Mohammad Ali Samatar

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Mohamed Ali Samantar
Maxamed Cali Samatar
Mohamed Ali Samatar.png
5th Prime Minister of Somalia
In office
1 February 1987 – 3 September 1990
President Siad Barre
Preceded by post abolished, 1970-87
Succeeded by Muhammad Hawadle Madar
Personal details
Born (1931-01-01)1 January 1931
Kismayo, Italian Somaliland
Died 19 August 2016(2016-08-19) (aged 85)
Virginia, U.S.
Political party Supreme Revolutionary Council
Alma mater Frunze Military Academy
Awards Somalia Medal of Valor (1978)
Military service
Battles/wars Ogaden War
1982 Ethiopian-Somali Border War
Somali Rebellion

Mohamed Ali Samatar (Somali: Maxamed Cali Samatar; 1 January 1931 – 19 August 2016) was a Somali politician and Lieutenant General. A senior member of the Supreme Revolutionary Council, he also served as the Prime Minister of Somalia from 1 February 1987 to 3 September 1990.[1]

Early years[edit]

Samatar was born in 1931 in Somalia. He was born in Kismayo in southern Somalia.[2]

For his post-secondary education, Samatar studied at the Frunze Military Academy in the former Soviet Union (Военная академия им. М. В. Фрунзе), an elite institution reserved for the most qualified officers of the Warsaw Pact armies and their allies.[3]

Somali Democratic Republic[edit]

A Lieutenant General in the Somali National Army (SNA), Samatar was a key figure in Somali politics throughout the 1970s and 1980s. During the Ogaden campaign of the late 1970s, he led all SNA units and their Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) affiliates.[3] He also served as national Defense Minister from 1980 to 1986.

Samatar was a member of President Siad Barre's ruling Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC). 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.[4] He was treated in a hospital in Saudi Arabia for head injuries, broken ribs and shock over a period of a month.[5][6] Samatar, who was then serving as Vice President of Somalia, 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.[4][5]

From February 1, 1987, to September 3, 1990, Samatar was the national Prime Minister, the first person to fill that post since 1969 (Since the 1969 revolution that overthrew the civilian government).

Ogaden War[edit]

In the late 1970s, Samatar was the Chief Commanding Officer of the Somali National Army during the Ogaden Campaign.[3] He and his frontline deputies faced off against their mentor and former Frunze alumni Marshal Vasily Ivanovich Petrov, who was assigned by the USSR to advise the Ethiopian Army, in addition to 15,000 Cuban troops supporting Ethiopia,[7] led by General Arnaldo Ochoa.[8] The Ogaden Campaign was part of a broader effort to unite all of the Somali-inhabited territories in the Horn region into a Greater Somalia (Soomaaliweyn).[9] General Samatar was assisted in the offensive by several field commanders, most of whom were also Frunze graduates:[10]

  • General Yussuf Salhan commanded SNA in Jigjiga Front assisted by Col. A. Naji, capturing the area on August 30, 1977. (Later became Minister of Tourism)
  • Col. Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed commanded SNA in Negellie Front, seizing control in late Sept 1977. (Accused of the 1978 coup and dishonorably discharged)
  • General. Abdullahi Ahmed Irro commanded SNA in the Godey Front, seizing the area on July 24, 1977. (Accused of the 1978 coup and restored to serve)
  • Col. Ali Hussein commanded SNA in Qabri Dahare Front, July 26, 1977. (Leader of SNM Military wing in 1989)
  • Col. Farah Handulle commanded SNA in the Warder Front, seizing control in late July 25, 1977. (Killed in Hargeisa in 1988 as Governor of the state)
  • General Mohamed Nur Galaal assisted by Col. Mohamud Sh. Abdullahi Geelqaad commanded Dirir-Dewa. The SNA retreated from Dirir-Dewa. (Later became Minister of Public Works and Leading member of the ruling Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party)
  • General. Ali Isamil and General. Abdulrahman Aare' co-commanded SNA in Dhegeh-Bur seizing control in August 1977.


Following the outbreak of the civil war in 1991 and the collapse of the Barre regime, Samatar moved to the United States in order to escape persecution as a member of the former government. According to Mario Sica, then Italian ambassador to Mogadishu, although the United Somali Congress (USC) professed that it was fighting against the Barre regime as a whole and not engaged in a clan-based struggle, public officials who belonged to the same clan as the USC's core constituents were not targeted. Instead, they were embraced as heroes and welcomed into the rebel group's senior leadership positions.[11]

In 2009, a civil lawsuit seeking financial damages from Samatar was filed in the U.S. by a small group of Somalis, some of whom are naturalized American citizens. The individuals alleged that they had suffered physical abuse in violation of international law at the hands of soldiers or other government officials under Samatar's command,[12] which they further claimed was due to their belonging to the Isaaq clan.[13] However, the plaintiffs did not claim that Samatar personally committed the atrocities or that he was directly involved.[12] Supporters of Samatar described the lawsuit as a politically motivated vendetta filed by associates of the Somali National Movement (SNM),,,, a disbanded rebel militia linked with the secessionist Somaliland region in the northwestern part of Somalia.[14]

Samatar asserted that he was immune from responsibility under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. On June 1, 2010, in Samantar v. Yousuf, the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled that, although Samatar's argument was "literally possible," FSIA did not cover the issue of an official's claim to immunity. The lawsuit was consequently allowed to continue against Samatar. However, the justices added that Samatar might have recourse to common law claims of immunity when the matter was heard again by the lower courts.[15] On remand, Samatar sought dismissal of the action based on head of state immunity and foreign official act immunity. In 2011, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia rejected these claims, denying the motion to dismiss.[16] It ruled that "under international and domestic law, officials from other countries are not entitled to foreign official immunity for jus cogens violations, even if the acts were performed in the defendant's official capacity."[17] In August 2012, a U.S. federal court ruled that Samatar should pay $21 million to the plaintiffs, with each to receive $1 million and $2 million in compensatory and punitive damages, respectively. However, Samatar was not required to pay the damages until bankruptcy proceedings concluded.[18] The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit later upheld this decision in November 2012.[16] This was despite the fact that US President Barack Obama's administration had urged the court not to hear the lawsuit.[19]

In March 2013, Abdi Farah Shirdon, Prime Minister in Somalia's newly recognized Federal Government, issued a letter to the U.S. Department of State requesting that Washington grant Samatar immunity from prosecution. Samatar was previously denied immunity mainly because there was at the time no strong central authority within Somalia to claim it on his behalf. According to Samatar's attorney, Joseph Peter Drenan, the gesture was an attempt on the Somali government's part to promote reconciliation. He added that the lawsuit was now likely to be dismissed, as the U.S. authorities were expected to honor the Somali administration's request.[20] In March 2015, the US Supreme Court upheld the civil lawsuit against Samatar, dismissing his appeal.[19]


Samatar died in Virginia, United States, on 19 August 2016.[21] He was buried in Mogadishu Somalia.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Somalia -
  2. ^ Lewis, I.M. (2008). Understanding Somalia and Somaliland: Culture, History, Society. Columbia University Press. pp. 7–8. ISBN 0231700849. 
  3. ^ a b c Ahmed III, Abdul. "Brothers in Arms Part I" (PDF). WardheerNews. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 May 2012. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  4. ^ a b World of Information (Firm), Africa review, (World of Information: 1987), p.213.
  5. ^ a b Arthur S. Banks, Thomas C. Muller, William Overstreet, Political Handbook of the World 2008, (CQ Press: 2008), p.1198.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Lockyer, Adam. "Opposing Foreign Intervention's Impact on the Course of Civil Wars: The Ethiopian-Ogaden Civil War, 1976-1980" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 February 2014. Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  8. ^ Payne, Richard J. (1988). Opportunities and Dangers of Soviet-Cuban Expansion: Toward a Pragmatic U.S. Policy. SUNY Press. p. 37. ISBN 0887067964. 
  9. ^ Lewis, I.M.; The Royal African Society (October 1989). "The Ogaden and the Fragility of Somali Segmentary Nationalism". African Affairs. 88 (353). Retrieved 8 November 2012. 
  10. ^ Ahmed III, Abdul. "Brothers in Arms Part II" (PDF). WardheerNews. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 May 2012. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  11. ^ Kapteijns, Lidwien (2012). Clan Cleansing in Somalia: The Ruinous Legacy of 1991. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 133. ISBN 0812244672. 
  12. ^ a b US court to hear Somali ex-minister torture case Archived 2009-10-23 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ Barakat, Matthew (28 August 2012). "$21 Million Judgment Handed Down In Case Of Ex-Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Samantar". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 3 September 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2012. 
  14. ^ Geeleh, Ali (9 March 2010). "No to the vendetta against General Mohamed Ali Samater". Wardheernews. Archived from the original on 28 May 2012. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  15. ^ Court: Ex-Somali official can be sued
  16. ^ a b Yousuf v Samantar Opinion (4th Circuit)
  17. ^ Case summary - Center for Justice & Accountability
  18. ^ Singer, Drew (28 August 2012). "Ex-Somali PM must pay $21 million for alleged torture - US court". Reuters. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  19. ^ a b "U.S. top court refuses to shield former Somali official from suit". Reuters. 9 March 2015. Retrieved 10 March 2015. 
  20. ^ "Somalia, newly recognized by US, seeks immunity for former minister Samantar in civil case". Associated Press. 1 March 2013. Retrieved 2 March 2013. [permanent dead link]
  21. ^ "Former somali vice president,defense minister in 1970's dies at 85-in-virginia". Retrieved 20 August 2016. 

Mohamed Nur Galaal


Government offices
Preceded by
post abolished, 1970–87
Prime Minister of Somalia
February 1, 1987–September 3, 1990
Succeeded by
Muhammad Hawadle Madar