompetent. Siad Barre was determined to implement policies to benefit the country economically and socially and to diminish the political influence of the clans. During his regime's early years, Somalia experienced considerable economic development and efforts were made to replace clan loyalty with national pride.

However, Siad Barre proved susceptible to a cult of personality and over the years grew increasingly intolerant of criticism. Following his army's disastrous 1978 defeat in Ethiopia, Siad Barre's rule became more authoritarian and arbitrary, which only caused opposition to his regime to increase. Forsaking appeals to nationalism, Siad Barre tried to maintain control by exploiting historical clan animosities and by relying more and more on the loyalty of his own family and clan. By the mid-1980s, the opposition to Siad Barre had developed into several organized movements determined to overthrow his regime by force. Angered by what he perceived as local support of the opposition, particularly in the north, Siad Barre ordered the machine-gunning of livestock herds and the poisoning of wells in disaffected rural areas, as well as the indiscriminate bombing of cities. In the most notorious of these air attacks, the north's administrative center and largest city, Hargeysa, was virtually leveled in 1988.

Siad Barre's tactics inflamed popular anger and greatly strengthened the appeal of the various guerrilla groups. Nevertheless, the opposition's ultimate triumph caught the rebels themselves by surprise. Their only common goal, to be rid of Siad Barre, was achieved by USC forces essentially without assistance from the other rebel groups. USC fighters had entered Mogadishu clandestinely at the end of December 1990 to assist clan members who had formed popular committees of self-defense to protect themselves from attacks by a rival clan that supported Siad Barre. The presence of the USC guerrillas prompted the intervention of the Red Berets (Duub Cas), an elite military unit whose members acted as bodyguards for Siad Barre, and which was commanded by Siad Barre's eldest son. The fighting quickly escalated, forcing the USC to send more of its forces into the city. The USC guerrillas and the Red Berets battled in the streets of the capital for four weeks. After the USC defeated Siad Barre's forces, the other rebel movements declined to cooperate with it. Each of the several opposition groups drew its primary support from a particular clan-family, and Siad Barre's sudden removal from the political scene opened the way for traditional clan suspicions to reassert themselves. The reemergence of clan politics cast doubt on the prospects for Somalia's stability and unity.

By September 1991, intense rivalry among leaders of the USCdominated interim government had degenerated into street fighting within the Mogadishu area. Because the different clans resorted to the use of armed force to buttress their claims for political power, government and civil society disintegrated, and essential services such as food distribution collapsed. Nature compounded the political disaster with a prolonged drought. In 1992 severe famine affected much of southern Somalia. International relief agencies mounted a food and medical aid campaign, but an estimated 80 percent of food shipments were looted by armed groups affiliated with various clans. The worsening situation prompted the United Nations (UN) to intervene. On April 22, 1992, the UN proposed to send a 550-man mission to Somalia; and on April 24, in UN Resolution 751, the Security Council voted to send fifty UN observers to monitor the cease-fire in Mogadishu.

<"77.htm">MASS MEDIA




Following its defeat of Siad Barre, the Executive Committee of the USC announced the formation of an interim provisional government, even though it did not exercise effective authority over the entire country. The USC chose one of its own members, Ali Mahdi Mahammad (b. 1939), as provisional president. The president served as head of state, but the duties and responsibilities of the office were not defined. For the most part, the provisional president retained the same powers that had been stipulated in the constitution of 1979. This included the authority to appoint a prime minister, and subsequently Mahammad named Umar Arteh Ghalib to that position on interim basis. Ghalib's cabinet, called the Provisional Government of National Unity, initially consisted of twenty-seven full ministers and eight deputy ministers. The ministerial portfolios included agriculture, commerce, culture and higher education, defense, exports, finance, fisheries, health, industry, information, interior, justice, labor and social affairs, livestock and forestry, petroleum and minerals, post and telecommunications, public works and housing, reconstruction and settlement, transportation, tourism, and youth.

Although the president announced that elections for a permanent government would be held as soon as security had been reestablished, rivalries within the USC, as well as opposition to the interim government in other parts of the country, made the questions of elections a moot point. Mahammad's most serious challenger was General Mahammad Faarah Aidid, leader of a USC faction that supported cooperation with the SNM. Initially, Aidid contested the authority of the Mogadishu-based USC Executive Committee to form an interim government without consultation with other political groups that had opposed the Siad Barre regime. Relations between the Mahammad and Aidid wings of the USC continued to deteriorate throughout the spring and summer of 1991. By September, Aidid had established his own rival government in the southern part of the capital. A series of clashes between forces loyal to Aidid and those loyal to Mahammad compelled the latter to retreat to northern Mogadishu.

Mahammad was a member of the Abgaal clan of the Hawiye clanfamily , whereas Aidid was a member of that same clan-family's Habar Gidir clan. The Abgaal clan comprised nine subclans, several of which traditionally have been dominant in the Mogadishu area. Because Abgaal leaders had not become involved in the struggle against Siad Barre until 1989, other clans tended to view them as upstarts trying to usurp control of the opposition movement. This perception was especially strong among the Habar Gidir clan, whose five subclans lived predominantly in central Somalia. Some Habar Gidir leaders had joined the SNM as early as 1984, and they had resisted efforts to create a separate Hawiye force--the USC--between 1987 and 1989. Once the USC was established, Aidid emerged as leader of the mainly Habar Gidir faction that maintained an affiliation with the SNM. The Abgaal and Habar Gidir wings of the USC were clearly distinct by November 1990 when Aidid, on behalf of this group, signed an agreement with the SNM and the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM) to unify military operations.

Despite their political differences, both Mahammad and Aidid had long histories of opposition to Siad Barre. A former teacher and civil servant, Mahdi Mahammad had been elected to the 123- member National Assembly of the Republic in the March 1969 parliamentary elections. Following the military coup in October 1969, Mahdi Mahammad was arrested along with several other civilian politicians. He was released after several years in prison and subsequently became a successful Mogadishu entrepreneur. During the 1980s, he served as director of a local UN office. Eventually Mahammad used his wealth to provide crucial financial support to the USC guerrillas. In May 1990, he was one of 114 prominent citizens who signed a public manifesto calling on the government to resign and requesting that Siad Barre introduce democratic reforms. When Siad Barre began arresting signatories to the manifesto, Mahammad fled to exile in Italy, where he worked in the USC's Rome office.

The appointment of Ghalib as provisional prime minister demonstrated the sensitivity of Mahammad and other USC leaders to the role of clans in the country's politics. Ghalib belonged to the important Isaaq clan-family of northern Somalia. Although the main opposition group in the north, the SNM, was closely identified with the Isaaqs, Ghalib was not an SNM member. Rather, his political career had associated him with national government. From 1969 to 1976, Ghalib had served as Siad Barre's first foreign minister. He was dismissed after disagreeing with Siad Barre's increasingly overt policy of supporting the ethnic Somali insurrection in Ethiopia's Ogaden (Ogaadeen) region. Ghalib was subsequently arrested, and in 1989, after spending seven years in prison without charges, he was tried for treason and sentenced to death. Following protests from various foreign governments, Siad Barre commuted Ghalib's sentence but kept him under house arrest. In late January 1991, as his regime was collapsing, Siad Barre asked Ghalib to form a new government that would negotiate with the rebels, but the USC military successes forced Siad Barre's flight from the capital before any transfer of power could be completed.

<"69.htm">Local Government
<"70.htm">Legal System


Somalia - Constitution


The provisional government called for a new constitution to replace the 1979 document that had been the law of the land at the time of Siad Barre's overthrow. The provisional government created a Ministry of Constitutional Affairs, which was charged with planning for a constitutional convention and revising an October 1990 draft constitution that Siad Barre had proposed in an unsuccessful effort to stem opposition to his rule. As of May 1992, however, the lack of consensus among the USC-dominated government and the various guerrilla groups that controlled more than half of the nation had prevented completion of a final version of the new constitution. Consequently, those provisions of the constitution of 1979 that had not been specifically voided by the interim government remained in force.

Like its 1984 amendments, the constitution of 1979 had been approved in a popular referendum. Somalia had universal suffrage for persons over eighteen years of age, but women did not play a significant role in politics. The constitution of 1979 resembled the constitution of 1961, also approved in a nationwide referendum after the former Italian and British colonies had been unified as independent Somalia. The main difference between the two documents concerned executive power. The constitution of 1961 had provided for a parliamentary democracy, with the prime minister and Council of Ministers (cabinet) being drawn from the membership of the legislature. The legislature also elected the head of state, or president of the republic. The constitution of 1979 provided for a presidential system under which the president served as both head of state and head of government. As head of government, the president selected the members of the Council of Ministers, which he chaired. The constitution of 1979 initially called for the president to be elected to a six-year, renewable term of office by a two-thirds majority vote of the legislature. Constitutional amendments enacted in 1984 provided for direct popular election of the president to a seven-year term. The first presidential election was held in 1986. Siad Barre, the sole candidate, received 99.9 percent of the votes.

Both the 1961 and 1979 constitutions granted broad powers to the president. The constitution of 1979 authorized the president to conduct foreign affairs, declare war, invoke emergency powers, serve as commander in chief of the armed forces, and appoint one or more vice presidents, the president of the Supreme Court, up to six members of the national legislature, and the members of the Council of Ministers. Both constitutions also provided for a unicameral legislature subject to stand for election at least once every five years; the president could dissolve the legislature earlier.


Somalia - Legislature


Although the Siad Barre government suspended the National Assembly following the 1969 coup, a decade later it created a new single-chamber legislature, the People's Assembly. The constitution of 1979 stipulated that the People's Assembly have 177 members, including 6 members appointed by the president and 171 chosen by popular election. By contrast, the precoup National Assembly had only 123 members. Members of the People's Assembly served a five-year term. Two such assemblies were elected, one in 1979 and another in 1984. The elections scheduled for 1989 were postponed as a result of the civil strife that by then had engulfed most of the country.

Critics and opponents of the regime were not permitted to run in either the 1979 or the 1984 election. Instead, the government drew up lists of candidates, all of whom were members of the only legally permitted party (the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party--SRSP), and submitted the entire lists for voter approval. In both instances, the government announced that more than 99 percent of the electorate had approved the official lists. The People's Assembly also did not truly debate any legislation. It met for several days each year and ratified whatever laws the executive had decided to submit for its "approval."

The People's Assembly was not in session when the Siad Barre government was toppled. The provisional government announced its intention to hold elections for a new legislature, but as of the spring of 1992 the continuing political disturbances in the country had prevented the formulation of definite plans for such elections.


Somalia - Local Government


One of the consequences of the civil strife that began in 1988 was the alienation of many local governments from the effective authority of Mogadishu. Whereas the domestic situation as of May 1992 remained unstable, the trend appeared to be toward a decentralized system of local government similar to that existing prior to the 1969 coup. The constitution of 1961 had provided for the decentralization of administrative functions wherever feasible, and throughout the country elected councils had been responsible for municipal and district government. However, direct supervision of local government affairs by central authorities also was part of Somalia's recent history, and a return to a centralized system could not be ruled out. Indeed, the local government structures that existed in 1992 were the same ones that had been established during Siad Barre's dictatorship.

One of Siad Barre's first decrees following the 1969 military coup dissolved all the elected municipal and district councils. This edict was followed by acts that eventually reorganized local government into sixteen regions, each containing three to six districts, with the exception of the capital region (Banaadir), which was segmented into fifteen districts. Of the total eightyfour districts, some were totally urban, while others included both urban and rural communities. Local government authority was vested in regional and district councils, the members of which were appointed by the central government. A 1979 law authorized district council elections, but reserved to the government the right to approve candidates before their names were submitted to voters. Permanent settlements in rural areas had elected village councils, although all candidates had to be approved by government officials at the district level.

The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development exercised authority over the structure of local government. Throughout Siad Barre's twenty-one-year rule, a high-ranking military officer usually headed this ministry. Military officers also were appointed as chairmen of the regional councils. Most members of the regional and district councils were drawn from the army, the police, and security personnel. Such practices ensured that those in charge of carrying out administrative functions at the local level were directly responsible to Mogadishu.

All levels of local government were staffed by personnel of the national civil service who had been assigned to their posts by the central authorities. Local councils were permitted to plan local projects, impose local taxes, and borrow funds (with prior ministerial approval), for demonstrably productive development projects.


Somalia - Legal System


At independence, Somalia had four distinct legal traditions: English common law, Italian law, Islamic sharia or religious law, and Somali customary law (traditional rulers and sanctions). The challenge after 1960 was to meld this diverse legal inheritance into one system. During the 1960s, a uniform penal code, a code of criminal court procedures, and a standardized judicial organization were introduced. The Italian system of basing judicial decisions on the application and interpretation of the legal code was retained. The courts were enjoined, however, to apply English common law and doctrines of equity in matters not governed by legislation.

In Italian Somaliland, observance of the sharia had been more common than in British Somaliland, where the application of Islamic law had been limited to cases pertaining to marriage, divorce, family disputes, and inheritance. Qadis (Muslim judges) in British Somaliland also adjudicated customary law in cases such as land tenure disputes and disagreements over the payment of diya or blood compensation. In Italian Somaliland, however, the sharia courts had also settled civil and minor penal matters, and Muslim plaintiffs had a choice of appearing before a secular judge or a qadi. After independence the differences between the two regions were resolved by making the sharia applicable in all civil matters if the dispute arose under that law. Somali customary law was retained for optional application in such matters as land tenure, water and grazing rights, and the payment of diya.

The military junta suspended the constitution of 1961 when it took power in 1969, but it initially respected other sources of law. In 1973 the Siad Barre regime introduced a unified civil code. Its provisions pertaining to inheritance, personal contracts, and water and grazing rights sharply curtailed both the sharia and Somali customary law. Siad Barre's determination to limit the influence of the country's clans was reflected in sections of the code that abolished traditional clan and lineage rights over land, water resources, and grazing. In addition, the new civil code restricted the payment of diya as compensation for death or injury to the victim or close relatives rather than to an entire diya-paying group. A subsequent amendment prohibited the payment of diya entirely.

The attorney general, who was appointed by the minister of justice, was responsible for the observance of the law and prosecution of criminal matters. The attorney general had ten deputies in the capital and several other deputies in the rest of the country. Outside of Mogadishu, the deputies of the attorney general had their offices at the regional and district courts.


Somalia - Courts


The constitution of 1961 had provided for a unified judiciary independent of the executive and the legislature. A 1962 law integrated the courts of northern and southern Somalia into a four-tiered system: the Supreme Court, courts of appeal, regional courts, and district courts. Sharia courts were discontinued although judges were expected to take the sharia into consideration when making decisions. The Siad Barre government did not fundamentally alter this structure; nor had the provisional government made any significant changes as of May 1992.

At the lowest level of the Somali judicial system were the eighty-four district courts, each of which consisted of civil and criminal divisions. The civil division of the district court had jurisdiction over matters requiring the application of the sharia, or customary law, and suits involving claims of up to 3,000 Somali shillings. The criminal division of the district court had jurisdiction over offenses punishable by fines or prison sentences of less than three years.

There were eight regional courts, each consisting of three divisions. The ordinary division had jurisdiction over penal and civil cases considered too serious to be heard by the district courts. The assize division considered only major criminal cases, that is, those concerning crimes punishable by more than ten years' imprisonment. A third division handled cases pertaining to labor legislation. In both the district and regional courts, a single magistrate, assisted by two laymen, heard cases, decided questions of fact, and voted on the guilt or innocence of the accused.

Somalia's next-highest tier of courts consisted of the two courts of appeal. The court of appeals for the southern region sat at Mogadishu, and the northern region's court of appeals sat at Hargeysa. Each court of appeal had two divisions. The ordinary division heard appeals of district court decisions and of decisions of the ordinary division of the regional courts, whereas the assize division was only for appeals from the regional assize courts. A single judge presided over cases in both divisions. Two laymen assisted the judge in the ordinary division, and four laymen assisted the judge in the assize division. The senior judges of the courts of appeal, who were called presidents, administered all the courts in their respective regions.

The Supreme Court, which sat at Mogadishu, had ultimate authority for the uniform interpretation of the law. It heard appeals of decisions and judgments of the lower courts and of actions taken by public attorneys, and settled questions of court jurisdiction. The Supreme Court was composed of a chief justice, who was referred to as the president, a vice president, nine surrogate justices, and four laymen. The president, two other judges, and four laymen constituted a full panel for plenary sessions of the Supreme Court. In ordinary sessions, one judge presided with the assistance of two other judges and two laymen. The president of the Supreme Court decided whether a case was to be handled in plenary or ordinary session, on the basis of the importance of the matter being considered.

Although the military government did not change the basic structure of the court system, it did introduce a major new institution, the National Security Courts (NSCs), which operated outside the ordinary legal system and under the direct control of the executive. These courts, which sat at Mogadishu and the regional capitals, had jurisdiction over serious offenses defined by the government as affecting the security of the state, including offenses against public order and crimes by government officials. The NSC heard a broad range of cases, passing sentences for embezzlement by public officials, murder, political activities against the state, and thefts of government food stocks. A senior military officer was president of each NSC. He was assisted by two other judges, usually also military officers. A special military attorney general prosecuted cases brought before the NSC. No other court, not even the Supreme Court, could review NSC sentences. Appeals of NSC verdicts could be taken only to the president of the republic. Opponents of the Siad Barre regime accused the NSC of sentencing hundreds of people to death for political reasons. In October 1990, Siad Barre announced the abolition of the widely feared and detested courts; as of May 1992, the NSCs had not been reinstituted by the provisional government.

Before the 1969 coup, the Higher Judicial Council had responsibility for the selection, promotion, and discipline of members of the judiciary. The council was chaired by the president of the Supreme Court and included justices of the court, the attorney general, and three members elected by the National Assembly. In 1970 military officers assumed all positions on the Higher Judicial Council. The effect of this change was to make the judiciary accountable to the executive. One of the announced aims of the provisional government after the defeat of Siad Barre was the restoration of judicial independence.


Somalia - POLITICS


The most significant political consequence of Siad Barre's twenty-one-year rule was an intensified identification with parochial clans. By 1992 the multiplicity of political rivalries among the country's numerous clans seriously jeopardized Somalia's continued existence as a unified state. There was considerable irony in this situation because Siad Barre, following the 1969 military coup that had brought him to power, had proclaimed his opposition to clan politics and had justified the banning of political parties on the grounds that they were merely partisan organizations that impeded national integration. Nevertheless, from the beginning of his rule Siad Barre favored the lineages and clans of his own clan-family, the Daarood. In particular, he distributed political offices and the powers and rewards concomitant with these positions disproportionately to three clans of the Daarood: his own clan, the Mareehaan; the clan of his son-in-law, the Dulbahante; and the clan of his mother, the Ogaden. The exclusion of other clans from important government posts was a gradual process, but by the late 1970s there was a growing perception, at least among the political elite, that Siad Barre was unduly partial toward the three Daarood clans to which he had family ties.

The forced dissolution of political parties in 1969 and the continuing prohibition of political activity tended to enhance the importance of clans because family gatherings remained virtually the only regular venue where politics could be discussed freely. The creation in 1976 of the governmentsponsored Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSP) failed to fill the political vacuum created by the absence of legitimate parties. Siad Barre and his closest military advisers had formed the SRSP as the country's sole political organization, anticipating that it would transcend clan loyalties and mobilize popular support for government policies. The SRSP's five-member politburo, which Siad Barre chaired, decided the party's position on issues. The members of the SRSP, who never numbered more than 20,000, implemented directives from the politburo (via the central committee) or the government; they did not debate policy. Because most of the top SRSP leaders by 1980 were of the Mareehaan, Dulbahante, or Ogaden clans, the party became another example to disaffected clans of their exclusion from any meaningful political role.

<"73.htm">Opposition Movements
<"74.htm">Politics of Reconciliation
<"75.htm">Politics of Succession
<"76.htm">Politics of Disintegration


Somalia - Opposition Movements


The first clan to feel politically deprived by the military regime was the Majeerteen, which, like Siad Barre's own Mareehaan clan, belonged to the Daarood clan-family. The Majeerteen clan, along with certain clans of the Hawiye and Isaaq clan-families, had played a significant role in national politics before the 1969 military coup, and individual Majeerteen held important positions in the bureaucracy and the military. Siad Barre apparently resented the clan's prominence, and as early as 1970 was singling out the Majeerteen lineages for alleged opposition to his reform efforts. As a clan, the Majeerteen probably did not oppose Siad Barre at the outset. However, his insensitive rhetoric and discriminatory appointment and promotion policies had the effect, by the mid-1970s, of alienating the heads of the leading Majeerteen lineages, the very persons whose attitudes were decisive in determining the clan's political orientation.

Majeerteen officers were the primary organizers of an unsuccessful coup in April 1978, following the army's humiliating defeat in the Ogaden War. An estimated 500 rebel soldiers were killed in fighting with forces loyal to Siad Barre, and subsequently seventeen officers, all but one of them Majeerteen, were executed. Several colonels suspected of plotting the coup escaped capture, however, and fled abroad;one of then, Yusuf Ahmad, played a major role in forming the Somali Salvation Front (SSF), the first opposition movement dedicated to the overthrow of the Siad Barre regime by force (The SSF became the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) in October 1981). In 1982 SSDF guerrillas with Ethiopian army units, occupied areas along the border, including two district towns, but it was not until 1988 that they began to extend their control over the western districts of Mudug Region and the southern areas of Nugaal and Bari regions.

The Isaaq clans of northwestern Somalia also resented what they perceived as their inadequate representation in Siad Barre's government. This disaffection crystallized in 1981 when Isaaq dissidents living in London formed the Somali National Movement (SNM) with the aim of toppling the Siad Barre regime. The following year, the SNM transferred its headquarters to Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, from where it launched guerrilla raids into the Woqooyi Galbeed and Togdheer regions of Somalia. Like the SSDF, the SNM had both military and political wings, proclaimed itself as a nationwide opposition movement, and tried to enlist the support of non-Isaaq clans. Initially, the SNM was more successful than the SSDF in appealing to other clans, and some Hawiye clan leaders worked with the SNM in the early and mid1980s . Prior to establishing itself within Somalia in 1988, the SNM used its Ethiopian sanctuary to carry out a number of sensational activities against the Siad Barre regime, most notably the 1983 attack on Mandera Prison near Berbera, which resulted in the freeing of several northern dissidents.

Siad Barre's response to the guerrilla movements included increased repression of suspected political dissent nationwide and brutal collective punishments in the Majeerteen and Isaaq regions. These measures only intensified opposition to his regime. Nevertheless, the opposition failed to unite because Siad Barre's strategy of using one clan to carry out government reprisals against a disfavored clan had the effect of intensifying both inter- and intra-clan antagonisms. For example, Hawiye leaders who had previously cooperated with the SNM decided in 1989 to form their own clanbased opposition movement, the United Somali Congress (USC). Also, the Gadabursi and Iise clans of the Dir clan-family in northwestern Somalia and the Dulbahante and Warsangali clans of the Daarood clan-family in the Sanaag and Bari regions grew increasingly resentful of Isaaq domination of districts "liberated" from government control. In 1990 the north's largest non-Isaaq clan, the Gadabursi, created its own movement, the Somali Democratic Alliance (SDA).

The divisions within the opposition, however, did not work to Siad Barre's long-term advantage because he was gradually alienating an increasing number of the country's clans, including the very lineages of the Dulbahante and Ogaden clans that had provided his most loyal support. In particular, the Ogaden clan, living in both Somalia and Ethiopia and strongly interested in pan-Somali issues, tended to blame Siad Barre for Somalia's defeat in the 1977-78 Ogaden War. This suppressed resentment turned to defiant opposition after Siad Barre decided in 1988 to conclude a peace agreement with Ethiopia. The deteriorating relations between Siad Barre and former Ogaden supporters climaxed in 1990 with a mass desertion of Ogaden officers from the army. These officers allied with the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM), a group that had formed in 1985 as a result of a split within the SSDF. The greatly enhanced military strength of the SPM enabled it to capture and hold several government garrisons in the south.


Somalia - Politics of Reconciliation


During the final three years of Siad Barre's rule, there was relatively intense fighting throughout the country as the opposition groups gradually wrested control of extensive areas: the SNM in the northwest, the SSDF in the northeast, the USC in central Somalia, and the SPM in the south. Demonstrations against Siad Barre's rule spread even to the capital, where the military was used to suppress protests. A July 1989 mass demonstration in Mogadishu was dispersed only after government troops shot and killed a number of persons variously estimated to be between 200 and 300. The deteriorating situation alarmed those civilian politicians, businessmen, intellectuals, and religious leaders who were critical of the regime's repressive policies and supportive of introducing democratic reforms peacefully. A group of these prominent leaders, who included representatives of all the country's major clans, eventually formed the Council for National Reconciliation and Salvation (CNRS) to press demands for political change. In addition to their commitment to democratization, those involved with the CNRS also wished to create a political organization that would transcend clan loyalties. The CNRS issued its first open manifesto in May 1990. This document, signed by 114 leading citizens of Mogadishu, called for Siad Barre's resignation, the establishment of an interim government consisting of representatives of the opposition movements, and a timetable for multiparty elections.

The CNRS's manifesto aroused interest both in and outside Somalia, although it was not welcomed by Siad Barre. Nevertheless, the president was reluctant to take immediate action against the signatories because of the risks involved in antagonizing so many different clans and further straining diplomatic relations with donor countries that had become critical of his regime's human rights policies. Siad Barre eventually did order the arrest of the signers, although security forces were able to round up only forty-five of them. Their detention prompted strenuous protests from Egypt, Italy, and other countries, and after a few weeks the regime released them. The experience emboldened the CNRS to push more assertively for peaceful resolution of the country's political crisis. With the support of Egypt and Italy, the CNRS called in September 1990 for a national reconciliation roundtable. The CNRS invited the Siad Barre regime and five guerrilla groups to send representatives to Cairo to discuss how to end the dictatorship and return the country to democratic government. Neither Siad Barre nor the armed opposition, however, were willing to attend such a roundtable unless each party agreed to the other's conditions.

In 1990 guerrilla leaders generally were disinclined to negotiate with the Siad Barre regime because they had become convinced of their eventual success. The prospect of defeating Siad Barre inevitably compelled them to focus on relations among their various organizations. A series of informal talks concluded in August 1990 with an announcement from the SNM, the Aidid faction of the USC, and the SPM that they had agreed to coordinate strategy toward the government. In September leaders of the three groups met in Ethiopia, where they signed an agreement to form a military alliance. Although cooperation among the major opposition forces was essential to a smooth transition to a post-Siad Barre era, the pace of events after September did not provide adequate time for mutual trust and cooperative relations to develop. The SNM, USC, and SPM fighters, who for the most part operated in clan-based enclaves, never participated in any joint actions. During the final assault on Siad Barre's forces, in December 1990 and January 1991, guerrillas of the Abgaal faction of the USC infiltrated Mogadishu, whose population was approximately 80 percent Hawiye, and successfully fought without the assistance of either the SNM, the SPM, or the Habar Gidir faction of the USC.


Somalia - Politics of Succession


The USC's announcement of a provisional government in February 1991 angered its allies, who maintained that they had not been consulted. Other opposition movements, particularly the SSDF, felt that the USC had slighted their long years of struggle against the Siad Barre regime, and refused to accept the legitimacy of the provisional government. The SPM and the SSDF formed a loose alliance to contest USC control of the central government and ousted USC forces from Chisimayu, Somalia's main southern city. Violent clashes throughout March threatened to return the country to civil war. Although in early April 1991, the USC and its guerrilla opponents in the south agreed to a cease-fire, this agreement broke down in the latter part of the year as fighting spread throughout those areas of Somalia under the nominal control of the the provisional government. The provisional government was continuing to hold talks on power sharing, but the prospects for long-term political stability remained uncertain.

The situation in northern Somalia was even more serious for the provisional government. The dominant SNM, whose fighters had evicted Siad Barre's forces from almost all of Woqooyi Galbeed, Togdheer, and Sanaag regions as early as October 1990, had also captured the besieged garrisons at Berbera, Burao, and Hargeysa at the end of January; they were not prepared to hand over control to the new government in Mogadishu. Like its counterparts in the south, the SNM criticized the USC's unilateral takeover of the central government, and the SNM leadership refused to participate in USC-proposed unity talks. The SNM moved to consolidate its own position by assuming responsibility for all aspects of local administration in the north. Lacking the cooperation of the SNM, the provisional government was powerless to assert its own authority in the region. The SNM's political objectives began to clarify by the end of February 1991, when the organization held a conference at which the feasibility of revoking the 1960 act of union was seriously debated.

In the weeks following Siad Barre's overthrow, the SNM considered its relations with the non-Isaaq clans of the north to be more problematic than its relations with the provisional government. The SDA, supported primarily by the Gadabursi clan, and the relatively new United Somali Front (USF), formed by members of the Iise clan, felt apprehension at the prospect of SNM control of their areas. During February there were clashes between SNM and USF fighters in Saylac and its environs. The militarily dominant SNM, although making clear that it would not tolerate armed opposition to its rule, demonstrated flexibility in working out local power-sharing arrangements with the various clans. SNM leaders sponsored public meetings throughout the north, using the common northern resentment against the southernbased central government to help defuse interclan animosities. The SNM administration persuaded the leaders of all the north's major clans to attend a conference at Burao in April 1991, at which the region's political future was debated. Delegates to the Burao conference passed several resolutions pertaining to the future independence of the north from the south and created a standing committee, carefully balanced in terms of clan representation, to draft a constitution. The delegates also called for the formation of an interim government to rule the north until multiparty elections could be held.

The Central Committee of the SNM adopted most of the resolutions of the Burao conference as party policy. Although some SNM leaders opposed secession, the Central Committee moved forward with plans for an independent state, and on May 17, 1991, announced the formation of the Republic of Somaliland. The new state's border roughly paralleled those of the former colony, British Somaliland. SNM Secretary General Abdirahmaan Ahmad Ali "Tour" was named president and Hasan Iise Jaama vice president. Ali "Tour" appointed a seventeen-member cabinet to administer the state. The SNM termed the new regime an interim government having a mandate to rule pending elections scheduled for 1993. During 1991 and 1992, the interim government established the sharia as the principal law of the new republic and chose a national flag. It promised to protect an array of liberties, including freedom of the press, free elections, and the right to form political parties, and tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to win international recognition for the Republic of Somaliland as a separate country.


Somalia - Politics of Disintegration


Mogadishu could not deal effectively with the political challenge in the north because the interim government of President Mahamaad gradually lost control of central authority. Even though the interim government was dominated by the USC, this guerrilla force failed to adapt to its new position as a political party. Although the USC was primarily a Hawiye militia, it was internally divided between the two principal Hawiye clans, the Abgaal and Habar Gidir. Once in power, the clans began to argue over the distribution of political offices. Interim president Mahammad emerged as the most prominent Abgaal leader whereas Aidid emerged as the most influential Habar Gidir leader. Fighters loyal to each man clashed in the streets of Mogadishu during the summer of 1991, then engaged in open battle beginning in September. By the end of the year, the fighting had resulted in divided control of the capital. Aidid's guerrillas held southern Mogadishu, which included the port area and the international airport, and Mahammad's forces controlled the area around the presidential palace in central Mogadishu and the northern suburbs.

A United Nations-mediated cease-fire agreement that came into effect in March 1992 helped to reduce the level of fighting, but did not end all the violence. Neither Mahammad nor Aidid was prepared to compromise over political differences, and, consequently, Mogadishu remained divided. Aidid's faction of the USC comprised an estimated 10,000 guerrillas. Many of these men looted food supplies destined for famine victims and interfered with the operations of the international relief agencies. They justified their actions on the grounds that the assistance would help their enemies, the USC faction loyal to Mahammad. The proMahammad forces included an estimated 5,000 fighters. They also used food as a weapon.


Somalia - MASS MEDIA


Prior to the overthrow of the Siad Barre regime in January 1991, all domestic publications and broadcasting were controlled by the government. The Ministry of Information and National Guidance published the country's only daily newspaper, Xiddigta Oktoobar (October Star), which offered editions in Arabic, English, Italian, and Somali. The ministry also published a variety of weekly and monthly magazines. The state-run Somali National News Agency (SONNA) distributed press reports about the country to foreign news bureaus. The ministry's Broadcasting Department was responsible for radio and television broadcasts. The two radio stations, at Mogadishu and Hargeysa, transmitted a variety of news and entertainment programs. Radio Mogadishu featured about two hours each day of programs in foreign languages, including Afar, Amharic, Arabic, English, French, Italian, Oromo, and Swahili. In 1988, the most recent year for which statistics were available, there were an estimated 375,000 radio receivers in Somalia. Television service was inaugurated in 1983; two hours of programs were broadcast daily from Mogadishu. The civil war disrupted service in the 1990s, however.

After Siad Barre's ouster, the provisional government maintained the publishing and broadcasting functions of the Ministry of Information and National Guidance. However, it had no authority over the new Radio Hargeysa, which was controlled by the SNM, and which, following the May 1991 declaration of independence, renamed the Voice of the Republic of Somaliland. The provisional government in the south announced that newspapers would be permitted to publish free of government censorship, but by mid-1991, the only new paper that had appeared was the USC's Al Majlis (The Council). Subsequently, publication of newspapers became impossible because the country disintegrated into civil war in late 1991 and early 1992.




The provisional government established in February 1991 inherited a legacy of problematic relations with neighboring states and economic dependence on aid from Arab and Western nations. Relations between Somalia and its three neighbors-- Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya--had been poisoned for more than two decades by Somalia's irredentist claims to areas inhabited by ethnic Somalis in each of these three states. The 1977-78 Ogaden War with Ethiopia, although a humiliating defeat for Somalia, had created deep suspicions in the Horn of Africa concerning the intentions of the Siad Barre regime. The continuing strain in Somali-Ethiopian relations tended to reinforce these suspicions.

Civil strife in Ethiopia and repressive measures in the Ogaden caused more than 650,000 ethnic Somalis and Oromo residing in Ethiopia to flee to Somalia by early 1978. The integration of so many refugees into an essentially agrarian society afflicted by persistent drought was beyond Somalia's economic capacity. In the absence of a peace agreement, prospects for repatriation continued to be virtually nonexistent. The Siad Barre government's solution to this major political, social, and economic problem was to make the search for generous financial assistance a focal point of its foreign policy.

Relations with Other African States

For ten years after the Ogaden War, the Siad Barre government refused to renounce its public support of the Ethiopian guerrilla organization, the Western Somali Liberation Front, and provided it with clandestine military assistance to carry out raids inside Ethiopia. The Mengistu government responded in kind by providing bases, sanctuary, and military assistance to the SSDF and the SNM. Siad Barre's fear of Ethiopian military power induced him in the early 1980s to begin a process of rapprochement with Somalia's other neighbors, Kenya and the former French territory of Djibouti. Kenya had long suspected Somalia of encouraging separatist activities among the predominantly ethnic Somali population in its Northern Frontier District. Following a 1981 summit meeting with Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi in Nairobi, Siad Barre's public renunciation of any Somali territorial claims on Kenya helped dissipate mistrust.

Beginning in 1982, both Kenya and Djibouti, apparently encouraged by Siad Barre's stated willingness to hold direct talks with Mengistu, made diplomatic efforts to mediate between Somalia and Ethiopia. It was not until 1986, however, that Siad Barre and Mengistu finally agreed to meet. This first meeting since before the Ogaden War took place in the city of Djibouti and marked the beginning of a gradual rapprochement. Siad Barre's willingness to defuse the situation along the Somali-Ethiopian border stemmed from the combined pressures of escalating guerrilla activity, overt Ethiopian military threats, drought, and the destabilizing presence of hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian refugees. Siad Barre and Mengistu held a second meeting in April 1988, at which they signed a peace agreement and formally reestablished diplomatic relations. Both leaders agreed to withdraw their troops from their mutual borders and to cease support for armed dissident groups trying to overthrow the respective governments in Addis Ababa and Mogadishu.

The peace accord failed to provide Siad Barre respite from guerrilla activity and probably contributed to his eventual demise. Anticipating the possibility of being expelled from Ethiopia, the SNM decided to relocate within Somalia itself, a decision that drastically changed the nature of the conflict in the north. Despite the termination of Ethiopian assistance, SNM guerrillas continued to defeat Siad Barre's forces with relative ease; by August 1988 they had captured Hargeysa and other northern towns. Siad Barre responded by ordering massive aerial bombing, carried out by foreign mercenary pilots, that damaged or destroyed virtually every building in Hargeysa. The brutal attack, which resulted in thousands of civilian casualties and brought both domestic and international opprobrium upon the Siad Barre regime, failed to crush the SNM. Fighting not only intensified in the north over the next eighteen months, but also spread throughout the country, forcing an estimated 800,000 Somalis to seek refuge in Ethiopia.

In March 1990, Siad Barre accused Ethiopia of having violated the 1988 peace agreement by providing continued military support to the SNM. However, by this time the Mengistu government was as beleaguered as the Siad Barre regime by armed opposition movements and was not in a position to assist any Somali rebels. Soon after Siad Barre fled Mogadishu in January 1991, Mengistu followed his example by fleeing Addis Ababa as guerrilla armies closed upon the Ethiopian capital. Throughout 1991 the new provisional governments in Somalia and Ethiopia regarded each other cautiously. Both were threatened by separatist movements and both had an interest in maintaining the integrity of internationally recognized borders. As conditions in Somalia worsened on account of civil strife, the collapse of central authority, and the disruption of food production and distribution, tens of thousands of Somalis fled to Ethiopia, creating a massive refugee situation in that country by early 1992.

Sharing land borders with both Somalia and Ethiopia, Djibouti believed it was in the long-term interests of the Horn of Africa region if both countries remained intact. Djibouti's president, Hassan Gouled Aptidon, attempted to mediate between the provisional government and the SNM and offered his capital as a neutral meeting place. In June 1991, Djibouti served as the venue for a national reconciliation conference between the USC and several other groups.

With most of Djibouti's diverse population consisting of ethnic Somalis, Aptidon's concern about Somalia's future was not entirely altruistic. The Somalis of Djibouti belonged overwhelmingly to the Iise clan, traditional rival of the Isaaqs who dominated the SNM. The Djibouti Iise tended to be suspicious of the Isaaq, believing that they discriminated against their Iise kinsmen in northern Somalia. This concern had prompted Djibouti in 1990 to assist in the formation and training of a separate Iise movement that challenged the SNM before and after the overthrow of Siad Barre. From Djibouti's perspective, a united Somalia composed of many clans afforded more protection to the Iise than a northern republic controlled by Isaaq.

Kenya was concerned about the situation in southern Somalia, which continued to be unstable throughout 1991. Somali refugees, both civilian and military, had crossed the border into northern Kenya to escape the fighting. The refugees included more than fifty close associates of Siad Barre who were granted political asylum. Since the provisional government had announced its intention to try these officials, this action had the potential to provoke political problems between Kenya and Somalia. By early 1992, tens of thousands of Somalis were being sheltered in makeshift refugee camps in northern Kenya.

<"79.htm">Relations with Arab Countries
<"80.htm">Relations with the United States


Somalia - Relations with Arab Countries


Somalia has a long history of cultural, religious, and trade ties with the Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula, which lies across the Gulf of Aden. Although Somalis ethnically are not Arabs, they identify more with Arabs than with their fellow Africans. Thus it was not surprising when Somalia joined the League of Arab States (Arab League) in 1974, becoming the first non-Arab member of that organization. Initially, Somalia tended to support those Arab countries such as Algeria, Iraq, and Libya that opposed United States policies in the Middle East. After its defeat in the Ogaden War, the Siad Barre regime aligned its policies more closely with those of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Subsequently, both of these countries began to provide military aid to Somalia. Other Arab states, in particular Libya, angered Siad Barre by supporting Ethiopia. In 1981 Somalia broke diplomatic relations with Libya, claiming that Libyan leader Muammar al Qadhafi was supporting the SSDF and the nascent SNM. Relations were not restored until 1985.

Throughout the 1980s, Somalia became increasingly dependent upon economic aid from the conservative, wealthy oil-exporting states of Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. This dependence was a crucial factor in the Siad Barre regime's decision to side with the United States-led coalition of Arab states that opposed Iraq following that country's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Support for the coalition brought economic dividends: Qatar canceled further repayment of all principal and interest on outstanding loans, and Saudi Arabia offered Somalia a US$70 million grant and promised to sell it oil at below prevailing international market prices.


Somalia - Relations with the United States


Prior to the Ogaden War, Somalia had been allied with the Soviet Union, and its relations with the United States were strained. Largely because the Soviet Union sided with Ethiopia in the Ogaden War, a United States-Somali rapprochement began in 1977 and culminated in a military access agreement in 1980 that permitted the United States to use naval ports and airfields at Berbera, Chisimayu, and Mogadishu, in exchange for military and economic aid. The United States subsequently refurbished facilities originally developed by the Soviet Union at the Gulf of Aden port of Berbera. The United States Rapid Deployment Force used Berbera as a base for its Operation Bright Star exercises in 1981, and American military advisers were permanently stationed there one year later. Somali military units participated in Operation Bright Star joint maneuvers in 1985. The base at Berbera was used in the fall of 1990 during the deployment of personnel and supplies to Saudi Arabia in preparation for the Persian Gulf War.

Controversy over the Siad Barre government's human rights policies clouded the future of United States military cooperation with Somalia. Siad Barre's policy of repression in the north aroused criticism of his regime in the United States Congress, where the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives held extensive hearings during July 1988 on human rights abuses in Somalia. In 1989, under congressional pressure, the administration of President George Bush terminated military aid to Somalia, although it continued to provide food assistance and to operate a small International Military Education and Training program. In 1990 Washington revealed that Mogadishu had been in default on loan repayments for more than a year. Therefore, under the terms of the Brooke Amendment, this meant that Somalia was ineligible to receive any further United States aid. During the height of the fighting in Mogadishu in January 1991, the United States closed its embassy and evacuated all its personnel from the country. The embassy was ransacked by mobs in the final days of the Siad Barre regime. The United States recognized the provisional government shortly after its establishment. Since the outbreak of the civil war, the United States has consistently urged all parties to come together to resolve their dispute by peaceful means. The United States government has supported the territorial unity of Somalia and as of May 1992 has refused to recognize the independence of northern Somalia proclaimed by the SNM.


CITATION: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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