Factions in the Somali Civil War

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Over the course of the Somali Civil War, there have been many revolutionary movements and militia groups run by competing rebel leaders which have held de facto control over vast areas of the country.

Prior to the fall of Siad Barre (through 1991)[edit]

Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF)[edit]

First Somali resistance group.

  • Leaders: Dr. Hassan Ali Mireh, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, General Mohamed Abshir Musa, Mohammed Abshir Waldo (General Secretary)
  • Area of Operations: 1988: Mudug region in central Somalia and Nugaal and Bari regions in southern Somalia; 1991: northeast Somalia (Puntland)
  • Tribal Affiliation: Majerteen and Darood clans
  • Founded: 1978 by several army officers, it was the first of several opposition groups dedicated to ousting the authoritarian regime of Mohamed Siad Barre.[1]

Took part in a 1982 Ethiopian border offensive against Somalia.

The SSDF tried to ally with the SNM in 1983, but they failed to agree to a common strategy.

Somali National Front (SNF)[edit]

The SNF was a political revolutionary movement and armed militia in Somalia. Initially made up of loyalists to former President of Somalia Siad Barre and the remnants of the Somali National Army forces after his ouster from office, the SNF's intent and goal was to recapture Mogadishu and reinstate Barre's regime. Later, under General Omar Hagi Masallah and General Ahmed Ali, the SNF united the Marehan with the other Darod clans led by General Mohammed Said Hersi "Morgan", and then attempted to conquer the region around Kismayo to form the autonomous district of Jubaland.

  • Leaders: General Siad Barre, General Ahmed Ali, Mohammed Said Samatar "Gacaliye", Ahmed Sheikh Ali Ahmed "Burale", Dr. Ali Nur, General Mohammed Hashi Gaani, Col Barre Hiiraale, Gen Omar Hagi Massale, Col. Abdirizak Issak Bihi.
  • Area of Operations: Southern and Central Somalia; occasional forays to outskirts of Mogadishu and neighboring borders.
  • Tribal Affiliation: Marehan (Mareehaan)
  • Founded: March 1991

Somali National Movement (SNM)[edit]

Isaaq tribe members had founded the movement in 1981 as emigres to London with the express purpose of overthrowing the Barre regime. They eventually moved to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and gained the support of the Ethiopian government.

On January 2, 1982 operating near Berbera, the group attacked Mandera Prison to free political prisoners while simultaneously raiding Cadaadle armory.

Between 1985 and 1987, the SNM conducted many attacks on government facilities and troops based out of camps in Ethiopia.

By 1988, the SNM moved out of their camps in Ethiopia and began operating in northern Somali republic , the area now known as Somaliland.[2] They even temporarily occupied the provincial capitals of Burao and Hargeysa.

They captured government Toyota Land Cruisers turned them into technicals by mounting 12.7 mm and 14.5 mm machineguns, 106 mm recoilless rifles, and BM-21 rocket launchers. They also operated various antiaircraft guns, such as the ZU-23-2.

By 1991, they had taken control of Hargeysa, Berbera, Burao, and Erigavo. On May 18, 1991, they declared the Republic of Somaliland.

Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM)[edit]

  • Leaders: Colonel Shugri Weyrah Kariye Colonel Bashir Bililiqo, Colonel Ahmed Omar Jess, General Aden Abdullahi Nur ('Gabyow'), General Mohammed Said Hersi "Morgan"
  • Area of Operations: southern Somalia
  • Tribal Affiliation: Ogaden (SPM 'Ogadeni') and non-Ogaden (known as SPM 'Harti')
  • Founded: 1989

Begun by a group of disaffected Ogadeni officers.

A key accomplishment was the seizure of Balli-Dogle air base in the days prior to Barre's flight from Mogadishu.[3]

Somali Democratic Alliance (SDA)[edit]

  • Leaders: Mohamed Farah Abdullahi, Mohamed Rashiid Sheekh also called sheekh malee, Zak Fergason, and Jamac Rabile(SDA)
  • Area of Operations: Awdal, Somalia
  • Tribal Affiliation: Gadabursi
  • Founded: 1989[4]

Pro-Barre faction. Fought against other liberation movements during Barre's reign.

United Somali Congress (USC)[edit]

  • Leaders: Dr. Omar M. Hassan, Hussein Ahmed Mohamed, Abdi Hilowle Hassan, Hassan Mohamud Moheddin, Hassan Omar Mohamed (Founders, 1989); Dr. Ismael Jimaale (Mogadishu section founder, 1989); General Mohamed Farrah Aidid (Habar Gidir clan), Ali Mahdi Mohamed (Abgaal clan), Mohamed Qanyare Afrah (November 1991)
  • Area of Operations: central Somalia
  • Tribal Affiliation: Hawiye[5] (Habar Gidir, Xawaadle, Murusade and Abgaal clans)
  • Founded: February 1, 1989 in Rome

On January 26, 1991, the USC stormed the Presidential palace in Mogadishu, taking control of the capital and forcing Siad Barre into exile.

In November 1991, factionalism between Gen. Aidid and Ali Mahdi Mahammad caused a split in the USC. Mohamed Qanyare Afrah was chosen to be the Chairman of the smaller, breakaway "USC Madhi" faction. This leadership position was not recognized by Gen. Aidid.

Somali Democratic Movement (SDM)[edit]

  • Leaders:Muse Mayo (Pro-Mahdi faction)
  • Area of Operations: Baidoa
  • Tribal Affiliation: Rahanwayn
  • Founded: April 1989[6]

Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya (AIAI)[edit]

Southern Somali National Movement[edit]

United Somali Root (USR)[edit]

Founded after the fall of Siad Barre through to the UN interventions (1991–1995)[edit]


Leaders Area of Operations Tribal Affiliation Dates Flag
1991–1993: Abdirahman Ahmed Ali Tuur
1993–2002: Ibrahim Egal
2002-2010: Dahir Riyale Kahin
2010-current: Ahmed M. Mahamoud Silanyo
SomalilandLocation somaliland.png Isaaq


18 May 1991–Present Flag of Somaliland.svg

The Isaaq-dominated northern Somaliland region of Somalia declared its independence in 1991, but has not been recognized by any country or international organization as a sovereign nation.

Somali National Alliance (SNA)[edit]

Its constituents included Mohamed Aidid's breakaway United Somali Congress faction, the Somali Patriotic Movement, Southern Somali National Movement, and other southern factions. His son, Hussein Aidid, assumed leadership upon his death. The SNA became the core of the SRRC in 2001.

Somali National Front (SNF)[edit]

  • Leaders: General Siad Barre, General Mohammed Said Samatar, General Mohammed Hashi Gaani, General Ahmed Ali,'Gacaliye', General Omar Hagi Masallah,Dr. Ali Nur Mukhtar, Ahmed Sheikh Ali " Buraale ". Col. Abdirizak Isak Bihi, Mohamud Sayid.
  • Area of Operations: Upper Jubba (Gedo), Middle and Lower Jubba regions; occasional forays to outskirts of Mogadishu
  • Tribal Affiliation: Marehan (Mareehaan)
  • Founded: March 1991

Loyalists to Siad Barre and Ahmed Ali, the remnants of his army forces founded the SNF militia after his ouster from office.

Their intent and goal was to recapture Mogadishu and reinstate the regime of Siad Barre, and to establish regional state in Gedo, Middle and Lower Jubba.

United Somali Front (USF)[edit]

  • Leaders: Abdurahman Dualeh Al;
  • Area of Operations: Zeila, Somalia
  • Tribal Affiliation: Issa
  • Founded: prior to 1991 as a small liberation movement. "New" USF founded Summer 1991

The original USF joined with the SNM in the creation of the Republic of Somaliland.

The Issa clan is a Somali clan that spreads across northwest Somaliland and the nation of Djibouti. The "new" USF especially sought to represent the interests of the Djibouti-based Iise.

Somali Africans Muke Organization (SAMO)[edit]

(also called Somali Asal Muki Organization)

  • Leaders: Mohamed Ramadan Arbow
  • Area of Operations: ???
  • Tribal Affiliation: Bantu
  • Founded: 1993

Some of the tribes living the jubba and shabelle river banks [8]

Somali National Democratic Union (SNDU)[edit]

  • Leaders: [Ali Ismael Abdi] and [Abdullahi Azari]
  • Area of Operations: Galgadud, Mudug, Burtinle-Nugaal
  • Tribal Affiliation: [Lelkase] and [Awrtable] [Darood] sub-clans
  • Founded: 1991
  • Museum : Museum is available at Mudug

Somali National Union (SNU)[edit]

  • Leaders: Dr. Mohamed Ragis Mohamed
  • Area of Operations:
  • Tribal Affiliation: Reer Hamar; an Arabic, not ethnic Somali clan
  • Founded: 1960s

A political party that was active in the 1960s but was forced into dissolution during the Barre regime. It revived after his downfall.

United Somali Party (USP)[edit]

The "new" USP had no affiliation to the original group founded in the 1950s. The new group that bore their name were generally pro-Siad, but key participants in the Reconciliation Conference of the Elders of the Republic of Somaliland at Borama in early 1993.

Those present at the 1993 Conference on National Reconciliation in Somalia[edit]

The 1993 Informal Preparatory Meeting on National Reconciliation and the Conference on National Reconciliation in Somalia saw the presence of no less than 15 separate factions, including the offshoot SNA branches of USC and SPM. It was a plethora of acronyms: SAMO, SDA, SDM, SNA, SNDU, SNF, SNU, SPM, SPM-(SNA), SSDF, SSNM-(SNA), USC-(SNA), USC, USF, USP. Aidid's four SNA-aligned factions comprised a powerful bloc.

The progressive tone of the proceedings was undercut by the actual lack of progress in the regions and on the streets of Mogadishu. In time, new factions emerged as the Somali Civil War entered a new phase: disintegration into independent and autonomous states.

Created after the departure of the UN Missions (1995–Present)[edit]

Faction Area of Operations Tribal Affiliation Dates Flag
Puntland Puntland-map.jpg Darood 1998–Present Flag of Puntland.svg
Jubaland under Juba Valley Alliance (JVA) Location jubaland.png Ogaden and Marehan 1999–Present Jubbaland2.png
Somalia Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC) Mogadishu & Southern Somalia Hawiye 2001–2004 Flag of Somalia.svg
Southwestern Somalia Location southwestern.png Rahanweyn 2002–2006 Flag of Southwestern Somalia.svg
Transitional Federal Government (TFG) Location federal.png Hawiye(Mudulood & Habar Gidir) and Rahanweyn 2004–present Flag of Somalia.svg
Islamic Courts Union (ICU) 2006 ICU.svg Predominately Hawiye 2006–2007 (replaced by Al-Shabaab) Flag of the Islamic Courts Union.svg
Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT) Hawiye 2006
Galmudug Location galmudug.png Habar Gidir (Sacad and Salabaan) 2006–present Flag of Somalia.svg
Popular Resistance Movement in the Land of the Two Migrations Mogadishu & Southern Somalia Multi-clan 2007–present
Maakhir Location maakhir.png Warsangeli 2007-2008 (rejoined Puntland in January 2009) Flag of Maakhir 2008.svg

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nina J. Fitzgerald, Somalia: issues, history, and bibliography, (Nova Publishers: 2002), p.25.
  2. ^ The Fall of Siad Barre and the Descent into Civil War Nations Encyclopedia
  3. ^ The Liberation Movements of Somalia Archived 2006-12-10 at the Wayback Machine Jack L. Davies, 27 August 1994
  4. ^ Uwechue, Raph (1991). Africa Today. Africa Journal Limited. (founded 1989, leader, Mohammed Farah Abdullah)
  5. ^ https://www.ecoi.net/en/file/local/1108483/1329_1200641767_somalia-april-2001.pdf
  6. ^ Mukhtar, Mohamed Haji (2003-02-25). Historical Dictionary of Somalia. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810866041.
  7. ^ "Somali Boundaries and the Question of Statehood", Security, Clans and Tribes, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, doi:10.1057/9781137470751.0007, ISBN 9781137470751
  8. ^ SAMO