US Department of the Army: Analysis of Somalia, December 1993

US Department of the Army: Analysis of Somalia, December 1993

 Source        :U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY 
 Source key    :AR 
 Program       :ARMY AREA HANDBOOKS 
 Program key   :AR ARMAN  
 Update sched. :Occasionally     
 ID number     :AR ARMAN  CHAPT04.03SM     
 Title         :Chapter 4.03: POLITICAL DYNAMICS 
 Data type     :TEXT 
 End year      :1993
 Date of record:12/17/1993
 Country       : Somalia 
 Text          : 
POLITICAL DYNAMICS 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 government-sponsored 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.

Opposition Movements

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

Majeerteen officers were the primary organizers of an unsuccessful coup in April 1978, following the army's humiliating defeat in the Ogaden War (see Persecution of the Majeerteen, ch. 1). An estimated 500 rebel soldiers were killed in fighting with forces loyal to Siad Barre, and subsequently seventeen officers, all but one of them Majeerteen, were executed. Several colonels suspected of plotting the coup escaped capture, however, and fled abroad;one of then, Yusuf Ahmad, played a major role in forming the Somali Salvation Front (SSF), the first opposition movement dedicated to the overthrow of the Siad Barre regime by force (The SSF became the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) in October 1981--see Sources of Opposition, ch. 5). In 1982 SSDF guerrillas with Ethiopian army units, occupied areas along the border, including two district towns, but it was not until 1988 that they began to extend their control over the western districts of Mudug Region and the southern areas of Nugaal and Bari regions.

The Isaaq clans of northwestern Somalia also resented what they perceived as their inadequate representation in Siad Barre's government. This disaffection crystallized in 1981 when Isaaq dissidents living in London formed the Somali National Movement (SNM) with the aim of toppling the Siad Barre regime. The following year, the SNM transferred its headquarters to Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, from where it launched guerrilla raids into the Woqooyi Galbeed and Togdheer regions of Somalia. Like the SSDF, the SNM had both military and political wings, proclaimed itself as a nationwide opposition movement, and tried to enlist the support of non-Isaaq clans. Initially, the SNM was more successful than the SSDF in appealing to other clans, and some Hawiye clan leaders worked with the SNM in the early and mid-1980s. Prior to establishing itself within Somalia in 1988, the SNM used its Ethiopian sanctuary to carry out a number of sensational activities against the Siad Barre regime, most notably the 1983 attack on Mandera Prison near Berbera, which resulted in the freeing of several northern dissidents.

Siad Barre's response to the guerrilla movements included increased repression of suspected political dissent nationwide and brutal collective punishments in the Majeerteen and Isaaq regions. These measures only intensified opposition to his regime (see Oppression of the Isaaq, ch. 1). Nevertheless, the opposition failed to unite because Siad Barre's strategy of using one clan to carry out government reprisals against a disfavored clan had the effect of intensifying both inter- and intra-clan antagonisms. For example, Hawiye leaders who had previously cooperated with the SNM decided in 1989 to form their own clan-based opposition movement, the United Somali Congress (USC) (see Harrying of the Hawiye, ch. 1). Also, the Gadabursi and Iise clans of the Dir clan-family in northwestern Somalia and the Dulbahante and Warsangali clans of the Daarood clan-family in the Sanaag and Bari regions grew increasingly resentful of Isaaq domination of districts "liberated" from government control. In 1990 the north's largest non-Isaaq clan, the Gadabursi, created its own movement, the Somali Democratic Alliance (SDA).

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

Politics of Reconciliation

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

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

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

Politics of Succession

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

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

In the weeks following Siad Barre's overthrow, the SNM considered its relations with the non-Isaaq clans of the north to be more problematic than its relations with the provisional government. The SDA, supported primarily by the Gadabursi clan, and the relatively new United Somali Front (USF), formed by members of the Iise clan, felt apprehension at the prospect of SNM control of their areas. During February there were clashes between SNM and USF fighters in Saylac and its environs. The militarily dominant SNM, although making clear that it would not tolerate armed opposition to its rule, demonstrated flexibility in working out local power-sharing arrangements with the various clans. SNM leaders sponsored public meetings throughout the north, using the common northern resentment against the southern-based 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.

Politics of Disintegration

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

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

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Subject: US Department of the Army analysis of Somalia December 1993
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