Somali Civil War
|Somali Civil War|
|Part of the conflicts in the Horn of Africa|
A Black Hawk helicopter, callsign Super 6-4, over the Mogadishu coast (1993)
Somali Democratic Republic (until 1991)
|Casualties and losses|
300,000 (TFG)-500,000+ (AFP) dead
The Somali Civil War is an ongoing civil war taking place in Somalia. It began in 1991, when a coalition of clan-based armed opposition groups ousted the nation's long-standing military government.
Various factions began competing for influence in the power vacuum that followed, which precipitated an aborted UN peacekeeping attempt in the mid-1990s. A period of decentralization ensued, characterized by a return to customary and religious law in many areas as well as the establishment of autonomous regional governments in the northern part of the country. The early 2000s saw the creation of fledgling interim federal administrations, culminating in the establishment of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in 2004. In 2006, the TFG, assisted by Ethiopian troops, assumed control of most of the nation's southern conflict zones from the newly formed Islamic Courts Union (ICU). The ICU subsequently splintered into more radical groups, notably Al-Shabaab, which have since been fighting the Somali government and its AMISOM allies for control of the region. In 2011, a coordinated military operation between the Somali military and multinational forces began, which is believed to represent one of the final stages in the war's Islamist insurgency.
Fall of Barre regime (1986–1991)
After fallout from the unsuccessful Ogaden campaign of the late 1970s, the ruling socialist government of the Somali Democratic Republic under Major General Mohamed Siad Barre 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.
In May 1986, 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 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.
By that time, the moral authority of Barre's ruling Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) had collapsed. Many Somalis had become 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, 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 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.
United Nations intervention (1992–1995)
UN Security Council Resolution 733 and UN Security Council Resolution 746 led to the creation of UNOSOM I, the first mission to provide humanitarian relief and help restore order in Somalia after the dissolution of its 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 aimed at stabilizing the situation 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. UNITAF's original mandate was to use "all necessary means" to guarantee the delivery of humanitarian aid in accordance to Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, and is regarded as a success.
Some of the 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 Mogadishu between local gunmen and peacekeepers. Among these was the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993, an unsuccessful attempt by US troops to apprehend faction leader Aidid. UN soldiers eventually withdrew altogether from the country on March 3, 1995, having incurred more significant casualties.
Following the outbreak of the civil war and the ensuing collapse of the central government, Somalia's residents reverted to local forms of conflict resolution; either secular, traditional or Islamic law, with a provision for appeal of all sentences. The legal structure in Somalia is thus divided along three lines: civil law, religious law and customary law.
While Somalia's formal judicial system was largely destroyed after the fall of the Siad Barre regime, it was later gradually rebuilt and administered under different regional governments, such as the autonomous Puntland and Somaliland macro-regions. In the case of the later Transitional Federal Government, a new interim judicial structure was formed through various international conferences.
Despite some significant political differences between them, all of these administrations share similar legal structures, much of which are predicated on the judicial systems of previous Somali administrations. These similarities in civil law include: a) a charter which affirms the primacy of Muslim shari'a or religious law, although in practice shari'a is applied mainly to matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and civil issues. The charter guarantees respect for universal standards of human rights to all subjects of the law. It also assures the independence of the judiciary, which in turn is protected by a judicial committee; b) a three-tier judicial system including a supreme court, a court of appeals, and courts of first instance (either divided between district and regional courts, or a single court per region); and c) the laws of the civilian government which were in effect prior to the military coup d'état that saw the Barre regime into power remain in force until the laws are amended.
Rise and fall of the ICU, Ethiopian intervention, and the TFG (2006–2009)
The early 2000s saw the creation of fledgling interim federal administrations, with the Transitional National Government (TNG) established in 2000 followed by the formation of its successor the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in 2004.
In 2006, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), an Islamist organization, assumed control of much of the southern part of the country and promptly imposed shari'a law. The Transitional Federal Government sought to reestablish its authority. With the assistance of Ethiopian troops, African Union peacekeepers and air support by the United States, the reconstituted Somalian military managed to drive out the rival ICU and solidify the TFG's rule.
On January 8, 2007, as the Battle of Ras Kamboni raged, TFG President and founder Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, a former colonel in the Somali Army and decorated war hero, entered Mogadishu for the first time since being elected to office. The government then relocated to Villa Somalia in the capital from its interim location in Baidoa. This marked the first time since the fall of the Siad Barre regime in 1991 that the federal government controlled most of the country.
Following this defeat, the Islamic Courts Union splintered into several different factions. Some of the more radical elements, including Al-Shabaab, regrouped to continue their insurgency against the TFG and oppose the Ethiopian military's presence in Somalia. Throughout 2007 and 2008, Al-Shabaab scored military victories, seizing control of key towns and ports in both central and southern Somalia. At the end of 2008, the group had captured Baidoa but not Mogadishu. By January 2009, Al-Shabaab and other militias had managed to force the Ethiopian troops to retreat, leaving behind an under-equipped African Union peacekeeping force to assist the Transitional Federal Government's troops.
Due to a lack of funding and human resources, an arms embargo that made it difficult to re-establish a national security force, and general indifference on the part of the international community, President Yusuf found himself obliged to deploy thousands of troops from Puntland to Mogadishu to sustain the battle against insurgent elements in the southern part of the country. Financial support for this effort was provided by the autonomous region's government. This left little revenue for Puntland's own security forces and civil service employees, leaving the territory vulnerable to piracy and terrorist attacks.
On December 29, 2008, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed announced before a united parliament in Baidoa his resignation as President of Somalia. In his speech, which was broadcast on national radio, Yusuf expressed regret at failing to end the country's seventeen-year conflict as his government had mandated to do. He also blamed the international community for its failure to support the government, and said that the speaker of parliament would succeed him in office per the Charter of the Transitional Federal Government.
Between May 31 and June 9, 2008, representatives of Somalia's federal government and the moderate Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) group of Islamist rebels participated in peace talks in Djibouti brokered by the former United Nations Special Envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah. The conference ended with a signed agreement calling for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops in exchange for the cessation of armed confrontation. Parliament was subsequently expanded to 550 seats to accommodate ARS members, which then elected Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the former ARS chairman, to office. President Sharif shortly afterwards appointed Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, the son of slain former President Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, as the nation's new Prime Minister.
With the help of a small team of African Union troops, the coalition government also began a counteroffensive in February 2009 to assume full control of the southern half of the country. To solidify its rule, the TFG formed an alliance with the Islamic Courts Union, other members of the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia, and Ahlu Sunna Waljama'a, a moderate Sufi militia. Furthermore, Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, the two main Islamist groups in opposition, began to fight amongst themselves in mid-2009.
As a truce, in March 2009, Somalia's coalition government announced that it would re-implement shari'a as the nation's official judicial system. However, conflict continued in the southern and central parts of the country. Within months, the coalition government had gone from holding about 70% of south-central Somalia's conflict zones, territory which it had inherited from the previous Yusuf administration, to losing control of over 80% of the disputed territory to the Islamist insurgents.
War in Somalia (2009–present)
In November 2010, a new technocratic government was elected to office, which enacted numerous reforms. Among these, in its first 50 days in office, the new administration completed its first monthly payment of stipends to government soldiers, and initiated the implementation of a full biometric register for the security forces within a window of four months.
By August 2011, the new government and its AMISOM allies had managed to capture all of Mogadishu from the Al-Shabaab militants. An ideological rift within Al-Shabaab's leadership also emerged in response to pressure from the recent drought and the assassination of top officials in the organization.
In October 2011, a coordinated operation between the Somali military and the Kenyan military began against the Al-Shabaab group of insurgents in southern Somalia. The mission was officially led by the Somali army, with the Kenyan forces providing a support role. In early June 2012, Kenyan forces were formally integrated into AMISOM. Analysts expect the additional AU troop reinforcements to help the Somali authorities gradually expand their territorial control.
- Consolidation of states within Somalia (1998–2006)
- Factions in the Somali Civil War
- Mogadishu Line
- Operation Deliverance
- Operation Linda Nchi
- List of conflicts in the Horn of Africa
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Somali Civil War.|
- Somalia's Struggle for Stability from The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
- Somalia – War situation since 1991 on France 24 Special Report on France 24 news channel
- Somali – U.S. Relations from the Dean Peter Krogh Foreign Affairs Digital Archives
- Somalia Operations: Lessons Learned by Kenneth Allard (CCRP, 1995)
- "Preserving American Security Ties to Somalia," by Michael Johns, Heritage Foundation, December 26, 1989.
- Changed Arab attitudes to Somalia Conflict
- Leaked cables confirm U.S. role in Somalia war