Siad Barre
Mohamed Siad Barre (October 6, 1919 – January 2, 1995) was the military dictator
Military dictatorship
A military dictatorship is a form of government where in the political power resides with the military. It is similar but not identical to a stratocracy, a state ruled directly by the military....

 and President
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

 of the Somali Democratic Republic
Somali Democratic Republic
The Somali Democratic Republic was the name that the communist regime of former President of Somalia Major General Mohamed Siad Barre gave to Somalia after seizing power during a bloodless coup d'état in 1969...

 from 1969 to 1991. During his rule, he styled himself as Jaalle Siyaad ("Comrade Siad").

At the time of independence in 1960, Somalia was touted in the West
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 as the model of a rural democracy in Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

. However, clan
A clan is a group of people united by actual or perceived kinship and descent. Even if lineage details are unknown, clan members may be organized around a founding member or apical ancestor. The kinship-based bonds may be symbolical, whereby the clan shares a "stipulated" common ancestor that is a...

ism and extended family loyalties and conflicts were social problems the civilian government failed to eradicate and eventually succumbed to itself.

The Barre-led military junta
Military junta
A junta or military junta is a government led by a committee of military leaders. The term derives from the Spanish language junta meaning committee, specifically a board of directors...

 that came to power after the ensuing coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

said it would adapt scientific socialism
Scientific Socialism
Scientific socialism is the term used by Friedrich Engels to describe the social-political-economic theory first pioneered by Karl Marx. The purported reason why this socialism is "scientific socialism" is because its theories are held to an empirical standard, observations are essential to its...

 to the needs of Somalia. It drew heavily from the traditions of China
History of the People's Republic of China
The history of the People's Republic of China details the history of mainland China since October 1, 1949, when, after a near complete victory by the Communist Party of China in the Chinese Civil War, Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China from atop Tiananmen...

. Volunteer labour harvested and planted crops, and built roads and hospitals. Almost all industry, banks and businesses were nationalised, and cooperative farms were promoted. The government forbade clanism and stressed loyalty to the central authorities. A new writing script
Somali alphabet
The Somali Latin alphabet has been the official writing script in Somalia since 1972. It was developed by the Somali linguist Shire Jama Ahmed specifically for transcribing the Somali language, and is based on the Latin script. The Somali Latin alphabet uses all letters of the English Latin...

 for the Somali language
Somali language
The Somali language is a member of the East Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Its nearest relatives are Afar and Oromo. Somali is the best documented of the Cushitic languages, with academic studies beginning before 1900....

 was also adopted. To spread the new language and the methods and message of the revolution, secondary schools were closed in 1974 and 25,000 students from fourteen to sixteen years of age and an additional 3,000 military and civil service employees were sent to rural areas to educate their nomad
Nomadic people , commonly known as itinerants in modern-day contexts, are communities of people who move from one place to another, rather than settling permanently in one location. There are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world. Many cultures have traditionally been nomadic, but...

ic relatives.

Early years

Mohamed Siad Barre was born as a member of the Marehan
The Marehan are a Somali clan. They are one of the major Darod sub-clans, forming a part of the Sade confederation of clans. The majority of the Marehan live in the Jubbada Hoose, Gedo and Jubbada Dhexe regions in southwestern Somalia, as well as the Galguduud and Mudug regions in central...

The Darod is a Somali clan. The father of this clan is named Abdirahman bin Isma'il al-Jabarti, but is more commonly known as Darod. In the Somali language, the word Daarood means "an enclosed compound," a conflation of the two words daar and ood .The Darod population in Somalia lives principally...

 clan (sub-clan Rer Dini) near Shilavo
Shilavo is a town of the Ethiopian part of the Ogaden. Located in the Korahe Zone of the Somali Region, the town has a latitude and longitude of with an elevation of 395 meters above sea level. it is the administrative center of Shilavo woreda....

 in the Ogaden
Ogaden is the name of a territory comprising the southeastern portion of the Somali Regional State in Ethiopia. The inhabitants are predominantly ethnic Somali and Muslim. The title "Somali Galbeed", which means "Western Somalia," is often preferred by Somali irredentists.The region, which is...

. His parents died when he was ten years old.

After receiving his primary education in the town of Luuq
Luuq or Lugh is a city in the southern Gedo province of Somalia. It is one of the oldest cities in the country, and is the seat of the Luuq District, one of the region's seven districts. The town is located in a bend of the Juba River, where the river flows down from north to south in a horseshoe...

 in southern Somalia, Barre moved to Mogadishu
Mogadishu , popularly known as Xamar, is the largest city in Somalia and the nation's capital. Located in the coastal Benadir region on the Indian Ocean, the city has served as an important port for centuries....

, the capital of Italian Somaliland
Italian Somaliland
Italian Somaliland , also known as Italian Somalia, was a colony of the Kingdom of Italy from the 1880s until 1936 in the region of modern-day Somalia. Ruled in the 19th century by the Somali Sultanate of Hobyo and the Majeerteen Sultanate, the territory was later acquired by Italy through various...

, to pursue his secondary education. Claiming to have been born in Garbahaarreey
Garbahaarey is the capital of Gedo, the second largest and sixth most populous region of Somalia. Maj. General Mohamed Siyad Barre, Somalia's longest-serving president, claimed Garbahaarrey as his birthplace in order to get a job in the Italian colonial police force...

 in order to qualify, he enrolled in the Italian colonial police as a Zaptié
Zaptié was the designation given to locally raised gendarmerie units in the Italian colonies of Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, Eritrea and Italian Somaliland between 1889 and 1942....

 in 1940. He later joined the colonial police force during the British
British Somaliland
British Somaliland was a British protectorate in the northern part of present-day Somalia. For much of its existence, British Somaliland was bordered by French Somaliland, Ethiopia, and Italian Somaliland. From 1940 to 1941, it was occupied by the Italians and was part of Italian East Africa...

 military administration of Somalia, rising to the highest possible rank
Military rank
Military rank is a system of hierarchical relationships in armed forces or civil institutions organized along military lines. Usually, uniforms denote the bearer's rank by particular insignia affixed to the uniforms...


In 1952, shortly after Italian Somaliland became a United Nations Trust Territory
United Nations Trust Territories
United Nations trust territories were the successors of the remaining League of Nations mandates and came into being when the League of Nations ceased to exist in 1946. All of the trust territories were administered through the UN Trusteeship Council...

 under Italian administration, Barre attended the Carabinieri
The Carabinieri is the national gendarmerie of Italy, policing both military and civilian populations, and is a branch of the armed forces.-Early history:...

 police school in Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 for two years. Upon his return to Somalia, he remained with the military and eventually became Vice Commander of Somalia's Army
Military of Somalia
The Military of Somalia was, up until 1991, made up of the army, navy, air force, and air defense command. The outbreak of the Somali Civil War during that year led to the de facto dissolution of the national armed forces. However, efforts to re-establish a regular armed force by a re-constituted...

 when the country gained its independence in 1960. After spending time with Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 officers in joint training exercises in the early 1960s, Barre became an advocate of Soviet-style Marxist
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 government. He believed in a socialist government, and a stronger sense of nationalism.

Seizure of power

In 1969, following the assassination of Somalia's second president, Abdirashid Ali Shermarke
Abdirashid Ali Shermarke
Abdirashid Ali Shermarke was Prime Minister of Somalia from July 12, 1960 to June 14, 1964, and President of Somalia from June 10, 1967 until his assassination on October 15, 1969...

, the military staged a coup on October 21 (the day after Shermarke's funeral), and took over office. Barre was installed as president of the Supreme Revolutionary Council
Supreme Revolutionary Council (Somalia)
The Supreme Revolutionary Council was the governmental body that ruled Somalia for most of the period from 1969-1991.-History:On October 15, 1969, while paying a visit to the northern town of Las Anod, Somalia's then President Abdirashid Ali Shermarke was shot dead by one of his own bodyguards...

 (SRC), the new government of Somalia. Alongside him, the SRC was led by Major General Salaad Gabeyre Kediye
Salaad Gabeyre Kediye
Salaad Gabeyre Kediye , was a Major General in the Somali military and a revolutionary.-Biography:Major General Salaad Gabeyre Kediye was born in September, 15 1934, in the town of Harardhere, situated in the Central Mudug region of Somalia, to an Abgaal family Hawiye clan...

 and Chief of Police Jama Korshel
Jama Korshel
Jama Korshel was a Somali army Major General, former Head of the Somali Police Force, and one of the leaders of Somalia's 1969 coup d'état.-Biography:Korshel was born in the town of Ceerigaabo situated in the northern Sanaag region of Somalia....

. The SRC subsequently renamed the country the Somali Democratic Republic
Somali Democratic Republic
The Somali Democratic Republic was the name that the communist regime of former President of Somalia Major General Mohamed Siad Barre gave to Somalia after seizing power during a bloodless coup d'état in 1969...

, arrested members of the former government, banned political parties, dissolved the parliament and the Supreme Court, and suspended the constitution.


Styled the "Victorious Leader" (Guulwade), Siad Barre fostered the growth of a personality cult
Cult of personality
A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Cults of personality are usually associated with dictatorships...

. Portraits of him in the company of Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 and Lenin
Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and communist politician who led the October Revolution of 1917. As leader of the Bolsheviks, he headed the Soviet state during its initial years , as it fought to establish control of Russia in the Russian Civil War and worked to create a...

 lined the streets on public occasions. He advocated a form of scientific socialism based on the Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

 and Marx, with heavy influences of Somali nationalism.

Supreme Revolutionary Council

The Supreme Revolutionary Council established large-scale public works programs and successfully implemented an urban and rural literacy
Literacy has traditionally been described as the ability to read for knowledge, write coherently and think critically about printed material.Literacy represents the lifelong, intellectual process of gaining meaning from print...

 campaign, which helped dramatically increase the literacy rate. In addition to a nationalization program of industry and land, the new regime's foreign policy placed an emphasis on Somalia's traditional and religious links with the Arab world
Arab world
The Arab world refers to Arabic-speaking states, territories and populations in North Africa, Western Asia and elsewhere.The standard definition of the Arab world comprises the 22 states and territories of the Arab League stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the...

, eventually joining the Arab League
Arab League
The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...

 (AL) in 1974. That same year, Barre also served as chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor of the African Union
African Union
The African Union is a union consisting of 54 African states. The only all-African state not in the AU is Morocco. Established on 9 July 2002, the AU was formed as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity...


In July 1976, Barre's SRC disbanded itself and established in its place the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party
Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party
The Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party was the governing political party in Somalia from 1976 to 1991.- History :XHKS was created by the military regime of Siad Barre under Soviet guidance. A founding congress was held in June 1976. The congress elected a Central Committee, with Barre as the...

 (SRSP), a one-party government based on scientific socialism
Scientific Socialism
Scientific socialism is the term used by Friedrich Engels to describe the social-political-economic theory first pioneered by Karl Marx. The purported reason why this socialism is "scientific socialism" is because its theories are held to an empirical standard, observations are essential to its...

 and Islamic tenets. The SRSP was an attempt to reconcile the official state ideology with the official state religion by adapting Marxist
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 precepts to local circumstances. Emphasis was placed on the Muslim principles of social progress, equality and justice, which the government argued formed the core of scientific socialism and its own accent on self-sufficiency, public participation and popular control, as well as direct ownership of the means of production. While the SRSP encouraged private investment on a limited scale, the administration's overall direction was essentially communist
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...


A new constitution was promulgated in 1979 under which elections for a People's Assembly were held. However, Barre's Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party politburo
Politburo , literally "Political Bureau [of the Central Committee]," is the executive committee for a number of communist political parties.-Marxist-Leninist states:...

 continued to rule. In October 1980, the SRSP was disbanded, and the Supreme Revolutionary Council was re-established in its place.

Language and anti-clanism

One of the first and principal objectives of the revolutionary regime was the adoption of a standard national writing system. Shortly after coming to power, Barre introduced the Somali language (Af Soomaali) as the official language of education, and selected the modified Latin script
Somali alphabet
The Somali Latin alphabet has been the official writing script in Somalia since 1972. It was developed by the Somali linguist Shire Jama Ahmed specifically for transcribing the Somali language, and is based on the Latin script. The Somali Latin alphabet uses all letters of the English Latin...

 developed by the Somali linguist Shire Jama Ahmed
Shire Jama Ahmed
Shire Jama Ahmed was a Somali linguist who is credited with having devised a unique Latin script for transcribing the Somali language. Shire Jama's winning Somali Orthoraphy was chosen from eighteen competing new orthographies in 1972 by the Language Committee and the ruling party...

 as the nation's standard orthography
The orthography of a language specifies a standardized way of using a specific writing system to write the language. Where more than one writing system is used for a language, for example Kurdish, Uyghur, Serbian or Inuktitut, there can be more than one orthography...

. From then on, all education in government schools had to be conducted in Somali, and in 1972, all government employees were ordered to learn to read and write Somali within six months. The reason given for this was to decrease a growing rift between those who spoke the colonial languages, and those who did not, as many of the high ranking positions in the former government were given to people who spoke either Italian or English.

Additionally, Barre also sought to eradicate the importance of clan (qabil) affiliation within government and civil society. The inevitable first question that Somalis asked one another when they met was, 'What is your clan?'. When this was considered anathema to the purpose of a modern state, Somalis began to pointedly ask, 'What is your ex-clan?'. Barre outlawed this question and a broad range of other activities classified as clanism. Informers reported qabilists to the government, leading to arrests and imprisonment.

On a more symbolic level Barre had repeated a number of times, 'Whom do you know? is changed to: What do you know?', and this incantation became part of a popular street song.

Nationalism and Greater Somalia

Barre advocated the concept of a Greater Somalia
Greater Somalia
Greater Somalia refers to those regions in the Horn of Africa in which ethnic Somalis are and have historically represented the predominant population. Greater Somalia encompasses Somalia, Djibouti, the Ogaden of Ethiopia and the North Eastern Province of Kenya. Pan-Somalism refers to the vision...

 (Soomaaliweyn), which refers to those regions in the Horn of Africa
Horn of Africa
The Horn of Africa is a peninsula in East Africa that juts hundreds of kilometers into the Arabian Sea and lies along the southern side of the Gulf of Aden. It is the easternmost projection of the African continent...

 in which ethnic Somalis reside and have historically represented the predominant population. Greater Somalia thus encompasses Somalia, Djibouti
Djibouti , officially the Republic of Djibouti , is a country in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast. The remainder of the border is formed by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden at the east...

, the Ogaden
Ogaden is the name of a territory comprising the southeastern portion of the Somali Regional State in Ethiopia. The inhabitants are predominantly ethnic Somali and Muslim. The title "Somali Galbeed", which means "Western Somalia," is often preferred by Somali irredentists.The region, which is...

 and the North Eastern Province
North Eastern Province (Kenya)
North Eastern Province is the third largest province in Kenya and has thirteen constituencies represented in the Kenya National Assembly.The region is home to a rare type of antelope called the Hirola, which is classified as an endangered species. The NFD's pastoralists also possess livestock in...

 i.e. the almost exclusively Somali-inhabited regions of the Horn of Africa.

In July 1977, the Ogaden War
Ogaden War
The Ogaden War was a conventional conflict between Somalia and Ethiopia in 1977 and 1978 over the Ogaden region of Ethiopia. In a notable illustration of the nature of Cold War alliances, the Soviet Union switched from supplying aid to Somalia to supporting Ethiopia, which had previously been...

 broke out after the government sought to incorporate the various Somali-inhabited territories of the region into a Greater Somalia. The Somali national army invaded the Ogaden and was successful at first, capturing most of the territory. The invasion reached an abrupt end with the Soviet Union's shift of support to Ethiopia, followed by almost the entire communist world siding with the latter. The Soviets halted their previous supplies to Barre's regime and increased the distribution of aid, weapons, and training to the Ethiopian government, and also brought in around 15,000 Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

n troops to assist the Ethiopian regime. In 1978, the Somali troops were ultimately pushed out of the Ogaden.

Foreign relations

Control of Somalia was of great interest to both the Soviet Union and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 due to the country's strategic location at the mouth of the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

. After the Soviets broke with Barre in the late 1970s, he subsequently expelled all Soviet advisers, tore up his friendship treaty with the Soviet Union, and switched allegiance to the West. The United States stepped in and until 1989, was a strong supporter of the Barre government for whom it provided approximately US$
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

100 million per year in economic and military aid.

On October 17 and October 18, 1977, a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is a Palestinian Marxist-Leninist organisation founded in 1967. It has consistently been the second-largest of the groups forming the Palestine Liberation Organization , the largest being Fatah...

 (PFLP) group hijacked Lufthansa Flight 181
Lufthansa Flight 181
Lufthansa Flight 181 was a Lufthansa Boeing 737-230 Adv aircraft named Landshut that was hijacked on October 13, 1977 by four members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine...

 to Mogadishu, Somalia, holding 86 hostages. West German
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

 Chancellor Helmut Schmidt
Helmut Schmidt
Helmut Heinrich Waldemar Schmidt is a German Social Democratic politician who served as Chancellor of West Germany from 1974 to 1982. Prior to becoming chancellor, he had served as Minister of Defence and Minister of Finance. He had also served briefly as Minister of Economics and as acting...

 and Barre negotiated a deal to allow a GSG 9
The GSG 9 der Bundespolizei , is the elite counter-terrorism and special operations unit of the German Federal Police.-History and name:...

 anti-terrorist unit into Mogadishu to free the hostages.

Domestic programs

During the first five years Barre's government set up several cooperative farms and factories of mass production such as mills, sugar cane processing facilities in Jowhar
Jowhar is the capital town of the Shabeellaha Dhexe region of Somalia . Along with Baidoa, it used to form the joint administrative capital of the Transitional Federal Government, which captured it from the Islamic Courts Union....

 and Afgooye
-Location:It is situated about 25 kilometres west of Mogadishu, the nation's capital. The Shabelle River passes through the middle of the town.-History:Afgooye was part of Italian Somaliland during the early part of the 20th century...

, and a meat processing house in Kismayo.

Another public project initiated by the government was the Shalanbood Sanddune Stoppage. From 1971 onwards, a massive tree-planting campaign on a nationwide scale was introduced by Barre's administration to halt the advance of thousands of acres of wind-driven sand dunes that threatened to engulf towns, roads and farm land. By 1988, 265 hectares of a projected 336 hectares had been treated, with 39 range reserve sites and 36 forestry plantation sites established.

Between 1974 and 1975, a major drought
A drought is an extended period of months or years when a region notes a deficiency in its water supply. Generally, this occurs when a region receives consistently below average precipitation. It can have a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture of the affected region...

 referred to as the Abaartii Dabadheer ("The Lingering Drought") occurred in the northern regions of Somalia. The Soviet Union, which at the time maintained strategic relations with the Barre government, airlifted some 90,000 people from the devastated regions of Hobyo
Hobyo is an ancient harbor city in the Mudug region of Somalia. Hobyo literally means "here, water", and the plentiful fresh water to be had from the wells in and around the town has been the driving force behind Hobyo's ancient status as a favorite port-of-call for sailors.-Establishment:Hobyo's...

 and Caynaba
Aynabo is an ancient town in the northern Sool region of Somalia. The inhabitants of Aynabo are the Habar Jeclo clan, of the larger Isaaq.-References:*...

. New settlements of small villages were created in the Jubbada Hoose
Jubbada Hoose
Lower Juba is an administrative region in southern Somalia. With its capital at Kismayo, it lies in the Jubaland autonomous region.Lower Juba is bordered by Kenya, the Somalian regions of Gedo, Middle Juba, and the Indian Ocean...

 (Lower Jubba) and Jubbada Dhexe
Jubbada Dhexe
Middle Juba is an administrative region in southern Somalia. With its capital at Bu'aale, it is located in the Jubaland autonomous region.Middle Juba is bordered by Somali regions of Gedo, Bay, Lower Shabele and Jubbada Hoose and the Indian Ocean...

 (Middle Jubba) regions. These new settlements were known as the Danwadaagaha or "Collective Settlements". The transplanted families were introduced to farming and fishing, a change from their traditional pastoralist lifestyle of livestock herding. Other such resettlement programs were also introduced as part of Barre's effort to undercut clan solidarity by dispersing nomads and moving them away from clan-controlled land.

Economic policies

As part of Barre's socialist policies, major industries and farms were nationalised, including banks, insurance companies and oil distribution farms.

By the mid- to late-1970s, public discontent with the Barre regime was increasing, largely due to corruption among government officials as well as poor economic performance. The Ogaden War had also weakened the Somali army substantially and military spending had crippled the economy. Foreign debt
External debt
External debt is that part of the total debt in a country that is owed to creditors outside the country. The debtors can be the government, corporations or private households. The debt includes money owed to private commercial banks, other governments, or international financial institutions such...

 increased faster than export earnings, and by the end of the decade, Somalia's debt of 4 billion shillings
Somali shilling
The Somali shilling is the official currency of Somalia...

 equalled the earnings from seventy-five years' worth of banana exports.

By 1978, manufactured goods exports were almost non-existent, and with the lost support of the Soviet Union the Barre government signed a structural adjustment agreement with the International Monetary Fund
International Monetary Fund
The International Monetary Fund is an organization of 187 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world...

 (IMF) during the early 1980s. This included the abolishment of some government monopolies and increased public investment. This and a second agreement were both cancelled by the mid-1980s, as the Somali army refused to accept a proposed 60 percent cut in military spending. New agreements were made with the Paris Club
Paris Club
The Paris Club is an informal group of financial officials from 19 of some of the world's biggest economies, which provides financial services such as war funding, debt restructuring, debt relief, and debt cancellation to indebted countries and their creditors...

, the International Development Association
International Development Association
The International Development Association , is the part of the World Bank that helps the world’s poorest countries. It complements the World Bank's other lending arm — the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development — which serves middle-income countries with capital investment and...

 and the IMF during the second half of the 1980s. This ultimately failed to improve the economy which deteriorated rapidly in 1989 and 1990, and resulted in nationwide commodity shortages.

Car accident

In May 1986, President Barre suffered serious injuries in a life-threatening automobile accident near Mogadishu, when the car that was transporting him smashed into the back of a bus during a heavy rainstorm. He was treated in a hospital in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

 for head injuries, broken ribs and shock over a period of a month. Lieutenant General Mohamed Ali Samatar, then Vice President, subsequently served as de facto head of state for the next several months. Although Barre managed to recover enough to present himself as the sole presidential candidate for re-election over a term of seven years on December 23, 1986, his poor health and advanced age led to speculation about who would succeed him in power. Possible contenders included his son-in-law General Ahmed Suleiman Abdille, who was at the time the Minister of the Interior, in addition to Barre's Vice President Lt. Gen. Samatar.

Human rights abuse allegations

Part of Barre's time in power was characterized by oppressive dictatorial rule, including allegations of persecution, jailing and torture of political opponents and dissidents. The United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Development Programme
The United Nations Development Programme is the United Nations' global development network. It advocates for change and connects countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. UNDP operates in 177 countries, working with nations on their own solutions to...

 stated that "the 21-year regime of Siyad Barre had one of the worst human rights records in Africa." The Africa Watch Committee wrote in a report that "both the urban population and nomads living in the countryside [were] subjected to summary killings, arbitrary arrest, detention in squalid conditions, torture, rape, crippling constraints on freedom of movement and expression and a pattern of psychological intimidation." Amnesty International
Amnesty International
Amnesty International is an international non-governmental organisation whose stated mission is "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."Following a publication of Peter Benenson's...

 went on to report that torture methods committed by Barre's National Security Service
National Security Service (Somalia)
The National Security Service was the primary intelligence service of the government of Siad Barre and the bedrock of its repressive internal security apparatus, existing from 1970 until 1990 when it was formally abolished.- Organization and structure :...

 (NSS) included executions and "beatings while tied in a contorted position, electric shocks, rape of woman prisoners, simulated executions and death threats."

In September 1970, the government introduced the National Security Law No. 54, which granted the NSS the power to arrest and detain indefinitely those who expressed critical views of the government, without ever being brought to trial. It further gave the NSS the power to arrest without a warrant anyone suspected of a crime involving "national security". Article 1 of the law prohibited "acts against the independence, unity or security of the State", and capital punishment
Capital punishment
Capital punishment, the death penalty, or execution is the sentence of death upon a person by the state as a punishment for an offence. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. The term capital originates from the Latin capitalis, literally...

 was mandatory for anyone convicted of such acts.

From the late 1970s, and onwards Barre faced a shrinking popularity and increased domestic resistance. In response, Barre's elite unit, the Red Berets (Duub Cas), and the paramilitary unit called the Victory Pioneers carried out systematic terror against the Majeerteen
The Majeerteen is a Somali clan. Its members form a part of the Harti confederation of Darod sub-clans, and primarily inhabit the Puntland region in northeastern Somalia....

, Hawiye
The Hawiye is a Somali clan. Members of the clan primarily live in central and southern Somalia, in the Ogaden and the North Eastern Province , and in smaller numbers in other countries. Like many Somalis, Hawiye members trace their ancestry to Irir Samaale...

, and Isaaq
The Isaaq is one of the main Somali clans. Members of the clan principally live in the northwestern Somaliland region of Somalia, and the Somali Region of Ethiopia. The populations of five major cities of Somaliland – Hargeisa, Burco, Berbera, Ceerigaabo and Gabiley – are predominantly Isaaq...

 clans. The Red Berets systematically smashed water reservoirs to deny water to the Majeerteen and Isaaq clans and their herds. More than 2,000 members of the Majeerteen clan died of thirst, and an estimated 5,000 Isaaq were killed by the government. Members of the Victory Pioneers also raped large numbers of Majeerteen and Isaaq women, and more than 300,000 Isaaq members fled to Ethiopia.

Rebellion and ouster

The Barre administration was haunted by various clan-based rebel groups. In the northern part of the country, members of the Isaaq clan felt politically marginalized by Barre's government. The Isaaq clan consequently developed a rebel group named the Somali National Movement
Somali National Movement
The Somali National Movement was a 1980s-1990s Somali rebel group. Founded and led by Isaaq members to protect the clan's interests, it was key in the formation of Somaliland, a self-declared sovereign state that is internationally recognised as an autonomous region of Somalia.-Formation:In April...

 (SNM), who were morally and financially supported by Ethiopia. Also in the north, there developed a rebel group called the Somali Salvation Democratic Front
Somali Salvation Democratic Front
Somali Salvation Democratic Front , initially known as the Democratic Front for Salvation of Somalia was a political and paramilitary umbrella organization in Somalia. Founded in 1978 by several army officers, it was the first of several opposition groups dedicated to ousting the authoritarian...

 (SSDF), which was led by Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed
Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed
Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed is a veteran Somali politician. He is one of the founders of the Somali Salvation Democratic Front, as well as the Puntland State of Somalia, where he served as the autonomous region's first President...

 and consisted of several former army officers opposed to Barre's regime. To combat this and other such groups, the government made many raids against the north. However, by the late 1980s, rival factional groups began to make substantial territorial gains, especially in the northern Somaliland
Somaliland is an unrecognised self-declared sovereign state that is internationally recognised as an autonomous region of Somalia. The government of Somaliland regards itself as the successor state to the British Somaliland protectorate, which was independent for a few days in 1960 as the State of...

 region. These groups received weapons from Ethiopia in the hopes of overthrowing Barre's government, which eventually led to the Somali Civil War
Somali Civil War
The Somali Civil War is an ongoing civil war taking place in Somalia. The conflict, which began in 1991, has caused destabilisation throughout the country, with the current phase of the conflict seeing the Somali government losing substantial control of the state to rebel forces...


By 1991, factions led by warlord
A warlord is a person with power who has both military and civil control over a subnational area due to armed forces loyal to the warlord and not to a central authority. The term can also mean one who espouses the ideal that war is necessary, and has the means and authority to engage in war...

 Mohamed Farrah Aidid
Mohamed Farrah Aidid
General Mohamed Ali Farrah Aidid was a controversial Somali military leader, often described as a warlord. A former general and diplomat, he was the chairman of the United Somali Congress and later led the Somali National Alliance...

 and his rebel group, the United Somali Congress
United Somali Congress
The United Somali Congress is one of the major political and paramilitary organizations of Somalia. Formed in 1988, it played a key role in the ouster of the government of Siad Barre, and became a major target of the so-called Operation Restore Hope campaign in 1993...

 (USC), invaded Mogadishu. Aidid fought against government forces, and Barre was finally overthrown on the evening of 26 January 1991. He was succeeded in office by Ali Mahdi Muhammad
Ali Mahdi Muhammad
Ali Mahdi Muhammad was president of Somalia from January 1991 to November 1991. He rose to power when Mohamed Farrah Aidid forced then president Mohamed Siad Barre out of office. Muhammad, however, was not able in that time to exert control over the country...

, a businessman of the Abgaal
Abgaal is a Somali clan, and part of the major Hawiye clan. Its members live in the Shabeellaha Dhexe, Galguduud, Banaadir, Mudug, Lower Shebelle, Middle Juba, and Jubbada Hoose regions of Central and southern Somalia...

, a sub clan of the Hawiye, until November 1991. Though internationally recognized, Ali Mahdi's government never managed to exert political or military control over the majority of the country. Ali Mahdi and Aidid's personal clan-based militias eventually wound up fighting over control of the country in the wake of Barre's ouster.


After leaving Mogadishu in January 1991, Barre temporarily remained in the southwestern Gedo
Gedo is an administrative region , formerly part of the historic Upper Juba Region in southern Somalia. Its regional capital is Garbahaarreey. Gedo is a region created in 1980s and is bordered by the Ogaden in Ethiopia, the North Eastern Province in Kenya, and the Somali regions of Bakool, Bay,...

 region of the country, which was the power base of his Marehan clan. From there, he launched a military campaign to return to power. He twice attempted to retake Mogadishu, but in May 1991 was overwhelmed by General Mohamed Farrah Aidid's army, and was forced into exile.

Barre initially moved to Nairobi
Nairobi is the capital and largest city of Kenya. The city and its surrounding area also forms the Nairobi County. The name "Nairobi" comes from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nyirobi, which translates to "the place of cool waters". However, it is popularly known as the "Green City in the Sun" and is...

, Kenya, but opposition groups with a presence there protested his arrival and support of him by the Kenyan government. In response to the pressure and hostilities, he moved two weeks later to Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

. Barre died on January 2, 1995 in Lagos
Lagos is a port and the most populous conurbation in Nigeria. With a population of 7,937,932, it is currently the third most populous city in Africa after Cairo and Kinshasa, and currently estimated to be the second fastest growing city in Africa...

 from a heart attack. His remains were buried in the Garbahaarreey district of the Gedo region in Somalia.


  • "In our Revolution we believe that we have broken the chain of a consumer economy based on imports, and we are free to decide our destiny. And in order to realize the interests of the Somali people, their achievement of a better life, the full development of their potentialities and the fulfillment of their aspirations, we solemnly declare Somalia to be a Socialist State."
-- Siad Barre proclaims Somalia a socialist state
Socialist state
A socialist state generally refers to any state constitutionally dedicated to the construction of a socialist society. It is closely related to the political strategy of "state socialism", a set of ideologies and policies that believe a socialist economy can be established through government...

, October 20, 1970

  • "When I came to Mogadishu...[t]here was one road built by the Italians. If you try to force me to stand down, I will leave the city as I found it. I came to power with a gun; only the gun can make me go."

  • "Some of the colonizers do understand and quickly retreat, while some, because they are stupid, continue colonizing others, increasing the suffering, deaths, injuries, defeat and humiliation. The people colonized by Abyssinia will be free. Eritrea
    Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...

     will be free, and they cannot refuse to let them be free. Western Somalia will be free, and they cannot refuse to grant it freedom. The numerous Abo will be free because this is history, and no one can prevent the sunshine from reaching us."

  • "I did not come to power to divide Somali but to unite them, and I will never deviate from this path. I shall respect a Somali individual as long as he deserves respect, but if he turns away from the correct path, then that is not my business."

  • "We should teach the foreigners and colonialists that Somalia cannot be led by other people and that the traitors who fled the country will never lead Somalia."

  • "There was no choice. I would like to state clearly the reason for the take over of the country by Armed Forces. I want our people to know that everything is going on as usual and that no problems have arisen as a result of the Revolution. The entire country is in the hands of the National Army and the Police Force Intervention by Armed Forces was inevitable. It was no longer possible to ignore the evil things like corruption, bribery, nepotism, and theft of public funds, injustice and disrespect to our religion and the laws of the country. The laws were thrust aside and people did whatever they wanted. No group or family can live happily if they do not respect their laws and regulations. There will be no development or any sort of progress for a nation, if the laws of the country are forgotten. The corruption has culminated in the assassination of prominent leaders of the country. Somalia was on the point of collapse, not economically and politically alone, but disaster threatened historically and nationally as well. If we look back on recent events in the country, we will see how a peaceful lands was changing to violence. Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, the late President, was assassinated by simple soldier who did not know him and who had no quarrel with him. We will not give a chance to wrong doers and law breakers."

  • "We will abolish bribery, nepotism and tribalism
    The social structure of a tribe can vary greatly from case to case, but, due to the small size of tribes, it is always a relatively simple role structure, with few significant social distinctions between individuals....

    . Tribalism was the only way in which foreigners got their chance of dividing our people. We will close all roads used by colonialists to enter our country and into our affairs. We will build up a great Somali nation, strongly united and welded together to live in peace. We will make respect the Islamic religion, if necessary, by all the force and strength we have. We will make Somalia a respected country in its internal and external policies. I would like to ask all Somalis to come out and build their nation, a strong nation, to use all their efforts, energy, wealth and brains in developing their country. At all costs avoid begging. The Imperialists, who always want to see people in hunger, disease and ignorance, will oppose us in order that we may beg them. They will spread many types of lies to try to misinterpret our noble aims and objectives. They will try to persuade the world, and even other African States, to believe their lies. Apart from these lies, they will call us many evil names. They are at present collecting arms, money and many other necessary things for them to work against us. We are very happy and thankful to see the unity of the Armed Forces and the Somali population. The nation has given us true support for which we are very grateful. Nothing will harm us if we go on supporting each other for the sake of our country and nation. Lets us join hands in crushing the enemy of our land."

External links

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