Siad Barre

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Siad Barre
محمد سياد بري
Siabar 003.jpg
Military portrait of Major General Mohamed Siad Barre.
3rd President of Somalia
In office
October 21, 1969 – January 26, 1991
Vice President Muhammad Ali Samatar
Preceded by Mukhtar Mohamed Hussein
Succeeded by Ali Mahdi Muhammad
Personal details
Born Mohamed Siad Barre
October 6, 1919
Shilavo, Ogaden
Died January 2, 1995(1995-01-02) (aged 75)
Lagos, Nigeria
Political party Supreme Revolutionary Council
Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party
Spouse(s) Khadija Maalin
Dalyad Haji Hashi[1]
Religion Sunni Islam

Mohamed Siad Barre (Somali: Maxamed Siyaad Barre; Arabic: محمد سياد بري‎; October 6, 1919 – January 2, 1995) was the military dictator[2][3] and President of the Somali Democratic Republic from 1969 to 1991. During his rule, he styled himself as Jaalle Siyaad ("Comrade Siad").[4]

At the time of independence in 1960, Somalia was touted in the West as the model of a democracy in Africa. However, clanism 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 that came to power after a coup d'état in 1969 said it would adapt scientific socialism to the needs of Somalia. It drew heavily from the traditions of China. 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 for the Somali language 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 nomadic relatives.[5]

After 20 years of military rule, Barre's Supreme Revolutionary Council was eventually forced from power in the early 1990s by a coalition of armed opposition groups. He died in political exile in 1995, but was returned to Somalia for burial in his home region.

Early years[edit]

Mohamed Siad Barre was born as a member of the Marehan Darod clan (sub-clan Rer Dini) near Shilavo in the Ogaden.[6][7] His parents died when he was ten years old.[7]

After receiving his primary education in the town of Luuq in southern Somalia, Barre moved to Mogadishu, the capital of Italian Somaliland, to pursue his secondary education.[7] Claiming to have been born in Garbahaarreey in order to qualify,[6] he enrolled in the Italian colonial police as a Zaptié in 1940.[8] He later joined the colonial police force during the British military administration of Somalia, rising to the highest possible rank.[7]

In 1950, shortly after Italian Somaliland became a United Nations Trust Territory under Italian administration, Barre attended the Carabinieri police school in Italy for two years.[7] Upon his return to Somalia, he remained with the military and eventually became Vice Commander of Somalia's Army when the country gained its independence in 1960. After spending time with Soviet officers in joint training exercises in the early 1960s, Barre became an advocate of Soviet-style Marxist government. He believed in a socialist government, and a stronger sense of nationalism.

Seizure of power[edit]

In 1969, following the assassination of Somalia's second president, Abdirashid Ali Shermarke, the military staged a coup on October 21 (the day after Shermarke's funeral), and took over office. The Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) that assumed power was led by Major General Barre, Lieutenant Colonel Salaad Gabeyre Kediye and Chief of Police Jama Korshel. Kediye officially held the title of "Father of the Revolution," and Barre shortly afterwards became the head of the SRC.[9] The SRC subsequently renamed the country the Somali Democratic Republic,[10][11] arrested members of the former government, banned political parties,[12] dissolved the parliament and the Supreme Court, and suspended the constitution.[13]

Presidency[edit]

Barre with Nicolae Ceaușescu in 1976

Styled the "Victorious Leader" (Guulwade), Siad Barre fostered the growth of a personality cult. Portraits of him in the company of Marx and Lenin lined the streets on public occasions.[14] He advocated a form of scientific socialism based on the Qur'an and Marx, with heavy influences of Somali nationalism.

Supreme Revolutionary Council[edit]

The Supreme Revolutionary Council established large-scale public works programs and successfully implemented an urban and rural literacy 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, eventually joining the Arab League (AL) in 1974.[7] That same year, Barre also served as chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor of the African Union (AU).[15]

In July 1976, Barre's SRC disbanded itself and established in its place the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSP), a one-party government based on scientific socialism and Islamic tenets. The SRSP was an attempt to reconcile the official state ideology with the official state religion by adapting Marxist 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.[13]

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 continued to rule.[11] In October 1980, the SRSP was disbanded, and the Supreme Revolutionary Council was re-established in its place.[13]

Language and anti-clanism[edit]

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 developed by the Somali linguist Shire Jama Ahmed as the nation's standard 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.[16]

Nationalism and Greater Somalia[edit]

Barre advocated the concept of a Greater Somalia (Soomaaliweyn), which refers to those regions in the Horn of Africa in which ethnic Somalis reside and have historically represented the predominant population. Greater Somalia thus encompasses Somalia, the republic of Djibouti, the Ogaden (in modern day Ethiopia) and the North Eastern Province (in Kenya) i.e. the almost exclusively Somali-inhabited regions of the Horn of Africa.[17][18][19] In July 1977, the Ogaden War 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 Cuban troops to assist the Ethiopian regime. In 1978, the Somali troops were ultimately pushed out of the Ogaden.

Foreign relations[edit]

Control of Somalia was of great interest to both the Soviet Union and the United States due to the country's strategic location at the mouth of the Red Sea. 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$100 million per year in economic and military aid.

On October 17 and October 18, 1977, a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) group hijacked Lufthansa Flight 181 to Mogadishu, Somalia, holding 86 hostages. West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and Barre negotiated a deal to allow a GSG 9 anti-terrorist unit into Mogadishu to free the hostages.

Domestic programs[edit]

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 and Afgooye, 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.[20] By 1988, 265 hectares of a projected 336 hectares had been treated, with 39 range reserve sites and 36 forestry plantation sites established.[21]

Between 1974 and 1975, a major drought 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 and Caynaba. New settlements of small villages were created in the Jubbada Hoose (Lower Jubba) and Jubbada Dhexe (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[edit]

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 increased faster than export earnings, and by the end of the decade, Somalia's debt of 4 billion shillings equalled the earnings from seventy-five years' worth of banana exports.[14]

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 (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, the International Development Association 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 collision[edit]

In May 1986, President Barre suffered serious injuries in a life-threatening automobile collision near Mogadishu, when the car that was transporting him smashed into the back of a bus during a heavy rainstorm.[22] He was treated in a hospital in Saudi Arabia for head injuries, broken ribs and shock over a period of a month.[23][24] 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.[22][23]

Human rights abuse allegations[edit]

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 stated that "the 21-year regime of Siyad Barre had one of the worst human rights records in Africa."[25] 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."[26] Amnesty International went on to report that torture methods committed by Barre's National Security Service (NSS) included executions and "beatings while tied in a contorted position, electric shocks, rape of woman prisoners, simulated executions and death threats." [27]

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 was mandatory for anyone convicted of such acts.[28]

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, Hawiye, and Isaaq clans.[29] 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.[30][31]

Rebellion and ouster[edit]

After fallout from the unsuccessful Ogaden campaign, Barre's administration began arresting government and military officials under suspicion of participation in an abortive 1978 coup d'état.[32][33] Most of the people who had allegedly helped plot the putsch were summarily executed.[34] 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.[35]

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 continued to rule.[11] In October 1980, the SRSP was disbanded, and the Supreme Revolutionary Council was re-established in its place.[13] By that time, the moral authority of Barre's ruling Supreme Revolutionary Council had begun to weaken. Many Somalis were becoming disillusioned with life under military dictatorship. The regime was further weakened in the 1980s as the Cold War drew to a close and Somalia's strategic importance was diminished. The government became increasingly totalitarian, and resistance movements, supported 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 regime and the disbandment of the Somali National Army (SNA). Among the militia groups that led the rebellion were the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF), United Somali Congress (USC), Somali National Movement (SNM) and the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM), together with the non-violent political oppositions of the Somali Democratic Movement (SDM), the Somali Democratic Alliance (SDA) and the Somali Manifesto Group (SMG).

Many of the opposition groups subsequently began competing for influence in the power vacuum that followed the ouster of Barre's regime. In the south, armed factions led by USC commanders General Mohamed Farah Aidid and Ali Mahdi Mohamed, in particular, clashed as each sought to exert authority over the capital.[36]

Death[edit]

After leaving Mogadishu in January 1991, Barre temporarily remained in the southwestern Gedo 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, 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. Barre died on January 2, 1995 in Lagos from a heart attack. He was buried in the Garbahaarreey district of the Gedo region in Somalia.

Honours[edit]

  • North Korea Order of National Flag, First Class, of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea - 1972[37]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Obituary: Siad Barre
  2. ^ George James "Somalia's Overthrown Dictator, Mohammed Siad Barre, Is Dead" New York Times (1/3/1995)
  3. ^ Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada "The Horn of Africa: Somalis in Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya" UNHCR (1/2/1991)
  4. ^ Jaalle also translates as "Mister".
  5. ^ Yiorgos Apostolopoulos, The Sociology of Tourism, p. 41 
  6. ^ a b David D. Laitin and Said S. Samatar, Somalia: Nation in Search of a State (Boulder: Westview Press 1987), p. 79
  7. ^ a b c d e f Benjamin Frankel, The Cold War, 1945-1991: Leaders and other important figures in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, and the Third World, (Gale Research: 1992), p.306.
  8. ^ President Siad Barre life (German)
  9. ^ Adam, Hussein Mohamed; Richard Ford (1997). Mending rips in the sky: options for Somali communities in the 21st century. Red Sea Press. p. 226. ISBN 1-56902-073-6. 
  10. ^ J. D. Fage, Roland Anthony Oliver, The Cambridge history of Africa, Volume 8, (Cambridge University Press: 1985), p.478.
  11. ^ a b c The Encyclopedia Americana: complete in thirty volumes. Skin to Sumac, Volume 25, (Grolier: 1995), p.214.
  12. ^ Metz, Helen C. (ed.) (1992), "Coup d'Etat", Somalia: A Country Study, Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, retrieved October 21, 2009 .
  13. ^ a b c d Peter John de la Fosse Wiles, The New Communist Third World: an essay in political economy, (Taylor & Francis: 1982), p.279.
  14. ^ a b Metz, Helen C. (ed.) (1992), "Siad Barre and Scientific Socialism", Somalia: A Country Study, Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, retrieved October 21, 2009 .
  15. ^ Oihe Yang, Africa South of the Sahara 2001, 30th Ed., (Taylor and Francis: 2000), p.1025.
  16. ^ Laitin, David D., Politics, Language, and Thought, p. 89 
  17. ^ The 1994 national census was delayed in the Somali Region until 1997. FDRE States: Basic Information - Somalia, Population (accessed 12 March 2006)
  18. ^ Francis Vallat, First report on succession of states in respect of treaties: International Law Commission twenty-sixth session 6 May-26 July 1974, (United Nations: 1974), p.20
  19. ^ Africa Watch Committee, Kenya: Taking Liberties, (Yale University Press: 1991), p.269
  20. ^ National Geographic Society (U.S.), National Geographic, Volume 159, (National Geographic Society: 1981), p.765.
  21. ^ Hadden, Robert Lee. 2007. "The Geology of Somalia: A Selected Bibliography of Somalian Geology, Geography and Earth Science." Engineer Research and Development Laboratories, Topographic Engineering Center
  22. ^ a b World of Information (Firm), Africa review, (World of Information: 1987), p.213.
  23. ^ a b Arthur S. Banks, Thomas C. Muller, William Overstreet, Political Handbook of the World 2008, (CQ Press: 2008), p.1198.
  24. ^ National Academy of Sciences (U.S.). Committee on Human Rights, Institute of Medicine (U.S.). Committee on Health and Human Rights, Scientists and human rights in Somalia: report of a delegation, (National Academies: 1988), p.9.
  25. ^ UNDP, Human Development Report 2001-Somalia, (New York: 2001), p. 42
  26. ^ Africa Watch Committee, Somalia: A Government at War with its Own People, (New York: 1990), p. 9
  27. ^ Amnesty International, Torture in the Eighties, (Bristol, England: Pitman Press, 1984), p. 127.
  28. ^ National Academy of Sciences (U.S.) Committee on Human Rights & Institute of Medicine (U.S.) Committee on Health and Human Rights, Scientists and human rights in Somalia: report of a delegation, (Washington D.C.: National Academy Press, 1988), p. 16.
  29. ^ Metz, Helen C. (ed.) (1992), "Siad Barre's Repressive Measures", Somalia: A Country Study, Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, retrieved October 21, 2009 .
  30. ^ Metz, Helen C. (ed.) (1992), "Persecution of the Majeerteen", Somalia: A Country Study, Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, retrieved October 21, 2009 .
  31. ^ Metz, Helen C. (ed.) (1992), "Oppression of the Isaaq", Somalia: A Country Study, Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, retrieved October 21, 2009 .
  32. ^ ARR: Arab report and record, (Economic Features, ltd.: 1978), p.602.
  33. ^ Ahmed III, Abdul. "Brothers in Arms Part I". WardheerNews. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  34. ^ New People Media Centre, New people, Issues 94–105, (New People Media Centre: Comboni Missionaries, 2005).
  35. ^ Nina J. Fitzgerald, Somalia: issues, history, and bibliography, (Nova Publishers: 2002), p.25.
  36. ^ Library Information and Research Service, The Middle East: Abstracts and index, Volume 2, (Library Information and Research Service: 1999), p.327.
  37. ^ Korea today (191): 10. 1972. 

References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Shire, Mohammed Ibrahim, Somali President Mohammed Siad Barre: His Life and Legacy, (Cirfe Publications, 2011)

External links[edit]

Official sites

Political offices
Preceded by
Sheikh Mukhtar Mohamed Hussein
President of Somalia
1969–1991
Succeeded by
Ali Mahdi Muhammad