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Somalia - History

Located in the Horn of Africa, adjacent to the Arabian Peninsula, Somalia is steeped in thousands of years of history. The ancient Egyptians spoke of it as "God's Land" (the Land of Punt). Chinese merchants frequented the Somali coast in the tenth and fourteenth centuries and, according to tradition, returned home with giraffes, leopards, and tortoises to add color and variety to the imperial menagerie. Greek merchant ships and medieval Arab dhows plied the Somali coast; for them it formed the eastern fringe of Bilad as Sudan, "the Land of the Blacks." More specifically, medieval Arabs referred to the Somalis, along with related peoples, as the Berberi.

Somalia is steeped in thousands of years of history. The ancient Egyptians spoke of it as "God's Land" (the Land of Punt). Chinese merchants frequented the Somali coast in the tenth and fourteenth centuries and, according to tradition, returned home with giraffes, leopards, and tortoises to add color and variety to the imperial menagerie. Greek merchant ships and medieval Arab dhows plied the Somali coast; for them it formed the eastern fringe of Bilad as Sudan, "the Land of the Blacks." More specifically, medieval Arabs referred to the Somalis, along with related peoples, as the Berberi.

By the eighteenth century, the Somalis essentially had developed their present way of life, which is based on pastoral nomadism and the Islamic faith. During the colonial period (approximately 1891 to 1960), the Somalis were separated into five mini-Somalilands: British Somaliland (north central); French Somaliland (east and southeast); Italian Somaliland (south); Ethiopian Somaliland (the Ogaden); and, what came to be called the Northern Frontier District (NFD) of Kenya.

In 1960 Italian Somaliland and British Somaliland were merged into a single independent state, the Somali Republic. In its first nine years the Somali state, although plagued by territorial disputes with Ethiopia and Kenya, and by difficulties in integrating the dual legacy of Italian and British administrations, remained a model of democratic governance in Africa; governments were regularly voted into and out of office. Taking advantage of the widespread public bitterness and cynicism attendant upon the rigged elections of early 1969, Major General Mahammad Siad Barre seized power on October 21, 1969, in a bloodless coup.

Over the next twenty-one years Siad Barre established a military dictatorship that divided and oppressed the Somalis. Siad Barre maintained control of the social system by playing off clan against clan until the country became riven with interclan strife and bloodshed. Siad Barre's regime came to a disastrous end in early 1991 with the collapse of the Somali state. In the regime's place emerged armed clan militias fighting one another for political power. Siad Barre fled the capital on January 27, 1991, into the safety of his Mareehaan clan's territory in southern Somalia.

Historical Setting Origins and Settlement

A paucity of written historical evidence forces the student of early Somalia to depend on the findings of archeology, anthropology, historical linguistics, and related disciplines. Such evidence has provided insights that in some cases have refuted conventional explanations of the origins and evolution of the Somali people. For example, where historians once believed that the Somalis originated on the Red Sea's western coast, or perhaps in southern Arabia, it now seems clear that the ancestral homeland of the Somalis, together with affiliated Cushite peoples, was in the highlands of southern Ethiopia, specifically in the lake regions.

Similarly, the once-common notion that the migration and settlement of early Mus,lims followers of the Prophet Muhammad on the Somali coast in the early centuries of Islam had a significant impact on the Somalis no longer enjoys much academic support. Scholars now recognize that the Arab factor--except for the Somalis' conversion to Islam--is marginal to understanding the Somali past. Furthermore, conventional wisdom once held that Somali migrations followed a north-to-south route; the reverse of this now appears to be nearer the truth.

Increasingly, evidence places the Somalis within a wide family of peoples called Eastern Cushites by modern linguists and described earlier in some instances as Hamites. From a broader cultural-linguistic perspective, the Cushite family belongs to a vast stock of languages and peoples considered Afro-Asiatic. Afro-Asiatic languages in turn include Cushitic (principally Somali, Oromo, and Afar), the Hausa language of Nigeria, and the Semitic languages of Arabic, Hebrew, and Amharic. Medieval Arabs referred to the Eastern Cushites as the Berberi.

In addition to the Somalis, the Cushites include the largely nomadic Afar (Danakil), who straddle the Great Rift Valley between Ethiopia and Djibouti; the Oromo, who have played such a large role in Ethiopian history and in the 1990s constituted roughly one-half of the Ethiopian population and were also numerous in northern Kenya; the Reendille (Rendilli) of Kenya; and the Aweera (Boni) along the Lamu coast in Kenya. The Somalis belong to a subbranch of the Cushites, the Omo-Tana group, whose languages are almost mutually intelligible. The original home of the Omo-Tana group appears to have been on the Omo and Tana rivers, in an area extending from Lake Turkana in present-day northern Kenya to the Indian Ocean coast.

The Somalis form a subgroup of the Omo-Tana called Sam. Having split from the main stream of Cushite peoples about the first half of the first millennium B.C., the proto-Sam appear to have spread to the grazing plains of northern Kenya, where protoSam communities seem to have followed the Tana River and to have reached the Indian Ocean coast well before the first century A.D.

On the coast, the proto-Sam splintered further; one group (the Boni) remained on the Lamu Archipelago, and the other moved northward to populate southern Somalia. There the group's members eventually developed a mixed economy based on farming and animal husbandry, a mode of life still common in southern Somalia. Members of the proto-Sam who came to occupy the Somali Peninsula were known as the so-called Samaale, or Somaal, a clear reference to the mythical father figure of the main Somali clan-families, whose name gave rise to the term Somali.

The Samaale again moved farther north in search of water and pasturelands. They swept into the vast Ogaden (Ogaadeen) plains, reaching the southern shore of the Red Sea by the first century A.D. German scholar Bernd Heine, who wrote in the 1970s on early Somali history, observed that the Samaale had occupied the entire Horn of Africa by approximately 100 A.D.

Coastal Towns

The expansion into the peninsula as far as the Red Sea and Indian Ocean put the Somalis in sustained contact with Persian and Arab immigrants who had established a series of settlements along the coast. From the eighth to the tenth centuries, Persian and Arab traders were already engaged in lucrative commerce from enclaves along the Red Sea and Indian Ocean as far south as the coast of present-day Kenya. The most significant enclave was the renowned medieval emporium of Saylac on the Gulf of Aden. In the sixteenth century, Saylac became the principal outlet for trade in coffee, gold, ostrich feathers, civet, and Ethiopian slaves bound for the Middle East, China, and India.

Over time Saylac emerged as the center of Muslim culture and learning, famed for its schools and mosques. Eventually it became the capital of the medieval state of Adal, which in the sixteenth century fought off Christian Ethiopian domination of the highlands. Between 1560 and 1660, Ethiopian expeditions repeatedly harried Saylac, which sank into decay. Berbera replaced Saylac as the northern hub of Islamic influence in the Horn of Africa. By the middle of the sixteenth century, Saylac and Berbera had become dependencies of the sharifs of Mocha and in the seventeenth century passed to the Ottoman Turks, who exercised authority over them through locally recruited Somali governors.

The history of commercial and intellectual contact between the inhabitants of the Arabian and Somali coasts may help explain the Somalia's connection with the Prophet Muhammad. Early in the Prophet's ministry, a band of persecuted Muslims had, with the Prophet's encouragement, fled across the Red Sea into the Horn of Africa. There the Muslim's were afforded protection by the Ethiopian negus, or king. Thus, Islam may have been introduced into the Horn of Africa well before the faith took root in its Arabian native soil. The large-scale conversion of the Somalis had to await the arrival in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries of Muslim patriarchs, in particular, the renowned Shaykh Daarood Jabarti and Shaykh Isahaaq, or Isaaq. Daarood married Doombira Dir, the daughter of a local patriarch.

Their issue gave rise to the confederacy that forms the largest clan-family in Somalia, the Daarood. For his part, Shaykh Isaaq founded the numerous Isaaq clan-family in northern Somalia. Along with the clan system of lineages, the Arabian shaykhs probably introduced into Somalia the patriarchal ethos and patrilineal genealogy typical of Indo-Europeans, and gradually replaced the indigenous Somali social organization, which, like that of many other African societies, may have been matrilineal.

Islam's penetration of the Somali coast, along with the immigration of Arabian elements, inspired a second great population movement reversing the flow of migration from northward to southward. This massive movement, which ultimately took the Somalis to the banks of the Tana River and to the fertile plains of Harear, in Ethiopia, commenced in the thirteenth century and continued to the nineteenth century. At that point, European interlopers appeared on the East African scene, ending Somali migration onto the East African plateau.

Emergence of Adal

In addition to southward migration, a second factor in Somali history from the fifteenth century onward was the emergence of centralized state systems. The most important of these in medieval times was Adal, whose influence at the height of its power and prosperity in the sixteenth century extended from Saylac, the capital, through the fertile valleys of the Jijiga and the Harer plateau to the Ethiopian highlands. Adal's fame derived not only from the prosperity and cosmopolitanism of its people, its architectural sophistication, graceful mosques, and high learning, but also from its conflicts with the expansionist Ethiopians.

For hundreds of years before the fifteenth century, goodwill had existed between the dominant new civilization of Islam and the Christian neguses of Ethiopia. One tradition holds that Muhammad blessed Ethiopia and enjoined his disciples from ever conducting jihad (holy war) against the Christian kingdom in gratitude for the protection early Muslims had received from the Ethiopian negus.

Whereas Muslim armies rapidly overran the more powerful empires of Persia and Byzantium soon after the birth of Islam, there was no jihad against Christian Ethiopia for centuries. The forbidding Ethiopian terrain of deep gorges, sharp escarpments, and perpendicular massifs that rise more than 4,500 meters also discouraged the Muslims from attempting a campaign of conquest against so inaccessible a kingdom.

Muslim-Christian relations soured during the reign of the aggressive Negus Yeshaq (ruled 1414-29). Forces of his rapidly expanding empire descended from the highlands to despoil Muslim settlements in the valley east of the ancient city of Harer. Having branded the Muslims "enemies of the Lord," Yeshaq invaded the Muslim Kingdom of Ifat in 1415. He crushed the armies of Ifat and put to flight in the wastes along the Gulf of Tadjoura (in present-day Djibouti) Ifat's king Saad ad Din. Yeshaq followed Saad ad Din to the island off the coast of Saylac (which still bears his name), where the Muslim king was killed. Yeshaq compelled the Muslims to offer tribute, and also ordered his singers to compose a gloating hymn of thanksgiving for his victory. In the hymn's lyrics, the word Somali appears for the first time in written record.

By the sixteenth century, the Muslims had recovered sufficiently to break through from the east into the central Ethiopian highlands. Led by the charismatic Imam Ahmad Guray (1506-43), the Muslims poured into Ethiopia, using scorched-earth tactics that decimated the population of the country. A Portuguese expedition led by Pedro da Gama, a son of Vasco da Gama who was looking for the Prester John of medieval European folklore--a Christian, African monarch of vast dominions--arrived from the sea and saved Ethiopia. The joint Portuguese-Ethiopian force used cannon to route the Muslims, whose imam died on the battlefield.

Mogadishu and Its Banaadir Hinterlands

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the southern city of Mogadishu became Somalia's most important city. Mogadishu, Merca, and Baraawe, had been major Somali coastal towns in medieval times. Their origins are unknown, but by the fourteenth century travelers were mentioning the three towns more and more as important centers of urban ease and learning. Mogadishu, the largest and most prosperous, dates back at least to the ninth century, when Persian and Arabian immigrants intermingled with Somali elements to produce a distinctive hybrid culture.

The meaning of Mogadishu's name is uncertain. Some render it as a Somali version of the Arabic "maqad shah," or "imperial seat of the shah," thus hinting at a Persian role in the city's founding. Others consider it a Somali mispronunciation of the Swahili "mwyu wa" (last northern city), raising the possibility of its being the northernmost of the chain of Swahili city-states on the East African coast. Whatever its origin, Mogadishu was at the zenith of its prosperity when the well-known Arab traveler Ibn Batuta appeared on the Somali coast in 1331. Ibn Batuta describes "Maqdashu" as "an exceedingly large city" with merchants who exported to Egypt and elsewhere the excellent cloth made in the city.

Through commerce, proselytization, and political influence, Mogadishu and other coastal commercial towns influenced the Banaadir hinterlands (the rural areas outlying Mogadishu) in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Evidence of that influence was the increasing Islamization of the interior by sufis (Muslim mystics) who emigrated upcountry, where they settled among the nomads, married local women, and brought Islam to temper the random violence of the inhabitants.

By the end of the sixteenth century, the locus of intercommunication shifted upland to the well-watered region between the Shabeelle and Jubba rivers. Evidence of the shift of initiative from the coast to the interior may be found in the rise between 1550 and 1650 of the Ujuuraan (also seen as Ajuuraan) state, which prospered on the lower reaches of the interriverine region under the clan of the Gareen. The considerable power of the Ujuuraan state was not diminished until the Portuguese penetration of the East African coast in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Among Somali towns and cities, only Mogadishu successfully resisted the repeated depredations of the Portuguese.

The Somali Peninsula on the Eve of Imperial Partition

In 1728 the last Portuguese foothold on the East African coast was dislodged from the great Mombasa castle of Fort Jesus. From then until the European "scramble" for African colonies in the 1880s, the Omanis exercised a shadowy authority over the Banaadir coast. Omani rule over the Somalis consisted for the most part of a token annual tribute payment and the presence of a resident qadi (Muslim judge) and a handful of askaris (territorial police).

Whereas the Banaadir coast was steadily drawn into the orbit of Zanzibari rulers, the northern coast, starting in the middle of the eighteenth century, passed under the sharifs of Mukha, who held their feeble authority on behalf of the declining Ottomans. The Mukha sharifs, much like the sultans of Zanzibar, satisfied themselves with a token yearly tribute collected for them by a native governor. In 1854-55 when Lieutenant Richard Burton of the British India navy frequented the northern Somali coast, he found a Somali governor, Haaji Shermaarke Ali Saalih of the Habar Yoonis clan of the Isaaq clan-family, exercising real power over Saylac and adjacent regions.

By the time of Burton's arrival, once-mighty Saylac had only a tenuous influence over its environs. The city itself had degenerated into a rubble of mud and wattle huts, its water storage no longer working, its once formidable walls decayed beyond recognition, and its citizenry insulted and oppressed at will by tribesmen who periodically infested the city.

Farther east on the Majeerteen (Bari) coast, by the middle of the nineteenth century two tiny kingdoms emerged that would play a significant political role on the Somali Peninsula prior to colonization. These were the Majeerteen Sultanate of Boqor Ismaan Mahamuud, and that of his kinsman Sultan Yuusuf Ali Keenadiid of Hobyo (Obbia).

The Majeerteen Sultanate originated in the mideighteenth century, but only came into its own in the nineteenth century with the reign of the resourceful Boqor Ismaan Mahamuud. Ismaan Mahamuud's kingdom benefited from British subsidies (for protecting the British naval crews that were shipwrecked periodically on the Somali coast) and from a liberal trade policy that facilitated a flourishing commerce in livestock, ostrich feathers, and gum arabic. While acknowledging a vague vassalage to the British, the sultan kept his desert kingdom free until well after 1800.

Boqor Ismaan Mahamuud's sultanate was nearly destroyed in the middle of the nineteenth century by a power struggle between him and his young, ambitious cousin, Keenadiid. Nearly five years of destructive civil war passed before Boqor Ismaan Mahamuud managed to stave off the challenge of the young upstart, who was finally driven into exile in Arabia. A decade later, in the 1870s, Keenadiid returned from Arabia with a score of Hadhrami musketeers and a band of devoted lieutenants. With their help, he carved out the small kingdom of Hobyo after conquering the local Hawiye clans. Both kingdoms, however, were gradually absorbed by the extension into southern Somalia of Italian colonial rule in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.


The last quarter of the nineteenth century saw political developments that transformed the Somali Peninsula. During this period, the Somalis became the subjects of state systems under the flags of Britain, France, Italy, Egypt, and Ethiopia. The new rulers had various motives for colonization. Britain sought to gain control of the northern Somali coast as a source of mutton and other livestock products for its naval port of Aden in present-day Yemen. As a result of the growing importance of the Red Sea to British operations in the East, Aden was regarded as indispensable to the defense of British India. British occupation of the northern Somali coast began in earnest in February 1884, when Major A. Hunter arrived at Berbera to negotiate treaties of friendship and protection with numerous Somali clans. Hunter arranged to have British vice consuls installed in Berbera, Bullaxaar, and Saylac.

The French, having been evicted from Egypt by the British, wished to establish a coaling station on the Red Sea coast to strengthen naval links with their Indochina colonies. The French were also eager to bisect Britain's vaunted Cairo to Cape Town zone of influence with an east to west expansion across Africa. France extended its foothold on the Afar coast partly to counter the high duties that the British authorities imposed on French goods in Obock. A French protectorate was proclaimed under the governorship of Léonce Lagarde, who played a prominent role in extending French influence into the Horn of Africa.

Recently unified, Italy was inexperienced at imperial power plays. It was therefore content to stake out a territory whenever it could do so without confronting another colonial power. In southern Somalia, better known as the Banaadir coast, Italy was the main colonizer, but the extension of Italian influence was painstakingly slow owing to parliamentary lack of enthusiasm for overseas territory. Italy acquired its first possession in southern Somalia in 1888 when the Sultan of Hobyo, Keenadiid, agreed to Italian "protection." In the same year, Vincenzo Filonardi, Italy's architect of imperialism in southern Somalia, demanded a similar arrangement from the Majeerteen Sultanate of Ismaan Mahamuud. In 1889 both sultans, suspicious of each other, consented to place their lands under Italian protection. Italy then notified the signatory powers of the Berlin West Africa Conference of 1884-85 of its southeastern Somali protectorate. Later, Italy seized the Banaadir coast proper, which had long been under the tenuous authority of the Zanzibaris, to form the colony of Italian Somaliland. Chisimayu Region, which passed to the British as a result of their protectorate over the Zanzibaris, was ceded to Italy in 1925 to complete Italian tenure over southern Somalia.

The catalyst for imperial tenure over Somali territory was Egypt under its ambitious ruler, Khedive Ismail. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, this Ottoman vassal sought to carve out for Egypt a swath of territory in the Horn of Africa. However, the Sudanese anti-Egyptian Mahdist revolt that broke out in 1884 shattered the khedive's plan for imperial aggrandizement. The Egyptians needed British help to evacuate their troops marooned in Sudan and on the Somali coast.

What the European colonialists failed to foresee was that the biggest threat to their imperial ambitions in the Horn of Africa would come from an emerging regional power, the Ethiopia of Emperor Menelik II. Emperor Menelik II not only managed to defend Ethiopia against European encroachment, but also succeeded in competing with the Europeans for the Somali-inhabited territories that he claimed as part of Ethiopia. Between 1887 and 1897, Menelik II successfully extended Ethiopian rule over the long independent Muslim Emirate of Harer and over western Somalia (better known as the Ogaden). Thus, by the turn of the century, the Somali Peninsula, one of the most culturally homogeneous regions of Africa, was divided into British Somaliland, French Somaliland, Italian Somaliland, Ethiopian Somaliland (the Ogaden), and what came to be called the Northern Frontier District (NFD) of Kenya.

Although the officials of the three European powers often lacked funds, they nevertheless managed to establish the rudimentary organs of colonial administration. Moreover, because they controlled the port outlets, they could levy taxes on livestock to obtain the necessary funds to administer their respective Somali territories. In contrast, Ethiopia was largely a feudal state with a subsistence economy that required its army of occupation to live off the land. Thus, Ethiopian armies repeatedly despoiled the Ogaden in the last two decades of the nineteenth century.

Mahammad Abdille Hasau's Dervish Resistance to Colonial Occupation

Given the frequency and virulence of the Ethiopian raids, it was natural that the first pan-Somali or Greater Somalia effort against colonial occupation, and for unification of all areas populated by Somalis into one country, should have been directed at Ethiopians rather than at the Europeans; the effort was spearheaded by the Somali dervish resistance movement. The dervishes followed Mahammad Abdille Hasan of the puritanical Salihiyah tariqa (religious order or brotherhood). His ability as an orator and a poet (much-valued skills in Somali society) won him many disciples, especially among his own Dulbahante and Ogaden clans (both of the Daarood clan-family).

The British dismissed Hasan as a religious fanatic, calling him the "Mad Mullah." They underestimated his following, however, because from 1899 to 1920, the dervishes conducted a war of resistance against the Ethiopians and British, a struggle that devastated the Somali Peninsula and resulted in the death of an estimated one-third of northern Somalia's population and the near destruction of its economy. One of the longest and bloodiest conflicts in the annals of sub-Saharan resistance to alien encroachment, the dervish uprising was not quelled until 1920 with the death of Hasan, who became a hero of Somali nationalism. Deploying a Royal Air Force squadron recently returned from action in combat in World War I, the British delivered the decisive blow with a devastating aerial bombardment of the dervish capital at Taleex in northern Somalia.

Consolidation of Colonial Rule

The two decades between 1900 and 1920 were a period of colonial consolidation. However, of the colonial powers that had divided the Somalis, only Italy developed a comprehensive administrative plan for its colony. The Italians intended to plant a colony of settlers and commercial entrepreneurs in the region between the Shabeelle and Jubba rivers in southern Somalia. The motivation was threefold: to "relieve population pressure at home," to offer the "civilizing Roman mission" to the Somalis, and to increase Italian prestige through overseas colonization.

Initiated by Governor Carletti (1906-10), Italy's colonial program received further impetus by the introduction of fascist ideology and economic planning in the 1920s, particularly during the administration of Governor Cesare Maria de Vecchi de Val Cismon. Large-scale development projects were launched, including a system of plantations on which citrus fruits, primarily bananas, and sugarcane, were grown. Sugarcane fields in Giohar and numerous banana plantations around the town of Jannaale on the Shabeelle River, and at the southern mouth of the Jubba River near Chisimayu, helped transform southern Somalia's economy.

In contrast to the Italian colony, British Somaliland stayed a neglected backwater. Daunted by the diversion of substantial development funds to the suppression of the dervish insurrection and by the "wild" character of the anarchic Somali pastoralists, Britain used its colony as little more than a supplier of meat products to Aden. This policy had a tragic effect on the future unity and stability of independent Somalia. When the two former colonies merged to form the Somali Republic in 1960, the north lagged far behind the south in economic infrastructure and skilled labor. As a result, southerners gradually came to dominate the new state's economic and political life--a hegemony that bred a sense of betrayal and bitterness among northerners.

Somalia During World War II

Italy's 1935 attack on Ethiopia led to a temporary Somali reunification. After Italian premier Benito Mussolini's armies marched into Ethiopia and toppled Emperor Haile Selassie, the Italians seized British Somaliland. During their occupation (1940-41), the Italians reamalgamated the Ogaden with southern and northern Somalilands, uniting for the first time in forty years all the Somali clans that had been arbitrarily separated by the Anglo-Italo-Ethiopian boundaries. The elimination of these artificial boundaries and the unification of the Somali Peninsula enabled the Italians to set prices and impose taxes and to issue a common currency for the entire area. These actions helped move the Somali economy from traditional exchange in kind to a monetarized system.

Thousands of Italians, either veterans of the Ethiopian conquest or new emigrants, poured into Somalia, especially into the interriverine region. Although colonization was designed to entrench the white conquerors, many Somalis did not fare badly under Italian rule during this period. Some, such as the Haaji Diiriye and Yuusuf Igaal families, accumulated considerable fortunes. One indicator of the Somali sense of relative wellbeing may have been the absence of any major anti-Italian revolt during Italy's occupation.

At the onset of World War II, Italian holdings in East Africa included southern Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Italy subsequently invaded northern Somalia and ejected the British from the Horn of Africa. The Italian victory turned out to be short-lived, however. In March 1941, the British counterattacked and reoccupied northern Somalia, from which they launched their lightning campaign to retake the whole region from Italy and restore Emperor Haile Selassie to his throne. The British then placed southern Somalia and the Ogaden under a military administration.

British Military Administration

Following Italy's defeat, the British established military administrations in what had been British Somaliland, Italian Somaliland, and Ethiopian Somaliland. Thus, all Somali-inhabited territories--with the exception of French Somaliland and Kenya's Northern Frontier District (NFD)--were for the second time brought under a single tenure. No integrated administrative structure for the Somali areas was established, however, and under intense pressure from Haile Selassie, Britain agreed to return the Ogaden to Ethiopian jurisdiction. A military governor, aided by a handful of military officers, took over the work of the colonial civil service. In what had been Italian Somaliland, a similar military administration, headed by a military commander, was established.

The principal concern of the British administration during World War II and subsequently was to reestablish order. Accordingly, the Somaliland Camel Corps (local levies raised during the dervish disturbances) was reorganized and later disbanded. This effort resulted in the creation of five battalions known as the Somaliland Scouts, (Ilalos), which absorbed former irregular units. The British disbanded the Italian security units in the south and raised a new army, the Somalia Gendarmerie, commanded by British officers, to police the occupied territory.

Originally, many of the rank and file of the gendarmerie were askaris from Kenya and Uganda who had served under British officers. The gendarmerie was gradually transformed into an indigenous force through the infusion of local recruits who were trained in a new police academy created by the British military administration. Somalia was full of Italian military stragglers, so the security services of the northern and southern protectorates collaborated in rounding them up. The greater security challenge for the British during World War II and immediately after was to disarm the Somalis who had taken advantage of the windfall in arms brought about by the war. Also, Ethiopia had organized Somali bandits to infest the British side so as to discourage continued British occupation of the Ogaden. Ethiopia also armed clan militias and encouraged them to cross into the British zone and cause bloodshed.

Despite its distracting security problems, the British military forces that administered the two Somali protectorates from 1941 to 1949 effected greater social and political changes than had their predecessors. Britain's wartime requirement that the protectorate be self-supporting was modified after 1945, and the appropriation of new funds for the north created a burst of development. To signal the start of a new policy of increased attention to control of the interior, the capital was transferred from Berbera, a hot coastal town, to Hargeysa, whose location on the inland plateau offered the incidental benefit of a more hospitable climate.

Although the civil service remained inadequate to staff the expanding administration, efforts were made to establish health and veterinary services, to improve agriculture in the Gabiley-Boorama agricultural corridor northwest of Hargeysa, to increase the water supply to pastoralists by digging more bore wells, and to introduce secular elementary schools where previously only Quranic schools had existed. The judiciary was reorganized as a dual court system combining elements from the Somali heer (traditional jurisprudence), Islamic sharia or religious law, and British common law.

In Italian Somaliland, the British improved working conditions for Somali agricultural laborers, doubled the size of the elementary school system, and allowed Somalis to staff the lower stratum of the civil service and gendarmerie. Additionally, military administrators opened the political process for Somalis, replacing Italian-appointed chiefs with clan-elected bodies, as well as district and regional councils whose purpose was to advise the military administration.

Military officials could not govern without the Italian civilians who constituted the experienced civil service. The British military also recognized that Italian technocrats would be needed to keep the economy going. Only Italians deemed to be security risks were interned or excluded from the new system. In early 1943, Italians were permitted to organize political associations. A host of Italian organizations of varying ideologies sprang up to challenge British rule, to compete politically with Somalis and Arabs (the latter being politically significant only in the urban areas, particularly the towns of Mogadishu, Merca, and Baraawe), and to agitate, sometimes violently, for the return of the colony to Italian rule.

Faced with growing Italian political pressure, inimical to continued British tenure and to Somali aspirations for independence, the Somalis and the British came to see each other as allies. The situation prompted British colonial officials to encourage the Somalis to organize politically; the result was the first modern Somali political party, the Somali Youth Club (SYC), established in Mogadishu in 1943.

To empower the new party, the British allowed the better educated police and civil servants to join it, thus relaxing Britain's traditional policy of separating the civil service from leadership, if not membership, in political parties. The SYC expanded rapidly and boasted 25,000 card-carrying members by 1946. In 1947 it renamed itself the Somali Youth League (SYL) and began to open offices not only in the two British-run Somalilands but also in Ethiopia's Ogaden and in the NFD of Kenya. The SYL's stated objectives were to unify all Somali territories, including the NFD and the Ogaden; to create opportunities for universal modern education; to develop the Somali language by a standard national orthography; to safeguard Somali interests; and to oppose the restoration of Italian rule.

SYL policy banned clannishness so that the thirteen founding members, although representing four of Somalia's six major clans, refused to disclose their ethnic identities. A second political body sprang up, originally calling itself the Patriotic Benefit Union but later renaming itself the Hisbia Digil Mirifle (HDM), representing the two interriverine clans of Digil and Mirifle. The HDM allegedly cooperated with the Italians and accepted significant Italian financial backing in its struggle against the SYL. Although the SYL enjoyed considerable popular support from northerners, the principal parties in British Somaliland were the Somali National League (SNL), mainly associated with the Isaaq clan-family, and the United Somali Party (USP), which had the support of the Dir (Gadabursi and Issa) and Daarood (Dulbahante and Warsangali) clan-families.

Although southern Somalia legally was an Italian colony, in 1945 the Potsdam Conference decided not to return to Italy the African territory it had seized during the war. The disposition of Somalia therefore fell to the Allied Council of Foreign Ministers, which assigned a four-power commission consisting of Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States to decide Somalia's future. The British suggested that all the Somalis should be placed under a single administration, preferably British, but the other powers accused Britain of imperial machinations.

In January 1948, commission representatives arrived in Mogadishu to learn the aspirations of the Somalis. The SYL requested and obtained permission from the military administration to organize a massive demonstration to show the commission delegates the strength of popular demand for independence. When the SYL held its rally, a counter demonstration led by Italian elements came out to voice pro- Italian sentiment and to attempt to discredit the SYL before the commission. A riot erupted in which fifty-one Italians and twenty-four Somalis were killed.

Despite the confusion, the commission proceeded with its hearings and seemed favorably impressed by the proposal the SYL presented: to reunite all Somalis and to place Somalia under a ten-year trusteeship overseen by an international body that would lead the country to independence. The commission heard two other plans. One was offered by the HDM, which departed from its pro-Italian stance to present an agenda similar to that of the SYL, but which included a request that the trusteeship period last thirty years. The other was put forward by a combination of Italian and Somali groups petitioning for the return of Italian rule.

The commission recommended a plan similar to that of the SYL, but the Allied Council of Foreign Ministers, under the influence of conflicting diplomatic interests, failed to reach consensus on the way to guide the country to independence. France favored the colony's return to Italy; Britain favored a formula much like that of the SYL, but the British plan was thwarted by the United States and the Soviet Union, which accused Britain of seeking imperial gains at the expense of Ethiopian and Italian interests. Britain was unwilling to quarrel with its erstwhile allies over Somali well-being and the SYL plan was withdrawn. Meanwhile, Ethiopia strongly pressured Britain through the United States, which was anxious to accommodate Emperor Haile Selassie in return for his promise to offer the United States a military base in Ethiopia. For its part, the Soviet Union preferred to reinstate Italian tenure, mainly because of the growing communist influence on Italian domestic politics.

Under United States and Soviet prodding, Britain returned the Ogaden to Ethiopia in 1948 over massive Somali protests. The action shattered Somali nationalist aspirations for Greater Somalia, but the shock was softened by the payment of considerable war reparations--or "bribes," as the Somalis characterized them--to Ogaden clan chiefs. In 1949 many grazing areas in the hinterlands also were returned to Ethiopia, but Britain gained Ethiopian permission to station British liaison officers in the Reserved Areas, areas frequented by British- protected Somali clans. The liaison officers moved about with the British-protected clans that frequented the Haud pasturelands for six months of the year. The liaison officers protected the pastoralists from Ethiopian "tax collectors"--armed bands that Ethiopia frequently sent to the Ogaden, both to demonstrate its sovereignty and to defray administrative costs by seizing Somali livestock.

Meanwhile, because of disagreements among commission members over the disposition of Somalia, the Allied Council of Foreign Ministers referred the matter to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. In November 1949, the General Assembly voted to make southern Somalia a trust territory to be placed under Italian control for ten years, following which it would become independent. The General Assembly stipulated that under no circumstance should Italian rule over the colony extend beyond 1960. The General Assembly seems to have been persuaded by the argument that Italy, because of its experience and economic interests, was best suited to administer southern Somalia. Thus, the SYL's vehement opposition to the reimposition of Italian rule fell on deaf ears at the UN.

Trusteeship and Protectorate: The Road to Independence

The conditional return of Italian administration to southern Somalia gave the new trust territory several unique advantages compared with other African colonies. To the extent that Italy held the territory by UN mandate, the trusteeship provisions gave the Somalis the opportunity to gain experience in political education and self-government. These were advantages that British Somaliland, which was to be incorporated into the new Somali state, did not have. Although in the 1950s British colonial officials attempted, through various development efforts, to make up for past neglect, the protectorate stagnated. The disparity between the two territories in economic development and political experience would cause serious difficulties when it came time to integrate the two parts.

The UN agreement established the Italian Trusteeship Administration (Amministrazione Fiduciaria Italiana della Somalia--AFIS) to prepare southern Somalia for independence over a ten-year period. Under the agreement, a UN Advisory Council based in Mogadishu observed the AFIS and reported its progress to the UN Trusteeship Council. The agreement required the new administration to develop the colony's political institutions, to expand the educational system, to improve the economic infrastructure, and to give the indigenous people freedom of the press and the right to dissent.

These political and civil guarantees did not make for smooth Italo-Somali relations. Seen by the Italians as the source of nationalist sentiment and activity, the SYL distrusted the new administration, suspecting it of having a hidden colonial agenda. SYL fears were exacerbated when the AFIS, soon after taking control, proceeded to jail some SYL members and to fire others from their civil service posts. The SYL responded with protests, civil disobedience, and representations to the UN Advisory Council. The council intervened to arbitrate the disputes and to encourage the two sides to collaborate. The conflict simmered for three years (1950-53) until new economic and political initiatives provided a channel for the energies of Somali nationalists.

The centerpiece of the initiatives was a series of seven-year development programs introduced in 1954. Drawing on development blueprints provided by the United States Agency for International Cooperation (AIC; later the United States Agency for International Development--AID) and the UN Development Programme, the Italian administration initiated plans to stimulate local agriculture, to improve the infrastructure, and to expand educational facilities. Exports, responding to these stimuli, trebled from 1954 to 1960. Despite these improvements, an acute balance of payments deficit persisted, and the administration had to rely on foreign grants and Italian subsidies to balance the budget.

Development efforts in education were more successful. Between 1952 and 1957, student enrollment at the elementary and secondary levels doubled. In 1957 there were 2,000 students receiving secondary, technical, and university education in Italian Somaliland and through scholarship programs in China, Egypt, and Italy. Another program offered night-school adult literacy instruction and provided further training to civil servants. However, these programs were severely handicapped by the absence of a standard script and a written national language. Arabic, Italian, and English served as media of instruction in the various schools; this linguistic plurality created a Tower of Babel.

Progress was made throughout the 1950s in fostering political institutions. In accordance with a UN resolution, in 1950 the Italians had established in Italian Somaliland an advisory body known as the Territorial Council, which took an active part in discussions of proposed AFIS legislation. Composed of thirty-five members, the council came to be dominated by representatives of political parties such as the SYL and HDM. Acting as a nascent parliament, the Territorial Council gained experience not only in procedural matters but also in legislative debates on the political, economic, and social problems that would face future Somali governments. For its part the AFIS, by working closely with the council, won legitimacy in Somali eyes.

There were other forums, besides the Territorial Council, in which Somalis gained executive and legislative experience. These included the forty-eight-member Municipal Council introduced in 1950, whose members dealt with urban planning, public services, and, after 1956, fiscal and budgetary matters. Rural councils handled tribal and local problems such as conflicts over grazing grounds and access to water and pasturelands. However, the effectiveness of the rural councils was undermined by the wanderings of the nomads as they searched for water wells and pastures, a circumstance that made stable political organizations difficult to sustain. Thus, the UN Advisory Council's plans to use the rural councils as bridges to development turned out to be untenable, a situation that enabled AFIS-appointed district commissioners to become the focus of power and political action.

Territory-wide elections were first held in southern Somalia in 1956. Although ten parties fielded candidates to select representatives to a new seventy-seat Legislative Assembly that replaced the Territorial Council, only the SYL (which won forty- three seats) and HDM (which won thirteen seats) gained significant percentages of the sixty seats that the Somalis contested. The remaining ten seats were reserved for Indians, Arabs, and other non-Somalia. Abdullaahi Iise, leader of the SYL in the assembly, became the first prime minister of a government composed of five ministerial posts, all held by Somalis. The new assembly assumed responsibility for domestic affairs, although the governor as representative of the Italian government and as the most senior official of the AFIS retained the "power of absolute veto" as well as the authority to rule by emergency decree should the need arise. Moreover, until 1958 the AFIS continued to control important areas such as foreign relations, external finance, defense, and public order.

The term of office of the Iise government was four years (1956-60)--a trial period that enabled the nascent southern Somali administration to shape the terms under which it was to gain its independence. This period was the most stable in modern Somali politics. The government's outlook was modernist and, once the Somalis become convinced that Italy would not attempt to postpone independence, pro-Italian. The franchise was extended to women in 1958, and nationalization at all levels of administration from district commissioner to provincial governor proceeded apace. Attempts were made to suppress clannishness and to raise the status of women and of groups holding lowly occupations. The future promised hope: the moral support of global anticolonial forces, the active backing of the UN, and the goodwill of the Western powers, including Italy.

The southern Somali government's principal tasks were to increase economic self-sufficiency and to find external sources of financial assistance that would replace the support Italy would withdraw after independence. Another major concern was to frame the constitution that would take effect once Somalia became independent. The writers of this document faced two sensitive issues: the form of government--federalist or unitary--the new nation would adopt, and nationalist aspirations concerning Greater Somalia.

The first issue was of great interest to the HDM, whose supporters mainly were cultivators from the well- watered region between the Shabeelle and Jubba rivers and who represented about 30 percent of the population. The HDM wanted a federal form of government. This preference derived from concerns about dominance by the SYL, which was supported by pastoral clans that accounted for 60 percent of the population. Not surprisingly, the SYL advocated a unitary form of government, arguing that federalism would encourage clannishness and social strife. In the end, political and numerical strength enabled the SYL to prevail.

The delicate issue of Greater Somalia, whose recreation would entail the detachment from Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Kenya of Somali-inhabited areas, presented Somali leaders with a dilemma: they wanted peace with their neighbors, but making claims on their territory was certain to provoke hostility. Led by Haaji Mahammad Husseen, the SYL radical wing wanted to include in the constitution an article calling for the unification of the Somali nation "by all means necessary." In the end, the moderate majority prevailed in modifying the wording to demand "reunification of the dismembered nation by peaceful means."

During the four-year transition to independence, conflicts over unresolved economic and political issues took the form of intraparty squabbling within the dominant SYL rather than interparty competition, as Daarood and Hawiye party stalwarts banded into factions. The Daarood accused Iise's government of being under Italian influence and the Hawiye countered with a charge of clannishness in the Daarood ranks. Husseen's radical faction continued to charge Iise's government with being too close to the West, and to Italy in particular, and of doing little to realize the national goal of reconstituting Greater Somalia. Despite his rift with prime minister Iise, Husseen, who had headed the party in the early years, was again elected SYL president in July 1957.

But his agenda of looser ties with the West and closer relations with the Arab world clashed with the policies of Iise and of Aadan Abdullah Usmaan, the parliamentary leader who would become the first president of independent Somalia. Husseen inveighed against "reactionaries in government," a thinly veiled reference to Iise and Usmaan. The latter two responded by expelling Husseen and his supporters from the SYL. Having lost the power struggle, Husseen created a militant new party, the Greater Somali League (GSL). Although Husseen's firebrand politics continued to worry the SYL leadership, he never managed to cut deeply into the party's constituency.

The SYL won the 1958 municipal elections in the Italian trust territory, in part because it had begun to succeed in attracting important Rahanwayn clan elements like Abdulqaadir Soppe, who formerly had supported the HDM. Its growing appeal put the SYL in a commanding position going into the pre-independence election campaigns for the National Assembly of the Republic, a new body that replaced the two legislative assemblies of British and Italian Somaliland.

The National Assembly had been enlarged to contain ninety seats for southern representatives and thirty- three for northern representatives. The HDM and the GSL accused the SYL of tampering with the election process and decided to boycott the elections. Consequently, the SYL garnered sixty-one uncontested seats by default, in addition to the twenty seats contested and won by the party. The new government formed in 1959 was headed by incumbent prime minister Iise. The expanded SYL gave representation to virtually all the major clans in the south. Although efforts were made to distribute the fifteen cabinet posts among the contending clan-families, a political tug-of-war within the party continued between conservatives from the religious communities and modernists such as Abdirashiid Ali Shermaarke. Meanwhile, in British Somaliland the civilian colonial administration attempted to expand educational opportunities in the protectorate. The number of Somalis qualifying for administrative posts remained negligible, however. The protectorate had experienced little economic or infrastructural development apart from the digging of more bore wells and the establishment of agricultural and veterinary services to benefit animal and plant husbandry. Comprehensive geological surveys failed to uncover exploitable mineral resources.

Politically, although the SYL opened branches in the north and the SNL continued to expand its membership, neither party could mobilize grass-roots support. This changed in 1954, when the last British liaison officers withdrew from the Reserved Areas--parts of the Ogaden and the Haud in which the British were given temporary administrative rights, in accordance with a 1942 military convention between Britain and Ethiopian emperor in exile Haile Selassie. This move conformed with Britain's agreement with Ethiopia confirming the latter's title deeds to the Haud under the 1897 treaty that granted Ethiopia full jurisdiction over the region. The British colonial administrators of the area were, however, embarrassed by what they saw as Britain's betrayal of the trust put in it by Somali clans who were to be protected against Ethiopian raids.

The Somalis responded with dismay to the ceding of the Haud to Ethiopia. A new party named the National United Front (NUF), supported by the SNL and the SYL, arose under the leadership of a Somali civil servant, Michael Mariano, a prominent veteran of the SYL's formative years. Remarkably, for the militantly Muslim country, the man selected to lead the nationalist struggle for the return of the Haud, was a Christian. NUF representatives visited London and the UN seeking to have the Haud issue brought before the world community, in particular the International Court of Justice. Britain attempted unsuccessfully to purchase the Haud from Ethiopia. Ethiopia responded with a counterprotest laying claim to all Somali territories, including the British and Italian Somalilands, as part of historical Ethiopia--territories, Haile Selassie claimed, seized by the European powers during a period of Ethiopian weakness. The Europeans were reluctant to press new territorial demands on Haile Selassie and did little to help the Somalis recover the Haud.

Political protests forced Britain in 1956 to introduce representative government in its protectorate and to accept the eventual unification of British Somaliland with southern Somalia. Accordingly, in 1957 a Legislative Council was established, composed of six members appointed by the governor to represent the principal clan-families. The council was expanded the following year to consist of twelve elected members, two appointees, and fifteen senior elders and notables chosen as ex officio members.

The electoral procedure in the north followed that in the south, with elections in urban areas conducted by svecret ballot and in the countryside by acclamation in clan assemblies. In 1960 the first elections contested along party lines resulted in a victory for the SNL and its affiliate the USP, the two winning between them all but one of the thirty-three seats in the new Legislative Assembly. The remaining seat was won by Mariano, the NUF's defeat clearly attributable to his Christian affiliation, which his political opponents had made a prominent campaign issue. Following the election, Mahammad Ibrahim Igaal was chosen as prime minister to lead a four-man government.

Popular demand compelled the leaders of the two territories to proceed with plans for immediate unification. The British government acquiesced to the force of Somali nationalist public opinion and agreed to terminate its rule of Somaliland in 1960 in time for the protectorate to merge with the trust territory on the independence date already fixed by the UN commission. In April 1960, leaders of the two territories met in Mogadishu and agreed to form a unitary state. An elected president was to be head of state. Full executive powers would be held by a prime minister answerable to an elected National Assembly of 123 members representing the two territories.

Accordingly, British Somaliland received its independence on June 26, 1960, and united with the trust territory to establish the Somali Republic on July 1, 1960. The legislature appointed Usmaan president; he in turn appointed Shermaarke the first prime minister. Shermaarke formed a coalition government dominated by the SYL but supported by the two clan-based northern parties, the SNL and the USC. Usmaan's appointment as president was ratified a year later in a national referendum.

From Independence to Revolution

During the nine-year period of parliamentary democracy that followed Somali independence, freedom of expression was widely regarded as being derived from the traditional right of every man to be heard. The national ideal professed by Somalis was one of political and legal equality in which historical Somali values and acquired Western practices appeared to coincide. Politics was viewed as a realm not limited to one profession, clan, or class, but open to all male members of society. The role of women, however, was more limited. Women had voted in Italian Somaliland since the municipal elections in 1958. In May 1963, by an assembly margin of 52 to 42, suffrage was extended to women in former British Somaliland as well. Politics was at once the Somalis' most practiced art and favorite sport. The most desired possession of most nomads was a radio, which was used to keep informed on political news. The level of political participation often surpassed that in many Western democracies.

The military coup that ended the democratic regime retroactively defined its action as a Marxist revolution not only instituting a new political order but also proposing the radical transformation of Somali society through the application of "scientific socialism." Despite the presence of Soviet advisers with the armed forces, no evidence indicated that the coup was Soviet-inspired. SRC members included officers ranging in rank from major general (Siad Barre and Jaama Ali Qoorsheel) to captain, but the young Soviet-trained junior officers--versed in Marx and Lenin--who had encouraged the coup were excluded from important positions in the revolutionary regime.

The SRC, which was synonymous with the new government, reorganized the country's political and legal institutions, formulated a guiding ideology based on the Quran as well as on Marx, and purged civilian officials who were not susceptible to "reeducation." The influence of lineage groups at all levels and elitism in public life based on clan affiliation were targeted for eradication. Eventually, Siad Barre emerged as Somalia's strongman, spokesman for its revolution, and leader of its government. In 1971 he announced the regime's intention to phase out military rule after the establishment of a political party whose central committee ultimately would supersede the SRC as a policy- and decision-making body.

Problems of National Integration

Although unified as a single nation at independence, the south and the north were, from an institutional perspective, two separate countries. Italy and Britain had left the two with separate administrative, legal, and education systems in which affairs were conducted according to different procedures and in different languages. Police, taxes, and the exchange rates of their respective currencies also differed. Their educated elites had divergent interests, and economic contacts between the two regions were virtually nonexistent.

In 1960 the UN created the Consultative Commission for Integration, an international board headed by UN official Paolo Contini, to guide the gradual merger of the new country's legal systems and institutions and to reconcile the differences between them. (In 1964 the Consultative Commission for Legislation succeeded this body. Composed of Somalis, it took up its predecessor's work under the chairmanship of Mariano.) But many southerners believed that, because of experience gained under the Italian trusteeship, theirs was the better prepared of the two regions for self-government. Northern political, administrative, and commercial elites were reluctant to recognize that they now had to deal with Mogadishu.

At independence, the northern region had two functioning political parties: the SNL, representing the Isaaq clan-family that constituted a numerical majority there; and the USP, supported largely by the Dir and the Daarood. In a unified Somalia, however, the Isaaq were a small minority, whereas the northern Daarood joined members of their clan-family from the south in the SYL. The Dir, having few kinsmen in the south, were pulled on the one hand by traditional ties to the Hawiye and on the other hand by common regional sympathies to the Isaaq. The southern opposition party, the GSL, pro-Arab and militantly panSomali , attracted the support of the SNL and the USP against the SYL, which had adopted a moderate stand before independence.

Northern misgivings about being too tightly harnessed to the south were demonstrated by the voting pattern in the June 1961 referendum on the constitution, which was in effect Somalia's first national election. Although the draft was overwhelmingly approved in the south, it was supported by less than 50 percent of the northern electorate.

Dissatisfaction at the distribution of power among the clanfamilies and between the two regions boiled over in December 1961, when a group of British-trained junior army officers in the north rebelled in reaction to the posting of higher ranking southern officers (who had been trained by the Italians for police duties) to command their units. The ringleaders urged a separation of north and south. Northern noncommissioned officers arrested the rebels, but discontent in the north persisted.

In early 1962, GSL leader Husseen, seeking in part to exploit northern dissatisfaction, attempted to form an amalgamated party, known as the Somali Democratic Union (SDU). It enrolled northern elements, some of which were displeased with the northern SNL representatives in the coalition government. Husseen's attempt failed. In May 1962, however, Igaal and another northern SNL minister resigned from the cabinet and took many SNL followers with them into a new party, the Somali National Congress (SNC), which won widespread northern support. The new party also gained support in the south when it was joined by an SYL faction composed predominantly of Hawiye. This move gave the country three truly national political parties and further served to blur north-south differences.


Despite the difficulties encountered in integrating north and south, the most important political issue in post-independence Somali politics was the unification of all areas populated by Somalis into one country--a concept identified as pan-Somalism, or Greater Somalia. Politicians assumed that this issue dominated popular opinion and that any government would fall if it did not demonstrate a militant attitude toward neighboring countries occupying Somali territory.

Preoccupation with Greater Somalia shaped the character of the country's newly formed institutions and led to the build-up of the Somali military and ultimately to the war with Ethiopia and fighting in the NFD in Kenya. By law the exact size of the National Assembly was not established in order to facilitate the inclusion of representatives of the contested areas after unification. The national flag featured a five-pointed star whose points represented those areas claimed as part of the Somali nation--the former Italian and British territories, the Ogaden, Djibouti, and the NFD.

Moreover, the preamble to the constitution approved in 1961 included the statement, "The Somali Republic promotes by legal and peaceful means, the union of the territories." The constitution also provided that all ethnic Somalis, no matter where they resided, were citizens of the republic. The Somalis did not claim sovereignty over adjacent territories, but rather demanded that Somalis living in them be granted the right to self-determination. Somali leaders asserted that they would be satisfied only when their fellow Somalis outside the republic had the opportunity to decide for themselves what their status would be.

At the 1961 London talks on the future of Kenya, Somali representatives from the NFD demanded that Britain arrange for the NFD's separation before Kenya was granted independence. The British government appointed a commission to ascertain popular opinion in the NFD on the question. Its investigation indicated that separation from Kenya was almost unanimously supported by the Somalis and their fellow nomadic pastoralists, the Oromo. These two peoples, it was noted, represented a majority of the NFD's population.

Despite Somali diplomatic activity, the colonial government in Kenya did not act on the commission's findings. British officials believed that the federal format then proposed in the Kenyan constitution would provide a solution through the degree of autonomy it allowed the predominantly Somali region within the federal system. This solution did not diminish Somali demands for unification, however, and the modicum of federalism disappeared after Kenya's government opted for a centralized constitution in 1964.

The denial of Somali claims led to growing hostility between the Kenyan government and Somalis in the NFD. Adapting easily to life as shiftas, or bandits, the Somalis conducted a guerrilla campaign against the police and army for more than four years between 1960 and 1964. The Somali government officially denied Kenya's charges that the guerrillas were trained in Somalia, equipped there with Soviet arms, and directed from Mogadishu. But it could not deny that the Voice of Somalia radio influenced the level of guerrilla activity by means of its broadcasts beamed into Kenya.

Somalia refused to acknowledge in particular the validity of the Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1954 recognizing Ethiopia's claim to the Haud or, in general, the relevance of treaties defining Somali-Ethiopian borders. Somalia's position was based on three points: first, that the treaties disregarded agreements made with the clans that had put them under British protection; second, that the Somalis were not consulted on the terms of the treaties and in fact had not been informed of their existence; and third, that such treaties violated the self-determination principle.

Incidents began to occur in the Haud within six months after Somali independence. At first the incidents were confined to minor clashes between Ethiopian police and armed parties of Somali nomads, usually resulting from traditional provocations such as smuggling, livestock rustling, and tax collecting, rather than irredentist agitation. Their actual causes aside, these incidents tended to be viewed in Somalia as expressions of Somali nationalism. Hostilities grew steadily, eventually involving small-scale actions between Somali and Ethiopian armed forces along the border.

In February 1964, armed conflict erupted along the Somali-Ethiopian frontier, and Ethiopian aircraft raided targets in Somalia. Hostilities ended in April through the mediation of Sudan, acting under the auspices of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Under the terms of the cease-fire, a joint commission was established to examine the causes of frontier incidents, and a demilitarized zone ten to fifteen kilometers wide was established on either side of the border. At least temporarily, further military confrontations were prevented.

Ethiopia and Kenya concluded a mutual defense pact in 1964 in response to what both countries perceived as a continuing threat from Somalia. This pact was renewed in 1980 and again on August 28, 1987, calling for the coordination of the armed forces of both states in the event of an attack by Somalia. Most OAU members were alienated by Somali irredentism and feared that if Somalia were successful in detaching the Somali-populated portions of Kenya and Ethiopia, the example might inspire their own restive minorities divided by frontiers imposed during the colonial period. In addition, in making its irredentist claims, the Somalis had challenged two of Africa's leading elder statesmen, President Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia.

Foreign Relations, 1960-69

Somalia's government was in the hands of leaders who were favorably disposed toward the Western democracies, particularly Italy and Britain, in whose political traditions many of them had been educated. Nevertheless, as a reflection of its desire to demonstrate self-reliance and nonalignment, the Somali government established ties with the Soviet Union and China soon after independence.

The growth of Soviet influence in Somalia dated from 1962, when Moscow agreed to provide loans to finance the training and equipping of the armed forces. By the late 1960s, about 300 Soviet military personnel were serving as advisers to the Somali forces, whose inventories had been stocked almost entirely with equipment of East European manufacture. During the same period, about 500 Somalis received military training in the Soviet Union. As a result of their contact with Soviet personnel, some Somali military officers developed a Marxist perspective on important issues that contrasted with the democratic outlook of most of the country's civilian leaders.

The Soviet Union also provided nonmilitary assistance, including technical training scholarships, printing presses, broadcasting equipment for the government, and agricultural and industrial development aid. By 1969 considerable nonmilitary assistance had also been provided by China. Such projects included the construction of hospitals and factories and in the 1970s of the major north-south road.

Somalia's relations with Italy after independence remained good, and Italian influence continued in the modernized sectors of social and cultural affairs. Although their number had dropped to about 3,000 by 1965, the Italians residing in Somalia still dominated many of the country's economic activities. Italian economic assistance during the 1960s totaled more than a quarter of all the nonmilitary foreign aid received, and Italy was an important market for Somali goods, particularly food crops produced on the large, Italian-owned commercial farms in the river valleys. Italy's sponsorship enabled Somalia to become an associate of the European Economic Community (EEC), which formed another source of economic and technical aid and assured preferential status for Somali exports in West European markets.

In contrast to the cordial relations maintained with Italy, Somalia severed diplomatic ties to Britain in 1962 to protest British support of Kenya's position on the NFD. Somalia's relations with France were likewise strained because of opposition to the French presence in the Territory of the Afars and Issas (formerly French Somaliland, later independent Djibouti). Meanwhile, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) provided Somalia with a moderate amount of aid, most notably sharing with Italy and the United States the task of training the police force. The Somali government purposely sought a variety of foreign sponsors to instruct its security forces, and Western-trained police were seen as counterbalancing the Soviet-trained military. Likewise, the division of training missions was believed to reduce dependence on either the West or the communist countries to meet Somali security needs.

Throughout the 1960s, the United States supplied nonmilitary aid to Somalia, a large proportion of it in the form of grants. But the image of the United States in the eyes of most Somalis was influenced more by its support for Ethiopia than by any assistance to Somalia. The large scale of United States military aid to Ethiopia was particularly resented. Although aid to that country had begun long before the Somali-Ethiopian conflict and was based on other considerations, the Somalis' attitude remained unchanged as long as the United States continued to train and equip a hostile neighbor.

The Husseen Government

Countrywide municipal elections, in which the SYL won 74 percent of the seats, occurred in November 1963. These were followed in March 1964 by the country's first postindependence national elections. Again the SYL triumphed, winning 69 out of l23 parliamentary seats. The party's true margin of victory was even greater, as the fifty-four seats won by the opposition were divided among a number of small parties.

After the 1964 National Assembly election in March, a crisis occurred that left Somalia without a government until the beginning of September. President Usmaan, who was empowered to propose the candidate for prime minister after an election or the fall of a government, chose Abdirizaaq Haaji Husseen as his nominee instead of the incumbent, Shermaarke, who had the endorsement of the SYL party leadership. Shermaarke had been prime minister for the four previous years, and Usmaan decided that new leadership might be able to introduce fresh ideas for solving national problems.

In drawing up a Council of Ministers for presentation to the National Assembly, the nominee for prime minister chose candidates on the basis of ability and without regard to place of origin. But Husseen's choices strained intraparty relations and broke the unwritten rules that there be clan and regional balance. For instance, only two members of Shermaarke's cabinet were to be retained, and the number of posts in northern hands was to be increased from two to five.

The SYL's governing Central Committee and its parliamentary groups became split. Husseen had been a party member since 1944 and had participated in the two previous Shermaarke cabinets. His primary appeal was to younger and more educated party members. Several political leaders who had been left out of the cabinet joined the supporters of Shermaarke to form an opposition group within the party. As a result, the Husseen faction sought support among non-SYL members of the National Assembly.

Although the disagreements primarily involved personal or group political ambitions, the debate leading to the initial vote of confidence centered on the issue of Greater Somalia. Both Usmaan and prime minister-designate Husseen wanted to give priority to the country's internal economic and social problems. Although Husseen had supported militant pan-Somalism, he was portrayed as willing to accept the continued sovereignty of Ethiopia and Kenya over Somali areas.

The proposed cabinet failed to be affirmed by a margin of two votes. Seven National Assembly members, including Shermaarke, abstained, while forty-eight members of the SYL voted for Husseen and thirty-three opposed him. Despite the apparent split in the SYL, it continued to attract recruits from other parties. In the first three months after the election, seventeen members of the parliamentary opposition resigned from their parties to join the SYL.

Usmaan ignored the results of the vote and again nominated Husseen as prime minister. After intraparty negotiation, which included the reinstatement of four party officials expelled for voting against him, Husseen presented a second cabinet list to the National Assembly that included all but one of his earlier nominees. However, the proposed new cabinet contained three additional ministerial positions filled by men chosen to mollify opposition factions. The new cabinet was approved with the support of all but a handful of SYL National Assembly members. Husseen remained in office until the presidential elections of June 1967.

The 1967 presidential elections, conducted by a secret poll of National Assembly members, pitted former prime minister Shermaarke against Usmaan. Again the central issue was moderation versus militancy on the pan-Somali question. Usmaan, through Husseen, had stressed priority for internal development. Shermaarke, who had served as prime minister when pan-Somalism was at its height, was elected president of the republic.

The Igaal Government

The new president nominated as prime minister Mahammad Ibrahim Igaal, who raised cabinet membership from thirteen to fifteen members and included representatives of every major clanfamily , as well as some members of the rival SNC. In August 1967, the National Assembly confirmed his appointment without serious opposition. Although the new prime minister had supported Shermaarke in the presidential election, he was a northerner and had led a 1962 defection of the northern SNL assembly members from the government. He had also been closely involved in the founding of the SNC but, with many other northern members of that group, had rejoined the SYL after the 1964 elections.

A more important difference between Shermaarke and Igaal, other than their past affiliations, was the new prime minister's moderate position on pan-Somali issues and his desire for improved relations with other African countries. In these areas, he was allied with the "modernists" in the government, parliament, and administration who favored redirecting the nation's energies from confrontation with its neighbors to combating social and economic ills. Although many of his domestic policies seemed more in line with those of the previous administration, Igaal continued to hold the confidence of both Shermaarke and the National Assembly during the eighteen months preceding the March 1969 national elections.

Igaal's policy of regional détente resulted in improved relations with Ethiopia and Kenya. The prime minister did not relinquish Somalia's territorial claims, but he hoped to create an atmosphere in which the issue could be peacefully negotiated. In September 1968, Somalia and Ethiopia agreed to establish commercial air and telecommunication links. The termination of the state of emergency in the border regions, which had been declared by Ethiopia in February 1964, permitted the resumption of free access by Somali pastoralists to their traditional grazing lands and the reopening of the road across Ethiopian territory between Mogadishu and Hargeysa. With foreign affairs a less consuming issue, the government's energy and the country's meager resources could now be applied more effectively to the challenges of internal development. However, the relaxation of tensions had an unanticipated effect. The conflict with its neighbors had promoted Somalia's internal political cohesion and solidified public opinion at all levels on at least one issue. As tension from that source subsided, old cleavages based on clan rivalries became more prominent.

The March 1969 elections were the first to combine voting for municipal and National Assembly posts. Sixty-four parties contested the elections. Only the SYL, however, presented candidates in every election district, in many cases without opposition. Eight other parties presented lists of candidates for national offices in most districts. Of the remaining fifty-five parties, only twenty-four gained representation in the assembly, but all of these were disbanded almost immediately when their fifty members joined the SYL.

Both the plethora of parties and the defection to the majority party were typical of Somali parliamentary elections. To register for elective office, a candidate merely needed either the support of 500 voters or the sponsorship of his clan, expressed through a vote of its traditional assembly. After registering, the office seeker then attempted to become the official candidate of a political party. Failing this, he would remain on the ballot as an individual contestant. Voting was by party list, which could make a candidate a one-person party. (This practice explained not only the proliferation of small parties but also the transient nature of party support.) Many candidates affiliated with a major party only long enough to use its symbol in the election campaign and, if elected, abandoned it for the winning side as soon as the National Assembly met. Thus, by the end of May 1969 the SYL parliamentary cohort had swelled from 73 to 109.

In addition, the eleven SNC members had formed a coalition with the SYL, which held 120 of the 123 seats in the National Assembly. A few of these 120 left the SYL after the composition of Igaal's cabinet became clear and after the announcement of his program, both of which were bound to displease some who had joined only to be on the winning side. Offered a huge list of candidates, the almost 900,000 voters in 1969 took delight in defeating incumbents. Of the incumbent deputies, 77 out of 123 were not returned (including 8 out of 18 members of the previous cabinet), but these figures did not unequivocally demonstrate dissatisfaction with the government.

Statistically, they were nearly identical with the results of the 1964 election, and, given the profusion of parties and the system of proportional representation, a clear sense of public opinion could not be obtained solely on the basis of the election results. The fact that a single party--the SYL--dominated the field implied neither stability nor solidarity. Anthropologist I.M. Lewis has noted that the SYL government was a very heterogeneous group with diverging personal and lineage interests. Candidates who had lost seats in the assembly and those who had supported them were frustrated and angry. A number of charges were made of government election fraud, at least some firmly founded. Discontent was exacerbated when the Supreme Court, under its newly appointed president, declined to accept jurisdiction over election petitions, although it had accepted such jurisdiction on an earlier occasion.

Neither the president nor the prime minister seemed particularly concerned about official corruption and nepotism. Although these practices were conceivably normal in a society based on kinship, some were bitter over their prevalence in the National Assembly, where it seemed that deputies ignored their constituents in trading votes for personal gain.

Among those most dissatisfied with the government were intellectuals and members of the armed forces and police. (General Mahammad Abshir, the chief of police, had resigned just before the elections after refusing to permit police vehicles to transport SYL voters to the polls.) Of these dissatisfied groups, the most significant element was the military, which since 1961 had remained outside politics. It had done so partly because the government had not called upon it for support and partly because, unlike most other African armed forces, the Somali National Army had a genuine external mission in which it was supported by all Somalis--that of protecting the borders with Ethiopia and Kenya.

Coup d'Etat

The stage was set for a coup d'état, but the event that precipitated the coup was unplanned. On October 15, 1969, a bodyguard killed president Shermaarke while prime minister Igaal was out of the country. (The assassin, a member of a lineage said to have been badly treated by the president, was subsequently tried and executed by the revolutionary government.) Igaal returned to Mogadishu to arrange for the selection of a new president by the National Assembly. His choice was, like Shermaarke, a member of the Daarood clan-family (Igaal was an Isaaq).

Government critics, particularly a group of army officers, saw no hope for improving the country's situation by this means. On October 21, 1969, when it became apparent that the assembly would support Igaal's choice, army units took over strategic points in Mogadishu and rounded up government officials and other prominent political figures. The police cooperated with the army.

Although not regarded as the author of the military takeover, army commander Major General Mahammad Siad Barre assumed leadership of the officers who deposed the civilian government. The new governing body, the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC), installed Siad Barre as its president. The SRC arrested and detained at the presidential palace leading members of the democratic regime, including Igaal. The SRC banned political parties, abolished the National Assembly, and suspended the constitution. The new regime's goals included an end to "tribalism, nepotism, corruption, and misrule." Existing treaties were to be honored, but national liberation movements and Somali unification were to be supported. The country was renamed the Somali Democratic Republic.

The Revolutionary Regime

The military coup that ended the democratic regime retroactively defined its action as a Marxist revolution not only instituting a new political order but also proposing the radical transformation of Somali society through the application of "scientific socialism." Despite the presence of Soviet advisers with the armed forces, no evidence indicated that the coup was Soviet-inspired. SRC members included officers ranging in rank from major general (Siad Barre and Jaama Ali Qoorsheel) to captain, but the young Soviet-trained junior officers--versed in Marx and Lenin--who had encouraged the coup were excluded from important positions in the revolutionary regime.

The SRC, which was synonymous with the new government, reorganized the country's political and legal institutions, formulated a guiding ideology based on the Quran as well as on Marx, and purged civilian officials who were not susceptible to "reeducation." The influence of lineage groups at all levels and elitism in public life based on clan affiliation were targeted for eradication. Eventually, Siad Barre emerged as Somalia's strongman, spokesman for its revolution, and leader of its government. In 1971 he announced the regime's intention to phase out military rule after the establishment of a political party whose central committee ultimately would supersede the SRC as a policy- and decision-making body.

Supreme Revolutionary Council

The SRC also gave priority to rapid economic and social development through "crash programs," efficient and responsive government, and creation of a standard written form of Somali as the country's single official language. The regime pledged continuance of regional détente in its foreign relations without relinquishing Somali claims to disputed territories.

The SRC's domestic program, known as the First Charter of the Revolution, appeared in 1969. Along with Law Number 1, an enabling instrument promulgated on the day of the military takeover, the First Charter provided the institutional and ideological framework of the new regime. Law Number 1 assigned to the SRC all functions previously performed by the president, the National Assembly, and the Council of Ministers, as well as many duties of the courts. The role of the twenty-five-member military junta was that of an executive committee that made decisions and had responsibility to formulate and execute policy.

Actions were based on majority vote, but deliberations rarely were published. SRC members met in specialized committees to oversee government operations in given areas. A subordinate fourteen-man secretariat--the Council of the Secretaries of State (CSS)-- functioned as a cabinet and was responsible for day-to-day government operation, although it lacked political power. The CSS consisted largely of civilians, but until 1974 several key ministries were headed by military officers who were concurrently members of the SRC. Existing legislation from the previous democratic government remained in force unless specifically abrogated by the SRC, usually on the grounds that it was "incompatible...with the spirit of the Revolution." In February 1970, the democratic constitution of 1960, suspended at the time of the coup, was repealed by the SRC under powers conferred by Law Number 1.

Although the SRC monopolized executive and legislative authority, Siad Barre filled a number of executive posts: titular head of state, chairman of the CSS (and thereby head of government), commander in chief of the armed forces, and president of the SRC. His titles were of less importance, however, than was his personal authority, to which most SRC members deferred, and his ability to manipulate the clans.

Military and police officers, including some SRC members, headed government agencies and public institutions to supervise economic development, financial management, trade, communications, and public utilities. Military officers replaced civilian district and regional officials. Meanwhile, civil servants attended reorientation courses that combined professional training with political indoctrination, and those found to be incompetent or politically unreliable were fired. A mass dismissal of civil servants in 1974, however, was dictated in part by economic pressures.

The legal system functioned after the coup, subject to modification. In 1970 special tribunals, the National Security Courts (NSC), were set up as the judicial arm of the SRC. Using a military attorney as prosecutor, the courts operated outside the ordinary legal system as watchdogs against activities considered to be counterrevolutionary. The first cases that the courts dealt with involved Shermaarke's assassination and charges of corruption leveled by the SRC against members of the democratic regime.

The NSC subsequently heard cases with and without political content. A uniform civil code introduced in 1973 replaced predecessor laws inherited from the Italians and British and also imposed restrictions on the activities of sharia courts. The new regime subsequently extended the death penalty and prison sentences to individual offenders, formally eliminating collective responsibility through the payment of diya or blood money.

The SRC also overhauled local government, breaking up the old regions into smaller units as part of a long-range decentralization program intended to destroy the influence of the traditional clan assemblies and, in the government's words, to bring government "closer to the people." Local councils, composed of military administrators and representatives appointed by the SRC, were established under the Ministry of Interior at the regional, district, and village levels to advise the government on local conditions and to expedite its directives.

Other institutional innovations included the organization (under Soviet direction) of the National Security Service (NSS), directed initially at halting the flow of professionals and dissidents out of the country and at counteracting attempts to settle disputes among the clans by traditional means. The newly formed Ministry of Information and National Guidance set up local political education bureaus to carry the government's message to the people and used Somalia's print and broadcast media for the "success of the socialist, revolutionary road." A censorship board, appointed by the ministry, tailored information to SRC guidelines.

The SRC took its toughest political stance in the campaign to break down the solidarity of the lineage groups. Tribalism was condemned as the most serious impediment to national unity. Siad Barre denounced tribalism in a wider context as a "disease" obstructing development not only in Somalia, but also throughout the Third World. The government meted out prison terms and fines for a broad category of proscribed activities classified as tribalism.

Traditional headmen, whom the democratic government had paid a stipend, were replaced by reliable local dignitaries known as "peacekeepers" (nabod doan), appointed by Mogadishu to represent government interests. Community identification rather than lineage affiliation was forcefully advocated at orientation centers set up in every district as the foci of local political and social activity. For example, the SRC decreed that all marriage ceremonies should occur at an orientation center. Siad Barre presided over these ceremonies from time to time and contrasted the benefits of socialism to the evils he associated with tribalism.

To increase production and control over the nomads, the government resettled 140,000 nomadic pastoralists in farming communities and in coastal towns, where the erstwhile herders were encouraged to engage in agriculture and fishing. By dispersing the nomads and severing their ties with the land to which specific clans made collective claim, the government may also have undercut clan solidarity. In many instances, real improvement in the living conditions of resettled nomads was evident, but despite government efforts to eliminate it, clan consciousness as well as a desire to return to the nomadic life persisted. Concurrent SRC attempts to improve the status of Somali women were unpopular in a traditional Muslim society, despite Siad Barre's argument that such reforms were consonant with Islamic principles.

Challenges to the Regime

The SRC announced on two occasions that it had discovered plotters in the act of initiating coup attempts. Both instances involved SRC members. In April 1970, Qoorsheel, the first vice president, was arrested and charged with treason. Qoorsheel represented the more conservative police and army elements and thus opposed the socialist orientation of the majority of SRC members. He was convicted of treason in a trial before the National Security Court and sentenced to a prison term.

In May 1971, the second vice president, Major General Mahammad Ainanche, and a fellow SRC member, Soviet-trained Lieutenant Colonel Salah Gaveire Kedie, who had served as head of the Ministry of Defense and later as secretary of state for communications, were arrested along with several other army officers for plotting Siad Barre's assassination. The conspirators, who had sought the support of clans that had lost influence in the 1969 overthrow of the democratic regime, appeared to have been motivated by personal rivalries rather than by ideology. Accused of conspiring to assassinate the president, the two key figures in the plot and another army officer were executed after a lengthy trial.

By 1974 the SRC felt sufficiently secure to release Qoorsheel and most of the leaders of the democratic regime who had been detained since the 1969 coup. Igaal and four other former ministers were excepted from the amnesty, however, and were sentenced to long prison terms. Igaal received thirty years for embezzlement and conspiracy against the state.

Siad Barre and Scientific Socialism

Somalia's adherence to socialism became official on the first anniversary of the military coup when Siad Barre proclaimed that Somalia was a socialist state, despite the fact that the country had no history of class conflict in the Marxist sense. For purposes of Marxist analysis, therefore, tribalism was equated with class in a society struggling to liberate itself from distinctions imposed by lineage group affiliation.

At the time, Siad Barre explained that the official ideology consisted of three elements: his own conception of community development based on the principle of self-reliance, a form of socialism based on Marxist principles, and Islam. These were subsumed under "scientific socialism," although such a definition was at variance with the Soviet and Chinese models to which reference was frequently made.

The theoretical underpinning of the state ideology combined aspects of the Quran with the influences of Marx, Lenin, Mao, and Mussolini, but Siad Barre was pragmatic in its application. "Socialism is not a religion," he explained; "It is a political principle" to organize government and manage production. Somalia's alignment with communist states, coupled with its proclaimed adherence to scientific socialism, led to frequent accusations that the country had become a Soviet satellite. For all the rhetoric extolling scientific socialism, however, genuine Marxist sympathies were not deep-rooted in Somalia. But the ideology was acknowledged--partly in view of the country's economic and military dependence on the Soviet Union--as the most convenient peg on which to hang a revolution introduced through a military coup that had supplanted a Western-oriented parliamentary democracy.

More important than Marxist ideology to the popular acceptance of the revolutionary regime in the early 1970s were the personal power of Siad Barre and the image he projected. Styled the "Victorious Leader" (Guulwaadde), Siad Barre fostered the growth of a personality cult. Portraits of him in the company of Marx and Lenin festooned the streets on public occasions. The epigrams, exhortations, and advice of the paternalistic leader who had synthesized Marx with Islam and had found a uniquely Somali path to socialist revolution were widely distributed in Siad Barre's little blue-and-white book.

Despite the revolutionary regime's intention to stamp out the clan politics, the government was commonly referred to by the code name MOD. This acronym stood for Mareehaan (Siad Barre's clan), Ogaden (the clan of Siad Barre's mother), and Dulbahante (the clan of Siad Barre son-in-law Colonel Ahmad Sulaymaan Abdullah, who headed the NSS). These were the three clans whose members formed the government's inner circle. In 1975, for example, ten of the twenty members of the SRC were from the Daarood clan-family, of which these three clans were a part; the Digil and Rahanwayn, the sedentary interriverine clan-families, were totally unrepresented.

The Language and Literacy Issue

One of the principal objectives of the revolutionary regime was the adoption of a standard orthography of the Somali language. Such a system would enable the government to make Somali the country's official language. Since independence Italian and English had served as the languages of administration and instruction in Somalia's schools. A11 government documents had been published in the two European languages. Indeed, it had been considered necessary that certain civil service posts of national importance be held by two officials, one proficient in English and the other in Italian.

During the Husseen and Igaal governments, when a number of English-speaking northerners were put in prominent positions, English had dominated Italian in official circles and had even begun to replace it as a medium of instruction in southern schools. Arabic--or a heavily arabized Somali--also had been widely used in cultural and commercial areas and in Islamic schools and courts. Religious traditionalists and supporters of Somalia's integration into the Arab world had advocated that Arabic be adopted as the official language, with Somali as a vernacular.

A few months after independence, the Somali Language Committee was appointed to investigate the best means of writing Somali. The committee considered nine scripts, including Arabic, Latin, and various indigenous scripts. Its report, issued in 1962, favored the Latin script, which the committee regarded as the best suited to represent the phonemic structure of Somali and flexible enough to be adjusted for the dialects. Facility with a Latin system, moreover, offered obvious advantages to those who sought higher education outside the country.

Modern printing equipment would also be more easily and reasonably available for Latin type. Existing Somali grammars prepared by foreign scholars, although outdated for modern teaching methods, would give some initial advantage in the preparation of teaching materials. Disagreement had been so intense among opposing factions, however, that no action was taken to adopt a standard script, although successive governments continued to reiterate their intention to resolve the issue.

On coming to power, the SRC made clear that it viewed the official use of foreign languages, of which only a relatively small fraction of the population had an adequate working knowledge, as a threat to national unity, contributing to the stratification of society on the basis of language. In 1971 the SRC revived the Somali Language Committee and instructed it to prepare textbooks for schools and adult education programs, a national grammar, and a new Somali dictionary. However, no decision was made at the time concerning the use of a particular script, and each member of the committee worked in the one with which he was familiar. The understanding was that, upon adoption of a standard script, all materials would be immediately transcribed.

On the third anniversary of the 1969 coup, the SRC announced that a Latin script had been adopted as the standard script to be used throughout Somalia beginning January 1, 1973. As a prerequisite for continued government service, all officials were given three months (later extended to six months) to learn the new script and to become proficient in it. During 1973 educational material written in the standard orthography was introduced in elementary schools and by 1975 was also being used in secondary and higher education.

Somalia's literacy rate was estimated at only 5 percent in 1972. After adopting the new script, the SRC launched a "cultural revolution" aimed at making the entire population literate in two years. The first part of the massive literacy campaign was carried out in a series of three-month sessions in urban and rural sedentary areas and reportedly resulted in several hundred thousand people learning to read and write. As many as 8,000 teachers were recruited, mostly among government employees and members of the armed forces, to conduct the program.

The campaign in settled areas was followed by preparations for a major effort among the nomads that got underway in August 1974. The program in the countryside was carried out by more than 20,000 teachers, half of whom were secondary school students whose classes were suspended for the duration of the school year. The rural program also compelled a privileged class of urban youth to share the hardships of the nomadic pastoralists. Although affected by the onset of a severe drought, the program appeared to have achieved substantial results in the field in a short period of time. Nevertheless, the UN estimate of Somalia's literacy rate in 1990 was only 24 percent.

Creation of the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party

One of the SRC's first acts was to prohibit the existence of any political association. Under Soviet pressure to create a communist party structure to replace Somalia's military regime, Siad Barre had announced as early as 1971 the SRC's intention to establish a one-party state. The SRC already had begun organizing what was described as a "vanguard of the revolution" composed of members of a socialist elite drawn from the military and the civilian sectors. The National Public Relations Office (retitled the National Political Office in 1973) was formed to propagate scientific socialism with the support of the Ministry of Information and National Guidance through orientation centers that had been built around the country, generally as local selfhelp projects.

The SRC convened a congress of the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSP) in June 1976 and voted to establish the Supreme Council as the new party's central committee. The council included the nineteen officers who composed the SRC, in addition to civilian advisers, heads of ministries, and other public figures. Civilians accounted for a majority of the Supreme Council's seventy-three members. On July 1, 1976, the SRC dissolved itself, formally vesting power over the government in the SRSP under the direction of the Supreme Council.

In theory the SRSP's creation marked the end of military rule, but in practice real power over the party and the government remained with the small group of military officers who had been most influential in the SRC. Decision-making power resided with the new party's politburo, a select committee of the Supreme Council that was composed of five former SRC members, including Siad Barre and his son-in-law, NSS chief Abdullah. Siad Barre was also secretary general of the SRSP, as well as chairman of the Council of Ministers, which had replaced the CSS in 1981. Military influence in the new government increased with the assignment of former SRC members to additional ministerial posts. The MOD circle also had wide representation on the Supreme Council and in other party organs. Upon the establishment of the SRSP, the National Political Office was abolished; local party leadership assumed its functions.

Somalia's Difficult Decade, 1980-90

The Ogaden War of 1977-78 between Somalia and Ethiopia and the consequent refugee influx forced Somalia to depend for its economic survival on humanitarian handouts. Domestically, the lost war produced a national mood of depression. Organized opposition groups began to emerge, and in dealing with them Siad Barre intensified his political repression, using jailings, torture, and summary executions of dissidents and collective punishment of clans thought to have engaged in organized resistance.

Siad Barre's new Western friends, especially the United States, which had replaced the Soviet Union as the main user of the naval facilities at Berbera, turned out to be reluctant allies. Although prepared to help the Siad Barre regime economically through direct grants, World Bank-sponsored loans, and relaxed International Monetary Fund regulations, the United States hesitated to offer Somalia more military aid than was essential to maintain internal security. The amount of United States military and economic aid to the regime was US$34 million in 1984; by 1987 this amount had dwindled to about US$8.7 million, a fraction of the regime's requested allocation of US$47 million. Western countries were also pressuring the regime to liberalize economic and political life and to renounce historical Somali claims on territory in Kenya and Ethiopia. In response, Siad Barre held parliamentary elections in December 1979, but Said Barre also initiated a number of reforms that ultimately reinforced his control over the government.

In February 1982, Siad Barre visited the United States. He had responded to growing domestic criticism by releasing from detention two leading political prisoners of conscience, former premier Igaal and former police commander Abshir, both of whom had languished in prison since 1969. On June 7, 1982, apparently wishing to prove that he alone ruled Somalia, ordered the arrest of seventeen prominent politicians thus creating an atmosphere of fear, and alienating the Isaaq, Majeerteen, and Hawiye clans, whose disaffection and consequent armed resistance were to lead to the toppling of the Siad Barre regime.

The regime's insecurity was considerably increased by repeated forays across the Somali border in the Mudug (central) and Boorama (northwest) areas by a combination of Somali dissidents and Ethiopian army units. In mid-July 1982, Somali dissidents with Ethiopian air support invaded Somalia in the center, threatening to split the country in two. The invaders managed to capture the Somali border towns of Balumbale and Galdogob, northwest of the Mudug regional capital of Galcaio. Siad Barre's regime declared a state of emergency in the war zone and appealed for Western aid to help repel the invasion. The United States government responded by speeding deliveries of light arms already promised. In addition, the initially pledged US$45 million in economic and military aid was increased to US$80 million. The new arms were not used to repel the Ethiopians, however, but to repress Siad Barre's domestic opponents.

Economically, the regime was repeatedly pressured between 1983 and 1987 by the IMF, the United Nations Development Programme, and the World Bank to liberalize its economy. Specifically, Somalia was urged to create a free market system and to devalue the Somali shilling so that its official rate would reflect its true value.

Siad Barre's Repressive Measures

Faced with shrinking popularity and an armed and organized domestic resistance, Siad Barre unleashed a reign of terror against the Majeerteen, the Hawiye, and the Isaaq, carried out by the Red Berets (Duub Cas), a dreaded elite unit recruited from among the president's Mareehaan clansmen. Thus, by the beginning of 1986 Siad Barre's grip on power seemed secure, despite the host of problems facing the regime. The president received a severe blow from an unexpected quarter, however. On the evening of May 23, he was severely injured in an automobile accident. Astonishingly, although at the time he was in his early seventies and suffered from chronic diabetes, Siad Barre recovered sufficiently to resume the reins of government following a month's recuperation. But the accident unleashed a power struggle among senior army commandants, elements of the president's Mareehaan clan, and related factions, whose infighting practically brought the country to a standstill. Broadly, two groups contended for power: a constitutional faction and a clan faction. The constitutional faction was led by the senior vice president, Brigadier General Mahammad Ali Samantar; the second vice president, Major General Husseen Kulmiye; and generals Ahmad Sulaymaan Abdullah and Ahmad Mahamuud Faarah. The four, together with president Siad Barre, constituted the politburo of the SRSP.

Opposed to the constitutional group were elements from the president's Mareehaan clan, especially members of his immediate family, including his brother, Abdirahmaan Jaama Barre; the president's son, Colonel Masleh Siad, and the formidable Mama Khadiija, Siad Barre's senior wife. By some accounts, Mama Khadiija ran her own intelligence network, had well-placed political contacts, and oversaw a large group who had prospered under her patronage.

In November 1986, the dreaded Red Berets unleashed a campaign of terror and intimidation on a frightened citizenry. Meanwhile, the ministries atrophied and the army's officer corps was purged of competent career officers on suspicion of insufficient loyalty to the president. In addition, ministers and bureaucrats plundered what was left of the national treasury after it had been repeatedly skimmed by the top family.

The same month, the SRSP held its third congress. The Central Committee was reshuffled and the president was nominated as the only candidate for another seven-year term. Thus, with a weak opposition divided along clan lines, which he skillfully exploited, Siad Barre seemed invulnerable well into 1988. The regime might have lingered indefinitely but for the wholesale disaffection engendered by the genocidal policies carried out against important lineages of Somali kinship groupings. These actions were waged first against the Majeerteen clan (of the Daarood clan-family), then against the Isaaq clans of the north, and finally against the Hawiye, who occupied the strategic central area of the country, which included the capital. The disaffection of the Hawiye and their subsequent organized armed resistance eventually caused the regime's downfall.

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 (see The Segmentary Social Order , ch. 2). 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.

Collapse of the Regime

During the final three years of Siad Barre's rule, here 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.

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.

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.

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 pro-Mahammad forces included an estimated 5,000 fighters. They also used food as a weapon.

As a violent power struggle developed between two warring clan lords, Mohamed Farah Aideed and Ali Mahdi Mohamed, the former British Somaliland, comprising the northwestern section of the country, between Djibouti and the northeastern area known as Puntland, declared its independence. However, its sovereignty was not recognized by any nation or international organization.

Barre and his armed supporters remained in the south of the country until mid 1992, causing further instability. Meanwhile, the fighting in Mogadishu devastated the city. All this disrupted agriculture and food distribution in southern Somalia, causing a famine and the deaths of up to 300,000 people. The UN responded by authorising a limited peacekeeping operation, United Nations Operation in Somalia I (UNOSOM I). UNOSOM’s use of force was however limited to self-defence and it was soon disregarded by the warring factions.

Faced with an impending humanitarian catastrophe, the United States organised a military coalition with the purpose of creating a secure environment in southern Somalia for the conduct of humanitarian operations. This coalition (Unified Task Force or UNITAF) entered Somalia in December 1992, launching Operation Restore Hope, which was successful in restoring order and alleviating the famine. In May 1993, most of the United States troops withdrew and UNITAF was replaced by the United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM II).

Aidid, though, saw UNOSOM II as a threat to his power, and his militia attacked UNOSOM troops. Fighting escalated until 19 American troops and more than 1,000 Somalis were killed in a raid in Mogadishu during October 1993. The UN withdrew in March 1995, having suffered significant casualties, and with the rule of government still not restored. In August 1996, Aidid was killed in Mogadishu.

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