Somali Rebellion

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Somali Rebellion
Part of the Somali Civil War
Date 1986–1991
Location Somalia
Result Fall of the Somali Democratic Republic in 1991, Somali Civil War
Somalia Somali Democratic Republic (SNA) (until 1991)
Somalia SNF (after 1991)

Rebel groups:
Puntland SSDF
Somaliland SNM
Somalia USC

Somalia SDF
Commanders and leaders
Somalia Siad Barre
Somalia Mohammed Said Hersi Morgan
Somalia Muhammad Ali Samatar
Puntland Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed
Somaliland Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud
Bashir Bililiqo
Somalia Mohamed Farrah Aidid

The Somali Rebellion was a civil war in Somalia that occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The rebellion started in 1986 when Siad Barre began attacking clan-based dissident groups opposed to his rule with his special forces, the "Red Berets" (Duub Cas). The dissidents had been gaining strength for nearly a decade following his abrupt switch of allegiance from the Soviet Union to the United States and the disastrous Ogaden War of 1977-1978. When Barre was injured in an automobile accident on May 23, 1986, rivals within Barre's own government and revolutionary groups became bolder and entered into open conflict.

The revolution is broken into two distinct phases:

  • May 23, 1986 – January 26, 1991: events and revolutionary movements prior to the fall of Siad Barre
  • January 26, 1991 – April 1992: events and revolutionary movements after Siad Barre's fall, but before the advent of the UN missions to Somalia (UNOSOM I, UNITAF, UNOSOM II) and Operation Restore Hope.

Repressions Conducted by the Barre Regime[edit]

Persecution of the Majeerateen[edit]

In the aftermath of the Ogaoden debacle, a group of disgruntled army officers attempted a coup d'état against the regime in April 1978. Their leader was Colonel Mahammad Shaykh Usmaan, a member of the Majeerteen clan, which resides mostly in northeastern Somalia. The coup failed and seventeen alleged ringleaders, including Usmaan, were summarily executed. All but one of the executed were of the Majeerteen clan. One of the plotters, Lieutenant Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed escaped to Ethiopia and founded an anti-Siad Barre organization initially called the Somali Salvation Front (SSF; later the Somali Salvation Democratic Front, SSDF).

The Red Berets systematically smashed the small reservoirs in the area around Galcaio so as to deny water to the Umar Mahamuud Majeerteen sub-clans and their herds. In May and June 1979, more than 2,000 Umar Mahamuud, the Majeerteen sub-clan of Colonel Ahmad, died of thirst in the waterless area northeast of Galcaio, Garoowe, and Jerriiban. In Galcaio, members of the Victory Pioneers, the urban militia notorious for harassing civilians, raped large numbers of Majeerteen women. In addition, the clan lost an estimated 50,000 camels, 10,000 cattle, and 100,000 sheep and goats.

Systematic persecution of the Isaq[edit]

The Isaaq as a clan-family occupy the northern portion of the country. Three major cities are predominantly, if not exclusively, Isaaq: Hargeisa, the second largest city in Somalia until it was destroyed during the invasion of the Somali Army in May 1988; Burao in the interior was also destroyed by the military as was the port of Berbera.

Formed in London on April 6, 1981, by 400 to 500 Isaaq émigrés, the Somali National Movement (SNM) remained an Isaaq clan-family organization dedicated to ridding the country of Siad Barre. The Isaaq felt deprived both as a clan and as a region, and Isaaq outbursts against the central government had occurred sporadically since independence. The SNM launched a military campaign in 1988, capturing Burao on May 27 and part of Hargeisa on May 31. Government forces bombarded the towns heavily in June, forcing the SNM to withdraw and causing more than 300,000 Isaaq to flee to Ethiopia.

The military regime conducted savage reprisals against the Isaaq. The same methods were used as against the Majeerteen—destruction of water wells and grazing grounds. An estimated 5,000 Isaaq were killed between May 27 and the end of December 1988. About 4,000 died in the fighting, but 1,000, including women and children, were alleged to have been bayoneted to death.[1]

Harrying of the Hawiye[edit]

The Hawiye moved quickly to occupy the south portion of Somalia. The capital of Mogadishu is located in the country of the Abgal, the largest Hawiye subclan. Somalia's first prime minister after the trusteeship period, Abdullahi Issa, was a Hawiye; so was the trust territory's first President, Aden Abdullah Osman. The first General in the Military, General Daud Abdullah Hersi, as well as the initiator of the October revolution in 1969, Brigadier General Salad Gabeyre, and the leading successor of Siad Barre, General Mohamed Farrah Aidid, were all Hawiye. Since the independence era, the Hawiye tribe had occupied important administrative positions in the bureaucracy and in the top army command. However, in the late 1980s disaffection with the regime set in among the Hawiye, who felt increasingly marginalized by the Siad Barre regime. Realizing with the south remaining stable, bringing down Ziad Barre's regime may continue for too long, SNM created SNM-South. From the town of Beledweyne in the central valley of the Shabelle River, to the town of Jowhar and in Mogadishu city, the clan was subjected to ruthless assault. Government atrocities inflicted on the Hawiye were considered comparable in scale to those against the Majeerteen and Isaaq. By undertaking this assault on the Hawiye, Siad Barre committed a fatal error: by alienating the Hawiye, Siad Barre turned his last stronghold into enemy territory.

Faced with saboteurs by day and sniper fire by night, Siad Barre ordered remaining units of the badly demoralized Red Berets to massacre civilians. By 1989 torture and murder became the order of the day in Mogadishu.

The Red Berets slaughtered 450 Muslims demonstrating against the arrest of their spiritual leaders. More than 2,000 were seriously injured. The next day, forty-seven people, mainly from the Isaaq clan, were taken to Jasiira Beach west of the city and summarily executed. The July massacres prompted a shift in United States policy as the United States began to distance itself from Siad Barre.

With the loss of United States support, the regime grew more desperate. An anti-Siad Barre demonstration on July 6, 1990, at a soccer match in the main stadium deteriorated into a riot, causing Siad Barre's bodyguard to panic and open fire on the demonstrators. At least sixty-five people were killed. A week later, while the city reeled from the impact of what came to be called the Stadia Corna Affair, Siad Barre sentenced to death 46 prominent members of the Manifesto Group, a body of 114 notables who had signed a petition in May calling for elections and improved human rights. During the contrived trial that resulted in the death sentences, demonstrators surrounded the court and activity in the city came to a virtual halt. On July 13, a shaken Siad Barre dropped the charges against the accused. As the city celebrated victory, Siad Barre, conceding defeat for the first time in twenty years, retreated into his bunker at the military barracks near the airport to save himself from the people's wrath.

Somaliland and Puntland[edit]

In 1991, the Somali National Movement declared the northwestern portion of the country independent. Although internationally recognised as an autonomous region of Somalia, Somaliland, as with neighboring Puntland, has remained relatively peaceful.[2]