1961 revolt in Somalia

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1961 revolt in Somalia
Part of separatism in Somalia
DateDecember 1961
Northern Somalia
Result Revolt/Coup defeated
Somali Republic Somaliland army officers
Casualties and losses
Unknown all arrested

The 1961 revolt in Somalia was a revolt and attempted coup d'état in northern Somalia which took place in December 1961. Led by northern junior officers, the coup plotters intended to restore the independence of the State of Somaliland.


After the Trust Territory of Somaliland was unified with the State of Somaliland in 1960, it was discovered that the two polities had been unified under different Acts of Union. The newly unified Somali Republic's parliament promptly created a new Act of Union for all of Somalia, but this new Act was widely rejected in the former State of Somaliland. Regardless, the southern-dominated parliament ordered a referendum in the entire country to confirm the Act of Union. Much of the north's population boycotted the referendum, and just 100,000 northerners voted at all. Of these, over 60% of those were against the union under the new Act. The referendum still passed.[1]

Unrest and opposition to the union further increased, as southern politicians began taking up the majority of political positions in the newly unified Somali Republic. This led to fears that the former State of Somaliland could become a neglected outpost.[2]


These tensions, combined with personal grievances, led a band of 18 young British-trained junior officers to launch a coup to end the union in December 1961.[3] One of the officers was Hussein Ali Duale who later became a leading Somaliland separatist politician.[4] The officers attempted to take over major towns in Somaliland. The revolt proved short-lived, and was quickly ended by Somali authorities.[2]


The junior officers were then put on trial, but the British judge acquitted them, reasoning that there existed no legitimate Act of Union. In consequence, the officers could not be sentenced based on the Act, while the entire southern presence in the north became legally questionable. The ruling was generally ignored in Somalia at the time, but later became important for northeners who wanted to justify the de facto independence of Somaliland from 1991.[5]

In the decades after the unification, dissatisfaction about the perceived marginalization remained high in the north. Despite this, some members of Somaliland's political elite managed to gain high-ranking positions in the military and government.[6] Even some of the officers who had taken part in the 1961 revolt, such as Duale, rose to prominent positions.[4] This did not solve the tensions, and northern separatists eventually revolted in 1981, contributing to the Somali Rebellion.[7]


  1. ^ Richards (2014), p. 84.
  2. ^ a b Lyons & Samatar (2010), p. 12.
  3. ^ Richards (2014), pp. 84–85.
  4. ^ a b Hansen & Bradbury (2007), p. 474.
  5. ^ Richards (2014), p. 85.
  6. ^ Hansen & Bradbury (2007), p. 463.
  7. ^ Hansen & Bradbury (2007), pp. 463–464.

Works cited[edit]

  • Hansen, Stig Jarle; Bradbury, Mark (2007). "Somaliland: A New Democracy in the Horn of Africa?". Review of African Political Economy. Routledge (113): 461–476. doi:10.1080/03056240701672585.
  • Richards, Rebecca (2014). Understanding Statebuilding: Traditional Governance and the Modern State in Somaliland. Surrey: Ashgate. ISBN 9781472425898.
  • Lyons, Terrence; Samatar, Ahmed I. (2010). Somalia: State Collapse, Multilateral Intervention, and Strategies for Political Reconstruction. Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 9780815720256.