Mohamed Farrah Aidid
|Mohamed Farrah Aidid
محمد فرح عيديد
December 15, 1934|
|Died||August 1, 1996
|Political party||United Somali Congress/Somali National Alliance (USC/SNA)|
|Alma mater||Frunze Military Academy|
General Mohamed Farrah Hassan Aidid (Somali: Maxamed Faarax Xasan Caydiid, Arabic: محمد فرح حسن عيديد) (December 15, 1934 – August 1, 1996) 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 (USC) and later led the Somali National Alliance (SNA). Along with other armed opposition groups, they drove out President Mohamed Siad Barre's regime from Somalia's capital Mogadishu during the Somali Civil War that broke out in the early 1990s.
In 1992, Aidid challenged the presence of United Nations and United States troops in the nation. He was one of the main targets of Operation Restore Hope, the UN and US joint humanitarian operation that sought to break the military siege. After eventually forcing UN forces to abandon the country in 1995, Aidid declared himself President of Somalia for a few months until his death the following year.
Aidid was born in 1934 in Beledweyne, to a Habar Gidir Hawiye family. He was educated in Rome and Moscow and served in the Italian colonial police force in the 1950s. He later joined the Somali National Army.
For advanced military training, Aidid studied at the Frunze Military Academy (Военная академия им. М. В. Фрунзе) in the former Soviet Union, an elite institution reserved for the most qualified officers of the Warsaw Pact armies and their allies.
In 1969, a few days after the assassination of Somalia's second president Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, a military junta led by Major General Mohamed Siad Barre staged a bloodless coup d'état. Aidid was serving as the Army Chief of Staff at the time of the putsch. He quickly fell out of favour with the new regime's leaders and was subsequently detained. Aidid was eventually released from prison six years afterwards to take part in the 1977-1978 war against Ethiopia over the disputed Ogaden region.
United Somali Congress
After fallout from the unsuccessful Ogaden campaign of the late 1970s, the Barre administration began arresting government and military officials under suspicion of participation in the abortive 1978 coup d'état. Most of the people who had allegedly helped plot the putsch were summarily executed. However, several officials managed to escape abroad and started to form the first of various dissident groups dedicated to ousting Barre's regime by force.
By the late 1980s, Barre's regime had become increasingly unpopular. The authorities became increasingly totalitarian, and resistance movements, encouraged by Ethiopia's communist Derg administration, sprang up across the country. This eventually led in 1991 to the outbreak of the civil war, the toppling of Barre's government, and the disbandment of the Somali National Army (SNA). Many of the opposition groups subsequently began competing for influence in the power vacuum that followed the ouster of Barre's regime. Armed factions led by United Somali Congress (USC) commanders General Aidid and Ali Mahdi Mohamed, in particular, clashed as each sought to exert authority over the capital. However, Aidid failed to attract many Somali leaders and intellectuals to the USC's cause, including fellow Frunze graduate General Abdullahi Ahmed Irro, who opted instead to remain politically neutral.
UN Security Council Resolution 733 and UN Security Council Resolution 746 led to the creation of UNOSOM I, the first stabilization mission in Somalia after the dissolution of the central government. United Nations Security Council Resolution 794 was unanimously passed on December 3, 1992, which approved a coalition of United Nations peacekeepers led by the United States. Forming the Unified Task Force (UNITAF), the alliance was tasked with assuring security until humanitarian efforts were transferred to the UN. Landing in 1993, the UN peacekeeping coalition started the two-year United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM II) primarily in the south.
Aidid's faction and some of the other Mogadishu-based militias that were then competing for power interpreted the UN troops' presence as a threat to their hegemony. Consequently, several gun battles took place in the capital between local gunmen and peacekeepers. In 1993, Aidid's fighters attacked Pakistani UN forces, resulting in 24 dead. The US authorities subsequently put a $25,000 bounty on the faction leader's head and attempted to arrest and try him for war crimes. On October 3, 1993, by the order of President Bill Clinton, a force of United States Army Rangers and Delta Force operators set out to capture several officials of Aidid's militia in an area of Mogadishu controlled by him. Although technically successful, with the capture of several "tier-one personalities", the operation did not completely go as planned. Between 500 and 1,500 Somalis, as well as 18 American soldiers and 1 Malaysian soldiers, died in the ensuing Battle of Mogadishu (1993). As a result of a downed Blackhawk air assault helicopter, Warrant Officer-Pilot Michael J. Durant from 160th SOAR was also held captive by militants for 11 days. He recalls in his book, In the Company of Heroes, that he believed that he may have seen General Aidid behind the cameraman as he was being filmed briefly by film reporters during his captivity.
The United States withdrew its forces soon afterwards, with the United Nations eventually following suit in 1995.
Aidid subsequently declared himself President of Somalia in June 1995. However, his declaration received no recognition, as his rival Ali Mahdi Muhammad had already been elected interim President at a conference in Djibouti and recognized as such by the international community.
Consequently, Aidid's faction continued its quest for hegemony in the south. In September 1995, militia forces loyal to him attacked the city of Baidoa, killing 10 local residents and capturing at least 20 foreign aid workers.
On July 24, 1996, Aidid and his men clashed with the forces of former allies Ali Mahdi Muhammad and Osman Ali Atto. Aidid suffered a gunshot wound in the ensuing battle. He later died from a heart attack on August 1, either during or after surgery to treat his injuries.
During the events leading up to the civil war, Aidid's wife Khadiga Gurhan sought asylum in Canada in 1989, moving the couple's four children with her. Local media shortly afterwards alleged that she had returned to Somalia for a five-month stay while still receiving welfare payments. Gurhan admitted in an interview to collecting welfare and having briefly traveled to Somalia in late 1991. However, it was later brought to light that she had been granted landed immigrant status in June 1991, thereby making her a legal resident of Canada. Additionally, Aidid's rival President Barre had been overthrown in January of that year. This altogether ensured that Gurhan's five-month trip would not have undermined her initial 1989 claim of refugee status. An official probe by Canadian immigration officials into the allegations also concluded that she had obtained her landing papers through normal legal processes.
Hussein Mohamed Farrah, son of General Aidid, emigrated to the United States when he was 17 years old. Staying 16 years in the country, he eventually became a naturalized citizen and later a United States Marine who served in Somalia. Two days after his father's death, the Somali National Alliance declared Hussein as the new President, although he too was not internationally recognized as such.
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